If you want to figure out what makes a good fitness instructor, you’ll need a mixture of qualifications and qualities, all of which are broken down in this article.
Before we start, if you're not already qualified, check out OriGym's Level 3 Gym Instructor course. This is the first qualification you'll need to launch your fitness career!
Alternatively, browse our downloadable course prospectus to see what other courses are available.
Now let’s dive into OriGym’s list of the most important qualities of a fitness instructor!
11 Fitness Instructor Skills
#1 - Punctual
As a fitness instructor, it’s important for you to be on time for everything you do, whether that's inductions, tours, or working holistically with clients.
Even better, our advice would be to turn up early rather than just on time. If you’re there before any clients arrive, this will give you more time to set up and prepare.
Since part of your qualification will have touched on the importance of punctuality, and using it to motivate groups, this is an especially important quality for classes.
You need to be punctual to make a good first impression, but also to maintain mutual respect between yourself and members or class goers.
Your professional credibility, and amount of class participants, can all depend on your punctuality, which is why this is one of the most important parts of what makes a good fitness instructor.
Whole groups will be depending on you being timely when you’re running gym classes too, as they’ll be fitting them in around other workouts or commitments.
Showing up late or not starting the class on time will not only reflect badly on you as a professional, but it will also make it more difficult for you to ensure that members are engaged and enthusiastic during the class.
Failing to turn up on time will give both members and your employer the impression that you don’t have the skills needed to be a gym instructor, which could affect your reputation on the gym floor.
This has future ramifications too. Inductions and classes are a great way to network and secure potential future clients.
If you’re late, and get a bad reputation, you’ll lose those ties and hinder your career progression and prospects.
#2 - Flexibility
As you’ll know, working in a gym means being adaptable. Most people fit their workouts around normal 9-5 working hours, which means being able to cater to the busiest times of the gym is part of what makes a good fitness instructor.
That’s why flexibility is one of the essential skills for a fitness instructor. You need to be able to make yourself available when clients and members are, as well as being willing to adapt to different schedules.
Not only will you need to be flexible in terms of working hours, but also in the way your manage your daily tasks as a fitness instructor.
Every day will be different, and you'll often be tasked with switching between different roles, depending on where you’re needed.
If you’re flexible you’ll be able to adapt to changes in your schedule and unforeseen circumstances. You need to be prepared for any potential last minute changes to classes and your schedule.
Having qualities like these will not only help you better adjust to the hours of work, but also help you manage and multitask, to make the working day run more smoothly.
As you can see, this is something potential employers explicitly look for:
Having a flexible approach to work will make you an essential part of a gym, offering you the opportunity to pursue a dynamic profession with an exciting schedule.
It will also create opportunities for you to develop your role, and expand in your responsibilities. If you show yourself to be flexible from the get-go, your employer will trust you with a wider range of tasks.
Though there's a difference between what a gym instructor can do, and what a personal trainer can do, if you're adaptable and enthusiastic with your responsibilities, you will progress in no time!
#3 - Professional
Just like any other career, you need to make sure you present yourself as a professional fitness instructor.
Ways that you display your professionalism include:
- Good hygiene
- Ensuring you look neat and tidy at all times
- Not being too personal with customers
You don’t want to be rude or abrupt with customers. Simultaneously, though, you don’t want to be overly friendly.
You can be warm and encouraging without necessarily being overfamiliar. You need to maintain some distance so as not to dismantle the trust and credibility you have as a fitness instructor.
For instance, it might help some people to share something about your own fitness journey and your own barriers when training.
However, you don’t want to include too much, if any, information about your personal life. Just discussing your relationship to fitness will help you to connect to clients whilst remaining professional.
Whether you’re newly qualified, or looking to move to a new facility, you should always make the effort to be professional in an interview. But it shouldn’t stop there, this is one of the qualities that you’ll need to illustrate throughout your career.
#4 - Respectful
Extending from this, one of the most important skills needed to be a fitness instructor is being respectful.
This will be most significant when you’re helping people on the gym floor or helping to correct form in a class environment.
The benefits of group exercise classes are, for a lot of people, developing their fitness in a fun and motivating environment. This is why it's so important for you to treat different issues delicately.
For instance, don't call out somebody in a class or in front of other people. When correcting form, or helping somebody out, do so respecfully and privately so as not to embarrass them.
In both of these environments, it’s essential that you remember to maintain distance and always work in a way that ensures the client is comfortable.
You’ll either be giving verbal or physical instruction to people when they’re learning how to use equipment or looking to improve their form. It’s a good idea to check before, rather than assuming, which method the client would prefer.
As a fitness instructor these are skills you can use to establish mutual respect and illustrate that you’re a professional.
#5 - Passionate
Out of all the fitness instructor characteristics, being passionate about fitness should be non-negotiable.
One of the main parts of what makes a good fitness instructor is the ability to motivate people and get them pumped up prior to their workout or class.
So, if this is a skill that comes naturally to you, this will give you a professional edge, and it will allow you to encourage gym goers to make the most of their experience - which is pretty rewarding.
Part of your job will often be promoting services offered by the facility. Whether that’s other parts of the facility or classes that you run yourself, you’ll need to be passionate to champion these services.
Another element of your role could stray into social media management. As part of your administrative responsibilities you may be asked to contribute to the facility’s social media.
As you can see, people now stipulate these skills and qualities of a fitness instructor in their job descriptions:
In general, this is not just what makes a good fitness instructor but it could contribute to your progression to personal training or other fitness specialisations.
Not everybody will want you to have marketing skills, but the more you can promote the gym the more of an asset you will be.
Being passionate is an essential skill if you’re looking to progress and find a niche further into your career. There's plenty of options for professional development as a PT but these skills will be essential whatever you choose.
#6 - Motivational
Of course, this is one of the important skills needed to be a gym instructor. Combined with passion, your ability to motivate people is paramount.
During classes this is particularly important. As a gym instructor you have to have the skills and qualities to maintain engagement.
There’s nothing worse than a boring workout. Even when you have motivation tips and tricks it can be hard for people to remain focused and committed throughout their workout.
If you’re teaching a class you’ll need to be pushing people just that little bit harder, inspiring them to get the most out of classes.
You will also do this when you’re in the gym. A lot of people will be aware that they have limitations, but not exactly what they are, where they come from, or how to get over them.
What makes a good fitness instructor is being able to spot this on the gym floor, and giving some holistic advice to help people improve and motivate themselves further.
You won’t necessarily just be pushing people beyond their limits though. Part of motivation is to use long term goals to encourage people to slow down and workout as safely as possible.
The best fitness instructor will have qualities that inspire the right mindset. Though you can’t design someone’s workout for them, you can inspire them and encourage them to be honest about their goals and capabilities.
#7 - Knowledgeable
One of the most important qualities for a fitness instructor is, of course, knowledge. You want to show your clients that you’re clued up when it comes to all things fitness!
If you’re knowledgeable, and can display that you know what you’re talking about, this will immediately establish credibility and trust.
You'll need to show your knowledge when you're showing new clients the machines and equipment, as well as when offering advice on the gym floor.
You need to translate your knowledge quickly to your clients to establish a level of mutual respect, and make clients feel as though they can approach you with questions.
Most of the skills needed to be a gym instructor are ‘soft’ skills, since they’re personal qualities and character traits. However, you do also need hard skills, such as the knowledge that comes from being qualified, to ensure you’re capable of fulfilling the role.
As you may already know, the only qualification you officially need to be a fitness instructor, or gym instructor, is a Level 3 Certificate in Gym Instructing.
You want to make sure that you’re gaining the skills needed to be a gym instructor from an accredited, regulated course.
From there you can choose from a list of fitness instructing specialities, or advance to become a personal trainer.
In fact, a willingness to develop may be the key when applying for positions! A lot of job descriptions now explicitly want prospective employees who are working towards, or already hold, more advanced qualifications.
For instance, here the job description stipulates that it's desirable to have a more advanced qualification. Having further qualifications will give you the edge with employability.
If you’re a dedicated learner, this will ensure that your career always has the potential to grow, adapt, and improve. It will also keep things fresh, keep you motivated, and in turn be translated to clients.
If you’re interested in how you can develop your career further, check out these other articles from OriGym:
- The Key Skills Needed to Become a Nutritionist
- How To Become A BODYCOMBAT Instructor
- How To Become an Aerobics Instructor
#8 - Approachable
The interpersonal skills and qualities of a gym instructor need to be balanced. Just as you need to be professional with your clients by not being overly friendly, you don’t want to go too far the other way either.
You need to ensure you’re approachable because you may not always be working one-to-one with clients, slowly building rapport.
As you’re not designing bespoke programmes like a personal trainer, your congeniality will be what makes you a good fitness instructor. You need to be a welcoming presence on the gym floor.
As much as you will often be keeping your eyes open for mistakes in form, opportunities for other support, and chances to further promote the services of the gym.
For the gym goer though, you’re predominently there to answer questions whether that's which fitness podcasts to listen to, to keep motivated, what trainers to wear for weight training, or the best kettlebell leg exercises to try.
You need to be warm and friendly as a fitness instructor. Then you’ll have the qualities to encourage people to engage and improve.
This will often be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people in the gym. It can be really intimidating asking for help at the best of times.
In which case, they’ll be even more reluctant if your body language doesn’t look open and approachable. Which takes us to the significance of displaying open communication.
#9 - Communicative
There are broadly thought to be four main types of communication in business: verbal, non-verbal, written, and visual. In the gym environment however, it will mostly be verbal and non-verbal skills that are needed.
To be a fitness instructor you will need to make sure you’re able to articulate yourself well and give clear instructions.
These are all gym instructor skills and qualities that, when developed, will help your approachability as well as your ability to communicate with clients.
You also need to make sure to develop good non-verbal communication skills. For a fitness instructor to be approachable, their body language needs to be relaxed and open.
The easiest way to display this behaviour is to keep your arms unfolded, relaxed by your sides, and make sure you look alert when you’re on the gym floor.
As much as you won’t be having long, in-depth conversations with clients, like personal trainers will, it’s still really important that you’re able to properly communicate.
It’s also going to be important for the administrative side of things too! If you’re doing social media posts, or promoting particular offers and trainers, you’ll need to articulate the benefits naturally and efficiently.
This is why a lot of employers prioritise this in their person specifications:
That’s why being communicative is one of the best fitness instructor qualities to master. This way you’ll be approachable for questions, you’ll be able to answer them as efficiently as possible, and help a wider range of people.
#10 - Organised
Being organised is one of the most significant skills to develop as a fitness instructor. These qualities will be vital for all parts of your job since you’ll be required to manage the many different responsibilities of the role.
If you’ve not planned your class thoroughly, people will be able to tell and it won’t be any fun for anyone.
Organising and planning ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to be creative, will increase your own motivation, and help you to remain energised and on top of what you do.
Another reason it’s important to be organized is that it will help you to balance the different responsibilities of the job.
You’ll be expected to switch between them on a rotational basis, so knowing exactly what is expected of you, and when, is essential.
Having to manage social media and digital skills, with other fitness instructor responsibilities like inductions, cleaning, and scheduling, proves the importance of being organized.
#11 - Safe
As a fitness instructor you should have the skills to create a safe environment for yourself, your employees, and gym members.
Obviously part of your role will be to ensure that members are using machinery and equipment in a safe way, but you’ll also need to be safety conscious when it comes to carrying out risk assessments.
Though you won’t be required to maintain the machines themselves, you need to report any damages appropriately and be able to spot if they’re being misused by members.
Correcting form and posture when people are performing exercises either with or without equipment, and giving immediate advice to prevent injuries, are vital skills of a good fitness instructor.
Getting a first aid qualification will give you the edge as well as some security in your role.
All gyms need one first aid trained member of staff to be in at all times. So, having this qualification could give you the edge in an interview and secure you a position.
Other benefits of having first aid include:
- More confidence that you’ll know what to do in an emergency situation
- Reassure members and ensure clients feel safe in your presence
This, in part, extends from your organization as a gym instructor. The skills and qualities used most frequently, to ensure safety, will be the maintenance of the gym floor.
If anything is in the wrong place, this can potentially become a hazard and causing an accident.
As you may know, people will tend to wipe down equipment after they’ve used it, but it’s still your job to check, and make sure everything is clean for the next person.
Looking to get qualified and start your career? You can find out more about the role of a gym instructor here!
#12 - Sensitive
Being sensitive is a big part of what makes a good fitness instructor. Having qualities that mean you’re understanding, kind, and thoughtful will all contribute to doing your job well
Especially when you’re giving gym inductions, you need to be conscious of the different levels, abilities, and knowledge gym-goers will have.
If someone is new to training, or you’re meeting them for the first time, this is another one of the fitness instructor skills you’ll need to make a good first impression and make that person feel at ease around you.
You should be aware that health and fitness can often be a sensitive topic for some people who are working to improve themselves, and be conscious of any potential insecurities or barriers that people may have when starting their fitness journey.
Though it will be a personal trainer who tailors programmes to goals like weight loss, confidence building, and exercise referral, you still need to be aware of the sensitivity of these issues.
#13 Active Listening
Last but not least, active listening will show that you have great attention to detail and are considerate of every client’s different levels of knowledge.
Active listening is a method where you display clearly that you understand the person you’re listening to, and can display to them that you have paid full attention.
A great way to do this in the gym space is to be reflective. You can rephrase key points made by someone, in their induction, to show that you understand their specific needs and goals.
For example, someone might tell you:
I’ve got some experience with strength training but I’m not sure what I can use to lose more weight.
You could respond with:
So you’ve done strength training before but maybe need to look a little more at cardio-focused workouts?
That’s why this is one of the most essential skills needed to be a fitness instructor. It’s no good telling somebody what gym machines are best for beginners, if they’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast
Essentially, you don’t want to condescend to those with plenty of experience, but you don’t want to intimidate people either.
As you will have noticed, a lot of the most significant parts of these fitness instructor skills overlap and work together.
You'll need active listening when you're in an interview. If you do progress, and you're answering questions in a personal trainer interview, you'll need to use these skills to display confidence and attentiveness.
If you’re a sensitive fitness instructor, this will improve your communication, make you more approachable, which will potentially make the gym environment safer as people feel able to report things to do and ask for help.
Before You Go!
Hopefully we’ve shown you some of the most important skills you’ll need to be a successful gym instructor.
These skills and qualities will all work together to help you surpass expectations and advance your career!
To advance your career, the best place to start is a Level 4 Personal Trainer Course. Most specialisations and niches will build from this level, creating more money, more clients, and a broader selection of facilities.
To see more of these potential career paths, you can download our free course prospectus to see what else is available!