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What does a Personal Trainer do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A personal trainer is usually a trained and certified professional who helps people meet fitness and exercise goals. Some trainers work with amateur or professional athletes who want to enhance their performance and may be called athletic trainers. More commonly, a personal trainer tends to work with individuals or small groups to help people achieve greater levels of fitness.

A personal trainer normally begins work by evaluating the health history of each trainee. He or she should encourage people to discuss any exercise program with a physician prior to starting training sessions. Any red flags that come up during a health history, like muscular or skeletal structure injuries or serious medical conditions should be referred to a physician before training starts. The trainer may visit with a trainee’s doctor prior to designing an exercise regimen, or ask trainees to obtain medical clearance before beginning an exercise program.

In addition to understanding the health history of a client, the trainer must get some sense of the patient’s exercise goals, which can be specific or general. A person may simply want motivation and a designed exercise plan to lose weight and get back in shape, or he or she may have a couple of “problem areas” upon which he/she wants specific focus.

Sometimes personal trainers only meet with clients for one or two sessions to clarify goals and design an exercise program. This is common in health clubs, where training services may be offered with membership or available for an additional fee. Other trainers work intensively with people for several months, and attend all exercise sessions. They may be there to not only help create an exercise regiment specific to the client’s needs, but also to provide motivation. A personal trainer might only work with clients for some exercise sessions, and occasionally help to modify exercises once a client has met initial goals. The field is highly individualized in this respect, and trainers may have long term, short term or intermittent relationships with clients.

A trainer may have additional experience in nutrition and dieting, though this is not true of all trainers. In some cases the trainer works with nutritionists or dietitians to help design ideal diets for clients with weight loss goals. Some trainers partner with a nutritionist so they can offer both diet advice and exercise training to clients.

Lastly, a trainer may help evaluate people who are pursuing a recommended exercise regimen. They may check in to see how effective current training methods are. Trainers might make occasional changes to exercise plans to help clients continue to pursue their goals, and to keep people from getting bored by doing the same exercises repeatedly.

Work environments of trainers vary. Some trainers work independently, and others are associated with specific gyms or health clubs. The more expensive trainers tend to work independently, and may charge anywhere from $40-200 US Dollars (USD) per session. While people are used to associating personal trainers with high expenses, only a few trainers who might work with celebrities charge exceptionally high prices—in the ballpark of several thousand USD for single sessions or for long-term training.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By michealhold — On Aug 23, 2013

Great blog on the importance of a personal trainer. Personal trainers measure your strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments and set ideal fitness plans for you. Personal trainers improve your general fitness and help you in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight.

By anon119177 — On Oct 16, 2010

There are gazillions of certifications out there it seems, some better than others. The largest ones of course would look like they are better because they are sooo well known and recognized. But lets remember that marketing is just marketing. (Metabolife! just for one example) and it controls how we think about pretty much everything.

I know most personal trainers will agree (especially since we think for ourselves every day, right?) that the industry in general is really growing and with that growth more requirements are needed in our trainers. Which means that trainers need to know more than what a three day course and test can teach us. We are definitely required to do our continuing education and that is great too, but bodies are amazing and very complex.

If your burning desire is not bodies and helping/teaching people to be their best then you may be doing a disservice all around. Because you will then not be fully "into it" and learning to share all that there is to share. Be honest with yourself because there are a lot of trainers out there who get certified and train for many other reasons than the only right reason (to be the cool guy with muscles, etc, etc).

And the trainers who really love this are getting a bad name from those who just don't care. I have seen some ridiculous things occur during "training sessions" that can cause injury, that have caused injury (permanent!) or trainers that aren't even watching -- just staring off into space while they count reps!

As the industry of preventative maintenance through exercise and eating right grows, it's exciting to see that we are now getting "standards" and the bar is raising. I am not by any means trying to put any certification company down, but some are out there for money way more than the industry, .and I know, business is business but I choose to make my business about the real business -- the people.

I absolutely agree it is such a rewarding position.I love helping people reach their health goals and feel amazing. Nothing else compares!

By suntan12 — On Aug 12, 2010

SurfNturf- I agree with you. Did you know that we have online personal trainers now?

The other day I was trying to find a personal trainer and I did a search online and I couldn't believe that they actually offer this.

It's a great idea. It can really reach a lot of people. The trainer gives you video clips of the exercises that you have to do.

You can replay the exercises over and over again, in case you forget so it's almost like the trainer is there with you. The trainer then increases the reps or changes the intensity based on your progress.

The nice thing about this is that you can do this from the comfort of your own home and you don't have to worry about going to a gym.

By surfNturf — On Aug 12, 2010

Greenweaver-I have heard of ACE, and they are really well-respected in the personal training field.

I believe that personal trainer qualifications should include an ACE certification. In addition, the trainer should be very fit and be able to provide customized solutions to each individual client.

For example, an overweight woman that hasn't exercised in a while cannot work at the same intensity as an avid runner.

Both types of people need customized exercise solutions that correspond with their individual fitness level. A great personal trainer will be able to provide guidance for both types of individuals.

By GreenWeaver — On Aug 12, 2010

Moldova-I agree with you. I looked into personal trainer training myself.

I found that personal trainer certification is offered by many organizations, but the most well-known is ACE, which stands for the American Council on Exercise.

ACE offers programming regarding exercise science, spotting techniques, risk assessment and fitness measurement tools to name a few.

ACE offers the study materials that you need in order to pass the exam. After you register for your exam, you can purchase study material that ranges from $30-$600.

There are practice tests and computer based training available in addition to various books regarding functional anatomy and movement. ACE requires that all applicants hold CPR certification in order to receive their test results.

By Moldova — On Aug 12, 2010

Becoming a personal fitness trainer is very rewarding. Helping people reach their weight loss and fitness goals make them happier.

This must add to increased job satisfaction with of the certified personal trainer.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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