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Skills of a Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Guide

The qualities and skills of a personal trainer are limitless, and tricky to identify for anyone new to this industry…

Skills come in all shapes and sizes, from having a novice understanding of the body’s skeletal system, to holding professional qualifications in providing the best Paleo advice for clients.

In this article, not only will we be providing you with the essential skills of a personal trainer, we will also guide you through the key ideas for action to help you develop these skills.

We will also break down each skill according to whether it’s a hard or soft skill, which will help in terms of interview preparation.

By the end of this guide then, you’ll be able to identify all the key attributes that interviewers look for in top quality personal trainers, and you’ll also know how to develop each skill in order to maximise the chances of you bagging your dream career.

Interested in becoming a Personal Trainer? Go check out our Personal Training Diploma before you carry on reading! 


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Let’s Start with Soft Skills of a Personal Trainer…

When people think about the skills that will bag them a job interview, they tend to immediately think of hard skills: qualifications, experience, education etc.

However, increasingly, recruiters are looking for soft skills from potential interviewees.

Soft skills, after all, are the abilities that a person must possess to obtain and secure a job. In contrast to hard skills, soft skills are character traits centred on a person’s emotional intelligence.

They are qualities which do not depend on acquired knowledge, and for this reason, soft skills are more difficult to define and measure because they are intangible.

However, by identifying some traits that lead to great soft skills, you can maximise your overall chances of securing employment in the fitness sector!

1. Mentoring and Development

As a personal trainer, you naturally see potential in others.

In fact, potential is all you see…

Clients don’t just want someone to reaffirm their existing beliefs and opinions, they need a coach, a mentor and friend who’s willing to devise exciting programmes and interesting experiences that can help them grow.

Remember, look out for the finer details.

The small improvements of your clients, invisible to most others, are clear signs of potential realised. Those are the kind of improvements that you can motivate your clients with, and that will ultimately bring you the most satisfaction.

Because of this, other clients are bound to seek your help and services, because they know that your skills extend beyond personal training, into a personality that generally cares for their clients.


2. Empathy and Compassion

Unlike sympathy, where you simply acknowledge the emotional hardships of a client, being empathetic allows you to put yourself in their shoes: it allows you to translate their emotions into emotions and feelings of your own,

As a personal trainer, you will be dealing with many clients who might struggle to complete a workout routine, a routine which you may have spent 2 and half hours prepping for. You may even have some clients that fail to turn up to your scheduled session.

It is important to realise that life sometimes gets in between your clients and their goals. Although you may not necessarily condone the behaviours of a particular client, you must always try to understand and be empathetic towards them.

Empathy also allows you to anticipate the needs and unvoiced questions of your clients, and for that reason clients will be drawn to you.


3. Communication

As mentioned above, the skills of a personal trainer can stretch far and wide, but without communication, there is no chance of striking a relationship with clients, and without a relationship there is no trust.

And without trust? Well, there are no clients…

Many people misinterpret communication as a person’s ability to smoothly talk their way out of any situation. However, in terms of the skills of a personal trainer, your client really needs you to listen to what they have to say.

As an effective communicator, you must treat the people around you as if they have a very short attention span: you understand that people are continuously bombarded with information, and amongst all of that information, you want your advice to stick in their heads.

Whether it’s a new diet plan or a workout routine, your listening abilities will identify opportunities and are therefore the canvas on which your words will paint the picture.


4. Positivity

Many people have a misconception tied to the word positivity: they feel it is a word reserved for people who are constantly smiling and who choose to ignore the strenuous aspects of life…

As anyone who lives in the real world will testify, that idea is absurd.

Positivity is actually about taking on the difficulties of life, not ignoring them, and doing so with an open frame of mind.

As a personal trainer, you want your clients to feed off your positivity. There will be times when things don’t quite go according to plan, either within the lives of your clients, or in your personal life, and at such times having a positive attitude and the ability to be optimistic is key.

Your clients need reassurance that their goals are reachable, and that you are the right person to help them along the way.


5. Self-Development

The fitness industry is growing at a substantial rate with the number of UK fitness locations recently surpassing the 7,000 mark. As a personal trainer then, the level of competition is only going to increase. To give yourself a competitive edge, you have to love the idea of learning. Learning new ways to enhance the client experience, to develop your hard skills, and to increase the likelihood that clients will want to train with you.

The fitness industry is saturated with thousands of diet regimes and fitness programmes that promise outrageous results within unrealistic timescales. Your job is therefore to maintain your reputation, and to do so constant research and retraining is key.


6. Being Approachable

Having a body like a sculptured Greek god might get you a part in the next Hercules reboot, but it doesn’t necessarily make you approachable.

People looking for personal trainers are sometimes inexperienced, and may feel out of their depth at the gym. You will act as a bridge for clients looking to explore this new territory, so don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation, create it.


7. Responsibility

Responsibility is about taking ownership for the things you commit to.

This can be something very small, like offering to do a favour for a friend or client, or something as big as taking on a new client. Regardless of circumstance, once a promise is made and expectations are set, you should feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.

As a personal trainer, the idea of having few clients, or even no clients, isn’t very appealing: more clients equals more revenue, after all.

However, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Clients want your time, and in exchange for your time they are willing to pay you good money. Rushing from one client to another isn’t going to give them the return on investment they deserve, so make sure you are punctual, professional, consistent, and reliable.


9. Self Assurance

Self-assurance isn’t self-confidence.

Your ideas need to withstand the criticism and doubt of others, even if it means being labelled as naïve.

Remember, you aren’t the first person to strive for success in this industry, and you most certainly won’t be the last. But that doesn’t make you less unique.

In times where there is little-to-no support from your peers, your ideas must be put to great effect so that your services resonate with new clients. Clients need to be reassured that they made the right choice in you, and the quickest way to do that is to have confidence and assurance in your own abilities.


9. Flexibility

Having the ability to perform the downward facing dog is quite impressive, but it’s not the type of flexibility we are trying to achieve here…at least not right now.

Flexibility is about living within the moment: you understand that life can bring uncertainty and change, and you therefore anticipate and respond to the demands of the moment.

Personal trainers do not – I emphasise, do not – work the conventional 9-5 working pattern, but their clients probably do. Be prepared to meet clients early on in the morning, or late in the evening and all the hours in-between.

One of the common reasons clients give for not being able to make it to the gym is time constraints. By being flexible, you take time out of the equation and allow yourself to reach all your potential clients. You miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take.


Now, let’s talk about hard skills of a personal trainer…

If soft skills are about who you are as a person, the link between your personal life and what you bring forward into a professional setting, then hard skills are the specific industry related expertise required by an individual to successfully carry out their job.

This tends to include the knowledge and abilities you acquired through education, post-course certifications, or even on-the-job-training.

As such, the hard skills of a personal trainer are easier to define and measure than the soft skills: having a Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification is easier to spot than, say, how flexible you are as an individual.

And the advantage of hard skills, and perhaps why so much weight is put on them in the industry, is that they are clear cut, you either have them or you don’t.

So, what are the hard skills of a personal trainer?


10. Industry Qualifications

Regardless of what you want to work as, whether it’s freelance or working as a self-employed personal trainer in the UK, you will need the following training qualifications to allow you to train clients in commercial gyms.


11. Marketing Experience

So you now have the skills and knowledge required to be a successful personal trainer: you understand the body’s anatomy and feel you have a unique way of adding value to potential clients through your personal trainer programmes.

One problem: no one knows who you are, and what you can do for them…

This is where marketing comes in. Some courses offer training to their students on how to build a client base through lead generation, but many don’t and leave new trainers to work it out for themselves.

The key is not to be discouraged. Marketing is all about trial and error, what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for others.

Marketing is interesting as it combines hard skills (the ability to market yourself and the experience of building a brand) with soft skills (understanding a target audience and building a brand requires a strong personality).

By following the points above, you can make a great start in terms of getting your marketing underway as a personal trainer.

If, however, you wanted an extensive introduction to marketing, check out our ultimate guide to personal trainer marketing strategies.


As far as skills of a personal trainer goes, that’s that!

And there you have it, everything you need in terms of nailing the desired skills of a personal trainer.

If you’re currently looking for a change in career and think you might be cut out for the fitness industry, go ahead and download our free personal trainer career prospectusor check out our Level 3 Personal Training qualifications for more info on what you could be learning! 


Enquire to Become a Personal Trainer

Turn Your Passion for Fitness into a New Career

Written by George Aird

Fitness Professional & Marketer

Join George on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

George Aird is a content writer and marketer with specialist knowledge of health and fitness, online marketing, and start-up businesses. In his spare time, he is a keen climber, and a (reluctant) runner. 

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