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The difference between being a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) and being a Personal Trainer (PT)

We are often asked whether an Physical Training Instructor (PTI) qualification can fast track your progress through your Personal Trainer (PT) qualifications.

A Physical Training Instructor course is not recognised as civilian qualification. This is because it is accredited by the army. However some civilian organisation such as the Register of Exercise Professionals recognise the qualification. They will license an AAPTI as a qualified civilian qualification by adding an AAPTI to the register.  However, other institutions such as further education (FE) institutions like Active IQ do not. While you may be licensed  to be a civilian personal trainer by REPs, you can not enrol on any course that surpassed as Level 3 qualification. These qualification include Level 4 and CPD’s.

If you do not meet the pre-requisites that are set by Active IQ or any other educational institution who awards Personal Trainer qualifications, you will not be a eligible to either qualify or progress as a Personal Trainer.

This article aims to inform any qualified AAPTI’s of the differences between being an AAPTI and PT. It also will inform you of the the eligibility of an AAPTI course within civilian society.

OriGym is partnered with the MOD and therefore is an ELCAS approved test centre. Enquire below to get a funded personal training course via ELCAS:


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What to do you do to become a Personal Trainer?



To become a personal trainer you have to be accredited by a educational institution that awards vocational qualifications. A leading company that does this in the UK  is Active IQ.  Active IQ develop the course content and use it as a measuring stick . All newly qualified personal trainers must meet the minimal requirements that are outlined by the course providers.

You can either enrol on an online course or an in house course. Both the online courses and in house courses will share the same content because the content is provided by the same educational institution.

If you are new to personal training you should start out by enrolling on your Level 2 qualification. The Level 2 qualification is the the first point of call. From here a student can begin to develop their knowledge  through modules such as ‘Anatomy and Physiology’. They can also develop their practical application by delivering lessons during practical assessments. The students will be marked in accordance with the guidelines that are created by a company such as Active IQ.

After completion you will be able to continue on to your Level 3 course. This qualification is mandatory for anybody who wants to be recognised as a civilian personal trainer. British health clubs now expect anybody applying for a personal trainer position to have a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification. This course will advance your knowledge of health and fitness. As a student you will sit modules such as ‘Applying the principle of nutrition to a physical activity programme’. You will also be assessed on your training qualities through more practical assessments.

If you want to gain more of a competitive edge on the competition you can also undertake courses called CPD’s. These qualification ensure your ‘Continuous Professional Development’. These course usually teach you a skill that is outside the set curriculum. By having these additional qualifications you can gather more clients because you offer more niche’s.

As a Personal Trainer you can either be an independent PT or you can work at a health club.  The main difference between being an independent personal trainer and being a personal trainer in a health club is that you can either develop your own gym space or rent gym space.

When you are qualified you should also purchase insurance for yourself through the Register of Exercise Professionals (REP’s).

The Register of Exercise Professionals said “All members of the Register at Levels 2, 3 and 4 are required to hold adequate civil liability insurance which covers your legal liability for death, injury or illness to the the others and loss of, or damage to, third party property”.

By paying £56.00 (and a registration fee of £40,00) you are covered for up to £10 million in claims against you.


How do you do to become an All Arms Physical Instructor?



The Bootcamp Military Fitness Institute says that to become a PTI, “An individual must also demonstrate that they are fit enough, have the qualities of a non-commissioned officer (NCO) and have the aptitude to be an instructor”.

Soldiers are assessed against these standards from the very first day. From day one you have to take an entrance exam that tests your fitness. If you meet these fitness requirements you are given a place on the course.

The course is designed to progress both your theoretical and practical applications. To do this the army uses a method called, EDIP. This is an acronym that represents, ‘Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation and Practice).

There is a set amount of pre-requisites for admission onto an All Arms Physical Training Instructor course. These pre-requisites include:

  • All candidates must volunteer.
  • All candidates must have a minimal rank of Lance Corporal.
  • All candidates must have the pre-requisite qualification which is the ‘Health Trainer’ qualification.
  • All candidates must have passed  certain tests within the first three months of enrolling on the course (This is not the case with being  civilian PT).
  • These courses include the Annual Fitness Test (AFT), the Military Swim Test (MST) and the age and gender free Physical Training Instructor Fitness Test.

The results of these courses have to recorded by a formal party. They must also be declared upon a candidates administrative return.


What does it take to qualify as a Personal Trainer?



This is the basic outline of the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications provided by Origym. The two courses balances both the theoretical and practical.

The courses content is split into two parts. The Level 2 is much more intermediate than the Level 3 qualification. This is why ‘Anatomy and Physiology’ becomes ‘Advanced Anatomy and Physiology’, when you transition between the two.

Before, I stated that the course balances both the theoretical and practical. This is true and the content reflects this. This means you will be spending time within a classroom environment and a gym environment.

Notice how the modular titles emphasise the importance of a students delivery towards a client.  A personal trainer is designed to help a qualified PT obtain and maintain clients. This is not the case for the army. The want you to teach in compliance with the standardised fitness that it practices.

However, there are some similarities. The content of the PT courses (described above) are not so different to the content of a PTI course. You are learning similar theoretical applications. The difference is within practical applications. Another difference includes the fact that an FE governing body awards the civilian qualification, while the Army School of Physical Training awards military qualifications. Each awarding body has different standards and this may be why there is a partial void between the two qualification’s.


Example of a Level 2 practical assessment.

When starting the session a student has to makes sure that they:

  • Prepare the environment and check the equipment for the session.
  • Welcome client appropriately.
  • Explain all necessary health and safety information.
  • Carried out verbal screening and PARQ giving appropriate to the client based on prior information.
  • Outlined the purpose & structure of the session.
  • Presented a positive image of self and organisation to the client

Delivering the exercise session the student has to:

  • Demonstrated correct technique and safe  use of equipment and exercises.
  • Given clear and accurate explanation of each exercise to the client.
  • Select safe and effective exercises.
  • Use supportive and motivational behaviour with the client.
  • Communicated with clients clearly and accurately providing feedback and instructing points which ae timely, clear and motivational.
  • Adapted the exercise appropriately for the component and client.
  • Use or reinforce key instruction points to improve clients’s performance and encourage independence.
  • Used appropriate alternatives to the client when necessary.
  • Monitored intensity appropriately for the component and client.

These are just some aspects of practical examination for a civilian personal trainer. Compare and contrast this with the content of  a practical examination in for an AAPTI.


What does it take to qualify as an Physical Training Instructor?



The PTI course is not split into two separate qualifications. The course is designed to assess the physical endurance & mental intuition of a candidate. The example above is a snippet of a 30 week training course that already qualified All Arms Physical Training Instructor can undertake if they want to transfer to the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTCI). This is not for regimental AAPTI’s.

To become an AAPTI you must qualify through a total of  eight training objectives. These training objectives include:

  • Delivering Physical Training.
  • Delivering Recreational Training.
  • Conduct Physical Testing.
  • Designing a PT Programme.
  • Implementing  a Health and Safety Policy, in relation to Physical Training  and Recreational Training.
  • Health Trainer course (this is a pre-requisite).
  • Conducting job-related administrative task.
  • Describing human anatomical components and exercise physiology.

These training objectives are need for a candidate to pass as an AAPTI. The candidate is led through a variety of theoretical and practical assessments. These assessment are outlined by the boot camp military fitness institute below, as:

  • The principles of warm up, the aerobic curve and cool down.
  • The principles of lifting and carrying, and pushing and pulling
  • Motivating and communicating effectively with clients.
  • A variety of individual and group teaching skills.
  • How to respond to health and safety issues in a variety of fitness environments.
  • How to programme safe and effective exercise for a range of clients, the health benefits of physical activity and the importance of healthy eating.
  • Develop the skills and knowledge required to plan, prepare and conduct gym- and outdoor-based exercise programmes and sessions with apparently healthy adults; both individuals and groups, including:
    • Circuit training (role, variations and circuit dose)
    • Interval and fartlek training
    • Speed training and running drills
    • Strength training
    • Skill training
    • Endurance training
    • Plyometrics training
    • Multi-stage fitness test (MSFT)
  • Develop the skills and knowledge required to plan, prepare and conduct outdoor-based military functional exercise programmes and sessions for groups, including:
    • Basic Personal Fitness Assessment (BPFA)
    • Basic Combat Fitness Test (BCFT)
    • Advanced Combat Fitness Test 1 (ACFT1)
    • Advanced Combat Fitness Test 2 (ACFT2)
    • Military Swimming Test (MST)
    • Combat Military Swimming Test (CMST)
    • Logs, ash poles and medicine balls (indoors and outdoors)
    • Obstacle course
    • Command tasks
  • Anatomy and Physiology including:
    • The skeletal system (structure and function)
    • The musculoskeletal system
    • Postural and core stability
    • The cardio-respiratory system (heart, circulatory and respiratory systems)
    • The nervous and energy systems and their relation to exercise
    • The effects of exercise
    • Nutrition and diet
  • Modules within the curriculum include:
    • Health and safety: foot care specific
    • Health and safety: general
    • Risk assessment, accident management and accident reporting
    • Safety of children and young people
    • Heart rate monitors
    • Flexibility
    • Water-based training
    • Sports and team games (e.g. volleyball, basketball and football)
    • Potted sports (athletic, military, gymkhana and physical training)
    • Back pain and other injuries (delivered by qualified medical representatives from the Royal Army Medical Corps)
    • Heat and cold injuries (delivered by qualified medical representatives from the Royal Army Medical Corps)
    • Principles of good instruction and qualities of a good instructor
    • Training domains, teaching styles and learning methods
    • Induction training (CV, free and fixed equipment)
    • CV training machines
    • Methods of running training
    • Gymnasium administration and booking facilities
    • Lesson planning and preparation and lesson plan development
    • Unit, individual and remedial training programmes
    • Gymnasium agility demonstration and standing-in
    • Battle PT (e.g. logs races), sports competitions and formats, and relay races
    • Effective communication (verbal, non-verbal, effective listening & words of command)
    • Reviewing training (observation, analysis, evaluation, feedback and planning for the future)
    • Organisation of recreational training
    • Personal development
    • Note taking and study methods


What is an example of a general Personal Trainer session?



A personal trainer session will alternate depending on the health and fitness of a student. Personal trainers have a load of different clients to engage with. This is one of the other differences between being an PTI and a PT. Your client does not change when you are an AAPTI. military personal are expected to maintain a certain type of fitness. This does not effect a governing bodies decision, this is just a contextual difference.

An hour is the allotted time for the average PT session because another client is waiting to be trained. Due to this a personal trainer will develop a session with short and effective exercises.

The routine above develops both the endurance and strength of a client. This is something that a client would have requested. The personal trainer will be expected to meet the requirements of their client while a soldier has to meet the requirements of an AAPTI. This is why each student has to pass a selection course that is referred to as a Phase 1 Basic Military Training. Outside of the army you do not have to meet any entry pre-requisites to enrol on a personal trainer course.

These routines can only be developed once you obtain the theoretical and practical knowledge. You can obtain this by completing a both a Level 2 and Level 3 qualification. This is why you must be qualified before giving physical training advice to someone in a UK health club.


What is an example of an Physical Training Instructor session?



You can already see the difference between the two sessions.

For instance, this is a fitness test and not a guided session. This is called a a ‘P Test’. The ‘P Test’ is an example of a programme that a students conducts throughout their All Arms Physical Training Instructor course. This is not an example of a lesson plan that would be delivered to a unit of soldiers.

The main difference that an All Arms Physical Training course has with an Personal Trainer course, include:

  • A minimal rank is required to attend the entry course before enrolling on an AAPTI course.
  • You must also be a qualified Health Trainer to become an AAPTI.
  • You must have passed certain fitness tests within three months of commencing on an AAPTI course.
  • You must pass certain formative fitness tests during your time as a student.
  • Military trainers are taught to deliver session within both indoor and outdoor environments.
  • AAPTI’s must re-qualify every five years and they must also conduct CPD modules and courses as they progress.

This is because:

  • To enrol on a Level 2 course you don’t need any pre-requisites, you do need a Level 2 to progress enrol on a Level 3 course (However prior experience will be a benefit).
  • CPD course are optional and are not included in the course.
  • You are expected to be physically fit but it is not mandatory.
  • Once you have passed the modules outline within your Level 2 and Level 3 courses, you do not have to do any additional modules.
  • You are taught to deliver session in an gym environment. However, you can take sessions outside but this is don’t at your own initiative.
  • Once you are qualified you don’t have to re-qualify.
  • There is not time limit on you course. With Origym you get unlimited re-sits.


It is not the course content that makes an All Arms Physical Training Instructor course different to an regular Personal Trainer course. The Register of Exercise Professional recognises an AAPTI as a qualified PT. An AAPTI will be added to the register and they can be insured and apply for jobs in the UK. On the other hand, an educational institution such as Active IQ would still require the Level 3 qualifications to recognise the AAPTI as a civilian PT. In some cases they also need the PTI to complete the Level 2 Personal Trainer qualifications. This depends on the CPD’s a PTI has undertaken during his time in the forces.


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Interested in becoming a PT or furthering your fitness qualifications? If so, go download our latest prospectus for more info on what you could be learning! 

Written by Luke Hughes

CEO and Co-Founder

Join Luke on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Luke is the CEO and Co-Founder of OriGym. Holding a first-class degree in Sport and Exercise and an MSc in Sport and Nutrition, he is also qualified as a Level 4 Personal Trainer with various specialist credentials covering the entire spectrum of health, fitness and business. Luke has contributed to a variety of major industry publications, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Metro, Cosmopolitan, The Mirror, The Sun, The Standard and more.

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