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How To Become A Personal Trainer For Professional Athletes

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Learning how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes can be a daunting prospect. That's why we’ve broken it down into a simple, step-by-step process:

You can gain advanced knowledge to pursue this career through OriGym's industry-leading personal training diplomaDownload OriGym’s FREE course prospectus to learn more about our qualifications. 

Why Being A Personal Trainer For Athletes Is A Rewarding Career 

personal trainer for athletes salary benefical

Before discussing how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes, it’s important to understand why this role is worth pursuing, to begin with. 

For starters, you need to understand that working as a PT for athletes is completely different from training members of the general public. 

Typically, when training athletes, everything is measured and compared to their previous competitive performances, with the specific goal of improving for their next competition.

You will be able to see the results of the PT sessions you’ve planned, depending on the client’s performance in the competitive environment, which can be incredibly fulfilling. 

For example, if a client previously placed 4th in a 100 metre sprint, but has since placed 2nd, you will be able to credit these results to your training programme. 

 working with an athlete as a personal trainer

In addition to this, another benefit of working with an athlete as a personal trainer is that your knowledge of health and fitness will significantly expand. For example, you will learn how to implement ‘sports specificity’ into your training programmes. 

Sports specificity, also referred to as SAID training (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands), focuses on the demands of professional sport through intense training :

  • Their primary muscles 
  • Movement patterns
  • Contraction phases 
  • Joint actions 

Essentially, you will learn how to train athletes for their specific sports. To gain a better understanding of SAID training, check out the following quote from the National Academy of Sports Medicine: 

athlete personal trainer quote

This is just one example of the advanced knowledge that you can acquire from learning how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes. 

You can truly take your passion for health and fitness to the next level, building upon the skills and knowledge acquired during your initial qualifications and applying them to your new vocation.

With this in mind, let’s now take a look at the process of becoming a PT for athletes.

Step 1 - Earn The Necessary Baseline Qualifications For Delivering Personal Training To Athletes

Step 1 - Earn The Necessary Baseline Qualifications For Delivering Personal Training To Athletes

The first step in pursuing any job role in fitness is ensuring that you’re qualified for the position, and becoming a personal trainer for athletes is no different. 

We’re going to discuss the 2 main qualifications you’ll need to hold to be considered for this role.

#1 - To Work With Athletes, You’ll Need A Personal Trainer Diploma

Work With Athletes, You’ll Need A Personal Trainer Diploma

This one is a given, but obtaining a diploma in personal training will be required to perform this job role. For reference, this qualification combines the following courses:

Once enrolled, you’ll learn the fundamentals needed to perform the responsibilities of a personal trainer. You’ll develop an understanding of how to plan and lead bespoke training sessions to help clients meet their goals.

When you’re delivering personal training for athletes, you’ll be creating programmes that are specifically designed to improve their competitive performance. 

These programmes will be ‘sports specific’, meaning that you will need advanced knowledge of key body areas to facilitate optimum performance. 

Sports Specific athlete personal trainer

This is exactly what a personal training diploma will grant you, as whilst on the course you will hone and advance your knowledge of anatomy and physiology. 

This will help you with the creation of SAID training programmes that can elevate an athlete in their chosen sports. 

An example of a personal trainer for athletes who earned this qualification can be seen below in Shaquille Whittaker’s LinkedIn profile:

personal trainer for professional athletes LinkedIn Example Diploma

Remember, being a PT for athletes will require you to perform at the highest possible level, meaning you need to find the right personal training courses for your needs. 

With a PT diploma from OriGym, you will ensure that you’re fully equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge required to thrive in the role. 

This education will set you up for the rest of your career, providing you with a launching pad to advance your career to new heights. 

Step 2 - Gain Practical Experience Before You Start Training Athletes

Gain Practical Experience Before Starting To Train Athletes

If you want to learn how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes you will naturally need to gain some practical experience in the role. 

Remember, these clients will likely be at the top of their competitive field, meaning they will have a lot of trainers vying for their attention. 

To ensure you stand out as a personal trainer you will need to have proof that you are a diligent and effective PT, who can push them towards their desired results. 

This initial validation can be gained through training members of the general public/non-athletes. In doing so, you can build up a catalogue of testimonials and referrals that support the effectiveness of your training programmes.

PT testimonials from non-athlete clients can be particularly useful if they highlight how you took the individual from completely inexperienced to a heightened level of fitness. 

For example, this quote from Kimberly Doehnert shows how she took her client from non-athlete to winning a bodybuilding competition:

how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes with testimonials

Professional athletes will view testimonials of this nature as validation that your service is effective. They will now understand that you will be able to produce similar, if not better results for them, as they will have prior experience to draw from.

In addition to this, these testimonials will also act as a form of social-proofing for athletes, highlighting that you as their PT can also perform at this physically demanding level.

Whilst working with professional athletes as a personal trainer may be your end goal, training non-athletes is a great stepping stone that many PTs use when initially entering the industry.

Step 3 - Gain Practical Experience Before You Start Training Athletes

In a recent interview with Muscle and Strength, performance enhancement specialist Dr Michael Camp stressed the importance of gaining this initial experience as a PT: 

Personal trainers are often employed in a gym setting and work with various aged clients. Goals of these clients can include weight loss, muscle gain, or improving general fitness.

I began my career as a personal trainer while attending the University of Maryland, pursuing my degrees in kinesiology and exercise physiology. It was a great way to implement my skills, education, and build confidence working with various clientele.

Learning how to design and implement various training principles was an important foundation. Training athletes from different sports has some common ground, but certain variables can change.

With this in mind, let’s discuss how you can gain this initial practical experience working as a personal trainer for non-athletes. 

When applying for roles of this nature you will typically be working in venues such as gyms or fitness centres, helping members of the general public to meet their fitness goals. Some employers may even highlight their clients’ inexperience within the job description as so:

how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes stepping stone

Whilst roles like this won’t see you acting as a personal trainer for professional athletes just yet, the experience you can gain in this role is invaluable. 

For example, once employed as a PT for the general public, you will be able to prove your worth by training clients of differing skill levels. This is incredibly beneficial, as you’ll be able to adapt your teaching style to suit different athletes, making your programmes as effective and versatile as possible.

In addition to this, using this entry-level position will also ensure that you have a stable source of income whilst pursuing your aspirations of training professional athletes. 

For more information on your earning potential in this role, check out our exploration of a personal trainer's salary here

Gaining practical experience is crucial when looking to become a personal trainer for professional athletes. Think of this process as putting your theoretical training into practice, ensuring that the knowledge you have developed is paired with actionable skills. 

With that being said, training members of the general public isn’t the only way that you can develop these valuable specialist skills.

Step 3 - Pursue Further Qualifications To Succeed As A PT  For Athletes

Step 2 - Pursue Further Qualifications To Succeed As A PT  For Athletes

The ideal way to build upon these fundamental teachings is through additional qualifications. While not as essential as the two qualifications we’ve just discussed, they can hugely improve the services you provide athletes with. 

We’ll specifically discuss how these qualifications can be obtained, and how said services can be integrated into your business.

#1 - Offering Sports Massage Therapy As A PT For Athletes 

how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes SMT

If you’re interested in pursuing further qualifications that can improve the athletic performance of a client, you may wish to complete a sports massage therapy course

An SMT course offers you the opportunity to learn how to recognise the signs of soft tissue injury, meaning that you can make training adjustments, as well as facilitate a client’s recovery process. 

As a personal trainer for athletes, you can complete the roles of a sports massage therapist which will include providing treatment:

  • Before a competition
  • During competitive events
  • Following the completion of the event 

 #2 - Offering Sports Massage Therapy As A PT For Athletes

For example, if you’re able to offer pre-event massages, this treatment will increase blood flow to key muscle groups. 

As a result, the recipient will receive a greater range of motion, and experience an increased sense of flexibility and agility - factors which can benefit them during a competition.

Post-competition massages can aid in the recovery process, reducing the impact of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and other potential injuries from occurring. 

Obtaining this knowledge is highly beneficial, as you will also be able to tailor the client’s training process following a physically demanding competition or injury. With all of these factors in mind, you can see just how valuable of a service SMT is for your clients. 

Richard Watson, a PT from Coventry realised this potential, and went on to work with Team GB athletes in the 2012 Olympics, offering treatments throughout the competition:

athlete a personal trainer LinkedIn

No athlete wants to experience an injury that could potentially ruin their ambitions of future success, and will likely want to take any precautionary measures to avoid this. 

With an SMT qualification, you can present yourself as their ideal trainer, as you will not only be able to help them physically improve but can also provide treatment to reduce the risk of them being sidelined. 

#2 - When Working With An Athlete, A Personal Trainer May Need A Sports Specific Qualification

When Working With An Athlete, A Personal Trainer May Need A Sports Specific Qualification

When discussing how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes, it’s vital that you have a significant amount of experience in your chosen field. For this reason, many of these roles will require you to hold a qualification that’s specific to that sport or discipline. 

Sports-specific courses will allow you to develop an understanding of how repeated movements impact the athlete’s body. 

With this knowledge, you can create training sessions that help to strengthen specific body parts to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

For instance, you might choose to focus on the leg and core muscles of a footballer, as they’re likely to need agility and balance to keep pace in a professional game.

In addition to this, obtaining a sports-specific qualification will allow you to learn from professionals who are already well-established in the industry. This ensures that you’re on top of all the latest fitness trends and cutting-edge strategies that can help to improve an athlete's performance. 

One example of a role that requires such qualifications is that of an Olympic Weightlifting coach. Personal trainers who wish to work with these athletes will have to specifically qualify through British Weight Lifting, following the outline listed below:

personal trainer for athletes salary weightlifting

We’ve already touched on how earning sports-specific qualifications can allow you to learn from esteemed personal trainers, but upon completion, you can begin training professional athletes who view you as an expert in their chosen field. 

Take Biff Darvill as an example. Through earning official qualifications with British Weight Lifting, she was able to travel the world training premier athletes:

how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes sports specifc LinkedIn

If you have a particular sport that you’d like to specialise in as a personal trainer for professional athletes, we recommend conducting diligent research into that field. 

This will allow you to determine whether you need sports-specific training, or whether holistic courses and practical experience are the better options.

#3 - A Level 4 Advanced Sports Nutritionist Qualification Can Also Benefit Personal Trainers Training Athletes

personal trainer for athletes salary Nutrition

When working with an athlete a personal trainer may be expected to provide more than just exercise advice and training guidance. 

With a qualification in nutrition, you will be able to provide bespoke client meal plans that help to facilitate your client’s goals. When enrolled on this course, you will specifically learn how to understand the relationship between nutrition and physical activity. 

This will be beneficial as with this knowledge you will be able to understand what foods are more suitable for athletes’ chosen sports. 

For example, if you were training long-distance runners, you’d be able to craft meal plans that are heavy in carbohydrates. This will help to store glycogen, which can act as a form of sugar that circulates throughout the bloodstream, helping to sustain energy levels.

One PT who offers this service is John Clarke, who crafts bespoke meal plans for professional boxers to ensure they’re at peak performance levels for their matches: 

personal training athletes Boxers

Once you’ve earned a qualification of this nature, much like John Clarke, you can begin to offer meal plan services that help to facilitate your client’s training programme. 

In turn, this increases the overall value of your personal training service, as you will be able to offer far more than just exercise-related advice.

At OriGym, this Level 4 nutrition course is offered as an online qualification, meaning that it can be completed from the comfort of your own home, with most students graduating within 12 weeks. 

When combined, both the personal training diploma and Level 4 sports nutrition course will provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that can be implemented to benefit the athlete you’re training.

Let’s look at how you can build even further on those foundations, and offer a more comprehensive service to your athlete clients through practical experience

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym

Earn your Personal Training Diploma with OriGym Today! 

- - - - 

When looking into how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes, these other OriGym articles can help you find further success in the industry:

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym

Earn your Personal Training Diploma with OriGym Today! 

Step 4 - Shadow An Existing Personal Trainer For Professional Athletes

Shadow An Existing Personal Trainer For Professional Athletes

When looking to gain experience working with athletes as a personal trainer, another method that you could choose to implement is shadowing a professional who is already employed in the position.

This can benefit your career massively as you’ll be able to observe how a more experienced trainer interacts with professional athletes. 

This includes understanding how the PT designs a programme with their client’s chosen sport in mind, noting how they provide motivation for athletes, and whether these strategies differ from working with members of the general public.

Through shadowing a more experienced personal trainer, you will also be able to ask them any relevant questions you may have about the position, as well as the discipline you’re looking to work in. 

This will give you direct insight into the job role, and the experience you get from shadowing a PT for athletes will help you prepare for your career in this specific role. 

For example, you will be able to observe any potential issues that may occur during training, ensuring to note how the trainer overcomes the problem to maintain the quality of their clients’ workout programme.

gain experience working with athletes as a personal trainer,

Arguably one of the biggest benefits of pursuing shadowing opportunities is that you will be able to network with the professionals working in your dream profession. 

Not only will said individuals be able to provide useful advice, such as how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes, but they can also recommend your service directly to athletes and other employers within the industry. 

How Can I Shadow A Personal Trainer For Professional Athletes?

How Can I Shadow A Personal Trainer For Professional Athletes?

In short, the only way to gain this opportunity is to actively seek out personal trainers who are currently working with athletes in your chosen sport.

You could also choose to contact a club or team, especially if you’re interested in working with athletes who are part of a team, like football players.

Once you have found a contact that you wish to shadow, you will have to directly ask them whether they’d be willing to let you observe.

This is exactly what Finnish PT Yunus Barisik did when looking for a position training professional hockey players. 

He contacted established professionals Ben Prentiss and Kevin Neeld and was able to secure two internships shadowing two of the industry’s top hockey-based personal trainers.

This is something Yunus still displays on his personal training CV, as it not only shows his dedication but his commitment to providing the best training possible for his clients:

Yunnus personal training athletes

Yunus obtained these shadowing opportunities by using his initiative to find experts who were located in a different country (United States). He didn’t just restrict his search to his home town in Finland and knew that America would be the best option as it’s home to the National Hockey League. 

In addition to this, Yunus also showed further incentive by using his own money to fund his trip and even offered to pay the personal trainers for their time.

This example highlights how you’ll need to be proactive when looking for a personal trainer to shadow. We’d recommend looking beyond your local area, as there may be the perfect opportunity awaiting you elsewhere. 

For example, if you wished to train rugby players then you could look to various locations across the UK, including:

With this in mind, here is an example template of a message you could send to an athlete personal trainer who’s working with your desired clientele:

Dear (Insert Name Here)

I am writing to you because I have a keen interest in the athletic development of rugby players. I will be in your area in the near future, and was wondering if I could observe one or two of your training sessions.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from an expert such as yourself, and understand that your time is valuable. For this reason, I would be more than willing to pay for this opportunity, and will happily work around your schedule.  

Looking forward to hearing from you.

This experience can essentially teach you how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes. You simply need to make the most of the opportunity, showing up on time with a positive attitude and a desire to learn from an expert. 

In short, you should take this process as seriously as you would job applications and present yourself to these experts in the best possible manner.

Step 5 - Securing Your Dream Role Offering Personal Training for Athletes 

Securing Your Dream Role Offering Personal Training for Athletes

In this final section, we’re going to discuss how you can pursue a career offering personal training for athletes. To ensure that you have a detailed understanding of the employment process, this will be broken down into two separate steps: 

  • Using Voluntary Positions To Build Up To A Career As A PT For Athletes
  • Sourcing A Permanent Role As A Personal Trainer For Athletes

Keep in mind that this isn’t to say that you have to follow this outline if you’re looking to work with athletes as a personal trainer.

Every employer is unique and will have different requirements for their applicants - the steps we’ve outlined here are examples of how you can go about this process.

Using Voluntary Positions To Build Up To A Career As A PT For Athletes

Using Voluntary Positions To Build Up To A Career As A PT For Athletes

Gaining practical experience is invaluable when learning how to become a personal trainer for athletes. Part of this may involve taking unpaid voluntary positions that build up your credibility within the industry. 

Due to how prestigious paid opportunities in this role are, initially working as a volunteer is a route that many PTs have to take to get their foot in the door.

For more guidance on this matter, check out our article on How to Get PT Work Experience.

After volunteering, you may find that achieving a paid position becomes easier, as you will have made a name for yourself in the industry, and developed key skills that are vital for the role.

In addition to this, with volunteering experience you will build an existing relationship with athletes, meaning that you will have insight into how they train, as well as their likes or dislikes. As a result, they may recommend you for a full-time position to continue working with you.

One way to obtain volunteering positions is to check the websites for these opportunities. Typically, popular sporting teams or companies will post volunteer vacancies for the public to enquire about, such as this example from England Football:

athlete personal trainer volunteer

Similarly to obtaining shadowing opportunities, you can also pursue these voluntary positions by proactively making yourself available to industry-established professionals.

Much like Yunus Barisik who we looked at earlier, this process will involve directly contacting the establishment you wish to work with. 

pt for athletes email

We’d recommend not limiting yourself to one singular opportunity. Instead, you should create a detailed list of contacts that you wish to work with, including:

  • Professionals who already offer personal training to athletes. 
  • Gyms that specialise in training athletes 
  • Sporting clubs directly

When creating this list you should conduct thorough research into the sport you’re passionate about, as this will help to highlight who you should be contacting for the volunteer positions.

For example, let’s say that you wished to become a personal trainer for athletes competing in running events at an Olympic level. 

By conducting our research, we were able to create a list of professionals who would be worth contacting for this opportunity: 

  • Jane Vongvorachoti - Former Olympic marathon runner and current PT specialising in training clients for long-distance cardio events.
  • Sports Performance Group - Fitness studio that specialises in training athletes for competitive racing. Multiple clients compete at a global level including Olympics and World championships.
  • Bobby McGee - 5x Olympic Coach specialising in long-distance running - Trained some of the top triathletes in the world. 

Whilst purely hypothetical, the list above demonstrates the amount of research you should put into finding a potential volunteer position. 

personal trainer for athletes salary plan

It goes without saying, but securing a position of this nature can be incredibly beneficial to your career. 

Not only will you be able to gain relevant experience from working with athletes as a personal trainer, but through networking with professionals, you can increase the likelihood of landing a paid position. 

Even if you think securing a volunteer opportunity is a long shot, actively messaging professionals can be a beneficial experience in itself, helping to inform your approach in the future. 

For example, one professional may reject your offer to volunteer based on not having enough experience as a personal trainer. You can then go away and continue working with members of the general public, as this will allow you to develop skills that need improvement.

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym

Earn your Personal Training Diploma with OriGym Today! 

Sourcing A Permanent Role As A Personal Trainer For Athletes

Sourcing A Permanent Role As A Personal Trainer For Athletes

For full transparency, becoming a personal trainer for professional athletes will be a difficult task. 

Roles in the industry are highly competitive, meaning that you will need to perform to the best of your ability to even be considered for the role.  

A paid position in athlete training may be secured after you complete a volunteer position. For example, if an employer is pleased with your performance they may offer you a full-time contract. 

Alternatively, the professional/establishment that you’re volunteering for may recommend you for a paid position with another employer. This highlights why unpaid positions can still be beneficial to your future career. 

You can conduct research into websites and social media pages affiliated with your desired sport. This can include the likes of:

Contact to secure a role as a personal trainer for athletes

Through actively looking into these platforms, you will become aware of any paid vacancies that may be made available. Once found, these can be completed like any other job application.

Keep in mind, industry-specific sites such as Jobs in Football and England Rugby will typically feature vacancies that cannot be found on sites like Indeed, so research is essential.

When searching for permanent roles as a PT for athletes you should read the job advertisements diligently. This will allow you to determine whether you’re qualified enough for the role and whether your existing skill set will transfer well to the position.

Finding vacancies in this manner can be a time-consuming process, but will ultimately lead to landing your dream job as an athlete personal trainer. 

Before You Go! 

Now that you’re aware of how to become a personal trainer for professional athletes, you can start your journey towards working with those at the peak of their physical fitness.

This all begins with the completion of a diploma in personal training, providing you with baseline knowledge for the role. Our course prospectus is also available to download for FREE!

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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