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What is a Fitness Instructor

What is a Fitness Instructor?

If you’re interested in joining the fitness industry, one of the initial questions that is often raised is ‘what is a fitness instructor?’.

There are many different avenues within fitness, and establishing which one best suits you can be overwhelming, so in this article, we will dissect the role of a fitness instructor so you can make an informed decision on whether this is the route for you.

A fitness instructor job role is most commonly used as an entry point for many, in which you will become qualified to work at a gym and ready to launch a newfound career. 

If this sounds like a dream career move then you’re in the right place, at OriGym we will break down the question ‘what is a personal trainer?’, by tackling the following topics:

But before we begin, if you have a passion for all things fitness and want to enter the industry on a professional level check out OriGym’s online personal training course here, for information on how you can jump-start your career.

Alternatively, download our prospectus for further information on all of our fitness courses.

What is a Fitness Instructor?

If you’re questioning ‘what is a fitness instructor?’, which we assume you are since you’ve landed on this article, then this section will provide you with a basic job description of the role and the responsibilities that come along with it. 

The fitness instructor role is often occupied by individuals who are just entering the fitness industry and at the start of their career. This is due to the fact that a fitness instructor certification is the earliest qualification you can earn, for example, OriGym’s Level 2 Fitness Instructor course is accessible for people aged 16+. 

Whereas to enroll in our Level 3 Personal Training course you’ll need to first complete the aforementioned Level 2 certification. 

But regardless of age, a fitness instructor, or as it is otherwise known ‘a gym instructor’, is someone whose job it is to help others improve their fitness levels and exercise techniques. They are traditionally employed by gyms or sports clubs to provide support and guidance for members. 

This guidance begins upon a client’s first visit to the fitness facility, as part of a fitness instructor's job description is to conduct gym induction and show new members the equipment and facilities. 

You’ll often find fitness instructors walking the gym floor, dressed in a company uniform or clothing that makes them easily recognisable. Clothing may not sound too important, but it helps to distinguish the instructor from other gym-goers, allowing customers to approach with inquiries regarding assistance and advice. 

This guidance can be something as simple as giving advice, to physically demonstrating how to use a specific piece of equipment and the form that it should be done with. 

Hopefully, this section has provided clarity regarding the question ‘what is a fitness instructor?’, as we have clearly highlighted that anybody can fill this job role. However, if you’re still wondering about other responsibilities required within this job role then be sure to keep reading.

What is a Fitness Instructor Job Description? 

Before fully committing to entering this professional industry, more insight is required in order to answer ‘what is the role of a fitness instructor?’.

Therefore, this section is dedicated to dissecting the job role of fitness instructors. But before we begin, please keep in mind that every gym and fitness establishment will operate at a different level, and may therefore trust you with more or fewer responsibilities.

#1 - Demonstrate How to Correctly Use Equipment 

Whilst operating on the gym floor you may come across a customer who is struggling with a specific piece of equipment. As a fitness instructor, it is your responsibility to go over to and ask if they require assistance.

This can be approached in two ways, with either a verbal or physical demonstration that must be decided upon by the client. Within this role, you must operate to the customer’s needs and their personal preferences.

We recommend approaching respectfully and offering your guidance, letting the struggling client know that you can provide verbal or physical help before asking which they’d prefer. 

If the customer wants physical assistance, be sure they stand at a safe distance before you personally demonstrate the correct way of operating the machine. During this process you should still be offering verbal cues, providing further clarity on the correct method of operation and why to perform it that way. 

However, if the client asks for verbal assistance, we recommend standing back and merely guiding the customer through the operation with vocal cues alone. 

Please be aware that one-to-one contact with customers should be limited, any extended time spent beyond this correction should be handled by personal trainers. If you’d like to further engage clients whilst still advancing your career, why not sign up for our Level 3 Personal Trainer Course here.

#2 - Maintain Equipment and Clean the Gym

Despite your preconceived notions surrounding the question ‘what is the role of a fitness instructor’, this job does not solely surround educating customers on fitness-related topics. Sometimes, it will be required of you to monitor the gym floor in order to clean and protect the equipment from damage. 

Whatsmore, whilst on the gym floor you may also have to clean the equipment after usage. Typically, customers will be polite enough to wipe down the machine themselves, however, this is not always the case and for hygiene reasons, it is important that equipment is cleaned in between customer uses.

This process may involve a simple wiping down in order to ensure that the machine is suitable for another customer to use. However, at the end of your shift, you may be required to perform a deep clean of the entire gym floor. 

This role may vary depending on the size of the gym or fitness center you’re working in. For example, large chains will typically hire separate cleaners and thus won’t require you to perform this role.

Additionally, as a fitness instructor you’re responsible for maintaining your workplace, take pride in your working environment and be sure to protect it whenever possible. If you see someone misusing a machine, approach them and offer a correction, in order to ensure the machine stays in optimal condition. 

When questioning ‘what is the role of a fitness instructor?’, many often wonder if their responsibility lies with physically intervening in certain situations. 

If someone is purposely trying to damage the equipment you must assess the situation before intervening. If someone is acting violently or irrationally, for your own safety never approach alone and be sure to get immediate help from a manager or another employee immediately.

# 3 - Perform Administrative Work to Promote the Gym

When looking into the topic of ‘what is a fitness instructor job description?’ you will often find administrative responsibilities advertised. 

Note, this is another example of a responsibility that may not be required should you be hired by a large corporate chain gym, as they will typically have a specialised team hired to operate admin duties. 

However, small gyms or fitness clubs with fewer staff members may require you to work behind a desk several times a week and perform admin responsibilities. 

These responsibilities could shift day to day and may require you do perform any of the following tasks:

  • Ensure members fees are paid 
  • Advertise the gym’s features on social media 
  • Ensuring clients are scheduled for the correct classes
  • Organising timetables for the personal trainers and their clients 

As mentioned within the previous point, being a fitness instructor doesn’t always involve physical activities, sometimes you have to take on responsibilities beyond your comfort zone. 

If performing these types of roles makes you nervous or uncomfortable, have no fear, as these types of duties should never be sprung on you without notification. During your initial application for the position the employer should clearly lay out what is expected of you, covering every responsibility and not just the fitness-based ones. 

#4 - Teaching Group Classes 

Whilst one-to-one interaction is commonly left to personal trainers, fitness instructors can in fact lead group sessions, click here to read about the advantages of group sessions. 

Through these group sessions, fitness instructors will gain the opportunity to teach an area of fitness which they feel passionate about, allowing them to adapt it whatever way they see fit. 

Whatsmore, these classes can also allow you to get to know gym ‘regulars’ that would otherwise not typically interact with you. Use this opportunity to cement yourself as a knowledge source of information at the gym, somebody that clients can turn to outside class hours when they see you on the floor. 

These classes can vary depending on your own specific skill set, ranging from the likes of:

  • Spin instructing 
  • HIIT
  • Aerobics 
  • Zumba
  • Yoga
  • And so many more!

If the opportunity to lead these classes never presents itself, be sure to put yourself forward for the role. Approach your manager and remind them of your specific skill set, before stating that you’re eager to host a group-focused class on the matter. 

Remember, the question ‘what is the role of a fitness instructor?’, is largely shaped by your own experience, and your role will always differ from that of another instructor in a different part of the country. 

If guiding large groups of individuals in fitness sessions sounds interesting to you, then you’d be the perfect candidate for OriGym’s CPD qualification in Group Exercise. This certification will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently command a class of fitness lovers, ensuring each and every member gets the most out of your class. 

#5 - Provide Informal Advice on a Range of Topics

By dissecting ‘what is the role of a fitness instructor?’, at OriGym we have provided a general overview of some of the roles and responsibilities that may be asked of you. However, none of the previous points take into account questions you may be asked whilst at work. 

Whether you’re manning the gym floor or welcoming guests at reception there is always a chance a customer may approach you for health and fitness-related advice. Providing answers to which could earn you the trust of members, and make you a highly valued member of staff. 

As a gym instructor you can give general advice on the following topics:

  • Bodily Position - When clients are exercising you can offer demonstrations into how their bodies should be positioned. This is done in order to ensure that they are executing their workout routine in the safest way possible.
  • Nutrition - You may advise customers what to eat before and after specific exercises.
  • Set and Rep Recommendations - Recommend the appropriate amount of sets and reps to ensure clients receive an efficient workout.
  • Clothing - If you’re a fitness professional you likely stay up to date with the latest trends in terms of sports clothing. If a client wants to know what running shoes to wear for example, you can provide general advice on the brands/designs they should be looking into.
  • Classes -  If clients approach you regarding goal-specific advice such as how to lose more weight, you can direct them towards a class that will be beneficial to them. 

However, regardless of how much knowledge or experience you have on any given subject please remember that this is only general advice. In order to give official advice and recommendations to potential clients, you must be a qualified personal trainer. 

We hope that this section has provided you with more insight into the question ‘what is a fitness instructor job description?’. Please keep in mind that these roles will differ from gym to gym, some employers may ask more or less of you than we have detailed. 

OriGym’s Personal Trainer Diploma is one of the most beneficial qualifications you can achieve, as it has a built-in Fitness Instructor qualification, meaning that you will be qualified to work in both job roles upon graduation.

 

Inquire to Become a Fitness Instructor

Get started in the fitness industry in the best way by enquiring about our Level 2 Gym Instructor Course!

 

What is a Group Fitness Instructor?

As mentioned within the section above, one of the roles and responsibilities of a fitness instructor is to lead classes of large groups. Sometimes an individual may be solely hired to teach group-based classes at gyms, but what is a group fitness instructor?

In short, a group fitness instructor is a professional who leads exercise classes with a number of participants at once. These classes may be a general fitness-based class, however, some may have a more specific focus such as HIIT training, spin class or yoga. 

Fun Fact - The group fitness instructor job role first became popular in the 1980s, with the help of celebrities such as Jane Fonda who aided in the mainstream launch of exercises such as aerobics. 

Another question that individuals often ask in relation to this topic is, ‘what is a group fitness instructor and how does their job role differ from that of regular instructors?’

In order to be a group fitness instructor you need to have bundles of personality, as you can’t connect to just one person, you have to motivate and drive an entire room. Holding people’s attention is no easy task, and in some regards that would make the job role of being a group instructor a lot harder than personal training, especially for those of you who are significantly more introverted.

Furthermore, another challenging aspect of this job role is ensuring that everyone is correctly exercising. With personal training you are interacting with one individual, meaning that you can easily correct any mistakes they may make during the session. 

This isn’t as easy when it comes to guiding an entire class, you’re just one person and will naturally not be able to stop an entire class to help someone struggling with aspects such as posture or footing. 

We hope that this section has provided a sense of clarity in regards to the question ‘what is a group fitness instructor?’. Please be aware, just because there are fewer qualifications required to become a fitness instructor does not negate the fact that it is an incredibly challenging job, a point of which this section we dedicated to highlighting. 

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If you’re enjoying our article on dissecting the question ‘what is a fitness instructor?’, we believe you’d like these other OriGym articles.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Fitness Instructor?

Unlike other roles within the industry becoming a fitness instructor is a fairly straightforward process, as you only need to hold one professional qualification, that of an OriGym Level 2 gym instructor certificate

But what is a level 2 fitness instructor course? Well, if you’re new to fitness or are simply unsure of how the qualification process works, have no fear as OriGym will break down the defining points of this course. 

What is a Level 2 Fitness Instructor Course? 

At OriGym our Level 2 Fitness Instructor course is accessible to anyone over the age of 16, who has a passion for fitness and learning new skills. There are absolutely no additional qualifications needed to apply for this course, as we take on potential instructors from all walks of life. 

Our industry-leading internationally recognised gym instructor course has been developed to meet the rapidly changing fitness industry. Upon completion, you will be equipped with the vital tools and fundamental knowledge needed to become a fitness instructor in as little as 2 weeks. 

Even better yet, OriGym offers the unique opportunity to learn in a manner that suits you best, whether that’s entirely online, in person, or split between the two 50/50. 

But what exactly will you be learning? At OriGym, our course is designed to teach you how to confidently work within a fitness environment, including how to plan, instruct and evaluate gym programs. 

If you have no prior knowledge of health and fitness our Level 2 Fitness Instructor course will be beneficial to your learning process, as it also covers classes on human anatomy and physiology. Whatsmore, it provides newcomers with insider knowledge on how you can personally succeed in the business side of this occupation.

However, before you achieve your qualification you will need to undertake a series of assessments that will vary in delivery depending on how you choose to study. 

Students Studying our Gym Instructor Course Online/Part-Time will be required to complete the following assessment:

  • Multiple choice open book online exam on Anatomy and Physiology - 70% Pass Required 
  • Multiple choice open book online exam on Principles of Exercise and Health -  70% Pass Required 
  • Practical Assessment or Delivering a Gym-based induction - Pass Required 

Please Note: In order to complete an in-person practical assessment you will need to travel to an OriGym venue. We are currently located in twelve major cities across the UK, and will be asked to travel to the one that is nearest to you.

Students who are studying our Level 2 Fitness Instructor course are expected to complete these three assessments - Note the non-practical elements can be completed online if you so wish: 

  • Multiple choice open book online exam on Anatomy and Physiology - 70% Pass Required 
  • Multiple choice open book online exam on Principles of Exercise and Health -  70% Pass Required 
  • Practical Assessment or Delivering a Gym-based induction - Pass Required 

Throughout this course, you will be directly supported by OriGym’s team of expert tutors. Who will be on hand to improve your chances of passing the first time around. 

Keep in mind that the answer we have provided to the question ‘what is a Level 2 fitness instructor?’ is specific to OriGym. Other companies may have different entry requirements and may assess you in alternative ways. 

How Does a Fitness Instructor Differ From a Personal Trainer? 

Whilst discussing the topic of ‘what is a fitness instructor?’, many wrongly assume that the job is identical to that of a personal trainer, however, that is not the case. We have briefly touched upon how these roles differentiate, but within this section, we will provide a more detailed description of what separates fitness instructors from personal trainers. 

#1 - Able to Give Advice 

Firstly, as we have already stated fitness instructors cannot give the same official advice as personal trainers can. Whatsmore, personal trainers can work one-to-one with clients, creating tailored workouts that are unique to their needs and goals.

On the other hand, fitness instructors work with multiple different people at once whilst monitoring the gym’s floor and teaching classes. Once again to stress, fitness instructors have very little one-to-one interaction with members, any guidance provided needs to be general and will not be too in-depth.

Depending on your personality you may thrive in one job role but not the other. For example, if you’re a more introverted individual working with someone regularly one-to-one may be easier, compared to leading and interacting with a large group of people at once. 

#2 - Qualifications Needed 

Another key difference between the two job roles is the qualifications needed to enter the industry. As stated in the section dedicated to fitness instructor qualifications, at OriGym we accept everyone for our Level 2 Fitness Instructor course, with no other necessary qualifications needed.

However, this is not the case for the likes of our Level 3 Personal Trainer course, in which you will need to complete your Level 2 certification in fitness instructing in order to become eligible for enrollment. Furthermore, our highest qualification, the Level 4 Personal Training certification requires you to have both your Levels 2 and 3 prior to applying. 

Personal training jobs and courses often have higher qualification requirements, due to the fact it is a more demanding job role, which requires a greater amount of knowledge on fitness and the human body. 

#3 - Quality Control 

Whilst analysing the section ‘what is a group fitness instructor?’, we briefly touched upon the fact that when leading an entire class as a fitness instructor it’s hard to find a good balance of quality control. Due to the large number of individuals participating, sadly you cannot give struggling customers the one-to-one attention they deserve, as your responsibility is to lead the entire class.

Personal training is somewhat more beneficial in this regard, as the intimacy of the sessions allows for more detailed feedback to be given, without it coming at the expense of others. 

#4 - Working Hours 

As a fitness instructor your working hours largely depend on the gym you’re currently working at. Unfortunately, there isn’t one set answer for how long or frequently you’ll be required for, that decision is down to the gym manager/owner.

Shifts can range from working five days a week, only working weekends, to having multiple days off. Like any other contracted job your shifts will be predetermined within your contract, be it part or full time. 

However, what we can guarantee is that on average fitness instructor hours will typically be more structured and guaranteed compared to working as a personal trainer. As a fitness instructor, you will be on a fixed contract with a gym meaning shifts will be given to you, whereas personal trainers sometimes don’t have this luxury.

As a freelance personal trainer, you may not have that many clients, and therefore your working hours may be less frequent, or disjointed throughout a single day. 

There are always options to become personal trainers signed to specific gyms, in which case you too will be working contracted hours, however, these contracts aren’t always guaranteed and may be hard to come by for newbies.

#5 - Earning Potential 

This is another key difference between the two job roles which can change from person to person. As a personal trainer you could be earning a lot of money, from multiple clients and partnerships with different gyms.

However, this will only be the case for those who are exceptionally qualified in areas such as Level 4 personal training, have years' worth of experience, and may even have high-profile endorsements. 

In most cases, freelance personal trainers who are just starting in the industry may struggle to make money initially and may require another source of income to support themselves.

However, as stated within the point made above fitness instructors will always act as contracted employees by a gym or fitness center. Regardless of whether you work part or full time, this contract guarantees you a salary to take home at the end of the month.

If you’d like to learn more about how these two jobs differentiate click here for our article comparing fitness instructors vs personal trainers.

What Is a Fitness Instructors Expected Salary?

Now that we covered the potential earnings of a fitness instructor we can now turn our attention to specifics and provide a more detailed estimate of what you can expect to earn within this job role.

The UK’s National Career Service website estimates that on average fitness instructors can earn anywhere between £14,000.00 - £25,000.00 every year. Naturally, this depends on how qualified you are for the role, and how many years' worth of experience you have under your belt.

These expectations are reflected in advertised job roles on GlassDoor, which establishes entry-level roles with a salary of a little over £14,000 a year. However, job roles that require a more knowledgeable and experienced instructor will naturally pay more, with opportunities within the NHS maintaining an annual salary of £20,000.

However, by far the best job roles to apply for are that of privately owned health centers. Properties such as SnapFitness pay fitness instructors an impressive salary of £43,000.00 a year, far exceeding the national average.

The salary you receive will traditionally reflect your experience within the industry, so, if you’re a young person who’s newly qualified and looking to start a career in fitness, becoming a gym instructor will set you on course for earning an impressive living wage. 

 

Do Fitness Instructors Need Insurance? 

When discussing the responsibilities of fitness instructors we shared that the most important role is keeping the gym members safe. When teaching class accidents can happen, and if someone should injure themselves you need insurance in order to protect yourself.

Even when working under contract for a specific gym or fitness center, providing insurance for yourself will offer support should the worst ever happen, and your employer either cannot or chooses not to back you. 

This isn’t just a necessity for fitness instructors, at OriGym we strongly advise anyone working in the fitness industry to invest in insurance. For a more detailed exploration into insurance companies, check out our article in which we compare personal trainer insurance policies and prices across the UK.

As a fitness instructor insurance will protect you in the following ways:

  • Against clients who claim their injury is due to your teaching methods.
  • Against employers who claim you are at fault for clients damaging equipment/property.
  • Against negligence claims 
  • If your gear or equipment is ever stolen 
  • If you’re personally injured on the job and cannot work for extended periods of time

At OriGym we advise all fitness instructors to use the trusted Insure4Sport for all your insurance needs. With the minimum amount of coverage you can invest just £43.99 a month you could receive a maximum of a £1m payout!

FAQ

What Other Job Opportunities Await Me Once I Become a Fitness Instructor?

Once you have achieved your Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualification, the world is your oyster as this course opens up so many doors for you to pursue just about anything you wish in relation to health and fitness.

Once this qualification has been achieved you can work professionally as a fitness/gym instructor in a multitude of different venues. If you choose to stay on this path of fitness instructing, you will gradually build experience and respect within the industry, teaching group classes and working your way up to higher-paid positions. 

Alternatively, you can decide to pursue further training and qualifications; an option that has the potential to open even more doors for you in the future. 

For example, once this course has been completed, you can pursue your Level 3 Personal Training qualification. Which in turn will make you eligible for higher more specialised qualifications such as the Level 4 Advanced Sports Nutrition course.

Having these higher qualifications will not only provide you with greater knowledge and a more versatile skill set, but also a plethora of job opportunities, most of which will offer you the potential to earn a very attractive salary. Think of OriGym’s Fitness Instructing course as the launchpad for your future career, through enrolling you will be able to conquer set goals and achieve your dream job within the industry. 

How Long Does It Take To Become a Fitness Instructor?

Course lengths may vary depending on where you choose to study, however, at OriGym you can become a fitness instructor in as little as 2 weeks.

Additionally, the time taken to complete the Level 2 Fitness Instructor Course may be affected by the way in which you choose to study. Whilst full-time students have the opportunity to complete the course in 2 weeks, part-time students typically earn their diplomas after 6 weeks.

This timeframe does not factor in the time required for resitting any tests, which will naturally prolong the process. At OriGym, we seek to minimise this time constraint with our team of professionally educated trainers, who seek to ensure you pass the first time around. 

Before You Go!

This article has been dedicated to answering the question ‘what is a fitness instructor?’, and we hope that the information we have provided has given you a greater understanding of this job role. 

As we have tried to highlight in this article, so much more goes into being a fitness instructor than just teaching students and gym customers. This role requires serious dedication to the craft of health and fitness, if you have this drive then we encourage you to take the first steps and become a fitness instructor and share your passion with others in the process. 

Before you go, check out OriGym’s online personal training course here, here you will find information that will guide you through the process of jump-starting your career in fitness. 

Alternatively, download our prospectus for further information on all of our fitness courses, suitable for both beginners and experts alike. 

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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