12 Tips for How To Be a Successful Personal Trainer

Updated June 24, 2022

Personal trainers assist individuals with exercises and provide guidance and support to help them with their health and fitness goals. Working as a personal trainer often requires you to combine various skills to provide effective service and help your client achieve their goals and see results. In this article, we discuss what you need to be a successful personal trainer and provide tips for how to be a successful personal trainer and improve your skills.

Read more: Learn About Being a Personal Trainer

What do you need to be a successful personal trainer?

Becoming a successful personal trainer requires more than earning certifications and proving your abilities. It's a daily practice of training individual people in a way that your clients want more of you and continuously striving to build and keep a loyal client base. This may mean developing an approach to training where clients see the results and benefits of working with you and consider working with you to be a necessity.

Read more: How To Become a Personal Trainer

Tips for becoming a successful personal trainer

Here are some tips to help you become a successful personal trainer:

Find a niche

Determine a fitness niche you want to focus on as a personal trainer. Some trainers focus on a specific type of training, type of training location or type of clientele. Some niches of clientele may include:

  • High-level athletes

  • Senior citizens

  • Bodybuilders

  • People hoping to lose weight

  • Young people

  • People with different abilities

  • Couples

  • Prenatal or postnatal people

Listen to your clients

Listen to your clients to ensure everything you do as a personal trainer revolves around what they want. Work with your clients to help them set goals for what they hope to achieve. Ask them about why they hired a personal trainer, and find out their exercise preferences. Use this to develop a custom plan specifically for them.

It's also important for you to listen to your clients to learn more about their exercise background and if there are any injuries or health conditions you should know about. Be mindful of any personal information your client shares with you, and incorporate any boundaries they establish into your plans. Listening to your clients may help them feel more valued and respected.

Get plenty of experience

Gaining lots of experience can help better prepare you to be a successful trainer. Spend plenty of time in the gym learning how to use different equipment and how to do different exercises. Observe other trainers to learn more about their approach, and consider working with a trainer yourself to see how it feels to be a client, not a trainer. Talk to other trainers about any concerns you may have, and ask them for their advice or biggest tips.

Learn how to be a coach

As a personal trainer, it's important for you to build a connection with your client and guide them through the gradual body changes they're experiencing. This requires you to learn how to effectively encourage and motivate your clients and how to be a coach. Being a coach involves learning more about the psychology of what you do or say and more about what each of your specific clients responds to.

Related: Essential Coaching Skills for Strong Leadership

Be a leader and a teacher

Being a successful personal trainer requires you to provide honest feedback to your clients. It's important for you to provide helpful critiques to correct your clients to improve their form or habits. However, it's equally important for you to provide well-earned praise and encouragement.

Train the client based on what works for them

It's important for you to remember your client has different needs and preferences from how you like to work out. Choose equipment and exercises that works specifically for them, and consider their personal preferences as you develop their workouts. For example, if you have a client who dislikes running as a cardio exercise, recommend they attend a fitness-based dance class as a method of cardio.

It's also important to be mindful of your client's relationship with technology. Some clients may have smart watches or other devices they want to use to track their progress. Consider how you can incorporate the goals these devices prompt into the goals you create for your client.

Train on movement first

Focus on helping your clients learn new movements as a first step. This helps better set your clients up for success as they build new skills and train their body to be familiar with new movements. Once your clients become more comfortable mastering movements, shift your focus to using their skills to work on their fitness goals.

Use intensely wisely

As a trainer, it's important to remember that soreness, illness or injury after a workout does not equate to successful workout. Intensity of workouts vary for each person, so it's essential to tailor workouts for each client. While it's important to challenge your clients, create individualized workouts that help boost your client's confidence. Use a variety of low, medium and high intensity exercises during your sessions.

Work at a gym before becoming a trainer

Consider pursuing other jobs at the gym before or while you work as a trainer. This may help you learn more about the operations of your gym, get to know patrons in a different way and build your skills. For example, working at the front desk of the gym may help you learn more about why people make the decisions they do about working with a personal trainer while you build your important customer service skills.

Get to know your clients

Building a personal connection with your clients is an important part of being a successful personal trainer. Make casual but professional conversation with your client to get to know them better. This can help develop loyalty and give your client a reason to continue to choose to work with you.

Give your clients homework

Provide your clients with assignments to complete outside of your regular training sessions. These recommendations may be exercises to continue on their own in the gym or little things to work on outside of the gym. This exercise outside of the gym may include things like:

  • Practicing standing a certain way to improve balance

  • Keeping a food diary or workout journal

  • Practicing breathing exercises


Networking is an important part of being a successful personal trainer. This is essential for helping you find new clients. Networking may also help you find new professional opportunities.

How to improve your personal trainer skills

Here are some ways to help you improve your skills as a personal trainer:

1. Earn new certifications

Gain new skills by earning new certifications. This may also help you expand your expertise or find a new specialty. Various national professional organizations offer certifications in specialties like:

  • CPR

  • Nutrition

  • General fitness

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

Read more: 6 Personal Training Certification Programs for Personal Trainers

2. Consider training people for free

Consider training other people for free to help you develop your skills. Ask your family and friends if any of them or people they know are looking for a trainer. Offer your help to people in the gym who seem to struggle with specific equipment or exercises.

3. Develop soft skills

Soft skills are skills that help you relate to and work with other people. These skills are essential for helping you build relationships with your client. Continue to develop and improve these skills to improve your services as a personal trainer. Focus on skills like:

  • Empathy

  • Understanding

  • Active listening

  • Communication skills

  • Dependability

  • Adaptability

  • Problem-solving

Read more: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

4. Consider business training

Many personal trainers pursue owning their own gyms or operating as independent personal trainers. As you become more successful, this may be something you consider. Pursue business training or courses to help you learn more about the basic skills of owning and operating your own business. This may help you take your career to the next level.

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