Personal Training Tips: Advice For New Personal Trainers

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We have the privilege of sharing wisdom from Mary Henderson, a seasoned veteran in the fitness industry whose personal training career has spanned decades and helped shape the lives of countless individuals aiming for a healthier lifestyle.

Mary’s story is a testament to the growth and opportunities that personal training offers. From her first client—a fifty-year-old mother looking to transform her life—to becoming a certified personal trainer known for her dynamic training programs, Mary’s journey is filled with valuable lessons on professionalism, adaptability, and client-focused service. Her approach goes beyond physical training; it involves understanding client needs, which she balances with fitness regimes and nutritional guidance.

In her guest blog, Mary shares the essentials of becoming a successful personal trainer. She encourages the importance of humility, continuous learning, and the ability to communicate and connect with clients effectively. Join us as Mary shares her experiences and strategies that will inspire and guide the next generation of fitness professionals toward a fulfilling career.

“Personal training can be a very rewarding and satisfying profession. It increases one’s knowledge of the human body, and it develops new friendships, all while meeting financial needs. It can also be intimidating at first, but as you gain experience, that will fade.” Mary Henderson

The Journey to becoming a Personal Trainer

I remember my first personal training client. She was a fifty-year-old mother of three teenage boys who had no previous experience in the gym. She didn’t know much about nutrition, and her husband wanted her to lose weight. That was more than twenty years ago.

A Veteran’s First Steps

I had been a group fitness instructor and a director in charge of the group fitness program in a boutique gym for several years. Though I already taught all the group fitness modalities and had all the associated certifications, my passion for health and fitness only grew. I decided to step out of standard group fitness into the personal training realm to grow as a person and expand my repertoire. After some intense studying, I successfully completed my personal training certification. My passion for fitness spurred me to learn everything I could. I wanted to help people find the joy of moving and moving well.

An Exciting New Challenge

Personal training is very different from group fitness. I now had to assess and write programs, not choreography. I needed to understand how the muscular system functions in relation to the whole body in order to write a balanced workout in tune with my client’s individual needs. I needed to monitor progress and to know how and when to progress or regress an exercise. It was daunting at first, but practicing, finding a mentor, asking questions, and having humility allowed me to become a successful, sought-after trainer.

Taking Advantage of Experience

Having a mentor and being able to take constructive criticism was crucial. I needed to be willing to learn and to realize that I didn’t know everything just because I passed the test!

The facility that I worked at had a good mentorship program. I would shadow experienced professionals with their clients, listen to what they said, and observe how they trained. I would ask questions.

How does a Personal Trainer Gain Experience?

Gaining experience is necessary for any great personal trainer wanting to refine their skills and increase their marketability in the fitness industry. Below are several methods for gaining experience and elevating your status to successful personal trainer:

  • Intern with Established Personal Trainers: Find a mentor within networks like the American Council on Exercise and learn first the ins and outs of elite personal training.
  • Work Across Various Fitness Settings: Secure a role in a rehabilitation or similar facility to understand the particulars of training clients with specific health conditions, increasing your ability to personalize workouts for a diverse client base.
  • Pursue Continuous Education and Certifications: Earn certifications in different fitness trends or expand your knowledge in established practices like certified strength training or sports-specific conditioning.
  • Join Professional Fitness Networks: Participate in events hosted by fitness industry leaders to network and learn from some of the best trainers in the field.
  • Use Online Platforms to Train Clients: Offer virtual training sessions to attract clients globally, expand your client base, and showcase your flexible communication skills.
  • Engage in Community Fitness Programs: Organize free outdoor training sessions to demonstrate your commitment to health and fitness and to attract clients through public engagement.
  • Create Educational Content: Create workout videos or write articles on nutrition and routines that help clients understand the science behind their fitness goals.
  • Implement a Professional Development Plan: Set specific, measurable goals for expanding your services or improving client satisfaction, and track your achievements over time.
  • Collect and Use Client Feedback: Use surveys or discussions after workouts to gather insights on client experiences, which can help refine your training approach and improve your effectiveness.
  • Stay Informed About Health Trends: Read industry publications and attend seminars to learn about new fitness trends that could benefit your clients and boost your training methods.

By adopting these practices, you not only develop your skills as a personal fitness trainer but also make sure that you deliver top-notch service and support to your clients. This dedication to excellence and ongoing personal growth sets you apart as a standout personal trainer, helping you build a successful and rewarding career in the long term.

Preparing for Success

When I had my own clients, I made sure that I was always prepared with my clients’ written workout plans. It provides a clear path, it’s professional, and it gives both the trainer and the client confidence. Do your homework. Know why you are choosing specific exercises for your client. Know where you’re going with your workout, not just for that one session but also for future sessions. Your client knows when you are prepared. When you can explain how the current exercise is going to improve their fitness and how you will adapt the program to their progress, it lets the client know that you understand their current status and that you are interested in working as a team to meet their goals.

Choose Exercises Wisely

It’s important to choose exercises that you know intimately and that keep your client’s physical ability in mind.  I made sure I could demonstrate every exercise that I asked my client to do. They imitate what they see. Stick with fundamental exercises when you’re just starting out. This will ensure your client can focus on form, minimizing the chance of injury, and you can easily monitor and adjust as needed. Be prepared to scale the difficulty of the program. You can make an exercise accessible to beginners or challenging to veterans by adjusting movement trajectory or weight. As you gain experience, you can add more variety to your toolbox.

Make a Personal Connection

Have a smile on your face. Whether it’s the first time meeting your client or the 50th session, you set the pace and the atmosphere: make it one that supports your workout goals. Positive energy and drive are contagious! Make sure your client knows you’re glad to be working with them. Get to know your client. Find out why their goals are important to them and learn to read them. What is their comfort level? How hard can you push them, or do you need to coach them gently?

Protecting Yourself and the Client

It’s important for both you and your client that you have well-defined and clear policies that govern your sessions. The surest way to minimize friction is for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to each person’s responsibilities. For example, it is your responsibility to show up on time, prepare for the session, and support the client’s needs and growth. It is the client’s responsibility to show up to the session on time as well. It is their responsibility to be in a state to work out, to commit to the schedule, and to provide reasonable notice to the trainer if, for some reason, they can’t make it.

Think about your training policies and state them clearly up front. What is your cancellation policy, your no-show policy, and your late-to-session policy? Inevitably, you will need to charge a client for a missed session, so be sure they know in advance what your policies are. This prevents stress for both of you as the client knows how and what to expect if they need to cancel, and it ensures that you, as the trainer, are compensated for your time preparing, driving, and keeping your calendar open. Be consistent in how you enforce these policies.

What are some other ways to keep yourself and clients safe?

Protection for yourself and your clients is important in the personal training industry. Here’s a short list of strategies that can help keep clients and trainers protected:

  • Obtain Professional Liability Insurance and General Liability Insurance
  • Have clear and detailed waivers
  • Regularly check equipment
  • Have First Aid and CPR Certification
  • Be well-versed in Personal Safety Training
  • Perform client screening and assessments
  • Use confidentiality agreements
  • Set professional boundaries

By implementing these practices, personal trainers provide a safe environment for their clients and protect themselves from potential legal issues, ensuring professional and secure working conditions.

Leave Them Feeling Good

When a session is complete, the client wants to feel that they’ve made progress. Encourage them to continue working on their weak points, point out improvements, and praise consistency. Remind them the two of you are working together. A failure to follow a nutrition plan or an exercise they just can’t seem to get isn’t failing you; it’s an opportunity for growth that, together, you can achieve. Finally, begin and end your session on time and always thank them for their time spent with you. The more personable you are, the more likely they will continue with you and your program.


In conclusion, becoming a personal trainer is very rewarding and satisfying! I’ve learned so much about myself and the human body, and it all began with a fifty-year-old mother of three. At times it may seem difficult, but you will succeed if you remember these three tenets: 

  1. Always be focused on your client’s needs 
  2. Always be professional 
  3. Keep learning


What qualities define a successful personal trainer?

A successful personal trainer exhibits excellent communication skills, a passion for helping others achieve their fitness goals, and a commitment to professional development. Being a certified personal trainer with an understanding of exercise, nutrition, and sports medicine is important. Great personal trainers understand, motivate and look to expand their client base through superior service and expertise.

How to attract new clients?

Attracting new clients involves savvy marketing, professional networking, and building a strong reputation in the fitness industry. Most personal trainers find success by sharing their unique training styles on social media, offering workshops or free training sessions, and relying on word-of-mouth from satisfied clients. It’s beneficial to be involved with fitness professional networks and certifications from recognized bodies like the American Council on Exercise.

What skills should personal trainers have?

Some recommended skills are creativity in the workouts and nutrition plans, strong interpersonal and communication skills, and leading safe exercises with proper form. Successful trainers should have business management skills, especially if they operate as an independent contractor or business owner.

How to keep your clients motivated?

Set achievable goals, design different workout routines to keep them engaged and celebrate their progress! A certified personal trainer should encourage clients by creating a positive workout environment and continuously educating them on the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regular feedback and changing programs to fit the clients’ changing needs keeps motivation high.

What ongoing education options are available for fitness professionals?

Personal trainers could study specialized certifications, such as certified strength and conditioning, or fitness nutrition. Workshops, webinars, and fitness conferences are excellent ways to stay informed and connect with other fitness experts.

What should personal trainers keep in mind when creating workout routines?

When developing workout routines, personal trainers should look at the client’s fitness goals, health background, and physical condition. It’s important to create balanced routines that include a mix of cardiovascular training, strength exercises, and flexibility work. Personal trainers must adjust these plans over time as the client progresses and their fitness levels change.

Meet The Author:

Parker Franklin

Parker, IFG’s Brand Manager since 2022, began his wellness journey in 2020, leading to a significant personal transformation. He holds a journalism degree from Murray State University and started his career as an award-winning journalist in western Kentucky before transitioning into marketing and PR. At IFG, Parker is responsible for writing content, managing The Fit newsletter, and overseeing promotions and collaborations with affiliate fitness organizations.