Personal Trainer Skills and Qualities to Stand Out
Personal trainers are enthusiastic people who are passionate about helping others hit their fitness goals. With a genuine interest in their clients they help them adopt positive daily habits that improve health and well-being. This is achieved by creating tailored fitness programmes that keep clients motivated, tracking forwards to achieve their goals.
Clients may be seeking weight loss, to gain muscle or, to help address a health issue and your coaching and expertise will pave the way. However, good personal trainers know that it’s not just the calibre of their training plan that counts but also their values, attitude and mind-set. In other words, to excel in this profession, you are going to need certain qualities.
Why do skills matter?
Ask any Personal Trainer and they will tell you that to deliver the very best client experience and desired results it’s essential to form positive, motivational relationships.
Put simply, clients have to trust your expertise, knowledge and credibility. This sets the foundation for them to try new things together with a willingness to break old habits.
But why is this so vital to success?
- Your clients will feel at ease working with you and look forward to their personal training sessions.
- Clients will have confidence you are making the right exercise choices for them, serving their best interests.
- Adherence to exercise for many clients is a challenge. A good relationship with their Personal Trainer helps them stick to their exercise programme.
- Clients will feel you are working together. This ‘win win’ relationship means they’re far more likely to adopt the advice given.
- Loyalty pays. Nurturing successful positive client relationships secures regular booked appointments, growing your personal trainer salary overtime.
Thinking about a career in this field? Here’s our collection of top personal trainer skills and qualities to help you achieve career success.
1 – Honesty
Top of our PT skills list, and also detailed in the CIMSPA code of conduct is honesty. Being able to build open, honest working relationships with your clients is pivotal to delivering long term results.
Undeniably clients will have all sorts of ambitions for the changes they’d like to make. It’s the personal trainer’s role to assess and identify client capabilities and to establish realistic goals and targets.
In truth a client who sees you for an hour once a week is going to make most of their gains outside of your personal training sessions. Through fostering relationships where your client is confident sharing all the facts you can make steady progress.
2 – Motivating
Personal training is a varied job. No two clients are the same. You will frequently need to adopt a wide range of motivational styles that cater for different needs. While one client may be really driven by an upbeat, interactive approach, another may find this irritating and switch off.
By engaging with clients on an individual level you can communicate your expertise in a way that spurs the right attitude and behaviour, maximising motivation. Often this creates a ripple effect as they value the time you are investing to help them, and this encourages further dedication to their fitness goals.
3 – Open Communication
Being a good communicator is essential for all aspects of the PT role. Clients will have different reasons for why they wish to improve their fitness. As you explore this you will need to adapt your communication style and methods accordingly.
Whether it’s striking up a conversation with a new enquiry or listening to and responding to a client who has had a difficult week, you need to be ready to respond in an appropriate manner.
Open communication channels enable you to give instruction and receive feedback. Plus, they build trust enabling your client to feel comfortable sharing details with you and asking questions.
As you build relationships with your clients they will open up more and more about their own challenges. For example, with their weight, health or personal life and it’s your job to show understanding and support.
But it doesn’t stop there. Great communication is an attribute that’s fundamental to your wider network and business success. For example, doctors, physiotherapists and other referral partners who can all help grow your reputation and refer business your way.
4 – Supportive
Another important quality of a good personal trainer is being supportive. Clients are on a journey that at times will be challenging and by understanding their feelings you can offer meaningful solutions.
Being able to support the issues clients are facing requires adopting a ‘can do’ attitude. For example, if an exercise is too demanding for your client be ready with regressed alternatives that get the job done.
To be sure you’ve understood things correctly try and ‘put yourself in your customer’s shoes’. Known as empathetic intelligence, this helps to truly understand your client, and tailor support, whilst maintaining your own perspective.
5 – Client Focused
Providing great customer service is vital. After all, clients have the option to go elsewhere if the personal training service is lacking. On the other hand, deliver awesome service to clients and you tap into an easy source of competitive advantage.
As fitness professionals it’s important to strike the balance between service and client expectations. For instance, a client looking for dietary advice may feel disappointed to discover this isn’t within your remit. However, rather than leaving it there, by recommending an amazing dietician in your network you deliver on both service and the trainer-client relationship.
Understandably, your client should be your only customer (and focus) for the duration of their session. But take a glance around the gym and you’ll spot PT’s on their mobile or having a quick chat with a gym member or colleague. In reality, staying 100% client focused can be harder than it first seems.
So how do you deliver a truly top notch service?
Peter Fader and Sarah Toms offer a deep dive into placing the customer at the heart of the business in The Customer Centricity Playbook. Here they state “when someone becomes your customer, they are born to you with their own set of characteristics, categorised by preference, propensity and potential. These traits manifest in different ways, and we refer to them collectively as customer goodness.”
6 – Loyal
Demonstrating client loyalty helps build supportive goal orientated relationships.
On a simple level this involves doing what you say you will and meeting expectations. For example, turning up on time, carrying out pre-session safety checks and having a pre-prepared fitness programme ready to go.
But how does a PT demonstrate loyalty characteristics on a deeper level? This involves consistently providing a service that delivers on perceived value, satisfaction or success.
Let’s say your client enjoys the training session far more than they expected to, then you’ve raised their satisfaction levels. Perhaps, they’re seeing great results from working with you raising their likelihood of success.
These trust building experiences drive loyalty in you and your service for the long-term.
7 – Friendly
Another important personal trainer quality is being friendly. Clients should be welcomed, find you approachable and enjoy their sessions.
The key here is to strike the right balance for each client whilst managing your session plan. For instance, by using the rest periods in a strength training programme to check-in and build connections.
Adopting a friendly attitude helps build open relationships, with an easy communication flow between you and your client. This friendliness is determined by both verbal and non-verbal communication.
To demonstrate this, imagine you are praising a client for a great session where they worked really hard. In the first example, you are looking away with crossed arms. Consequently, your client is puzzled as to whether you really mean it. However, in the second example, you look at them directly, smile, share results from your notes and are really enthusiastic. Your client feels ‘on top of the world’ and can’t wait for the next session!
8 – Empathetic
Without doubt to succeed in a personal trainer role you need to demonstrate empathy for your clients. Empathy is a communication skill that helps forge relationships.
It helps you to recognise different client circumstances and offer tailored support, understanding and insight. Used correctly this enables you to support clients through setbacks and challenging situations.
9 – Knowledge
This is paramount in terms of the skills needed to succeed as a personal trainer. Knowledge can be broken down into two aspects.
Firstly, your technical knowledge, which refers to your professional expertise. For example, you studied anatomy and physiology in detail at level 3, therefore you have a high competence in explaining exercise selection and muscle groups targeted.
Second, is industry knowledge. Consider this as your wider understanding of the active leisure sector, changes and key trends.
Be willing to share the technical expertise you acquired during your Personal Trainer course, alongside your wider understanding of the industry. This will help you truly deliver the very best for your clients, maximising their experience.
10 – Ethical
The final value in our top ten personal trainer skills is that of ethical conduct. Sounds fairly obvious? Whilst this may be true, the real test is when you have to use your judgement and make decisions that may be unpopular with your client.
A great example is an enthusiastic client who requests four plus sessions per week. They really want to ‘hit it hard’ and get fast results. In your professional capacity you know they are simply not ready, placing them at risk of overtraining and injury. On the other hand, you could really use the income and four sessions a week is serious money.
All things considered be ready to stand firm. Work within your professional capabilities, the industry code of conduct and your client’s fitness levels at all times. Be ready to find solutions and a common ground that helps your client move forwards. So, in the scenario above you could set a medium term goal to work up to four sessions a week, based on hitting certain fitness targets.
How do your qualities match up?
If you’re considering personal training as a career it’s important to think about how your skills match up. What’s more if you’re changing profession you’ll have transferable skills that could be the perfect fit.
When it comes to considering skills it’s natural to think about this from an employment perspective. In reality, however, they come from many aspects of our lives. For example; academic attendance, volunteering, hobbies, clubs and activities.
Taking a skills assessment can be a great way of discovering is your suited to working as a PT. This one from the National Careers Service takes around 10 minutes and focuses in on what you enjoy and are good at. Once complete you’ll see suggestions of ideal job roles.
The Academy of Fitness Professionals provide the gold standard in accredited personal training courses with state of the art training fully endorsed by CIMSPA, the NCFE and OFQUAL. Their specialist knowledge features in the UK health and fitness media including the Mirror, BBC2 and Women’s Running. This is the ultimate learning destination for those serious about their fitness industry education and long term career as a Personal Trainer.