What is a Personal Trainer?

September 28, 2022

Becoming a personal trainer has emerged as an increasingly popular career choice in recent years. With more and more people taking their health and fitness more seriously, there’s greater demand for skilled and driven professionals who can help them stay on the right track, and get all the motivation and advice they need to achieve their goals.

However, getting set up and possessing everything you need to succeed is a bit more complex than putting on a pair of trainers. In this guide, we’ll look at why the personal trainer profession is so popular, how it works in practice, and the essential types of insurance that every personal trainer should possess.

Why is becoming a personal trainer so attractive?

It’s easy to see why personal training has become such an attractive career option, especially for younger adults. For a start, the barriers to entry are low, as minimal investment or qualifications are required to begin with (although as you’ll read later, experience can be beneficial).

It’s also a great way to combine business with pleasure and keep fit while working, as your clients will be expecting you to lead the way and act as a role model. Add in the fact that the hours can be flexible, and there is the opportunity to be your own boss through self-employment, and there is a lot to be excited about.

How does a personal trainer normally work?

First of all, it’s important to stress that this isn’t going to be a nine-to-five job: working extremely varied, and even unsociable hours, comes with the territory. It’s also important to remember that clients will be paying you for your knowledge and expertise: staying up-to-date with fitness trends, constantly developing your own skills and understanding the mechanics of the human body are all vital.

On top of this, there are many other considerations to take into account:


A good personal trainer will take on a wide range of responsibilities, including (but not necessarily limited to):

– Assessment and progress: establishing the fitness level of a client and monitoring their progress

– Planning and advice: setting realistic targets, developing personalised and interesting exercise plans and advising on good health and nutrition practice

– Encouragement: making clients feel positive and motivated, both inside and outside of workout sessions

– Client retention and attraction: developing and executing strategies to keep existing clients, and bring in new ones – including online presence

– Analysis and feedback: exploring client fitness data and feedback to make improvements to all of the above as required


If you’re operating on a freelance basis, then the amount you earn (before tax and expenses) will be determined by how much you charge your clients per hour. Between £20 and £40p/h is common, depending on location, although top-quality trainers in sought-after locations can earn considerably more. Trainers employed directly with a gym can expect to start on around £20,000 per year, rising with experience thereafter.

Working hours

As mentioned above, working hours can be highly variable, but there is a difference between trainers employed by a gym and freelancers. If in a gym, you’ll most likely have a regular shift pattern, but it is possible to be during the evenings and weekends when gyms are used most often. If you’re freelance, then you have the freedom to set your own working hours, but you’ll have to bear in mind that you’re far more likely to get more clients working outside of normal office hours.

Skills and qualifications

All good personal trainers have Level 3 qualifications from an organisation recognised and accredited either by CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) or UK Coaching. A first aid qualification is not mandatory, but could come in extremely handy.

From a skills perspective, a friendly, positive and enthusiastic attitude is a must: if you’re feeling negative about training, then your clients will feel negative too. You’ll need to be organised too so that you can keep track not only of your schedule, but of the training plans and progress of each one of your clients. In these areas, having a good level of proficiency with computers and relevant software is important, and will also help you build a brand with your website and social media output.

Previous experience

Most gyms will expect some prior experience before taking you on: not having any qualifications at the time you start isn’t that important as you can get certified and take apprenticeships on the job. Any work experience you can gain on a less formal basis is therefore crucial for giving your CV a solid foundation. Private clients hiring freelancers will expect more extensive experience and credentials, which is why many trainers start off in gyms before branching out on their own.

What types of insurance does a personal trainer need?

No good personal trainer will be without insurance, covering all reasonable eventualities for both themselves and their clients. Types of insurance to consider include:

Liability and professional indemnity insurance

Cover against any claim over anything that’s your fault, from injury caused through faulty equipment, to health issues arising from poor nutrition advice.

Insurance when working within a gym

If you’re a freelancer working from a gym that doesn’t directly employ you, their insurance doesn’t cover you, and you’ll need your own cover. This may also apply if you’re working for a gym and undertake any activities outside it.

Equipment insurance

Tools of the trade, such as kettlebells, ropes and other fitness equipment, should be protected by their own specific cover.

Personal accident insurance

If you suffer an accident or injury yourself while working, personal accident cover ensures you aren’t left out of pocket.

Insurance for working overseas

If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to work abroad, then you should seek an international extension to all the types of cover listed above.

Get personal trainer insurance with Protectivity

A comprehensive personal trainer insurance policy with Protectivity covers every base, whatever your level of experience in the trade. All of our policies include Public Liability, Professional Indemnity, and £250 of free equipment cover with a huge range of customisable options to suit your needs. Take a closer look at our personal trainer policies here.

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