Personal Trainer Skills (With Definition and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A personal trainer is a health professional who interacts with clients one-on-one to help them improve their fitness. The trainer can help clients create goals, develop exercise plans and achieve desired results. If you're applying to training positions, learning how to write an effective resume can help you detail your experience and successfully highlight your skills. In this article, we explain what personal trainer skills are, provide examples, explore the steps you can follow to improve yours, detail how to show them in the workplace and offer helpful tips for highlighting them during interviews, in cover letters and on resumes.

What are personal trainer skills?

Personal trainer skills are abilities trainers can use to successfully interact with clients. A personal trainer often interacts with a variety of clients who all have different fitness goals, and having organisation, problem-solving and motivation skills helps the trainer provide excellent service to each client. Trainers can use interpersonal skills when interacting with clients, and technical skills when building exercise plans. These are some benefits you may experience if you improve your skills as a personal trainer:

  • Better relationships with clients

  • Potential for increase in pay

  • More interest from potential clients

  • Substantial client results

Related: How to Become a Personal Trainer

Examples of personal trainer skills

Personal trainers can work in fitness centres, hospitals and independently. They can use technical skills and fitness knowledge to develop fitness plans and measure client success, and interpersonal skills to connect with clients. These are some skills you can use as a personal trainer:

Motivation

The ability to motivate others is a very important skill for personal trainers, as they help their clients stay accountable to their fitness goals. A personal trainer assesses their client and determines the best way to help them feel motivated to finish their exercises. For example, some clients may prefer a gentle approach to motivation through positive reinforcement, while others may prefer a stricter approach. Motivation skills help the trainer know what to say and how to behave with each client when it comes to inspiring them to reach their goals.

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees With 11 Impactful Strategies

Goal-setting skills

Goal-setting is the process of identifying ideal situations and determining the path to achieving them. Many clients meet with trainers to discuss their goals involving strength, mobility and general fitness. It's the trainer's job to help them detail goals that can help them achieve their ideal fitness levels. Trainers understand how to help clients set S.M.A.R.T. goals, which can help clients avoid becoming discouraged. These are what the letters in S.M.A.R.T. goal represent:

  • Specific: A specific goal avoids generalisations and vague statements. For example, when a client says they want to get stronger, the trainer may help them create specific goals based on muscle groups.

  • Measurable: To know if you've reached your goal, it can be helpful to have a way to measure progress. For example, the trainer may perform a baseline fitness test to help the client who wants to get stronger make the goal to increase from doing five sit-ups to 10 sit-ups.

  • Achievable: Trainers know how to assess clients and determine what they're capable of based on previous performance and experience with fitness. This helps them create goals that their clients are capable of achieving.

  • Relevant: A relevant goal helps the client improve in ways that matter. For example, if a client wants to become stronger, the trainer doesn't create goals for running long-distance.

  • Time-based: Setting a time-based goal can help motivate clients. Trainers know to provide a time period for improvement to help clients visualise their improvement and help them reach their goals.

Related: 42 Goal-Setting Quotes to Help You Stay Motivated Daily

Patience

Not all clients can improve at the same rate, and some clients may have negative experiences with fitness in the past. Patience is a skill that personal trainers can use to provide high-quality service to every client. This skill allows trainers to remain calm, even in difficult or upsetting situations. Having great patience allows the trainer to help their clients stay calm and patient with results as well.

Fitness knowledge

To create effective exercise plans and assist clients with different needs, personal trainers use thorough fitness and physiology knowledge. These are some specific areas of fitness knowledge personal trainers use:

  • Different forms of cardio workouts

  • Heart rate and what it means

  • Muscle groups and how they work together

  • Which exercises target which muscles

  • How to keep proper form

  • When to stop exercising

  • How to identify common injuries

  • Basic nutritional information

  • Indoor and outdoor training methods

  • Exercises for specific sports

  • Stretching to prevent injury

  • How to improve flexibility

  • Training for clients with unique needs

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is experiencing. This is important for personal trainers because it allows them to connect with their clients and build stronger relationships. Empathy also allows the trainer to better understand how the client feels, which can help them provide motivation.

Related: What Are Empathetic Leaders? (Plus Tips and Benefits)

Organisation

Personal trainers often work with many clients with different fitness goals. Organisational skills help them create plans for each client and manage different training appointments. Trainers can also use organisation to distribute materials to clients regarding their home fitness and nutrition plans.

Related: Effective Organisation (6 Key Steps to Achieving It)

How to improve personal trainer skills

These are some steps you can follow to improve your personal trainer skills:

1. Ask for feedback

The first step to improving your skills as a personal trainer is to identify which skills to improve. You can do this by asking clients for feedback. Consider sending out an anonymous survey or having a discussion with each client about which skills they think you can improve.

Related: The Importance of Positive Feedback and How to Deliver It To Others

2. Find a mentor

One helpful method for skill-building is finding a mentor. Consider finding a personal trainer or fitness professional with more experience than you to help you identify ways in which you can improve. For example, if you struggle to stay organised when working with clients in a fitness centre, a mentor may have tips to help you improve your organisation in that specific setting.

Related: What Is a Mentor and How Can It Improve Your Career?

3. Track your improvement

As a personal trainer, it's important to know how to set achievable and measurable goals. Find a method for tracking your improvement and measuring your progression. Consider asking clients to rate your performance in specific areas to help you measure your improvement. For example, you may ask clients to rate your fitness knowledge based on how well they feel their exercise plans function. Or, you may ask them to rate your patience or ability to motivate them during workouts.

Related: 9 Tips on How to Self-Motivate (With FAQs)

Personal trainer skills in the workplace

Here are some tips you can use to show personal trainer skills in the workplace:

  • Set clear and achievable goals. As a personal trainer, you can use goal-setting skills to make goals for your career and performance in the workplace.

  • Motivate and inspire others. You can use motivational skills to inspire clients. Consider using motivational skills to help colleagues and other trainers find motivation as well.

  • Manage your time efficiently. Use organisational skills to schedule client appointments and manage time so you can create fitness plans and be punctual to meetings with clients.

Related: What is a Time Management Plan? (And How to Create One)

How to highlight personal trainer skills

These are some different ways you can highlight personal trainer skills during the job-seeking process:

Personal trainer skills for a resume or cover letter

On a resume or in a cover letter, you can highlight your training skills by providing specific figures for how you used each skill. For example, rather than, I scheduled appointments with many clients, consider, I used organisational skills to schedule appointments with more than seven clients each day while managing fitness plans and answering general fitness questions outside of appointments. Adding specific figures can help you show how your skills are relevant and effective.

Related: How to Write a Personal Trainer Resume Objective (With Tips)

Personal trainer skills for a job interview

During job interviews, you can use examples to provide additional context for your training skills. You may also detail how you developed those skills. For example, you may explain how you learned to motivate others while working as a volunteer basketball coach, or how your internship at a hospital allowed you to develop your empathy.

Explore more articles