A Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer

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Here is a guide on taking the first steps to becoming a Personal Trainer by yours truly!

INTRODUCTION

Health and Fitness is a growing industry in Singapore. As the population gets more affluent, more people are concerned about their health and are now able to allocate some of their pay cheque to joining a gym and hiring professional help to achieve their goals.

With many of us who are starting to get passionate about training and wellness, some might be considering a career in being a Personal Trainer. This can be a great and rewarding job if you’re someone who is also passionate about helping others get better. In this guide, let me share with you the run down on becoming a Personal Trainer in Singapore.

Feeling empowered through Physical Training was something I wanted to share with others.

MY OWN REASON FOR CHOOSING THIS CAREER

I was very unfit when I was younger and only started working out when I was in Junior College. I was guided by one of my PE Teachers on how to do some bodyweight exercises in order to help me pass my IPPT. This started a passion in training which has never stopped since. From then on, I knew that I wanted to help others achieve that same feeling of empowerment that I felt.

I decided to apply for a Sports Science Degree in NTU because I knew that I wanted to be a coach. I also worked as a Freelance Personal Trainer during my time in university. My first full time job that I applied for would be to be a Personal Trainer at Fitness First.

WHAT DEFINES A PERSONAL TRAINER (COACH)?

A Personal Trainer is someone who helps others reach their fitness goals through education, habit development and good programming of their training routines. The goal of a Personal Trainer is to help their trainees feel good about themselves whilst making real progress in a sustainable way. Personal Trainers also educate their trainees about health and fitness so that they are empowered to continue on this journey for life.

Winning Top FI of the Year during 2018 really affirmed all the effort and investments that I had put in to my education, experience and coaching skills.

WHAT MAKES AN OUTSTANDING PERSONAL TRAINER?

This of course is a subjective question. From my experience, I strongly feel that there are 3 big qualities for being an outstanding Personal Trainer. These 3 qualities includes:

  • Education/Knowledge
  • Experience/Achievements
  • Communication/Coaching ability

An educated and experienced Personal Trainer who can’t coach; Trainees won’t be able to understand despite the wealth of information and experience available.

An experienced Personal Trainer with great coaching skills but no education; Trainees will not improve as well as they can as the Personal Trainer is unable to help them in the correct manner.

An educated Personal Trainer with great coaching skills but no experience; Trainees might not respond well to solutions that are only based on theory and not practical experience.

All 3 characteristics work best together and without one or the other, you won’t be able to help your trainees to develop and grow as effectively, efficiently and in the best way possible.

I talk more about qualities of great coaches in my article here, “How to Choose the Best Fitness Coach to Help You With Your Goals”

How do you get started coaching?

GETTING STARTED

Now that you understand the role and the qualities of an outstanding Personal Trainer, you might want to get started on your own journey.

The Personal Training Industry is not a regulated industry in Singapore. Barriers to entry are low and anyone can market themselves as a Personal Trainer and train others. It is common for people to market their Personal Training services through various social media platforms and even on Carousell. While you can do that and get started immediately, I don’t think that is the best way to do so.

It would be a better choice to first learn the ropes of the industry by joining a commercial or boutique gym. There are several large commercial gym chains in Singapore such as Fitness First, Pure Fitness and Virgin Active. Smaller Chains include True Fitness, Dennis Gym, GymmBoxx and Anytime Fitness (which is a franchise model). There are also many boutique gyms available island wide.

My recommendation would be to join one of the larger commercial gym chains. This is because they would have more resources available and more lateral and vertical opportunities that you can tap on. There are also more members for you to interact with and possibly become your trainees.

Here, I had the opportunity to conduct a talk on Posture and Foam Rolling with the staff of NBC Universal.

For instance, I had the opportunity to grow laterally by joining the Corporate team to visit various companies. There, I conducted classes, workshops and even gave talks on various Fitness topics.

Most gyms are happy to take in applicants who have no experience coaching and are just passionate about fitness. They usually have an in house training process to teach you the basics of Fitness, Coaching and Service Standards. Just ace the interview and you are good to go!

Education is a great way to stand out and show your preparedness for this new role.

Bonus Tip: How to Stand Out?

While gyms will have their own in house training process to teach you the know-how, it is highly advisable to come in with prior fitness and coaching knowledge. This can help you stand out and give you an advantage over your peers.

  1. I highly recommend that you come in with at least a Certified Personal Trainer Certification from a credible source such as ACE, NSCA or NASM. The International Sports Academy and FIT Singapore hosts ACE Certification courses which can teach you most of what you need to know to be a Personal Trainer.
  2. It would also be beneficial to have a good understanding of how to use a wide range of equipment such as Kettlebells, Sandbags, Medicine Balls, ViPrs, TRX etc. Even better if you are certified in their use! Most gym goers have great understanding of using barbells, dumbbells and machines. However, not everyone is keen on only strength and hypertrophy training. Having a wide range of knowledge on various equipment will help you program and demonstrate better for people and classes.
  3. Coming in with prior coaching experience is an added bonus, even if as an unpaid amateur. This might be from coaching friends or family. One should know that while you might be good at training yourself, it is a totally different experience training someone else and influencing them to have better habits.
  4. Lastly, another way to stand out is if you have had prior experience in the service industry. While we are in the fitness industry, we are actually in the business of helping others. Our goal is to help others feel good about themselves whilst providing them a positive fitness experience. Knowing how to serve and build rapport with members is essential in getting trainees and bringing them to their goals.
It’s not just working out! Expect to learn and grow if you want to do well!

WHAT TO EXPECT

So you’ve joined a gym as a Personal Trainer. What can you expect next? If you joined with the intention of having a free place to workout, chill and have fun, I hope it’s not too late to quit!

Duties

As a Personal Trainer, you do have duties other than coaching others. You would be expected to look after the gym: clearing weights, keeping the gym tidy and helping members should they need any help. You might also be assigned classes to teach. These are usually of benefit as you will be able to showcase your coaching skills and know-how to members.

Shifts

Most gyms give you an 8 hour shift to work with and you might/might not be able to train your clients within that shift. Some gyms do not allow it, while other gyms might give you a certain number of PT sessions you can do within your shift.

If you are lucky, all your trainees will be within your shift. Conversely, you might be doing the opening shift at 5:30am while your trainee wants to come at 8pm. That would be for you to plan and negotiate with your trainees. But in a nutshell, the hours can be long so be prepared to get used to it.

Selling

A Personal Trainer is not only a coach, but for lack of a better word, a “Salesman”. While we are in the business of helping others, we can only do so after someone has purchased our service. So do expect to “sell” and offer your services to the members of the gym. Ultimately, all profit-seeking corporations care most about their bottom line.

Of course, we want and should look at it in a positive light. What we are offering others is a way to help transform their lives. That’s why it is very important that we make sure we perform at a high standard so that we can help them the best we can.

Wages

One of the most important parts of any job is of course, the wages. While passion is important, it is even more so to be able to earn a wage that is able to give you a sustainable living. Most Personal Trainers at a commercial gym would be given a basic pay. This is for the duties that you perform in the gym, such as your shifts, keeping the gym tidy etc. This basic pay is usually quite low, from $900 – $1500. The bulk of your pay will come from the amount of PT sessions or classes that you conduct. Commissions can range from $30 – 60 per hour depending on your rank.

Some boutique gyms might provide you with more commission, however the cost is usually transferred to the paying trainee with more expensive PT packages. This might translate to having less opportunities. So don’t be misled by promises of high commissions and take the whole picture into account.

From my time working, the average pay seems to be $2000 – $3000 for the average Personal Trainer to $6000 – $8000 for outstanding trainers. Some top trainers even earn in excess of $10,000 but this is usually at the expense of extremely long hours and perhaps no off days.

It took a few years of hard consistent work and i eventually managed to perform very well consistently.

HOW TO EXCEL

Now that you’re getting settled into your new role as a Personal Trainer, your next thought would probably be on what you can do to excel at your job. Here are some ways to do so:

  1. Be present on the gym floor as much as you can (with the appropriate safe distancing measures of course). Your goal should be to be as visible as possible to members. Be available to help out anyone who is in need and show that you care by helping to tidy up the gym.
  2. Try to recognise regulars throughout the morning, afternoon and evening peak hours. These people are the ones who frequent the gym often. Get the opportunity to learn their names and ask them about their fitness goals. You have the power to make people feel like a rock star with just a simple greeting or asking them what their routine is for the day.
  3. Volunteer for as many classes as possible once you are qualified to coach them. Classes are a great opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge as a coach. It is also a great chance to get to know members and understand their goals over time. If you are successful, these members will become regulars of your classes and perhaps your trainees.
Making great friends amongst the regulars in class and using Social Media at the same time to help generate more visibility!

When you are just starting, my advise would be to just be present. Offer help without any expectations of reciprocation from members. If you genuinely care and are competent, people will naturally gravitate to you should they need help or know someone who does.

Bonus Tip: Use Social Media as a tool to improve your visibility as a Personal Trainer! Tag your trainees after a class and encourage them to share! With their permission of course!

Being able to help others achieve their goals is a very rewarding experience. Here, my trainee Ferdie has won the Fitness First New You “Stronger” Category.

CONCLUSION

Being a Personal Trainer can be a very rewarding job. You get to help others improve their lives and for some, achieve goals they never thought possible. It is also pretty easy to get started on this journey and there are many options around to find a place to work.

However, if you want to excel at your craft, the hours will be long and hard. You will have to put in the hours coaching, invest your money in upgrading certifications and put in energy keeping fit to lead by example. But if you manage to do all of that consistently and be patient, you will have a very rewarding career ahead of you.

If you’re planning to start, I hope this guide sheds some light on becoming a Personal Trainer. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to drop me a message or DM @strongertmr!

Author: Leon Tan, CSCS

I'm a certified Fitness Coach with a degree in Sports Science. I am passionate in Health, Fitness and helping people become a better version of ourselves.

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