Top Skills You Need to Be a Personal Trainer

male personal trainer training a woman doing plank exercise

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Personal trainers are their own best advertisement for dedication, training, and results. Aside from their knowledge of fitness and nutrition, it's their ability to motivate and inspire their clients that makes them successful.

Here are some essential skills you need to be a masterful personal trainer in a dynamic and exciting career field.

If you're in the process of trying to build up your careers as a personal trainer, make sure you incorporate these skills into your resume, and use them to increase your appeal during interviews.

What Kind of Skills Do You Need to be a Personal Trainer?

In order to qualify as a personal trainer, it's important that you maintain a skills set that shows elements of passion, leadership, commitment, and credibility.

By exhibiting these key factors, you will appeal to more clients as someone who is qualified and trustworthy, and who will work to improve the lives of the people they're working with. In a field that depends so much on helping others, trust, knowledge, and commitment are indispensable.

For more information on starting your career as a personal trainer, visit our personal trainer job description.

Industry Skills

High protein, low carb? Short bursts of high-intensity training? Effective dietary supplements that help to burn fat and make the most of your clients’ workouts? Personal trainers have to be on the cutting edge of rising trends in fitness and nutrition.

The industry is always changing and growing, and thus your education doesn't end when you get your certification. Personal trainers must keep abreast of the latest research and developments and constantly learn in order to best serve their clients with the latest nutritional and training advice.

Key elements of industry knowledge would include a well-versed understanding of the following:

  • Physical Assessment
  • Personal Training Techniques
  • Current Fitness Trends
  • Affective Exercises
  • Designing Exercise Programs
  • Facility with Personal Training Software
  • Operating and Maintaining Exercise Equipment
  • First Aid Training
  • Knowledge of Anatomy
  • Knowledge of Kinesiology and Biomechanics
  • Knowledge of Physiology and Exercise Physiology
  • NASM or Other National Certification
  • Record Keeping
  • Safety Techniques
  • The Principles of Nutrition

Interpersonal and Leadership Skills

Sticking with a new eating and exercise plan can be a daunting task for people who are chronically obese and/or have always lived sedentary lifestyles.

Venturing upon a rigorous and consistent exercise program will be filled with highs and lows for them—times (especially at the beginning) when they just want to throw in the towel, and glorious moments when a weight loss goal is achieved or a new athletic skill is mastered.

Clients look to you to inspire them, show them the way, demand accountability on their part, and perhaps even change their life.

Personal trainers need to be able to motivate their clients with their instructions, advice, and personal example, get them back on track when they fall off the wagon, and empathetically deal with any emotional issues standing in their way.

If you are a personal trainer who also is willing to provide group instruction at a gym or training center (and most personal trainers do this), then you must also know how to manage group dynamics among class members who may or may not get along. It takes a special brand of leadership to be able to recognize and respond to the needs of individuals within a sometimes competitive group setting.

The following interpersonal leadership skills are necessary when pursuing a career as a personal trainer, and add to the element of trust and understanding between a trainer and their client. A personal trainer should be comfortable with the following:

  • Public Speaking
  • Advising
  • Coaching
  • Verbal and Physical Communicating
  • Counseling
  • Leading Group Presentations
  • Executing Customer Service
  • Maintaining a Diverse Clientele
  • Staying Goal-Oriented
  • Sales

Energy and Commitment

No matter how many clients you see during the day, each one deserves your full physical energy and an unflagging positive outlook.

Dealing with struggling clients also takes patience and perseverance. You have to stand ready to restructure a program if it isn't working, cheer on a client who doesn't believe in himself, and carefully calculate when to push for extra effort and when to pull back. You occasionally also have to know how to tactfully defuse and support a struggling client who decides to take his or her frustration out on you.

Demonstrable Passion 

Your passion for a healthy lifestyle, education, fitness, and proper nutrition, both for yourself and others, aids in teaching and guiding clients through a training plan and instills confidence and motivation. An important message to convey is that success isn't about what you've accomplished, but rather what you can help others to achieve, especially if you lead by example.

More Personal Trainer Skills

Here are more personal training skills for resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Required skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Personal Skills

  • Creative Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Dependable
  • Determined
  • Enthusiastic
  • Friendly
  • Good Listener
  • Helpful
  • High-Energy
  • Maintains High Expectations
  • Nurturing
  • Observational
  • Openness to Learn
  • Patient
  • Personable
  • Persuasive
  • Positive Outlook
  • Self-Motivated

Entrepreneurial Skills

  • Accountable
  • Analytical
  • Conceptual
  • Delegation
  • Flexible
  • Followthrough
  • Independent Worker
  • Logical Thinking
  • Motivational
  • Multi-Tasker
  • Networking
  • Organized
  • Passionate for Fitness
  • Planning
  • Problem Solving
  • Punctual
  • Stamina
  • Strong Leadership
  • Tact
  • Teaching
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management

Key Takeaways

Add your most relevant skills to your resume: Review lists of the top skills employers look for when evaluating job applicants, and the best skills to put on your resume to help you get hired. Best practices are to use industry-specific lists such as this one to help you fill out your resume effectively. You do not need to mention every single skill; just be sure to pick a few from each section to show that you are well-rounded.

Highlight your skills in your cover letter: Use your cover letter to show the hiring manager that you're a strong match for the job by mentioning how your qualifications fit the job requirements.

Use skill words during job interviews: You can also use these words in your job interviews. Keep these top skills in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've exemplified each one. Each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer.