What Are Useful Fitness Instructor Skills and Qualities?
Updated 8 July 2023
Fitness instructors are responsible for leading and inspiring groups to meet their personal fitness goals and improve their lives. To fulfil their role, fitness instructors employ a variety of hard and soft skills, such as knowing physiology and understanding how to motivate someone. Learning the key skills for a personal trainer can help you write impressive resumes and cover letters, develop yourself professionally and obtain your ideal job. In this article, we outline the necessary fitness instructor skills and qualities, explain what skills to include in your resume and offer tips on how to develop your skill set.
5 important fitness instructor skills
Here are some of the key fitness instructor skills you can develop:
1. Industry knowledge
Having in-depth knowledge of your industry is essential. This includes staying knowledgeable about the latest trends, research and developments in fitness and nutrition. Constantly learning, even after you complete your education and obtain certification, is important if you want to serve your clients as successfully as possible. Additionally, having a strong understanding of the fitness industry may also include having an understanding of the following:
personal training techniques
exercise programme design
safety techniques and how to implement them
physical assessments and how to conduct them
2. Communication skills
Having strong and effective communication skills is important because, as a trainer, you're leading teams of clients. You use your communication skills when explaining how to execute the various exercises and while giving instructions. This skill also allows you to give feedback to your clients that they can easily implement.
3. Organisation skills
When working as a fitness trainer, it's not unusual to have a busy schedule filled with different classes and sessions. Sometimes you might teach at more than one gym or location. Therefore, it's important that you develop your organisational skills to keep track of your clients, work schedule and any transportable equipment you may have.
4. Emotional intelligence
One trait of becoming a successful trainer is having a high level of emotional intelligence. You're working with a wide variety of clients who all have different personalities, goals and insecurities. Showing up to your classes with compassion, understanding and patience promotes a positive atmosphere. This encourages cooperation and prevents conflicts.
5. Leadership skills
Being an instructor means being a leader. Your clients look up to you and it's your responsibility to determine the energy and mood of the class. Developing good leadership skills can be a helpful tool to motivate those around you. This encourages hard work, promotes good fitness results and inspires patience and determination in others.
What is a fitness instructor?
Fitness instructors help their clients reach their personal fitness goals. They do this by leading and teaching fitness classes. These can be one-on-one sessions or group classes. Their clients can also range since trainers can work with people of all levels and ages. Many trainers usually specialise in a certain area of fitness. For example, some offer services helping clients recover from an injury or meet their personal weight training goals. They might also choose to specialise in these areas:
Types of fitness trainers
There exists a wide variety of fitness trainers. Usually, they decide to specialise and become a specific type of instructor. These are some of the types of trainers you might become if you choose to make fitness your profession:
Specialised instructor: This type of instructor has specialised training in a certain area of fitness, such as yoga or cycling.
Fitness director: Fitness directors are instructors who take on a managerial role for their specific place of employment. Their responsibilities may include scheduling, marketing and organising workout classes.
Group instructor: Group instructors teach large groups of clients rather than working with individuals. For example, they might instruct and lead a large group of people in aerobics or dance fitness.
Personalised trainer: This type of trainer works exclusively with individuals. They create workout plans and can advise clients on what diet to follow to reach their performance, lifestyle or physique goals.
What are the fitness instructor duties and responsibilities?
The main function of a fitness trainer is to service their clients by offering guidance on the appropriate equipment to use and what effective workout routines to implement. A significant aspect of this is to instruct groups or individuals by completing exercises with them. Their common duties and responsibilities can also include:
choreographing and leading workout sessions
guiding individuals on the proper fitness techniques and equipment
customising their instructions based on a client's personal needs and preferences
monitoring the progress of their clients
providing their clients with resources for fitness and nutrition
providing first aid in emergencies
motivating and encouraging clients during their workouts
demonstrating fitness routines and techniques
conducting fitness assessments and making recommendations
attending training workshops
Necessary qualifications for fitness instructors
These are some of the qualifications you might consider obtaining to become a fitness instructor:
The minimum requirement for becoming a fitness trainer is usually a secondary school diploma. Many instructors choose to also obtain a bachelor's degree. This typically takes three to four years. You can expect to follow fitness and health-related courses, such as physiology, anatomy, science and nutrition. Completing higher education can help you advance in your career and may make you eligible for management positions. Some employers ask for a master's degree for managerial roles. You can consider pursuing a degree in the following related fields:
Some employers may require you to have a certification. Besides making you stand out as a candidate, becoming certified can also help you expand your skills and technical knowledge. When you complete a certification, expect to cover topics and concepts such as human physiology, anaerobic resistance training and body composition. Fitness training certifications typically require you to pass an examination covering the theory you learn throughout the course.
Besides obtaining your First Aid & AED Certification, you can seek fitness certifications from an organisation, including:
National Council of Strength and Fitness
International Sports Academy
The Federation of International Sports, Aerobics and Fitness
International Fitness Professionals Association
What to include in the skills section of your resume
You can tailor your resume to suit each job position you apply for. Each employer likely has a specific skill set they're searching for. You can usually find these skills by reading the job description. Remember to identify what specific skills you want to highlight before sending your application. These are the same skills you also want to include in your cover letter and in your interview.
When writing your resume or cover letter, remember to include both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are practical skills you gain through education and experience, such as the knowledge of exercise techniques, anatomy, physiology, nutrition and food science. Soft skills are interpersonal skills you can develop through practice, such as communication, leadership and teaching skills.
Tips for improving your fitness instructor skills
Follow these tips if you want to improve your personal training skills:
Prioritise safety. Before you can apply any of the skills discussed above, remember to first prioritise a safe environment. Ensure that all team members are correctly using the fitness equipment and exercising with proper form.
Keep your classes interesting. To develop your skills, it's important that you also challenge yourself. Keep your classes interesting by constantly creating new ideas, routines and programmes.
Get to know each class member. By recognising and making your clients feel important, you also contribute to your own success. Spending one-on-one time with them helps you practice emotional intelligence and leadership.
Keep learning. Another way to develop your skills, particularly your industry knowledge, is to keep expanding your education. Joining courses related to your career, gaining additional certifications and researching independently can all help make you a more effective personal trainer.
Encourage constructive criticism and feedback from class members. An excellent way to improve is by listening to the feedback given by others. Make yourself accessible after each class so that clients are free to interact with you, offer feedback and ask questions.
Average salary for fitness instructors
The national average salary of a fitness instructor is $3,054 per month. This salary can change depending on several factors. The number of clients and classes you teach is one factor. Your employer might also affect your wage. For example, your salary is likely to be different if you're a self-employed fitness trainer compared to if you're employed by a gym. Some of the common benefits you may receive include:
free gym membership
flexible work hours
If you're interested in becoming a personal trainer, you may also find the following careers worthwhile:
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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