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5 Characteristics Of A Successful Personal Trainer

by James Anderson
Posted: March 08, 2016

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What does it take to be a successful personal trainer? Our fitness expert, James Anderson explains the 5 personality traits you'll need to be the best in your field.

For the most part, personal training should be pretty easy, right?

  • Step 1: Speak with your clients about their goals.
  • Step 2: Design a program to best help them achieve their goals.
  • Step 3: Implement the program; watch your clients achieve the desired result.

However, what you need to understand is that personal training is far more than just designing a program and sitting back with your arms crossed counting reps.
Because, although we use inanimate objects such as dumbbells and barbells, our clients are the opposite. They’re living, breathing organisms – just like us. That means that they’re real people, with real lives, with real struggles, with very real feelings and emotions – just like us.
So with that said, here are the personality traits all good personal trainers should have:

1. Personable

5 characteristics of a successful personal trainer

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Damon Richards
I was told the above quote when I first started in the industry and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s very easy to get caught up (especially when you first start out) in yourself and how much knowledge you have. But I’ll tell you one thing, people don’t care about the origin and insertion points of the semimembranosus – they simply want to know that you’ve got their back.

Sure, you should certainly have a strong understanding of anatomy and physiology, however when communicating with your clients you should do always try to do two things:

  1. Make it relevant to their goals.
  2. More importantly – make it understandable (e.g. use “hamstring” instead of the semimembranosus).

We all get into the industry for different reasons, you may be someone who’s always been really good at sport, or someone who loves the human body or simply loves training themselves at the gym.
But I’ll be very honest with you here in saying that it’s one thing to love playing sport, learning about the body or training yourself hard at the gym but it’s a very different (and incredibly important) thing to also have a fondness for other people too. This means training, motivating, supporting and encouraging them even if they’re not as committed as you are to your training.
Just think of personal training as a team contact sport, the more people you contact (with an authentic desire to help them), the better you’ll do. But it must first start with a genuine love of people.

2. Good Listener

Personal trainer - listening and listener

"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." – Epictetus
Good personal trainers ask quality questions, and then they’ll carefully listen to their clients – not just verbally, but also their body language, too.
Clients will often use a lot of words without being very specific. You need to become a detective to cut through the “fluff” - continue to ask questions to ensure that you’re getting the truest information to then be able to provide real solutions to clients needs whilst being able to develop strategies to overcome problems. This doesn’t necessarily come straight away, but it is certainly something that can be developed over time – just be present and listen intently. Because the more you know and understand about your client, the better you’ll be able to help them.

3. Passionate

Helping hand - passionate

"Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you." - Oprah Winfrey

The personal nature of this job means that you’re required to be “on” at all times when you’re with your client – despite what may be going on in your life. Your job as a trainer is to be a leader, a coach and a motivator – if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing - neither will your client be. So, if you don’t have a burning desire to be the best trainer you can be by continually developing your knowledge and skill base - then that burning desire will quickly turn into pile of ashes and you’ll start to lose clients – fast. Stay hungry.

4. Flexible

Personal training - flexible

“Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.” – Tilopa
As a personal trainer, you’ll encounter all types of people, personalities, injuries, goals, and even excuses. You have to stay flexible in your approach to ensure that you’ll achieve the desired result for your clients.
Far too often I see personal trainers who are so rigid in their approach to training or nutrition methodologies that they fail to help their clients achieve their desired result. I made this mistake when I first started out and it cost me countless clients as I didn’t listen to what they wanted. Instead, I tried to push them into an unsustainable training and nutritional program which ended up with them failing and me losing a client.
All I can say is that you should always be learning something new. This doesn’t mean that you have to implement it, it’s just about taking the best of what works and leaving the rest.

5. Results-driven

Results driven - personal training weight loss

“Make the customer the hero of your story.” – Ann Handley
I’d like to venture a guess that if your goal is to be a personal trainer, that you’d most likely be a results-driven person? Good, because I’ll let you in on a little secret. It doesn’t matter how good of a listener you are, or how passionate, personable, flexible and understanding you are. If you don’t get results, then you’re not doing the job that your clients have invested their hard earned money and time with you for.
You need to ensure that you can deliver the results that you say you can. As I mentioned earlier, you should continually learn and develop so you stay at the cutting edge of the industry – because if you don’t, you’ll quickly be left in the wake of the trainers that do.
Strive to continually achieve the best results – both for your clients, and yourself.

Want to help others achieve their health and fitness goals? Research careers in the rewarding Fitness industry here.


James Anderson

James is the owner of a women’s only tribe based at Bondi Beach that focuses on strength and conditioning team training for optimal outcomes and long-lasting solutions.

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