3 Simple steps for hiring a personal trainer
February 7, 2022

3 Simple steps for hiring a personal trainer

David S.

Are you struggling to see progress in your fitness goals or you’re a newcomer to exercise? A personal trainer can help fast track your progress and get you off on the right foot.  

Personal trainers are professional fitness trainers who are certified through one of several accrediting organizations including NSCA, ACSM, and NASM.

Basically, those snazzy letters mean the fitness trainer has completed the educational requirements to become a trainer. This offers a level of security, for you the client, that you’re in good hands.

But make no mistake about it… not all personal trainers are created equal!

Now we’ll take a look at what you should be looking for when hiring a personal trainer so you get the one that’s best for you and your needs.

Step 1: Choose a style of training

In-person training

Traditional personal training is based on in-person sessions. You can find this type of training inside of commercial gyms or private studios. Here are some examples of popular gyms that offer in-person training:

  • YMCA
  • Anytime Fitness
  • LA Fitness
  • Equinox
  • Gold’s Gym

An in-person trainer can provide immediate feedback, spot during exercises, and perform hands on form corrections in real-time. 

But the expense of in-person training tends to be a lot higher than online personal training. In-person trainers have the overhead cost of the gym to worry about. So you end up footing the bill. 

What’s more, sometimes you have to become a member of that trainer’s gym, which can be another added expense you weren’t expecting. Bummer, right?

You’re on that trainer’s schedule, so if they only work certain hours, that’s what you’re stuck with. Of course, that rigid schedule can be good if you need that extra accountability are willing to adjust your schedule.

There’s also the factor of accessibility to consider. If you live in a larger city you will likely have access to more gym locations and trainers. If you’re in a rural area, it can be challenging to access a gym, and you might have fewer trainers available. 

Then you have to consider where you want to work out. If you are seeing a trainer this will be in one of three places - at a gym, public place, or your home. If a trainer is coming to you there could be additional expenses for mileage or travel time. 

So you get some benefits but at the cost of accessibility, affordability, and flexibility. Next, we will look at online training.

Online training

Online personal training can take place through your phone or computer. On your laptop, you can go directly through a trainer’s website or third-party software such as Zoom. If you use your phone, there are apps, like trainwell (formerly CoPilot), that allow you to take part in personal training through video and text messaging. 

There are tons of apps and services that claim to offer personal training when really there isn’t anything personalized about what they offer. Sifting through the options can be tedious. Some are simply collections of exercises but you have o determine what to do and don’t get any feedback. 

Trainwell is one of the only services that offer the same benefits as in-person training with all the benefits of virtual fitness coaching.

All of trainwell fitness trainers are certified personal trainers with a minimum of a bachelors’ degree in fitness or exercise science. You get to select the trainer that works best for your goals and your schedule. 

Trainwell is super convenient, affordable, and no gym is required. If you want to use the gym that’s cool too. Trainwell fitness trainers will create custom workout plans to meet your needs, that use the equipment you have (if any), and make adjustments when you want them. 

You will also receive coaching around nutrition, mindfulness, and other areas of life that impact fitness and overall health. Best of all, you work out on your schedule for only a fraction of the cost of the other training options.

Step 2: Know what to look for


Once you decide whether you want in-person or online personal training, the first thing you should check is to see what type of certification they have (if any).

There are only a handful of trusted personal trainer certification organizations, including the following:

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Some honorable mentions would be NCSF, ISSA, and AFAA certifications, however, the above are slightly harder to achieve so they are preferred.

Advanced Certifications

See trainers with a CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) certification? A CSCS is an extremely difficult certification to achieve and only a handful of trainers ever qualify for it. If you find a trainer with a CSCS, they really know their stuff!

Need nutrition guidance along with physical training? Most people do but not all trainers have a background in nutrition. Look for a trainer who has Precision Nutrition or NASM Nutrition Coaching certifications. 

Keep in mind, they won't be able to be as prescriptive as a registered dietitian, but they will be able to offer a ton of great guidance.


Does your trainer have any relevant degrees? Many top trainers will have degrees in exercise science, human performance, athletic performance, or similar fields. Some will even have a Master's degree or PhD. 

While there are tons of great trainers who have never gotten a direct degree, you know the ones who do have a degree have invested a lot into their education and are dedicated to helping others.


How long has the trainer you’re interested in been actively training? In other words, how much one-on-one experience do they have?

Even if the trainer has one of the most-respected certifications and you get along great with them, if they don’t have any one-on-one experience with clients, that means you’re a guinea pig.

Try to find a trainer with at least a year of hands-on experience under their belt.


Great, you’ve found a trainer with the right certification and experience. What are the clients saying about this trainer?

Well-loved trainers have no issues at all providing you with testimonials and client reviews.  Whether through Google reviews or a personal website, the trainer should be able to provide you with testimonials as well as before-and-after shots.

The exception would be if the trainer is relatively new and still building an online presence. But you can ask them for references from previous clients. 


You will be spending a lot of time and energy on your health journey. Making sure you get along with your trainer is important. Think about what type of coaching style helps you feel the most supported and motivated. 

For example, some people like an aggressive trainer that gets loud and motivates them with different phrases like, “Come on, you got this!” If that’s not your style and you prefer a calmer trainer who gently encourages you, this is what you should be looking for. 

It’s easier to find a trainer who is your speed, rather than expect a trainer to change who they are and how they work.


If possible, consider this cost last. Here’s why…

If you find an amazing trainer who is a bit more expensive than everyone else, there’s a reason for this. That trainer probably has a ton of experience and certifications. This equals knowledge they can easily pass it on to you in a fraction of the time it may take a newer or less credentialed trainer. 

If you’re curious how much a trainer costs, we've got you covered. Check out our article here and learn how much trainers cost and why

Wouldn’t you rather pay more for someone who can help you achieve amazing results AND you love training with?

Step 3: Find your personal trainer

There’s nothing wrong with trainer shopping. You want to find someone who's going to invest in your success. Keep in mind that you can hire a trainer for a month, see if you two get along well. 

Once you have a trainer who is extremely knowledgeable, supportive, friendly, and goes above and beyond, then latch on because if they aren’t busy, they will be soon. 

The best trainers always book up fast. There’s no doubt that in-person training is the best way to give real-time feedback and instant corrections. You can search for these trainers online or by contacting your local gym. 

Remember there is likely a higher price point, potentially inconvenient schedules, the extra time investment for commuting to and from the gym, and limited access to your personal trainer in between sessions. 

Online personal training through a service like trainwell features low-cost training that pairs you with elite trainers. You get the same high-quality attention and form feedback as you would in person, but without any of the downsides. Plus you have daily access to your trainer support around multiple areas of your health journey. 

If you want to see how effective one-on-one personal training can be from the comfort of your home, try trainwell for free.

Written by David S.

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