Firstly, you need to know how to physically achieve whatever goals your clients may have. Whether they want to lose body fat, gain muscle, run faster or lower their blood pressure, you must have the technical knowledge of how that happens in the body and what to do to make it happen.
That will include knowing which exercises are most effective and how to perform them, and the most appropriate nutrition strategies. They will differ slightly depending on the goal, so for example the way you train to run a marathon will be different to preparing for a bodybuilding competition, as will what you eat, how much and when.
You will also need to learn about other lifestyle changes that may be needed to support the training and nutrition. That may include sleep and stress management which will impact on the body's physical responses. These factors show how personal training is about a much more holistic approach than just exercise as has traditionally been the case.
Next is arguably the most important element of your education as a PT. Whilst knowing WHAT to do is obviously crucial, HOW you actually implement it is key. Or more specifically, how you help your clients to implement it. We're talking about here is behaviour change. Simply instructing people to do what you tell them is a highly ineffective approach, as many PTs have found to their frustration!
Coaching someone is different.
It is your role to help your client change their mindset and motivate them to adopt the exercise, nutrition and lifestyle behaviours needed to see sustainable progress. After all it's not a single workout or meal that's going to get them results. It's consistent effort over time.
Whether we call it psychology, mindset or motivation, the end goal is to change behaviour at least until the goal is reached and ideally longer in the case of weight loss and health improvement goals in particular.
In most cases you don't need the most advanced training and nutrition knowledge to help the majority of clients either - coaching them to do the basics will clearly produce far better results than the latest cutting edge strategies if your client can't stick to them.
If you can combine both though, you've achieved the holy grail of personal training - enabling your client to adhere to the most effective behaviours means you can guarantee maximum results in the shortest reasonable time.
So now you have all the 'what' and 'how' knowledge and skills, you're armed with the tools to help clients, but where are they?
... is business skills. You need to know how to market and sell yourself in particular, even if you're in an employed role as people buy from people - connecting with potential clients yourself will fill your diary far quicker than relying on someone else to do it for you. The reason business acumen is so key is that simply being a good PT technically won’t automatically lead to clients banging down your door to work with you (at least not until you have established a great reputation, but even then you need to capitalise on that with an effective brand-building and marketing strategy, and consider ways to grow and scale your business to give you more income without having to work more hours).
It's worth saying that all the things we've talked about are not topics you can learn all in one go; there's no fixed amount of information about each one that once you've studied means you never need to learn anything else. You need a good grounding in training, nutrition, lifestyle management, behaviour change and business to get going - a comprehensive course should provide that - but personal training is all about continuing development.
Don't take that to mean your career will be a constant expense - every bit of knowledge you gain will help you to earn more money from more people, it's an investment that should pay for itself many times over. Some of the best trainers in the world spend thousands of pounds every year on their own education. Imagine how much they're making...
If all of this resonates with you and you want to join the next generation of fitness professionals, contact one of our Careers Advisers today to get started on 01329 829444 or 0800 4581388. In the meantime, download our How to become a PT Guide here
If you're already a fitness professional and want to know more about growing yourself and yoru career as a successful personal trainer, have a look at our CPD courses.