15 Tips That Will Make You A Great Fitness Instructor

Being a gym or fitness instructor isn’t necessarily a hard job, and there are thousands of people that pass their exams every year to become one, but there are few people that truly excel in the role.

In this article, I am going to walk you and teach you exactly how to be a good fitness instructor.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

Man exercising with kettlebell
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Starting as a gym or fitness instructor is an excellent path toward a career in personal training and a number of other avenues in the fitness industry.

But when there are so many people out there doing the same thing as you, do you really want to blend into the background and be mixed in with all the other fitness instructors?

I thought not, otherwise why would you be reading this article, right?

So let’s get going with what you can do to be the most successful fitness instructor in your club.

Now there’s a lot to get through in this article, so I’ll put a table of contents to make it a little easier to navigate. So let’s crack on and see what makes a good gym instructor.

1. Become famous

guitarist in front of a large crowd

When gym members are waiting for their lunchtime class to begin, they should all be visibly pleased to see you walking out ready to head to the class.

You need to make it your goal to know every single person that walks through the doors of your gym, and just as importantly, they should know yours.

You do this by making the effort to speak to every person you meet, and remember their names and details about them.

Building rapport with the members is one of the best skills a personal trainer or fitness instructor can develop, as it increases member retention (massively important to the people higher up) and allows you to get to know people on a 1-2-1 level which can make your job a whole lot more fun.

Become famous in your club by:

  • Teaching hardcore, but fun gym floor classes
  • Speaking to as many gym members as possible each day
  • Engaging members in conversations that are not limited to exercise
  • Greeting people personally by their first name when they walk through the door
  • Always make sure members are happy with their programs and let them know they can ask you anything, anytime.
  • Not always speaking about fitness and exercise, show a real interest in their hobbies and lives too.

2. Get to know everyone

Young man with dreadlocks shaking womans hand

I said in the last point that I want you to go out and talk to every gym member that you can find so that you are on first-name terms with as many of them as possible.

But this is not limited to just gym members.

When I say you should try to build rapport with everyone, I mean everyone, the cleaners, the personal trainers, the managers, and even the CEOs, and owners if possible.

If you want to be successful and progress in this career, you will want to be the first person on people’s minds when they are thinking of someone that can act as an ambassador for the company.

If the higher-ups are looking to recruit a new fitness team manager, who do you think will be the first person they think of, the trainer that literally knows everyone and has made the effort to introduce themselves to all the managers, or the trainer that turns up, does their shift and goes home without speaking to anyone they don’t have to?

I hope you can see how much of a no-brainer that question is.

3. Pretend every day is your first

man flipping tire in gym
Keep that enthusiasm up

Everyone and I mean everyone, has bad days. And after a few months in the role, it’s easy to start relaxing and maybe getting a little lazy or sloppy with things.

Do not do this!

Treat every day like it is your first and you are full of energy and enthusiasm. You should be going to work each and every day with the attitude that you are going to learn something new or help out as twice as many people as you did the day before.

If managers see that you are coming into the gym and bringing fantastic energy in with you even after a year or so of doing the same role, you will certainly get noticed by them.

Remember that it’s not just the higher-ups you want to impress, being a good fitness instructor boils down to giving the best experience to the members of the gym possible.

If you walk into a class full of excitement and show that you are ready to give them the best and most fun workout they have had in years, you can bet they will remember you for all the right reasons.

Bottom line

Don’t let tough days get you down, maintain your enthusiasm for fitness and show it to everyone around you, it will inspire them all.

4. Don’t rush

man looking at a clock on a table

I know how hard it can be to be a fitness instructor, remember, this whole blog is written by a guy (me) that has worked his way from the bottom to the top.

There are times when you can barely even face the idea of having to take a gym class and cleaning up the free-weights area for the fifth time that lunchtime just doesn’t seem all that appealing.

But what I want to say to you is this.

Do not rush to move on to another role if that is your plan.

There is nothing wrong with starting as a fitness instructor and moving up into personal training or management, in fact, I even recommend it but don’t spend all your time counting down the days until you are allowed to be a PT.

Your days as a fitness instructor are incredibly valuable. They are an excellent opportunity for you to hone your skills as a trainer and see how you can use your personality to help establish rapport with members. This is a vital skill to master if you do want to become a successful PT, as being able to “walk the floor” and meet people is one of the oldest and best ways to pick up new clients on the gym floor.

The other cool thing to remember is……..

……you’re getting paid to do a really fun job!

5. Show your sense of humor

man pulling silly faces
This picture is absolute nightmare fuel

Let me be clear, no one wants to be shown around a gym floor, taught how to use equipment, or have a class taken by a boring fitness instructor.

I’ve worked in the fitness industry for a long while, and I can assure you, there are plenty of super boring instructors out there. Monotone voices, not a smile on their faces, just……..super dull.

Please don’t do this, show you are happy about being employed in a job where you get to be sociable every day and make hugely positive differences in people’s lives.

You can do this easily by showing a little sense of humor.

You might think that exercise and fitness need to be taken very seriously, and much as it is important, remember that most of the people coming into the gym are there to get a bit of exercise whilst they get away from their job and the stress associated with it for an hour or so.

Help them to enjoy this time by not taking things too seriously.

I don’t mean you should start to clown around, but you can and definitely should have a sense of humor to keep things as light-hearted as possible whenever appropriate.

Keeping things fun will help you to bond with the members and create great rapport, it will also help with maintaining those all-important connections to your managers should you want to progress up the ladder.

6. Keep studying

young man studying hard

I know it’s a terrible Cliché, but after you have passed your exams is when the real learning begins!

The absolute best time to start to really learn the industry and how it works is whilst you are already in it.

It’s easy to think that once you have the job there is no reason to pick up a book, but the opposite is true. What better way of learning new exercises and how to design exercise programs around disabilities or injuries than by researching the topic and getting to try it out that week?

Your learning doesn’t have to be restricted to books, courses, or internet searches, take advantage of the wealth of information and knowledge that is all around you by talking to the personal trainers, gym managers, and physiotherapists that may be working in your gym.

What you learn in the level 2 courses are the basics so that you can do the role safely and effectively. The info you will learn from talking to real people that have worked in the industry for years is worth ten times anything you learn in those courses.

You don’t want to walk into a managerial or personal training role looking like you have only just passed your exams the previous weekend. Use the time you work as a fitness instructor to learn as much as you possibly can so that when you do eventually get into these roles, you have a wealth of knowledge to fall back on.

7. Try everything

woman standing at a gym reception

Don’t limit yourself to just teaching classes, taking gym inductions, and tidying the gym, you are capable of much more than this.

Use the time you work as a fitness instructor to work at the front desk, learn how people are booked into classes, and talk to your fitness manager about whether you can shadow some of their tasks so you can learn more about their role.

Have a go at taking on as much responsibility as you are comfortable with so that you can add skills to your cv whilst you are getting paid for it.

You are not going to love every part of other people’s roles, for instance, I really didn’t like working at the front desk, but hanging out with and shadowing the salespeople as they were walking potential members through the benefits of the club taught me loads about how to make sales, which really helped when I got into personal training.

You’ll get another benefit from trying a whole bunch of different roles, in that it will help you to decide where you want to go in your career after fitness instruction, and it will also give you a bit of a break from doing the same things each day.

Lots of clubs are understaffed, so being able to help out when needed at the last minute is a valuable skill that will really make you stand out as a fantastic employee.

Your managers will love you for it!

8. Build your confidence up

Some people are confident, either through nature or nurture, I was neither!

I had very little confidence when I started out as a fitness instructor and it took me a long time to consider myself to be what I would call “successful”.

I was unsure of what I was doing and if I was prescribing the correct exercise for this person or not, I mumbled my words because I spoke without confidence and I hated teaching classes.

It took a while, but I decided to use my time to build my confidence as a fitness instructor, by slowly improving each area I was weak in.

I know I spoke without confidence, so I read up on public speaking so that I could make sure that I was easily heard by an entire class of people in the middle of the gym floor at lunchtime (now that takes some real doing).

I also taught myself as much as I could about exercise prescription and instruction techniques, this way I could walk into any induction session feeling fully confident that I could create a great program that would help each person I met.

Building confidence doesn’t come quickly to all, but with persistence and a little effort, you will find your confidence soaring in only a few months.

Becoming a good fitness instructor will require you to be confident in yourself, but don’t worry if you aren’t currently, confidence can be learned, and fully immersing yourself is the fastest way to do it!

9. Learn how to bring out the best in people

crossfit two men bumping fists next to barbells

You might be shocked to hear that fitness instruction has an awful lot of psychology involved in it, I was never taught this in the courses I took, and it took me a few months of working in the role for me to find out just how much you need to put yourself in other peoples minds to help them with exercise.

It really isn’t as simple as writing up a program and passing it to someone in the hopes that they may actually do it a few times.

You will come up against people with very little self-esteem and confidence, people that have tried to lose weight for years and are on the brink of giving up, and people that just plain hate exercising but have health conditions that have doctors practically forcing them into a gym.

It can be intimidating and even a little scary to think that you are going to have to play a big part in the psychology of the people you are training, but it’s no different from what school teachers go through every year with a new class.

I recommend you do some reading on the psychological benefits of exercise and how you can implement these to help people overcome their issues and learn to love exercise. You can’t really get more successful as a fitness instructor than that.

10. Take the time to develop your people skills

two young men fist bumping each other and smiling

People don’t listen to people they don’t like, plain and simple.

You probably already knew that, because you don’t want to be told what to do by someone that you don’t like, so you can understand others feeling the same way, right?

So, seeing as you will be in a position where you will constantly instruct and teach people, you’d better make sure they like you, or not a single person will turn up to any of your gym floor classes, and you’ll look silly and be embarrassed.

The main qualities of a good fitness instructor you will want to work on and practice are:

  • Communication
  • Patience
  • Ability to listen closely
  • Interest in others
  • Humor
  • Body language

This list is not exhaustive, so there are plenty of other people skills out there, but these are a few of the ones that I think will have the biggest impact on your success as a fitness instructor.

It’s super difficult to try and tackle all these skills in one go, so I would recommend you take them one at a time and build them up slowly.

Don’t worry about trying to master them all in a month, remember not to try to rush these things as we discussed in point 4.

11. Decide on your path

man standing at a split path in a woods

For those of you that want to carry on working as a fitness instructor, you can pretty much skip this point, but if your aim is to become a good fitness instructor so you can move up the fitness career ladder, you will want to decide on which path you want to take.

Use the first six months to a year of working in fitness to try out a bunch of different roles as we discussed in point 7. After a few months, you should have a pretty good idea of what you do enjoy doing and what you don’t.

Once you’ve decided which path you want to take I think you should go for it with everything you’ve got. Start to use your gym shifts to get as much experience as you can in this area before you actually start trying to apply for it.

If management has seen that you have been putting in the effort to learn tons about a specific area in fitness, as soon as an opening comes up, you will have a great shot at, at least getting an interview.

12. Learn how to empathize

psychologist talking to a man in a chair

Empathy, yeah, this one’s crazy important.

I said you’d need to get your people skills, but learning how to properly empathize with people so that you can see the world through their eyes and not just yours is incredibly important.

You may love exercise, but there are plenty of people who hate it with a passion. You will need to be able to understand that not everyone thinks the same way that you do about exercise and fitness and to work around this rather than against it.

Instead of trying to force your views on people, you will need to talk to them so you can understand why they feel the way they do. After you have learned a little about them, you will be able to prescribe a workout routine and structure that they are more likely to complete.

They may even enjoy it!

If a member walks into a gym induction session with you and has explained that they have had a dreadful day at work, it’s probably best that you make it perfectly clear that you understand they have had a bad day and that you will try to make the session as painless and to the point as possible.

Sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you’re given.

13. Read the room

fitness studio full of women with yoga mats

This tip is important for becoming famous by teaching incredible gym floor classes.

In some of the gyms I’ve worked in, the members preferred to have fairly easy-going classes and were perfectly happy for me to teach them exactly the way they were written in the class manuals.

In another gym in regard to the members, I was told to “destroy them”, these were my managers’ exact words. You see, this gym was in the middle of the City of London where the members are all in massively competitive jobs, they are used to working really hard and competition is in their blood.

If you gave these guys an even remotely easy class, they would walk out halfway through and you would have empty classes each time they saw it was you taking it from then on.

The point here is, every gym is different, so don’t go into one with the aim of destroying every member there straight away, that could go down terribly.

Instead, talk to the other trainers and get a feel for what the members tend to prefer in their classes, or even better yet, ask the members.

Straight up ask the members at the end of each class you take if it was too easy or too tough, let them know they can talk to you and if they would prefer something different, you can totally do that.

They will love you for this and as long as enough people all agree on the same training intensity, you will have people queuing up to join your classes, and you’ll be famous in no time at all.

14. Understand people’s limitations

man not paying attention whilst his friend struggles with weights

This point coincides with point 12 about empathizing with people, except that this time, instead of understanding people on an emotional level, you will need to understand them on a physical level.

In order to be a good fitness instructor, you will need to understand that everyone will have different abilities and preferences when it comes to exercise, and what may seem incredibly simple to you could feel very complicated to someone else.

Trust me, I am not going to pretend that I haven’t got frustrated by a member who just cannot squat properly after the twentieth explanation, but you have to keep this frustration hidden, and hidden really well.

You will need to learn how to teach people in a way that they can understand and will not frustrate them, this will also mean that you need to be able to recognize a person’s limitations and when to regress an exercise if it seems too complicated.

15. Get your timings right

person looking at a wrist watch

You will be incredibly busy whilst working as a fitness instructor, you may have several induction sessions back to back and then a fully-booked gym floor class to take straight after.

If your timings are off, you are screwed!

Don’t let that scare you though, learning to look at your watch every now and then and when to cut conversations short and crack on with the next set is all part and parcel of becoming an excellent fitness instructor.

When you are new to the role, I would suggest you request that you don’t have too many induction sessions back to back so that you can learn how long it takes to go through the full session.

I can assure you that the induction sessions you did as part of your exams are very different from what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis as a real-life instructor.

Let your personality show

No one wants to be trained by a robot, so don’t go through the list I’ve written up and used it as a box-ticking exercise. It’s good that you have these qualities and personality traits, but you still need to be you.

If you’re not naturally funny, please, please don’t try to force this by using gags or one-liners, it’s going to be just awful! It applies to people that are naturally funny or have the gift of the gab to let them know that they don’t have to hold back and they are allowed to make jokes if it’s in good taste.

Don’t worry if you’re not funny, you’ve probably got a lot of empathy or you can read people really well, etc. Let your personality shine through so people get to know you for being you, as a real person who cares about them, and not just someone who is taking the class because they are being paid.

Use the time you spend with the members taking your classes or inductions to make friends with them. It’s pretty easy to do, and it’s much nicer teaching a class of thirty people smiling back at you than a sea of expressionless faces.


So there you have it, here are fifteen tips that you can use to become the best fitness instructor you can be.

By using these tips, you will not only impress your managers but more importantly, you will grow a following amongst the members of the gym, with fully booked classes and people begging to have you renew their exercise program instead of someone else.

There’s a real sense of pride that comes with knowing that you are without any doubt, the best damn fitness instructor you can be. Going into an induction session, gym floor class or reprogramming session full of confidence is one of the best feelings you can have.

If you are brand new to the role and are looking for some tips to get your confidence up, then I am seriously confident these will help. They worked really well for me, so I know they will for you.

Of course, it’s all well and good being a good fitness instructor, but what about being great?

If you’d like to know how to stand out amongst the crowd and be one of the best fitness instructors around, take a look at the article below that clearly explains how.

8 Easy Ways To Go The Extra Mile As A Fitness Instructor

Good luck, and go get ’em!

If you enjoyed this article and feel it might help others, please feel free to share it or link back to it.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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