Can Personal Trainers Use Any Gym? Rules Explained

If you are a freelance Personal Trainer you might not want to stick to one location or specific gym.

Moving around from gym to gym means you are not limited to training in one area, so your scope for finding more clients is vastly improved.

In this article, I will be directly addressing whether or not as a personal trainer you can use any gym or only specific places.

Let’s go……

Woman jumping in a gym with two men drinking water sitting on a bench

It is not illegal for a qualified personal trainer to use any gym they like to train their clients as long as you have public liability insurance. However, you may run into legal difficulty if you try to poach the gym’s members, or sell your training services there.

****Legal Disclaimer***

It is the advice of that you do NOT train your private personal training clients in a gym in which you are not employed. Gyms in different locations have their own rules and regulations, therefore shall not be liable for any legal (or other) issues arising from using their facilities without written permission. The information provided in this article is for reference purposes only.

As a personal trainer, as long as you’re qualified and have all the correct public liability insurance, you are not usually committing a crime by bringing in your own clients from outside and using the equipment there.

If they don’t have a membership in that gym, you will need to pay for a guest pass for them, but these are usually pretty cheap (£10 per visit, etc).

There is one little thing about doing this though….

It can cause you all sorts of trouble and probably isn’t worth it!

If a manager suspects you of using their facilities to train your own private clients, they may ask you to leave the premises. And having the trainers trying to intimidate you into leaving and not returning (yes this really happens), can make for some pretty uneasy sessions with you and your client.

If you really insist on doing this, you can do your best to make out that you are just training your friend and showing them some exercises. This is made a lot easier by you working out with them and having them complete a set straight after you etc.

As a trainer, I have seen plenty of people training in pairs or even groups of three or four at a time, and it’s almost impossible to determine if a training session is taking place, or if it’s an experienced gym-goer helping out a newbie friend of theirs.

The even harder thing is proving it’s a training session. As long as you have explained to your client that they should say you are both friends training together, I can’t see any way they would be able to prove you wrong.

However, before we go any further in this article, I would like to say that just because something isn’t technically illegal, doesn’t mean it’s ok to do. I would seriously suggest that you don’t get into the habit of making this how you train your clients. It’s not fair on the trainers and it really isn’t worth the effort.

You might be wondering why all this is such a big deal, I mean, after all, if it’s not illegal, why do gyms and trainers kick up such a fuss?

Well, let me explain….

Why gyms don’t like you bringing in your own clients

It may seem unfair to be told that you are not allowed to use other gyms to train your clients, but you have got to look at it from two perspectives.

Firstly, there are the gym owners that either charge their trainers a monthly fee to be able to use the gym and talk to the members, or they are paid a small salary depending on how many sessions they deliver.

If the personal trainers in the gym find out that there are people coming into the gym and training their own clients without having to pay to do so, they are going to get very frustrated and probably leave the gym.

This puts the owners in a difficult situation where they would have to constantly be re-hiring new trainers, which is time-consuming, but also, the employee turnover of the gym would not look good.

Secondly, you have to look at it from the personal trainers that are already working in the gym’s point of view.

It’s just massively unfair to be paying sometimes over a thousand pounds a month to be given the privilege of talking to members and using the gym’s equipment, only to have someone else come in and do it all for free.

There is also the very real threat of a trainer from the outside coming in and poaching clients from the gym floor, only to eventually train them outside of that gym.

I’ve worked in several gyms where we have suspected that someone was coming onto the gym floor to train their own clients with what we considered to be “our” equipment and I can assure you, we made sure our manager was very aware of that person and would question them if required.

Some gyms may let you use their equipment

If your plan was based solely around the idea of using other gyms equipment, you may still be in with a chance of this happening.

The most likely way that you would get a gym to agree to you coming in and training your clients would be with either a signed contract stating that you would pay either a monthly fee or separate one-off fees, this is something that would have to be arranged with the gym.

You would also be far more likely to get permission to train this way from a very small gym, something completely independent. Essentially, a place that could really use the extra cash you would be bringing in.

If you were thinking that a big club or chain, like Virgin Active or Fitness First, will let you do this then I think you will be disappointed as there are none that I know of that would even consider this.

So stick to the independents if this is still the route you want to take.

Other locations you can train your clients

So what are your other options if you can’t use the big chains and you don’t know of any small independent gyms in your area?

Parks – Training people in parks is great if the weather is permitting, and some of your more hardcore clients may not even mind a bit of wind or rain during their sessions.

You can bring your own bags with your equipment in and set yourself up a small area to conduct your session, and some parks have even got their own bodyweight-based equipment, chin up and parallel bars, etc. So you can put these to good use with your client.

Your or your clients home – Training people in either your own home or their home is an excellent and even more personal version of the training they might be used to.

You can conduct these sessions in complete privacy, which is excellent for clients that may be made nervous by gyms, and you have a familiar and comfortable environment to work in.

You would only require a small amount of equipment for these workouts, kettlebells, speed cones, etc, and obviously, a decent amount of space to conduct them in.

This means your initial start-up fees would be relatively small and with no rent to pay, you would be taking home nearly all of the profit from the sessions.

If you are traveling to and training people in their own homes, there would obviously be the fuel costs to take into account, but these will certainly be smaller than what a commercial gym would charge you in rent each month, plus they’d be tax-deductible.

Online Sessions – If neither of the ideas above takes your fancy, then maybe online training could be a good alternative.

I find online training to be a little less personal than standard sessions in a gym, but some people may actually prefer that.

People that have the money to be able to afford regular personal training sessions are usually incredibly busy people. This means they may struggle to find time to dedicate a session with you throughout the day. Training online means you could schedule a session with them when they got home from work. This is generally much appealing to people short of time during the day.

That’s just a few ideas for now, but there are a number of other options available to you, so don’t be disheartened.

What you need to consider when training clients in public places

In the above paragraphs, I suggested a few locations where you could train your clients instead of within a commercial gym.

There are a few caveats that come with this type of training though, and they are:

  • Insurance
  • Permission
  • Practicality


When you work in a commercial gym you are generally covered by the gym’s own insurance, but of course, you can also buy your own to cover yourself. If you are employed by a gym, then you are almost definitely covered by their own insurance, but please check if you are unsure.

When you go out on your own, you are covered by nothing unless you organize it yourself. The very last thing you want to spoil your career in personal training is for you to go for a nice run with your client and they fall over, break their leg and sue you for it.

This could of course still happen if you are insured (some people are just like that), but if you have the insurance, at least it won’t financially cripple you.

Make sure you have complete coverage if you plan to be training people outside, in your home, in their home, or anywhere at all where you aren’t covered. Just to be safe, cover yourself as much as you can.


Training in parks and large recreational areas have been popular for a long time, and for the vast majority of the time, this was completely free.

The counsels who owned the park didn’t take too much notice of personal trainers using their grounds for their sessions, however, a few years ago all that changed.

In 2010-2011, some parks in London started to charge up to £300 per month for trainers to use their grounds.

Much as this may seem greedy, I understand that the parks are meant to be used for recreational purposes and to give people somewhere peaceful to go to, especially in large cities.

It is not fair for people to use these spaces for commercial purposes and not be charged anything for the privilege, and even with the charge, £300 a month should be very easy to make up for session fees.

A word of warning is to not assume that you can just get away with not paying. These parks are watched fairly closely, and you really don’t want to find yourself being fined.

If you decide you want to train in parks, contact the counsel or whoever owns the grounds and arrange a payment method if you think you will have enough business to cover it and make it worthwhile.

Permission is not limited to parks of course, anywhere you are training a client, you are using the area for commercial purposes (you’re making money from it), so you must ask whoever owns that land for permission.

Insurance for training clients in different locations

As previously mentioned, any time that you are not training someone in a commercial gym, you should have insurance.

This not only covers you in the event of an accident but also your client, think of it like car insurance, it’s very similar.

There are tons of options for personal training insurance out there, I may even write an article on it, but for now, I will keep it very simple and just suggest that you do some thorough research and find the best coverage for yourself and your clients.

This is a really vital part of training people out of a gym environment, so take your time with it and make sure you are fully comfortable before even arranging a session with anyone.

What gyms allow outside personal trainer trainers?

So, what if you want to work as a personal trainer that works in a gym, either as a freelance trainer or employed by the gym itself and you want to be able to train clients outside when the weather’s good, which gyms will let you do this?

The easy answer is that most gyms where you are employed as a trainer will not let you train your clients outside. This is because when you are using their gym, you are covered by the gym’s insurance, which will almost certainly not cover you or your client in the event of an injury occurring outside.

In the terrible situation that either you or your client was injured even a foot outside the gym’s premises, it would be entirely up to you to cover any costs or legal issues as a result. Not a great situation to put yourself in.

However, if you have your own insurance independent of the gym, you will still be covered, so you can do this if you want to.

This goes for working as a freelance trainer in a gym, as even though you are renting the facilities, the gym itself often has its own insurance that would cover an injury. A lot of freelance trainers like to train their clients outside in the summer, so they tend to have their own individual insurance that covers them for this.

Essentially, as long as you have your own insurance that covers you for training your clients outside, you should be allowed to do it, however, some gyms have strong rules against this, so it’s best to check with them first.

As always with this sort of question, I need to put a short disclaimer here to say that if you are unsure of anything to do with your gym’s rules or anything to do with insurance matters, please discuss it with the companies to make sure you are abiding by their rules. Nothing in this article is giving you advice on insurance or the rules of commercial or independent gyms!


So there you have the rules on whether or not you can train your clients in any gym.

You might be a little surprised by the answer to this question, and the main thing to remember is that it is completely up to you as to where you decide to train your clients.

If you decide you want to use your local gym to bring in and train your clients, then go for it, but just be aware you will not have a pleasant time dealing with the staff or other trainers in the gym.

If it’s financially beneficial for you, then go for it, but it may make your day-to-day life a little easier if you train your clients elsewhere, at least most of the time.

Whichever route you take, I wish you the best of luck.

Go get ’em!

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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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