Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies®


by Melyssa St. Michael and Linda Formichelli




About the Authors

Melyssa St. Michael: Melyssa St. Michael is a certified personal trainer and certified nutrition consultant. She was named one of the top 40 entrepre-neurs under age 40 by Baltimore Magazine in 2001. Setting out to “raise the bar” in the personal-training industry, Melyssa founded her first personal-training company in February 1995. She rapidly expanded her business into a thriving entity with over 2,000 clients, a 3,000-square-foot state-of-the-art personal-training/nutrition facility, and a staff of ten full-time trainers. Currently, Melyssa consults within the fitness industry and is a renowned fitness expert appearing on national news channels, including CNN, CBS, NBC, and ABC. She has been interviewed by such publications as the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, SHAPE, Muscle & Fitness, and the Sunday Times (London).

Linda Formichelli: Linda Formichelli is a freelance health and fitness writer who lives in Massachusetts with her writer husband and two cats. She is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. She’s a karate enthusiast (okay, she’s a karate freak) who enjoys sipping port and reading weighty tomes (okay, it’s lemonade and Archie comics). Linda has an M.A. from U.C. Berkeley in a subject completely unrelated to writing.



Melyssa dedicates this book to her best friend and soon-to-be-husband, Brian, and to her sister, Krys.

Linda dedicates this book to Eric.


Authors’ Acknowledgments

Melyssa and Linda would both like to thank Jennifer Lawler, for her awesome photography skills; Project Editor Elizabeth Kuball, who did an excellent job guiding us through this book; Technical Editor Jason Teno, whose feedback was much appreciated; Aly Leone, Donny Rutledge, and Brian Flach, for being willing (super)models; Laurie St. Michael, for making our models look great at the photo shoot; our agent, Carol Susan Roth; and Tracy Boggier, Holly Gastineau-Grimes, and Joyce Pepple, the helpful Acquisitions team at Wiley.

From Melyssa: Foremost, to the people in my life who have supported me so selflessly. Thanks to Brian, who has proven to me that “you are where you are in your life at any given point and time for a reason, though you may not know it yet.” Ranger, thank you for your enduring support and for being there for me in the way that only you can be. Thanks to my sister Krys, without whom I would not have made it past my first year of being in business. Krys, you were my backbone, my sounding board, and my voice of reason. I know it was difficult (and so was I!) at times, but please know this: I couldn’t have done it without you. Mom, thank you for your love and complete belief that I could do it. Dad, thank you for your mentorship and teaching me FileMaker. Laurie, thanks for giving us your wonderful makeup artistry so that we all looked our best. Thanks to my co-author, Linda Formichelli, for her exceptional talent that has truly made this book what it is. And last but not least, thanks to my clients, mentors, and employees, who taught me more about business than they ever will know: Dan C., Doctors Dean and Lauri K., “Dr.” David S., Edie B., Mark S. Thank you all for touching my life.

From Linda: I’d like to thank Eric, one great husband and also a great proofreader; my parents, for encouraging my writing habit; Jennifer Lawler, for her great advice and willing ear; Branchaud Dojo in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, for keeping me sane; and last but not least, Melyssa St. Michael, who’s as good at writing as she is at personal training (and I mean really good!).


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Elizabeth Kuball

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Assistant Editor: Holly Gastineau-Grimes

Technical Editor: Jason Teno

Media Development Coordinator: Sarah Cummings

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistants: Courtney Allen, Elizabeth Rea

Cover Photos: © Zoran Milich/Getty Images/Allsport Concepts

Cartoons: Rich Tennant,


Project Coordinator: Maridee Ennis

Layout and Graphics: Jonelle Burns, Andrea N. Dahl, Joyce Haughey, Stephanie D. Jumper, Michael Kruzil, Barry Offringa, Lynsey Osborn, Jacque Roth, Mary Gillot Virgin

Proofreaders: David Faust, Carl William Pierce, Aptara

Indexer: Aptara

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Brice Gosnell, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How to Use This Book

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Part I : Shaping Up to Be a Personal Trainer

Chapter 1: Personal Training 101: Do You Have What It Takes?

Determining Whether You and Personal Training Are a Match Made in Heaven

Hitting the Books

Getting Started

Performing Your Art

Our Little Trainer’s All Grown Up!: Growing Your Business

Chapter 2: Getting Certified

Finding Your Niche

Becoming Certified (Not Certifiable!)

Preparing for the Test

Maintaining Your Certification

Chapter 3: Practicing Your Art

Getting the Scoop from Those in the Know

Using Test Subjects (Or, Getting Your Family and Friends to Jump When You Say Jump)

Training Yourself

Chapter 4: Planning Your Start

Assessing Your Lifestyle Needs

Being Your Own Boss

Working the 9 to 5

Part II : Being a Successful Personal Trainer

Chapter 5: Creating Your Business Plan

Developing a Road Map for Success

Deciding How Much to Charge

To Market, to Market: Getting the Word Out about Your Services

Doing the Math: Projecting Your Income and Expenses

Chapter 6: Setting Up Shop

A Little Help from Your Friends: Forming Your Support System

Structuring Your Business

Getting Registered and IDed (Even if You’re Over 21)

A Rose Is More than a Rose: Naming Your Business

Image Is Everything: Creating Your Look

Chapter 7: Developing Sound Business Practices

Crossing Your T’s and Dotting Your I’s: Legal Forms for Your Business

Going with the Flow: Determining in What Order to Conduct Your Business

Putting Policies in Place

Maintaining Records

The Tax Man Cometh

Tracking Your Clients

Chapter 8: Flexing Your Marketing Muscles

Ready, Aim . . .: Focusing on Your Target

The Power of Publicity: Spreading the Word about Your Services

Reaching Your Clients through Referrals

Marketing on a Shoestring

Chapter 9: Retaining Your Clientele

Keepin’ It Real: Putting Fitness within Your Clients’ Reach

Tony Robbins Has Nothin’ on You: Motivating Your Clients

Getting Connected: Fostering Good Relationships with Your Clients

Resolving Conflicts and Concerns

When the Honeymoon Is Over: Recognizing When to Wean Your Client

Part III : Putting the Personal into Personal Training

Chapter 10: Getting to Know You: Performing Initial Consultations

Hello, My Name Is . . .

Getting to Know You: Preparing to Meet for the First Time

Performing the Consultation

Before You Say Goodbye

Chapter 11: The First Session: Performing the Fitness Assessment

Prepping the Client

Recording Baseline Measurements

Testing Your Client’s Fitness

Discussing the Results with Your Client

Chapter 12: Before We Meet Again: Planning the Program

Get with the Program: Considering Your Client’s Programming Needs

It’s All in the Planning!

Chapter 13: The Second Session: Taking Your Client through the First Workout

Checking Up So Your Client Doesn’t Check Out

So Hot It’s Cool: Warming Up the Client

Going for the Stretch

Now for the Main Event: Exercising Your Client

Cooling Down and Recovering from the Workout

Chapter 14: Teaching Your Beginning Client Beginning Exercises

Upper-Body Exercises

Lower-Body Exercises

Core Exercises

Drawing Out the Program

Chapter 15: Taking Your Client to the Next Level

Taking the Next Step

Strengthening Your Strength Techniques

Let’s Get Physical: Intensifying Your Client’s Aerobic Workout

Part IV : Growing Your Personal Training Business

Chapter 16: Preparing for Growth: Automating and Documenting Your Workflow

Planning for Growth

Follow the Leader: Creating a System for Others to Follow

Writing Job Descriptions

Charting Your Progress: Creating Your Organizational Chart

Creating Your Employee Manual

Chapter 17: Hiring Additional Staff

Outsourcing Is In: Hiring Professionals

Pumping Up Your Ranks: Hiring Other Trainers

Interviewing Potential Employees

Payday!: Dealing with Compensation

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: Firing and Laying Off Employees

Chapter 18: Building Your Business Culture

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Higher Education: Encouraging Your Employees to Grow

Training Your Employees

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 19: Ten Great Ways to Expand Your Services

Adding Nutrition Services

Selling Supplements

Adding Group Sessions

Giving Workshops and Seminars

Adding Massage Services

Selling Fitness Equipment

Providing Corporate Wellness Services

Offering Specialty Training Sessions

Selling Fitness Apparel

Offering Other Services

Chapter 20: Ten Essential Pieces of Equipment

Your Mindset

Your Certification

Your Business Card

Tape Measure

Body-Fat Calipers

Body-Weight Scale

Heart-Rate Monitor

Blood-Pressure Cuff

Jump Rope

Resistance Tubing

Chapter 21: Ten Ways to Be the Best Personal Trainer You Can Be

Don’t Be a Know-It-All

Admit When You’re Wrong

Be There for Your Client

Stay within the Boundaries

Do What You Say, Say What You Do

Showing Clients You Care

Always Be on Time

Dress Professionally

Stay Educated

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

Appendix: Resources

Professional Organizations

Web Sites



Maybe you’re a fitness buff who would like to help people get healthy for a living. Or maybe you’re already a professional personal trainer, and you want to boost your business or update your skills. Either way, Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies is for you.

You’re in the right place at the right time. According to American Sports Data, Inc., more than 5 million people in the U.S. pay for the services of personal trainers every year, with the average personal training client attending 20 sessions per year. The size of the U.S. personal training market is approximately $4 billion — that’s a lot of dough!

About This Book

Personal training requires more than the ability to bench-press your own bodyweight or run an hour on the treadmill without breaking a sweat. Personal training is a business, just like, say, a print shop, a doctor’s office, or a grocery store. You need to have a solid grasp not only of exercise, but also of marketing, business structures, legal issues, accounting, customer service, certification, and more.

Don’t flip out! We know that’s a lot to think about, but we’re here to help. In Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies, we give you the scoop on everything you need to know to start, run, and even expand your personal training business.

Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies tells you all the stuff you really want to know, such as:

bullet How do I know if personal training is for me?

bullet How do I become certified?

bullet How do I write a business plan?

bullet Should I go solo or work for someone else?

bullet How do I get clients in the door?

bullet Do I need an accountant, lawyer, and insurance agent?

bullet How do I perform an initial consultation and fitness assessment?

bullet How do I create exercise plans that will get my clients strong and healthy?

bullet How do I keep my clients motivated?

bullet What are some ways to expand my business?

Foolish Assumptions

They say that to assume makes an ass out of you and me, but were going to take that risk — because we need to assume certain things about you, our reader. We assume that you’re interested in personal training. We also assume that you have some basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, cardiovascular exercise, and weight training. You may already be certified, or you may be studying for your certification. Or you may even be a full-fledged professional personal trainer who wants to build your clientele or motivate your clients.

How to Use This Book

You can use this book in two ways:

bullet If you want to know everything there is to know about becoming a personal trainer, read this book from cover to cover. You’ll get a thorough overview of what it takes to start and run a successful business, and you’ll even find out about things you may not have thought of, such as how to write a marketing plan, how to name your business, and where to find a mentor who can guide you to success.

bullet If you want to find out about a specific topic, flip to that page and start reading. For example, if you plan to take your certification test, you can turn to Chapter 2 to get study tips. You can read any section in the book without reading what comes before or after — though we may refer you to other parts of the book for related information.

How This Book Is Organized

Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies is divided into five parts. The chapters within each part give you more detailed information on each topic within that part. Here’s an overview:

Part I: Shaping Up to Be a Personal Trainer

So, you want to be a personal trainer. What type of trainer do you want to be? What kinds of clients do you want to work with? And most important, how do you get started? If you don’t know the answers to these common questions, this part is for you. We give an overview of the personal training business and tell you how you can get a piece of the action, including tips on developing your personal training identity, finding your niche, getting certified, interning and apprenticing, and weighing the pros and cons of going into business for yourself.

Part II: Being a Successful Personal Trainer

Before you start training clients, you need to have all the business basics in place — like a business plan, a business name, a record-keeping system, a marketing plan, and a support system of professionals, such as a lawyer and an accountant. If you jump into training without these basics, you can land in trouble when, say, the taxes are due, you want a business loan, or you gain so many clients that you can’t keep track of them (because you don’t have a record-keeping system!). That’s what this part is all about. We also tell you not only how to bring in clients, but how to keep them coming back with tips and tricks that will help them stay happy and motivated.

Part III: Putting the Personal into Personal Training

Clients — they’re the people who make your business a business. Without them, you’d be doing chest presses all by your lonesome. That’s why in this part, we tell you all about how to understand, work with, and advance your clients. You’ll find out how to perform an initial consultation and a fitness assessment, plus how to create individualized exercise programs and how to advance your clients to the next level.

Part IV: Growing Your Personal Training Business

When you’re ready to get big — and we’re not talking about your muscles — this part is for you. To expand your business, you may want to hire employees — and in this part, we tell you how to hire, motivate, and alas, fire workers. You can also expand by offering additional services like massages, workshops, and nutritional services, or by selling products like exercise equipment — and in this part, we show you how.

Part V: The Part of Tens

You may notice that Becoming a Personal Trainer For Dummies is chock-full of valuable information. In this part, we put that information into easy-to-read lists for your convenience. We provide you with great ways to expand your services, highlight equipment that will help your clients reach their goals, and outline ways to be the best personal trainer you can be.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are those little pictures you see in the margins of this book, and they’re meant to grab your attention and steer you toward particular types of information. Here’s what they mean:


The Tip icon points you to great strategies for running your personal training business.


We use this icon to give helpful reminders. This is information that you may already know but that’s easy to forget.


This icon flags information about potential pitfalls to your business, from business snafus to common exercise mistakes to client-relations gaffes.


This icon flags information that’s great to know but isn’t mandatory for your success as a personal trainer. You can use this information to impress your buddies in the gym, but if you’re short on time, you can skip this material without missing anything critical.


We use this icon to tell a story about one of Melyssa’s adventures in personal training. You can discover a lot from these stories!

Part I

Shaping Up to Be a Personal Trainer

In this part . . .

So you’ve decided to become a personal trainer. Congratulations! This part is for you.

First, we give you all the basics you need to get started. We tell you what it takes to be a personal trainer — and we don’t mean muscles. Mental agility, listening skills, and professionalism are all important traits. We also give an overview of personal training, information on how to get certified, and details on how to find out more by interning or apprenticing.

Do you want to work with the general population? Pregnant women? Seniors? Kids? In this part, we help you decide what kind of personal trainer you want to be and whom you want to work for. We also help you answer that most important of questions: Do you want to work as an employee or as an independent contractor?