5 Exciting Career Pathways for Personal Trainers

Person using weights in a gym.

The role of a personal trainer has evolved considerably in recent years as the health and fitness sector has become more diverse and multifaceted. Once upon a time not too long ago, personal trainers would work almost exclusively with their clients at home or in the gym to help them achieve their health, fitness, and wellness goals. Nowadays, there are so many different ways that people passionate about exercise and fitness want to train, and many of these people also have more complex physical, mental, and functional needs, which is why trainers looking to support these clients need higher levels of technical knowledge, practical skills, and of course, specialist qualifications.

The health and fitness industry has continued to grow year on year for the past 2-3 decades, although in recent years the market share of gyms and fitness centres has declined as the number of budget gyms as reached saturation point. However, the industry remains strong and there are now far more career progression opportunities open to qualified and talented personal trainers looking to work with a wider group of clients with more specialist needs.

  1. Strength and Conditioning Coach

Strength and conditioning is concerned with the design and implementation of specialist exercise programmes designed to improve athletic performance while reducing injury risk. Strength and conditioning coaches are employed in a variety of roles spanning different recreational, amateur, and professional sports, with adults and young athletes.

In the UK, strength and conditioning is a relatively new role that until recently has been reserved for those who have completed a related undergraduate qualification, like a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science, for example. However, there are now vocational pathways available to those who have completed an industry-recognised personal training course, like the HFE Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training, although there are others.

For many qualified personal trainers, the strength and conditioning role feels like a natural progression, because it builds on many of the subjects that personal trainers study when completing their qualifications, like anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and training principles. However, most personal training qualifications are delivered at Level 3, whereas strength and conditioning qualifications are largely Level 4. As such, the study demands are much greater, and tend to be focused a little more on research and evidence-based training approaches.

  1. Health and Wellbeing Practitioner

As society places a growing emphasis on wellness and wellbeing, many experienced personal trainers are undertaking additional training and qualifications to support clients with their wellness needs.  In contrast to health and fitness, wellbeing places considerably greater emphasis on a person’s mental and emotional stability and resilience, helping them to better cope with the pressures and demands of daily life.

Outside of the health and fitness industry, the NHS and organisations like the Personalised Care Institute are employing Health and Wellbeing Coaches to support people with managing their health-promoting behaviours. Health and Wellbeing Coaches are regarded as experts in behaviour change and can work with their clients to develop life-changing strategies to improve outcomes for a range of physical, mental, and emotional health conditions.

To become a Health and Wellbeing Coach, personal trainers need to complete additional training and qualifications that are mapped to the Personalised Care Institute’s (PCI) Health Coaching Framework.

  1. Exercise Referral Practitioner

Exercise referral practitioners bridge the gap between the fitness and health professions, planning and delivering specialist exercise programmes alongside healthcare professionals, like doctors, dieticians, and nurses. Exercise referral is a service that is primarily reserved for those suffering from long-term health conditions, like obesity, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and other medical conditions that can be improved or reversed by becoming more active and/or eating healthier.

To become an exercise referral practitioner, personal trainers need to undertake additional training and qualifications, like the Level 3 Diploma in Exercise Referral, for example. This programme serves as an add-on to the core personal training certification, focusing more on the physiological implications of over 15 different long-term health conditions. Additionally, this qualification provides the necessary knowledge and skills around exercise counselling and strategies for changing behaviour.

  1. Body Transformation Coach

A body transformation coach supports their clients with exercise, fitness, and nutrition strategies for creating significant changes in body shape, fatness, and muscularity. The popularity of body transformations has increased significantly in recent years, both online and in health and fitness clubs, with men and women creating dramatic changes to their body composition and physique.

In the UK fitness industry, this is a relatively new role that has emerged from the bodybuilding community in response to the increased availability of credible and reliable information relating to the exercise and nutrition strategies needed to achieve these transformations safely.

Most transformation coaches provide these services alongside their core personal training services, although many coaches focus exclusively on these services, including supporting clients participating in physique and fitness competitions. For those that may never heard of a body transformation coach before, it is worth pointing out that the worlds largest personal training business, Ultimate Performance, specialises in providing transformation services for their clients and this is how they have created their worldwide reputation for personal training excellence.

  1. Group Fitness Classes

Many personal trainers are motivated by delivering group fitness classes because it enables them to serve a wider-range of clients at the same time, while creating a fun, uplifting, and motivating experience for their clients. In a gym environment, group exercise is typically associated with the aerobics studio, where large groups of clients, predominantly women, follow an instructor delivering exercise and dance-based movements to music. This isn’t the type of group exercise personal trainers tend to deliver, although some do.

Most PTs delivering group fitness classes will focus on delivering more functional and circuit-based exercise programmes, like a bootcamp session or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) for example. These styles of classes bring like-minded participants together to perform a wide-range of challenging but enjoyable exercises. When these sessions are planned and delivered appropriately, they foster emotions of camaraderie and teamwork, which helps to keep clients coming back time and again.

One key benefit to delivering group fitness classes in this way is that they don’t need to be confined to the gym environment. Most sessions of this nature can be completed with body weight (calisthenics) exercises, small or portable equipment, and partner-resisted movements. This means that instructors can effectively deliver these sessions anywhere they can find the clients and space to do so (e.g., parks, community halls, sports fields).

Like the transformation niche, there are a number of health club chains that have build their business model entirely on group fitness classes, including Barry’s Bootcamp and hero Training Clubs, both of which have worldwide facilities.


Author: Lee Cain

Lee Cain has over 25 years’ experience of working in the health and fitness industry across a variety of roles, including personal training, group fitness instructor, and providing strength and conditioning services. He holds a first-class (hons) degree in sport and exercise science and is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSC).  He has extensive experience in the education, training, and awarding sector, and is widely respected for his vast knowledge of the health and fitness landscape.