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Personal Training: How to Build a Lucrative Personal Training Department


shutterstock_198133892As the co-director of the fitness department at Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, I am responsible for managing a team of about 50 personal trainers. This can be a daunting task, especially when we are on track to do approximately $2 million in personal training revenue this year.

One of the most difficult parts of managing a team that large is figuring out how to keep the staff motivated and focused. As a result, my co-director, Maria Bernard, and I have come up with a hiring, training and development system that we believe is the reason for our success. Over the next several months, we will write about how we’ve built our department to where we are today and how you can do the same.

The first step to building a lucrative personal training department is hiring the right people. You must have standards that you are not willing to lower. Following are our hiring standards and the reasons for each.

1. Education: We require that our trainers have at least a bachelor’s degree in an exercise-related field. We have found that personal trainers with this background have a better grasp on anatomy and physiology and can then be taught how to motivate clients and promote themselves as professionals in the field.

2. Certifications: We require that our trainers attain a certification from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), or the American Council on Exercise (ACE) within the first 90 days of employment. A certification from any of these three organizations will further the trainer’s education and confidence. While other organizations offer credible certifications, these three apply most to the clientele at our club.

3. The Right Answer: In our interview we ask a lot of questions, but the most important one is, “What made you decide to get into the fitness field?” The answer to this question must be, “Because I want to help people.” If a potential hire truly does want to make a difference in the lives of others, they can be trained on how to motivate and be an effective personal trainer. Our trainers must possess a true passion for working with people and helping them achieve their goals.

4. Personality: A potential hire must be outgoing, friendly and have an entrepreneurial spirit. They must make good eye contact during the interview and conduct themselves in a professional manner. They have to be able to communicate effectively with people and be a positive influence.

5. Experience: This is not a requirement, but it is a major bonus. Most bachelor’s degrees require an internship, so even if hires are fresh out of school they should at least have had some experience in a gym. Having worked in a gym gives them an idea of how they need to conduct themselves in a professional setting.

Once you’ve got the right people hired, you have to train them. Next month I’ll discuss our procedures for training and development of our team.


Lisa Jo Groft, BS, ACSM-HFS, is the co-director of fitness at Baptist East Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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