The real question isn’t a matter of which is better. It’s a matter of implementing and experimenting with both whether you are a trainer or client.
In my opinion, nothing will ever be quite as good as being physically in the same room as another person, or group. Think about group classes, and things like CrossFit. People thrive off of camaraderie and sharing an experience. You just won’t get the same feeling working out alone in your living room staring at a laptop compared to being in a class with 10+ other people or side by side with your trainer who's checking your form and can make quick adjustments in the moment.
It Provides Options
The biggest benefit I see from the client perspective is options. You no longer have to drive an extra 10-15 minutes out of your way to go to a gym to take your favorite class or see your favorite trainer. If you have a packed schedule, or need to be around your kids, this gives you a little more freedom to get the best of both worlds. It is much easier to stay at home and still get a workout versus having to go to a gym.
As much as I touted the benefits of sharing an experience, not everyone wants or needs that. I know plenty of workhorses who just want to get their weekly exercise in and clock out. And that’s totally okay too.
Both the trainer and the client can now also be more flexible amongst each other. Maybe they go 50/50 in terms of in person and online. Maybe the trainer uses virtual training as a way to touch base with their clients more, and give assessments and follow-ups. Some trainers have used it as a way to allow their clients to focus more on the stuff they didn’t want to “waste time” in the gym on (mobility work, injury prevention). It allows for more freedom to negotiate pricing so that it can be affordable if it wasn’t previously.
There are also a TON of free workouts on Youtube that may not have been there previously. Particularly among the better trainers who didn’t see being virtual as a viable option. Think of Peloton, where now you can live anywhere in the world and workout with the top trainers in the cycling community. That wasn’t an option before.
One other thing I’ve seen trainers do is become more mobile. It pulled a lot of trainers out of just operating within one gym. They are now more willing to come to your house (most likely at a slightly higher cost) and train you in the convenience of your own home. They usually bring equipment, unless you have already been one of the many who have created an in-home gym.
In the end it's all about options. Ideally, it’s not about which is better. It is about both sides of the business utilizing each to their advantage. This allows trainers to scale their business like never before. It allows clients to have more options than ever before. It sped up the inevitable. The more technology grows, the more we will have access to pick from. The difference is in the choices we make towards change. You can either embrace new things in life that are presented to you, or use it as an excuse for why you were too stubborn to change.