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Personal training

Is There Proper Etiquette for Being a Personal Trainer?

By Joe Talarico on Oct 13, 2020 9:20:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


A lot of growing your own personal training clientele comes down to you. Of course you need the knowledge, the certification, and be able to market yourself. What about when you are actually at work with your clients? Are there certain understood rules all trainers follow?

Re-Rack Your Weights

Oh my god. I HAVE to start here. I don’t care who you are; member or trainer or manager. The hands down, number one thing I absolutely HATE in a gym is ANYONE who doesn’t re-rack their weights.

If you are strong enough to use the weights you are strong enough to put them back. FULL STOP.

This is my biggest pet peeve. If you are a trainer, or an employee this counts DOUBLE. This is your workspace people. Why wouldn’t you want to keep it clean? I don’t know about you, but I enjoy when I go to the 20lb dumbbells, and I can trust the fact that they are going to be where they should be. I do NOT like it when I have to go searching the entire gym because some a-hole used it for circuits and left everything.

You should be setting the example for everyone (including your client) in the gym to put back your weights when you are done. It is common courtesy.

Be Personable

People are going to be asking you questions. Not everyone is looking to sign up and cough over their money. That doesn’t mean to be a jerk to them. 80% of being a trainer in the beginning is going to be walking the floor, and striking up conversations with no plans of nailing a sale right there. You have to establish relationships with your members and show you are a reliable source of information.


It should go without saying you probably shouldn’t stink. You should also look well put together. The sad truth of this is you’d actually be surprised how often I’ve seen trainers that look disheveled. Their shirts aren’t tucked in and are wrinkled, and their hair looks like they just got up. This is a job. YOU are a walking advertisement for your job. How you look matters greatly. No one (especially wealthier clientele) wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a guy that can’t even clean it up for the session. I don’t care that you spend all day at the gym. It’s not an excuse to look like a slob.

Cell Phone Use

This is another one that gets to me. As a member, you’ve probably seen it plenty of times at your big box gym. Trainers on their phones, ignoring their clients, not counting their reps. Do you think your client doesn’t realize you are doing this? I’ve seen trainers in full on texting mode while their client is staring at them on a machine. This is not a good look, people. Again, they are paying to be trained BY you. There is absolutely no excuse for you to be staring at your phone during a session. If it is an emergency, excuse yourself and reschedule. If you are using it to track, either let them know or switch to an ipad or something else that establishes that you aren’t just on your phone. Remember, potential clients are staring at you as you work to see if you might be someone they want to work with.

Respect the Space

Be aware of other members in the gym. Just because you are the trainer there, doesn’t mean you get to commandeer any space you want and take it away from people. It is common courtesy, and your job as a trainer, to find ways for all of you to use the space without getting in anyone’s way.

Know Your Scope

You are a personal trainer. Not a physical therapist, and not a doctor. Don’t start prescribing rehab exercises if you aren’t fully comfortable with the how and why of its implementation. It’s totally fine to be honest with your client. If they need to refer out to a doctor, tell them that. You will get a lot of clients over your career with a laundry list of injuries. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, say something. Having said that, if you want longevity as a trainer, focusing on extra learning to round out these weaknesses you find yourself having is a very valuable toolset. Like I said, most of your clients are going to be previously injured. The trainers that do the best, are the ones that are always seeking new information to get better.


Your job isn’t to stare at the hot girls/guys working out in the gym, or ignore your client. When you are at work your focus is on your session. These people are paying a lot of money to work with you. Demonstrate your value by providing input and proper cues so that your client is getting what they should be out of a session.

No One Size Fits All

My last point for trainers is knowing not one size fits all. Every client you get is going to be different. You should be aware of their limits and what they are comfortable with. Be able to read the room, and know what you can and cannot do with them. Adjust their program as needed. For some clients, it took them every ounce of energy they had just to step foot in that door. Take the time to understand what’s going on in your client’s head and help them have the best experience.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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