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Becoming an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer

Becoming an ISSA Certified Trainer

When scouring the Internet, it can be tough to find a true beginner’s guide to becoming a personal trainer. In this article, we’re going to go through it from scratch to ensure everything is crystal clear.

A lot of people come to personal training thinking it will be one way or another, but at the end of the day, there’s one main goal to personal training—to help others be their most fit selves. There are multiple ways to get there, for some it’s about physical appearance whereas, for others, it’s about being as healthy as possible. All sorts of people seek out personal fitness trainers for all sorts of exercise goals. One thing is for sure: trainers will always be in demand.

The fitness industry can be difficult to navigate sometimes, so with anything, feel free to contact ISSA if you have any questions about the benefits of becoming a personal trainer. Let’s get started on the basics.

What is a Personal Trainer?

Ultimately, a personal trainer is an individual dedicated to the improvement of others’ physical fitness. This can take many forms, and most trainers have to wear many hats to make it work. It’s important to note that a personal trainer, even with the basic certification, is not a sports medicine professional. Knowing your scope of practice, which gets extensively covered in your course materials, is essential.

A personal trainer helps clients set and meet fitness goals through their workouts, which are unique to their own particular circumstances. Sometimes, they work for a gym, and other times, they work for themselves. It simply depends on what you want out of it.

However, one thing is for sure—you’re going to need a personal training certification.

Why Do I Need a Certification to be a Personal Trainer?

There’s an alarming fad going on with online training becoming more common. Some people are simply relying on their own personal experience (and often lack experience, sadly) to offer advice and recommendations on how people should train. And, sometimes, people are even trying to be personal trainers without a certification. Not only is this ethically wrong, but it can also place that individual in legal hot water.

Training someone without a certification opens the person up to personal liability, meaning an injured client can sue a non-certified trainer for pretty much anything. Even liability waivers often fail to stop such legal issues, and for good reason: a lack of proper education brings with it a much higher likelihood of injuring a client. Your clients are putting their trust in you, so having the proper knowledge and education is a must to justify that trust.

Furthermore, most gyms and health clubs won’t hire trainers without certifications because of the liability issue. Hurt people cannot train, and training clients without a proper certification can dramatically increase the likelihood that clients will get hurt.

So, for the physical and financial safety of all parties, it’s essential that a trainer holds a certification offered by legitimate certifying agencies.

How Do I Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

The good news is that, while becoming a certified personal trainer is by no means “easy,” the process is still really simple!

Some organizations require an extensive background with a bachelor’s degree—and some of ISSA’s own offerings require a more extensive background. But with personal training, the basics you need to know only require our own coursework, saving you the time and expense of an entire degree program.

These are the requirements to become an ISSA certified personal trainer:

  1. Submission of all course quizzes
  2. A score of 75% or better on all sections of the final exam
  3. Proof of current adult CPR/AED/first aid certificate
  4. High school diploma or equivalent
  5. All fees paid in full

So, once you’ve completed your course work and paid your fees, you’re good to go!

What Makes a Great Personal Trainer?

Greatness in personal training often comes down to listening and communication. First and foremost, you must listen to your clients. What are they wanting to do? What are they wanting to accomplish?

Success means different things to different people. Though that doesn’t mean that they are always right. You have the knowledge you do for a reason, after all! But what it does mean is that the burden is on you to explain why.

If you think that a client’s goals should be different than what they initially ask of you, then you need to be prepared to give them reasons. For instance, if your client’s goal is to “lose weight,” and all they are thinking about is the number on the scale, then you might want to educate them a bit more.

Although it’s becoming more common for laypeople to know the difference between weight on the scale and actual body composition, not everyone vgot the memo.

For example, those who think that working themselves to death on the treadmill will make them “skinny” and that lifting weights will make them look “bulky.” These old ways of thinking are still around, and part of your job is to say, “I hear that you want to weigh less—but why?”

This can let you know if they might be thinking the old way, and then you have the opportunity to educate them. For instance, they might not realize lifting weights doesn’t necessarily mean they will bulk up. Furthermore, they might not be aware that some practices like interval training can get better results in less time than steady-state cardio alone.

The difference between an okay personal trainer and a great personal trainer comes down to your ability to deliver results for your clients, especially results they didn’t think they themselves could ever achieve. Personal trainers are artists, sculpting the human body one client at a time.

Can I Start a Personal Trainer Home Business?

One of the most popular reasons people become personal trainers is to start their own business. This is a great motivating factor, and there are many people online who have become very successful in doing this.

But don’t think it’s going to automatically be a cakewalk. Everything you want in life will require hard work. Just as you won’t see improvements in your one rep max or your waistline by simply watching YouTube videos, you won’t just improve your business acumen by just lifting weights. So, it’s important to remember that you need to study the business of personal training, too, if your goal is to run a personal training business from home.

This is why it’s a great idea to start your career at a gym. You can learn about the business while making money and getting hands-on experience. If you’re looking for ways to set up your own home business, there are great resources all over the Internet to help you out with that.

And don’t be intimidated if you don’t have a bunch of fancy equipment at home to train people. If you’re a personal trainer worth their salt, you can accomplish most people’s fitness goals without a single piece of expensive equipment. The equipment can help as tools, but true personal trainers know have the knowledge and ability to use a client’s own bodyweight to accomplish the goals they need—it might just take a little bit longer sometimes.

What are the Advantages of Being a Certified Trainer?

In general, being an ISSA certified personal trainer has a lot of advantages. For one thing, you get to work a job every day that you’re passionate about. For another, you’re working a job that really makes a measurable improvement in people’s lives.

If you’ve ever had a hand in helping someone feel good about themselves, then buckle up! That’s what personal training is all about—giving people the confidence to be their best selves, to overcome adversity, and to show the world what they can do with the right help, motivation, and accountability.

But the tangible benefits don’t just end there. Having your personal trainer certification means that you have the ability to write your own ticket. You can be the next major name in fitness, or you can train people in your spare time for a little extra money. The flexibility here is really an enormous advantage, especially if life tends to get in the way.

If you’re a parent, a caregiver, or filling some other role which makes having a regular 9–5 difficult, or you just hate having to show up at an office, personal training can really open new doors in your life. Embrace it—it’s one of the best parts of holding a trainer certification!


No matter how you slice it, being an ISSA certified personal trainer is pretty awesome. It gives you the freedom to make your own schedule, make more money, and make a serious difference in the world.

There are all sorts of reasons to go into this field, but make no mistake, personal training is first and foremost a “people” business. There are so many people in the world whose lives are made better by personal trainers.

There are everyday people who want to live better lives with their families. There are those joining the military or local police forces who might need an extra push to accomplish their health and fitness goals to get hired. There are elderly individuals who might need specialized care they can’t get safely anywhere else. All of these and more are great examples of the sorts of clients you stand to help in your new career.

So, if you’re ready to make a difference, don’t let another second go by. Check out ISSA's personal trainer certification course plus the Online Coaching Certification to start your journey to making the world a better and more fit place for everyone!