Personal Training Trends: What's New

by Jan Schroeder, PhD and Ayla Donlin, MS on Sep 08, 2011

Nearly 700 IDEA personal trainer members—mostly independent, small-business entrepreneurs—completed the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer Programs & Equipment Trends survey. Read on to discover what they are seeing in their day-to-day operations, why they are making certain decisions about programming and equipment and how they are positioning themselves for 2012 and beyond.

Topline Trends

The most popular trends emerging from the 2011 data show that IDEA trainers continue to incorporate small, portable equipment into small-group training sessions that focus on body weight leverage training, functional resistance training and balance training. Results further show that these trainers believe specialized client populations, such as older adults and those in need of weight management or back pain prevention programs, are growing. This, in turn, means that professionals need more continuing education to remain current and effective in their service.

Survey respondents reaffirmed that training adults one-on-one remains the mainstay of their training businesses. Sessions focus most often on cardiorespiratory cross-training, strength training, stretching, functional resistance training and balance training.

Top 10 Programming Trends

This year we asked IDEA personal trainers to report their picks for the top programming trends in the industry. Participants were asked to respond yes or no to a list of more than 30 possible programming trends. Write-in replies were also analyzed. Results fell into three main categories: training methods, special populations and organizational training formats.

Training Methods
The number-one programming trend is body weight leverage training, followed closely by functional resistance training and balance training. Two of the top three trends—functional resistance training and balance training—have been offered by at least 95% of respondents since 2008. Tied for fourth in popularity are senior-specific training and weight management training. Further down the list are cardiorespiratory interval training (tied for sixth with personal training, 2 clients share); nutrition coaching (eighth); and back pain prevention (tied for ninth with outdoor boot camp classes and personal training, 3-5 clients share). More than three-quarters of trainers who responded to the survey currently offer their clients these types of programs.

Special Populations
Consistent with the trends, Ray Vargas, owner of ISOTONEX Personal Training in San Jose, California, is keeping his eye on a few special populations. His top three picks are the weight management sector, seniors and clients needing postrehabilitation. “The reason for such growth is that these markets have remained untapped for many years, but now we are seeing the need for training at every phase of life. For an athlete, this may mean speed, agility and quickness, but for a senior citizen it may mean getting in and out of the house without breaking a hip,” Vargas observes.

Organizational Training Formats
Working with multiple clients—through personal training sessions that 2 clients share or 3–5 clients share, or through outdoor boot camps—ranks among the top 10 programming trends. Five-year trends data show that while 2 clients sharing and 3–5 clients sharing have both grown, outdoor boot camps—perhaps surprisingly—have shown no growth. Survey data regarding which types of facilities are more likely to offer shared sessions show equality across facility types, with slightly fewer group sessions available at the trainer’s home.

For detailed survey results, please see the complete article, “2011 IDEA Personal Trainer Programs & Equipment Trends” online in the IDEA Library or in September 2011 IDEA Fitness Journal.

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About the Authors

Jan Schroeder, PhD

Jan Schroeder, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

Jan Schroeder, PhD, is a professor of kinesiology, specializing in fitness, at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Schroeder has authored over 40 research and applied science articles in the area of exercise physiology and fitness and presents regularly at national and international conferences. In addition, Jan is a certified group exercise instructor and teaches in the private and academic sector. Certifications: AFAA

Ayla Donlin, MS

Ayla Donlin, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

I am the Director of the LifeFit Center @ The Beach (, and I am a lecturer at Long Beach State University in the kinesiology department. I am a Master Trainer for Johnny G. Method - Krankcycle ( and IN-TRINITY ( I am also a Master Trainer for MYZONE (