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2015 Personal Training Trend Watch

Personal training has become a power-
house in the fitness industry.
With $10 billion in annual revenue and a projected 2.5% growth
(IBISWorld 2015), this profession has planted deep, strong roots.
Despite being a comparatively new industry (it got its start in the late
1980s/early 1990s), personal training has seen its share of change over
the past several decades. What was once a luxury for the wealthy has
become increasingly accessible to those with less disposable income—and
to those whose quality of life may depend on the guidance of a qualified
professional. Personal training has also seen an explosion in
programming types—name a health and fitness goal and there is a
qualified professional who can help you achieve it.

Are you capitalizing on the current and potential trends in training and
equipment, or have you fallen into a rut? Maybe you could simply use a
few upgrades to your products and services. Several industry leaders
weigh in on trending programs and equipment must-haves, make predictions
for the future and offer insights into what needs to happen to ensure
the continued evolution and success of personal training.

Gym Stats

The Numbers

Walk into most gyms and you’re likely to see several personal trainers
offering individual, semiprivate or group training sessions. According
to our experts, clients typically range in age from the 30s to the 50s.
Females are more likely to work with a trainer. However, demographics
vary depending on the type of training offered.

One-on-one training clients can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to more
than $200 per session. The cost drops significantly when clients work
with a partner or as part of a small group. Sixty-minute sessions are
the most widely offered, though 30-minute “express” sessions follow
closely behind. “Thirty-minute sessions have become extremely popular,
as much of our clientele like the convenience of short, higher-intensity
offerings,” says Michael Piercy, MS, CSCS, owner of The LAB Performance
& Sports Science.

Mike Z. Robinson, 2015 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of
MZR Fitness, splits the difference, having had the greatest success with
45-minute sessions. “A lot of people don’t want to go to the gym, but
they feel that as long as they are there, they want to be efficient, and
60-minute sessions seem too long for some people, while others feel that
30 minutes is too short,” he explains. “At MZR Fitness, 45–50 minutes
seems to be the magic number that has worked with our clientele over the

Training Options

In the early days of personal training, professionals typically worked
with clients one-on-one. Private training still holds strong as a profit
center; however, some of our experts believe it has lost its footing.
Currently, small- and large-group options are coming on strong as
successful and profitable training models. Large-group training—also
called “team” training—falls somewhere between the small-group format
and group fitness.

Douglas Brooks, MS, 2014 IDEA Program Director of the Year and director
of athlete conditioning at Sugar Bowl Ski Academy, posits that
small-group training is becoming increasingly popular, largely owing to
the group dynamic. “Small-group training allows us to individualize to a
higher degree, but captures the energy of training with peers and
creates a culture and community [where people] support and inspire one
another,” he says. Brooks adds that the small-group model allows
personal trainers to expand their reach and offer high-quality services
to individuals who can’t pay one-on-one prices.

“Team training is essentially the most profitable per hour, as the
classes can be as big as 50 people with one to two coaches,” says Luka
Hocevar, owner of Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance, a large facility
that, among its many services, offers what he calls boot camp or
strength camp workouts. He adds, however, that the highest profit margin per
is in semiprivate personal training, which, according to his
model, features four or five individuals working with one trainer.

On a side note, Hocevar insists that developing a model that offers
personal trainers a quality lifestyle is necessary to building a
long-term team. He finds that semiprivate and group training provide a
solution for that.

“One-on-one training may be showing signs of faltering, but not at
Energy!” says Don Bahneman, MS, CSCS, director of fitness at The Energy
Club. “[Our] trainers all boast multiple NCCA-accredited certifications,
years of experience and many specialties that fit a niche for almost

Training Trends

Small-group training is a successful and growing trend in the personal
training industry, but there are many programming types and subsets to
explore. Here is a selection of today’s top programs, according to our

High-intensity interval training (HIIT). “Good research has
validated why it’s needed,” explains Derrick Price, MS, chief
programming officer for the Institute of Motion. “We find it’s just as
important as low-intensity steady-state training in a person’s overall

Brooks adds that high-intensity, short-duration programs are popular
because consumers want to get in and out of the gym quickly and know
they didn’t waste their time. CrossFit®-style programs fit into this
category and are popular around the country.

Technology and metrics. According to Statista, an Internet-based
statistics company, the wearable technology market is expected to reach
a value of $19 billion in 2018 (Statista 2015a). Hayley Hollander,
fitness director for Midtown Athletic Club, suggests that the increased
popularity of training tech stems from users’ interest in instant
feedback. Access to real-time statistics and information is attractive,
she adds, because it helps people move more and can give trainers
greater insight into clients’ training capacity.

Online training. “Online coaching is another trend that will stay
and is growing since [it means that] people can get the coaches they
like without a location restriction,” explains Hocevar. “Technology is
allowing people to be coached and see progress in their own time and
location, yet still get results, accountability, access, etc.” Despite
these many benefits, Hocevar doesn’t think anything can adequately
replace a face-to-face coaching experience.

Power training. In a case of what is old is new again, power
training has experienced a significant resurgence in popularity. “Power
training, which may involve plyometrics, agility drills, Olympic-style
lifts, plyo boxes etc., is popular because it gets real-world results,
is skill based and is fun to participate in,” says Brooks.

According to several of our experts, the increased interest in power
training and Olympic lifting can likely be credited to the popularity of
CrossFit, which employs these modalities. “Due to CrossFit, more people
are asking for coaching on how to perform these lifts safely and
effectively,” says Price.

Jade Teta, ND, CEO of Metabolic Effect, thinks people are attracted to
this type of training because of how it makes them feel. “People want
the experience of doing things that look ‘badass,’” says Teta.

Mindset training. Personal training has largely emphasized
exercise science, but many believe that the real key to success involves
strengthening mental muscle, a process that includes establishing
healthy behaviors and overcoming barriers to change.

“During my 20-plus years being a personal trainer, I have become
convinced that fitness level is primarily determined by how people see
themselves in their own minds,” observes Marc Lebert, owner of Fitness
NATION and Lebert Fitness. Through mindset training, he says, clients
are able to break down perceived barriers, reframe thoughts and achieve
goals they had previously considered impossible.

Equipment Offerings

Sales of wholesale fitness center equipment reached $1.3 billion in 2014
(Statista 2015b)—and with the wide array of new products hitting the
market regularly, it can be difficult to discern which ones offer the
best bang for the buck. What pieces do our experts use the most?

Selectorized equipment still has a home. “The equipment members
use varies based on their exercise experience and fitness level,”
explains Stephanie Dupuis, national personal training director at
GoodLife Fitness Clubs. “We take all of our new members through
selectorized equipment in a 20-minute workout we call the ‘Fit Fix.’
It’s a circuit that anyone can do at any fitness level, and it only
takes 20 minutes.”

Dumbbells, barbells and functional tools rule. Dupuis adds that
dumbbells, cable machines and barbells are always widely used in
GoodLife clubs, but she says many members also lean toward “alternative,
functional tools to achieve their goals.” While there are many new,
dynamic pieces of equipment making their way into fitness facilities, an
increased interest in Olympic or power lifting has thrust staples like
barbells back into the spotlight. Teta believes that people see barbell
training as a powerful skill that can be developed and improved on,
which motivates clients to continue to train.

Corrective exercise tools breathe new life into programs. At
Function First, where Price works as a personal trainer, many of the
clients are there for corrective purposes or to relieve injury. This
informs the types of equipment used there. “As someone graduates from
our pain-free program, we use a whole-body integrated approach to
fitness,” he says. “ViPR™ and Power Plate® are excellent at creating a
novel training environment with a movement-specific approach.”

Suspension exercise is flying high. Amanda Mittleman, MS, owner
of Mo-Mentum Fitness, has a penchant for incorporating the TRX®
Suspension Trainer™ into client training programs. She finds the
device’s versatility is a significant benefit. “We use this with everyone
—from our elderly clients (as support) to our athletes—to challenge
them in various positions,” says Mittleman.

Body weight offers a bonanza. While Hocevar favors barbells,
kettlebells and dumbbells, he also values the tool everyone
possesses—the body. “We use a lot of different implements at all times
because people like variety, but we base everything on our philosophies
of training, which include a foundation of quality movement and
strength,” the coach explains.

Cardio staples shine. At Midtown Athletic Club, Hollander sees
treadmills getting plenty of use. “Treadmills are popular because we’re
in Chicago and people like to run but can’t always do it outside,” she

Regardless of the tools used—old, new or old-is-new-again—Dupuis
believes that one of the things that makes the fitness industry
remarkable is its consistent progression.

“We are always evolving,” she enthuses. “There are always new and
different options for people as they continue their health and fitness

How to Build 
a Better Industry

Can personal training keep on thriving? It’s doing well, but our sources
say a few things must happen to promote its continued growth and

Strong management is needed. Dupuis believes that the quality and
commitment of personal trainers rest in the hands of those in
management. She explains that owners and managers should address the
attrition of personal trainers so they can become ambassadors for
fitness facilities and provide expert guidance for current and new

“When people like who they work for, have the right guidance and support
day to day, and are trained on how to do their job properly, with care
for the client, and do it ethically, they will reap the rewards that
come with being a personal trainer and will enjoy a very healthy and
happy career.”

Todd Durkin, MA, owner of Fitness Quest 10, concurs, adding that
employers should maximize opportunities for trainers to grow. “We have a great
team, and I want to keep them with our brand,” he explains. “So I
need to continually lead and empower from the top.”

Collaboration is key. Personal training can become competitive as
hungry, motivated professionals strive to build successful businesses in
what some might say is a saturated market. Robinson believes that
remaining isolated from other personal trainers for fear of losing
customers to a competitor is a mistake. “The more that top fitness
professionals collaborate and share ideas and ‘secrets’ with the
up-and-comers, the better able we will be to build a stronger industry,”
he suggests.

Business education is essential. Khaled Elmasri, regional fitness
manager at The Bay Club Company, thinks many personal trainers fail
because there isn’t enough emphasis on how to build a solid business.
“As an industry we’ve done a great job of focusing on the training
aspect—from programming to corrective exercise, etc.,” he says. “We now
need to focus more on the business aspect and teach trainers how to be
‘fitprenuers.’ They need to understand lead generation, marketing,
social media and sales.”

Mittleman agrees and urges certification agencies to boost business
education so that personal trainers understand exactly what they
are getting into. “I think [certification] programs need to add more
about business education so that trainers have a clearer picture about
the training industry,” she explains. “Young trainers come in with the
idea that they will be earning $75–$90 per session and their calendar
will fill up overnight. They seem to be completely unaware of the
business end of training—including rent, paying for equipment,
maintaining and replacing old equipment, billing services, etc. Many new
trainers are unaware of the importance of marketing, as well.”

She adds that new trainers will be more likely to succeed when fitness
facilities let them see what goes on behind the curtain before they head
out onto the gym floor. “The interns we have at Mo-Mentum are learning
firsthand what it means to run a gym,” she says. “We have them do a
little of everything. They see what goes into payroll and other major
expenses; they help with marketing and social media; they help with our
classes, small-group training, and semiprivate and personal training
programs; and they help with cleaning up the gym.”

The call for regulation and standards is still alive. The
question of greater regulation and possible licensure for personal
trainers has been a hot topic for several years.

Pete McCall, MS, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for the
YMCA, says regulation could potentially solve one of our greatest
problems: obesity. “The next step is to have medical professionals refer
patients to trainers to address obesity-related health issues,” says
McCall. “This won’t happen until there is a licensure process that
ensures a qualified personal trainer can deliver the necessary level of
care to meet an individual’s needs. Currently, trainers are seen as
people who help others look good, not as people who improve overall
health or reduce the risk of developing chronic disease.”

Transitioning from trainer to coach is timely. Teta believes it’s
time for personal trainers to move beyond focusing solely on program
design. He thinks the most influential personal trainers won’t be
personal trainers at all—they’ll be coaches. “I have noticed that those
who take on a coach-like persona and cultivate community and camaraderie
are most successful. Personal trainers need to realize this is a
‘people’ business. Most of them focus on the technical skills and
completely miss the soft skills. It’s about being a teacher and coach
and taking interest in the personal and physical growth of your clients.”

Price feels strongly that personal training is going to become more of a
coaching game in the future. “We’ll be making the transition into
coaches, which requires an understanding of human behavior along with
human physiology and biomechanics,” he says. “In order to be agents of
change, we can’t simply exercise people but must evolve to have a
stronger influence on people’s everyday habits and thought processes.
The future will move away from a strong aesthetics focus and switch to a
wellness-based approach.”

Brooks, for one, is thrilled that consumers respond well to the coach
approach and appreciate that there’s more to training than six-packs and
thigh gaps. “Finally, training is moving beyond cosmetic outcome to
performance and real-life application,” he says. “People want to feel
better and perform better in life and sport.”

A return to moderation is important. Charlie Hoolihan, personal
training director at Pelican Athletic Club, calls for an end to
extremism in order to effectively reach those who are turned off by it.

“The extremists are winning the media perception and appealing to a
tiny, tiny population,” he worries. “Extreme workouts, extreme nutrition
and extreme attitudes are great click-bait and headline grabbers but
they drive regular folks further away from any desire to participate.
It’s critical for us to get away from this approach and convey the
message that training can promote health, vitality, energy and other

Hocevar agrees that it’s time for personal trainers and gyms to look
beyond committed exercisers and find ways to attract people who feel
that fitness is only for the already fit. “Gyms must stop just helping
fit people get fitter,” he argues. “Much of fitness is ‘scary’ and does
not help the people who need it most. The gyms and coaches that do not
invest in improving their message, in learning cognitive
behavioral/habit change and positive psychology, will not be able to
help people truly transform—especially those who need it most and are
scared of the majority of gyms.”

Looking Ahead in Personal Training

The personal training industry is still relatively new, yet it has made
and will continue to make a positive impact on society as a whole.
Mittleman has high hopes for the future.

She says, “I think that fitness professionals are the people who can and
will change our current obesity and chronic disease rates, because we
build relationships with people, we build communities that support
difficult lifestyle habit changes and then continue to support those
healthy lifestyles.” n

“45––50 minutes seems to be the magic number that has worked with our
clientele over the years.” ­—Mike Z. Robinson “During my 20-plus years
being a 
personal trainer, 
I have become 
convinced that 
fitness level 

is primarily 
determined by 
how people see themselves in 
their own
minds.” —Mark lebert “We use a lot 
of different implements 
at all times
because people like variety, 
but we base everything on our philosophies
of training, which include a foundation of quality movement and strength.”
—Luka hocevar “Finally, training is moving beyond cosmetic outcome to
performance and real-life application.” —douglas brooks, MS txking
/ Shutterstock.com

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