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Fitness Coach Versus Personal Trainer: Which Is the Best Choice for You?

by: Sarah Appleby
Last Updated: August 12, 2022

Fitness coach versus personal trainer? They may seem like similar roles, but as someone forging a career in the fitness industry, it’s essential that you know how they differ.

The fitness industry is booming and this doesn’t look like slowing down. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 39 percent growth in the fitness industry by 2030; much faster than the average of all occupations.

This rapid growth is due to several factors including:

  1. An increased awareness into the importance of health, wellness and fitness by the general population
  2. Businesses, large and small investing time and money into employee wellness programs
  3. A shift in understanding around the importance exercise plays in combating chronic metabolic disorders such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  4. A greater body of evidence that highlights the benefits active living plays in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and arthritis in the ageing baby boomer generation

It’s safe to say that investing in a career as a fitness professional is a wise move, but which path will you choose? Fitness coach or personal trainer? Here, we compare and contrast the major differences between a personal trainer and a fitness coach, to help you decide which fitness profession is the best career choice for you.

A fitness coach helps their clients become the healthiest they can be.
A fitness coach helps their clients become the healthiest they can be.

What Is a Personal Trainer?

Personal trainers are knowledgeable in functional movement patterns, exercise techniques, biology and anatomy. In general, they help clients achieve singular short term fitness goals such as improving a one rep max back squat, training for a marathon or losing weight in a short period of time.

Personal trainers often work in gyms, fitness studios and leisure centers, either one-on-one with clients or as group fitness instructors.

Many personal trainers offer their clients prescriptive programs. These programs don’t offer support and guidance for when life’s roadblocks prevent a client from making it to the gym. This can lead to feelings of guilt and demotivation.

Personal trainers may offer nutrition advice, but don’t often provide guidance on lifestyle factors outside of the gym environment, such as sleep and stress management.

What Is a Fitness Coach?

A fitness coach is like a personal trainer, only better! Like a personal trainer, a fitness coach is an authority in functional movement patterns, exercise techniques, biology and anatomy. The major edge a fitness coach has over a personal trainer is their ability to coach their clients towards their goals. This combination of fitness know-how and expert coaching is formidable when working with clients to achieve optimal health and well-being.

Fitness coaches excel in creating lifestyle change. They place less emphasis on athletic achievements, and more focus on helping clients find enjoyment in active healthy living. Fitness coaches help their clients achieve long-term sustainable lifestyle change using coaching strategies such as:

A fitness coach will often work collaboratively alongside their clients, taking a holistic approach to achieving their client’s goals. This includes assessing an individual’s overall lifestyle, rather than focusing solely on the physical progress achieved in the gym or the pounds lost on the scales.

Fitness Coach Versus Personal Trainer: Where Do They Work?

Personal trainers are mostly found in gyms, leisure centers and fitness studios. They work either one-on-one with clients or as group fitness instructors taking classes such as aerobics, Zumba or weight training.

While you’re likely to find a fitness coach on the gym floor, fitness coaches can find work in a variety of other locations including:

  • Remotely, either coaching online or over the phone
  • At health retreats
  • Running corporate wellness programs

Education: Personal Trainer

Personal training courses provide in-depth education in many areas of fitness, including:

  • Proper exercise form
  • Designing workout programs
  • How to target a specific energy system

Many of the major health clubs require their personal trainers to pass a National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) exam.

While many personal training certification courses deliver robust curriculum on the best way to build muscle or how to perform a deadlift with proper technique, they often skip over the most important aspect of working with clients – how to coach them.

Education: Fitness Coach

Fitness coaches often hold a fitness certification obtained from an accredited school. Fitness courses vary in content and specificity. Some fitness courses offer a broad fitness curriculum without specialization, while others present highly specialized education in areas such as:

  • Yoga
  • Seniors fitness
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Pilates
  • Weightlifting
  • Powerlifting
  • Bodybuilding
  • CrossFit
  • Gymnastics

As mentioned previously, fitness coaches coach. This means that they don’t simply know how to move well and motivate within a gym environment; they also understand on a deep level how to get the very best out of their clients. A fitness coach looks at the whole picture when it comes to their clients’ lifestyle, and not just what happens within the confines of the gym. For these reasons, many fitness coaches hold multiple certifications in related health and fitness fields including:

  • Health coaching
  • Nutrition coaching
  • Life coaching
  • Sports science
  • Exercise physiology

As the fitness industry continues to boom there is a growing number of fitness schools offering certifications. With so much choice how do you decide which fitness school is the best choice for you?

Primal Fitness Coach Certification

The team at Primal Health Coach Institute are excited to announce that enrollment in their flagship fitness course, the Primal Fitness Coach, is now open.

As leaders in ancestral health and wellness, our fitness certification is a natural progression for the institute. The Primal Fitness Coach course curriculum embodies the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws first introduced by Mark Sisson in his bestselling book, The Primal Blueprint.

Our comprehensive course will cover all the fitness essentials including:

  • Fitness for health
  • Everyday movement
  • Human posture
  • Movement fundamentals
  • Breathing
  • Stretching
  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Injury prevention
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Endurance training
  • Resistance training
  • Sprinting
  • Jumping
  • HITT
  • Achieving peak performance
  • Avoiding burnout
  • Recovery

The Primal Fitness Coach certification will also cover nuanced coaching techniques that are essential to bringing out the very best in your clients, including:

  • Active listening techniques
  • Motivation strategies
  • Solidifying habit formation
  • SMART goal setting
  • How to create coachable moments

The Primal Fitness Coach course has no prerequisites and is suitable for all fitness levels. Are you ready to take the next step towards becoming a certified Primal Fitness Coach? Find out all you know need to know and more here.

Summary

Let’s ask the question again – fitness coach versus personal trainer? Do you know the difference?

A fitness coach has the fitness knowledge of a personal trainer, with the expert coaching skills needed to make real change in their clients’ lives.

Ready to make an impact? Enroll in the Primal Fitness Coach course today!

Ready to become one of the world’s most trusted, experienced, and knowledgeable coaches? Get certified at Primal Health Coach Institute.

Establish clout. Elevate your career. Enrich your knowledge… with one of our industry-leading health and fitness coach certification programs.

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