9 October, 2020

There always seems to be a little confusion about the difference between being a Gym instructor and a Personal Trainer, especially when you’re first starting out in the industry. Whether you’ve just started your studies in Fitness or are just entering the fitness industry to work for the first time, this information will be valuable to you.

Personal Trainer Spotting


Here’s what you need to know about the qualifications.

Now let’s discuss the roles of each in a little more depth, as it’s important to make sure you understand what is required in order to do your job in either the Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer role.

As a Gym instructor you would usually be hired by a gym facility on a casual or part time basis. Your role could include any of the following:

  • Supervising the gym floor
  • Cleaning and tidying the gym and gym equipment
  • Conducting gym member screening and consultations
  • Conducting health and fitness assessments
  • Program writing
  • Taking members through program show throughs
  • Correcting technique of members
  • Spotting members where needed
  • Running a circuit class

As a Personal Trainer you may be hired directly by the gym, contracted by a gym or run your business within a gym, PT studio or outdoors.

Your roles could include any of the following:

  • Administration tasks (bookings, session reminders, payments)
  • Sales and advertising
  • Conducting client screening and consultations
  • Conducting health and fitness assessments
  • Writing programs
  • Running one on one or group sessions

Personal Trainer vs Gym Instructor


These 2 roles are very different, especially when it comes to writing and delivering sessions so let’s take a detailed look into this.



Upon first joining a gym, most gyms offer members an initial health screening consultation. This is your opportunity as the Gym Instructor to meet with the new member, screen them, assess them and find out what their goals are. Following this, you can offer to provide the member with a program. If that suits the member you would write the program and organise a time to take the new member through it. This is called a program show through. Most gyms usually allocate on average 30 minutes for the Gym instructor to show the member through their new program. This includes your demonstration and explanation of each exercise, as well as the client completing one full set of each exercise. The reason it’s important to complete a full set is so that you can allocate a starting weight and gauge the members RPE. If the client only completes 2-3 reps, the weight may seem quite hard but if they do the full amount, say 12 reps for example, this allows you to choose a weight to better suit the RPE.

By the end of the program show through, you want the member feeling confident that they can complete the program on their own next time. This means you need to make sure that they fully understand how to do the exercises correctly and how many sets, reps, rest etc are required. There’s a lot of information to pass on in this limited time frame so it’s important you remain as concise and efficient as you can.

You also want to make sure the client knows where to find the equipment, how to adjust it and of course where to put it away when finished. If you do all these things for the client during the show through, then they will probably be a little lost next time they come in by themselves. It’s part of your job to make sure the member can fend for themselves and understand how to do the program on their own.

Showing them where to find the dumbells for example is a good start but then asking them to pick them up off the rack and put them back after they’ve completed the exercise is ideal. This teaches the client how to do it and gives them the responsibility to do it on their own. It’s also a good idea to spend time at the end of the show though asking the member if they have any questions and then going back over the card with them. This allows them time to clarify everything just learnt.

From there, you are most likely to see the member periodically while they are working out and you’re on shift. This gives you a good chance to say hello and check in casually. You probably won’t see them again in a formal way until it’s time for their re-assessment in 4-6 weeks. This means the member will complete the program for that length of time before you write them a new one.

Gym Instructor



As a Personal Trainer, the client is paying you directly to provide them with a personalised service.

In the PT session you essentially provide a silver service experience. You can give a brief overview of the session but the client never really needs to see the program card. The client is being guided and instructed by you every step of the way. It’s your job to set up and pack away equipment, change over weights, offer them their towel and water bottle etc. You are responsible for correcting their technique and motivating them to get the best outcome. As a PT, you will be able to provide clients with variety each session so the experience is always different and exciting. You will also be able to include more challenging exercises, since they have you there to assist, spot and motivate them.

Personal Trainer


So, you can see the Gym Instructor Program Show through and the Personal Trainer sessions are two very different things. It’s easy to initially think that if we want to be a PT that we need to act like a PT straight away, but when completing the Cert III in Fitness or working as a Gym Instructor, it’s very important to remember your role is that of a Gym Instructor only. Once you are at a Cert IV level or working as a PT that will then change to the silver service experience.


If you’re interested in studying our Certificate III & IV in Fitness and becoming a Personal Trainer, get in touch with us today by calling 1300 973 342 or enquiring now!

Written by:

Nelby Galle

Student Support Officer / Lecturer

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