If you’re a fitness trainer, you’ve run into this problem before. I was overwhelmed the first time I had five people going at once, especially since I had them all on different programs. I had just switched gyms and was learning my way around the place. There are several factors that determine how many clients you can or should take on in one hour.
There Is No Single Answer to This Question
The amount of clients a personal trainer can train depends on:
- The trainer’s level of experience and training
- How much the clients are paying
- Demographics – are they similar or all over the place
- Do you work for yourself or the gym?
- The physical space of the gym
- Are your clients friends or acquaintances of each other?
- The trainer’s familiarity with the gym
- Client disposition and previous agreements
The Trainer’s Level of Experience and Training
A fully trained, competent personal fitness trainer can handle more than a new person who is still learning the trade. There’s a scale there.
I’ve been a fitness trainer for a couple of decades. I’ve read the manual for every machine that I use, even if I have read a similar one before that. I went to college and graduated with a Kinesiology degree, and I have several fitness certifications.
I can handle multiple clients at once without any major stress. Sometimes a couple of trainers get stuck in traffic or are late to the gym. You have to take over their clients and you are now a “Group” Personal Fitness Trainer. You have to make the best out of a bad situation. Definitely not an ideal scene, but roll with it.
On a regular basis, if you are new, stick with one person. Then work your way up to a few.
How Much the Clients Are Paying
Your hourly rates should also reflect something here. Sometimes the clients pay you to be their exclusive trainer. Sometimes it is understood and written into the contract that your “Personal” Trainer may be occupied with one or more clients during that same hour.
How you structure your fees should generally reflect upon how many people are taking up your time during that hour. I’ve always made my one-on-one sessions very high rates. The exact rates varied based on what city I was in.
I never liked having one-on-one sessions because it made me unapproachable. “Oh, he’s not available right now because he’s with Mrs. Daugherty.” I never wanted that.
I never made anyone wrong for texting me, walking up to me or generally bothering me about anything. And I rarely had problems getting clients and filling up my schedule.
Actually, making the one-on-one so exclusive made a few people sign up for it when they saw I was not recommending it. Funny reverse-psychology thing happened there. So I upped my prices even more.
The Demographics Play a Roll
Are your clients all high school tennis players? Or do you have a high school tennis player, an 84 year old, a pregnant woman and a crazy college guy?
If I had four high school football players, I would issue a challenge and let them fight it out against each other. No amount of screaming on my part could get them to work harder. And it is also much less work on my part to give one workout for them all. And this is by far the most fun to watch.
If I had a mixed bag of people. I can’t play around as much. This needs to be a structured, planned, choreographed event. I would have all weights set out beforehand and know exactly what I was doing and where I was doing it before anyone walked into the gym. I would stagger their warm ups so that I have the “easy” ones set up before I get the elderly off the treadmill so that I can pay more attention to him/her.
If you have two people of similar build/goals then pair them up. Or if it is a father/son team, find something that gets them involved with each other (i.e. have the dad toss a medicine ball to the son doing an ab exercise, let them spot each other on the bench press, etc.). You may not be an artsy kind of individual, but you’ve gotta get creative here. Sometimes you can pair up two very random people and everyone can have a blast.
But the takeaway from this is simple. If they’re similar, you’ve got it easy. If it is varied, you’ve got quite some planning to do.
Do You Work for Yourself or Work for the Gym?
If you work for the gym, you don’t have to worry about stepping on the toes of other trainers – well as much.
If you work for yourself, you may feel slightly hesitant about taking over such a big space. When you have 7 people or so, you will need to have a couple on a cardio machine, a couple on dumbbells, a couple on machines, etc. You’re going to be bouncing around and all over the place. If you’re high energy, this is fun.
The Physical Space of the Gym
Speaking of space… how much is available?
If you’ve got a small mom and pop gym, you may not have the space needed if there’s only one leg press and it is leg day for several of your clients.
If you’ve got a big gym, how much of it can you take? This could be a fun prospect or it could wear you too thin having people 100 feet away from each other when you see your high school tennis player doing back squats across the room and his knees look like a marionette doll.
You can’t put them so far apart that you can’t give cues where they are needed.
Are Your Clients Friends or Acquaintances of Each Other?
Sometimes friends and family sign up for the same hour on purpose and want to train together.
This makes it easier – and sometimes makes it harder. If they require two totally different plans and have two totally different goals, this just won’t work. And if they are there just to socialize with each other, this becomes slightly painful to my insides.
I like to run my clientele as if I am always doing a commercial. Lots of activity, no slacking, precision coaching and a totally upbeat atmosphere of pure action. Two girls hanging out on exercise mats chatting and looking at their phones is far from the people I like to train. I am a fitness coach, not a motivational speaker.
But sometimes you’re stuck with those clients and that’s all you can get so you suck it up and keep them as active as possible. Sorry, I kinda got sidetracked on this one.
The Trainer’s Familiarity With the Gym
So you can have a fully trained and experienced trainer, but what if they are new to the gym. They don’t know that the Lat Pulldown machine is slightly inoperational. They don’t know that Mr. Howard always uses the elliptical at 7PM and it is in his contract.
Knowing the other regulars in the gym is also a plus. If you know what their routine is, you can plan around them. If you don’t, then this is a great opportunity to get in touch with them, get an idea of what their routine is that day and make it clear that you are going to have people around and that you’re trying to not totally ruin his workout. You’ll have made a new friend.
Client Disposition and Prior Agreements
So, here we go. I have to say it: some people are difficult. You know that certain clients don’t get along with others and really don’t like it when your attention is on them. Okay, so you may have a total vampire on your hands.
I do everything I can to keep myself from getting in this type of situation. When I have a client like this, I do whatever I can get them off my roster. They can poison that hour with you and poison your other clients. They’ll make your day bad. Just confront it and tell them you’re no longer their trainer. Rip up their contract and say you’re breaking up with them. Or handle it nicely if you want, but there’s really no way to end nicely with certain people.
And aside from the nasty ones, you do have some decent human beings who simply feel like they’re paying $50 for your time during that hour and that you won’t be “handling other people” during that time. They may not speak out at first, but all I am saying here is to make sure you honor your agreements that were set up from the start.
If the person paid for $50 per session with no more than two people for that hour, don’t take on a third.
I have had a woman who we quoted at $70 per hour for one-on-one training just because we didn’t want her in the gym. She paid it and totally ruined our plans. We weren’t set up to lose a trainer during that specific hour and it threw a wrench in it all.
As I said before, I have had two trainers get stuck in traffic and I got stuck with their clients. Twelve people of varying ages and fitness levels and several of them I know nothing about. Sometimes you’ve just got to make the best of a bad situation. How you handle it determines whether everyone is upset or if they end up doing something different and interesting with the trainer on the floor.
Usually with these types of scenarios you can’t get away with anything but grouping people together. It can be cool because it forces them to work harder than usual. Sometimes it backfires.
Haha, good luck when that happens! You’re not coming out of this profession unscathed, brother.
My intention here was just to lay out all the variables associated with how much a trainer can handle in a single hour. You should apply what you can to your own situation and make the best out of it with the people and space that you’ve got.
If you’re not a fitness trainer and you’re reading this, well, you just got a funny glimpse into our world.