According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average personal trainer earned $39,820 in 2018 which breaks down to just over $19/hour.
According to the website Payscale, most large chain Fitness Gyms such as LA Fitness, Lifetime, and the YMCA pay their personal trainers between $12 – $15/hour.
The better question though is what “should” you expect to make depending on the type of personal trainer job and compensation structure you sign up for. That is what we’ll explore in this article. The layout of the article is:
If you invest in reading this whole article, you should have a much stronger ability to set yourself up for earlier and longer-term success in the fitness trainer field. Make no mistake, though, you must tangibly help your company make more revenue – and profit – for you to make more money over time.
Table of Contents
In this section, I’m going to make some predictions as to what you’ll likely see as starting offers in some pretty common fitness trainer roles.
The prevailing personal trainer pay structure for most globo gyms is based on a few things:
Generally a per session commission of approximately $13-$20 per hourly session.
To make more than that up front, you often will need to go to a more boutique studio where you’ll most likely have to “eat what you kill” meaning you’ll need to bring in more clients who aren’t already in the gym training on their own. You may earn $20-$30 per hourly session, but make no mistake that you’ll most likely need to work to acquire those clients.
If you increase your credentials and if you increase your clients’ willingness to pay, you can earn $25-$65 per hourly session, but please know that this is all based on your client’s willingness to pay.
Please note that this section is my opinions on how I’d give myself the best shot at making the most money in the role. I am not prioritizing lack of work, I am prioritizing making more money; if you don’t want to do the work, you’ll stay at the lower end of the ranges. Take it with a grain of salt, look at what will work for you, and let’s continue the discussion
All of these optimization tools still help the gym earn money too which is critical.
Note that I’ll include all group structures in this as I believe they are all similarly principled ideas on what the pay looks like and how you can optimize it
To be fair, the pay for group fitness instructors appears to be all across the board, but from my research online as well as by speaking to a number of trainers, The pay structure is very often a per class commission structure, and many group fitness instructors sign up as part-time instructors in hopes of building enough classes with one or multiple gyms to make ends meet.
Generally a per class commission in the $15-$25 per hourly class range.
Some small group boutique gyms are advertising that they pay a bit more, but similar to personal trainers, you will likely need to recruit members in harder than you would in a globo gym.
As you might suspect, there is a large range. In my research, I saw Orange Theory advertising upwards of $60 per hour to instruct their classes. One thing that does seem consistent for many gyms is that group fitness instructors often either do different roles within the gym or they go part-time in that gym + part-time in 1 to a few other gyms to make ends meet.
Note that I’ll include the personalized fitness coach + incentives into this layout because they are foundationally the same.
Most gyms are paying these coaches a percentage of client revenue + floor hours on a monthly basis.
Generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue + $10 per hour for the floor hours you coach.
Generally, this looks like a percentage that can move into the 42.5% range as the coach tiers up their price point + a move to $15-$20 per hour on the floor.
Generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue.
Again, generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue.
Generally, this looks like a percentage that can move into the 42.5% range as the coach tiers up their price point.
In reality, this will be very small. Why? Because there isn’t a ton of value in it unless you’re also building a big profile or interacting with the clients of the templates. Most times the owner of the training template programs this or a coach who is taking on clients 1 to 1 programs this.
In the examples of somebody programming these templates who isn’t an owner or taking on clients elsewhere, you have to ask yourself the question what are they doing? It may take 30-60 minutes a week to design that program – remember that the program isn’t customized so it’s general principles. With their other time, are they selling shirts or something? Tough to say.
$250-$1,000 per month to write the training template.
$500-$2,500 per month to write the training template.
This may hurt your soul, but you are almost assuredly not going to score a Peloton gig as a brand new trainer. They want to get known trainer brands onto their platform. They will choose people who have already become influencers, who already have a large following, who already have “proven” their model. You need to work your way into this.
The two big areas we’ll touch are universities and professional teams.
Generally, you’ll intern first as you are going through your collegiate education. When you sign on, often it looks like approximately $30,000 per year salary
This range often will go from $30,000 to $40-70,000 in the first 10-15 years, but if you crush it and move up the political hierarchy as well to a role such as a major college football head of S&C, it could move into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Similarly to the Peloton example where many fitness trainers won’t be hired into a big role like leading a professional sports team’s S&C department, there are plenty of lower-level roles out there if you’re credentialed with experience in the weight room in your college experience as well as if you know the right people.
Generally, this looks like approximately $40,000 per year salary, but most starting salaries may be higher but not looking at brand new trainers to fill the roles.
Just like the university scene, the range is wide, but this seems to be in the same $50-$80,000 range as you reach the middle to top of the heap. The S&C leaders may make into the hundreds of thousands.
I hope that you noticed just how wide-ranging these estimates were. That is simply reality. It’s impossible to know exactly where you’ll be until you dig into the company, role, and structure that you’re trying to get hired into. Once you’re into your initial role, it’s all about adding real value and building your results and profile with your existing and prospective clients in order to make long-term “real” money.
To effectively think about making more money, let’s look at making more money in 3 buckets:
As I’ve discussed, your dollar value is often based on how much tangible benefit you bring to the company. If you have a job that thousands of others can do, if you do a job that can be completely automated, if you don’t bring in any revenue or profit to the gym, you have to know that you will not be offered a lot of money. Like it or not, this is the way the world works. Even the companies and gyms that care about their people, the economics of those roles simply demand the pay to go down when the company is making the hire.
So, how do you change that narrative in your favor? There are a few key ways that you can make more money as you’re being hired as a fitness trainer, but please note that this is not likely going to be the difference between $15 per hour and $100,000 per year; this is built on reality:
Something I see often is the difference between how fitness trainers prepare for and execute on getting a new job vs “the wall street kids.” All things being equal, in my experience somebody who is trying to become an investment banker for Goldman Sachs will put in way more effort in this process as compared to a fitness trainer. We won’t go into the differences in resources that the wall street kid likely has, although they are often very real. You simply need to know that you must take this process of getting a job seriously, and in all of the roles I’ve ever worked in, those people who come in highly prepared and qualified have an infinitely better chance not only of getting the job but also making more money out of the gates.
You’ll notice a similarity here. The more value you bring to the business, the more likely you’ll be to make more money in your role. Frankly, everything that I laid out to do prior to even getting the job applies to while you’re in your existing fitness trainer role. You need to build credentials, knowledge, experience, etc, and you really need to be prepared when you ask for more.
Notice what I said there, you must create value and you must then be willing to properly ask for value in return. I have always preferred to add value first and ask for value on the back end, but I do understand why other people say to “go get yours” even if you haven’t added value yet. I believe that proving your value all of the way through your career makes asking for more money with each successive role easier and easier, so play the long game and earn it. Once you’ve earned it, ask for the reward.
Here are some really important factors for earning more money while you’re a fitness trainer:
We could get very granular, but my goal is to show you that you must add real value to the business if you want to earn more in your fitness trainer role.
I have been a multi-gym owner. I have coached remotely and I have coached in gyms not as an owner. I’ve done countless personal training sessions, countless group fitness classes, countless bootcamp classes, and I’ve worked with a myriad of kids and adults.
I know this fitness game, and one of the biggest issues that I see is when a fitness trainer assumes that they should own a gym or fitness business. Many fitness trainers come to this conclusion from the wrong places:
Do you see how these reasons have nothing to do with the fitness trainer having the desire or skill set to actually open, grow, and successfully run or exit this gym?
You should not try to open a gym unless you do your homework on what will be involved, how much work it will take to open it and then build it, how much money you’re realistically likely to make depending on your gym model, and how you won’t often feel “in charge” when you have other coaches and clients that you must take care of daily.
(Resource: Learn how you can open your own gym under our business principles here.)
Can you make more money as a gym owner? Absolutely. However, a lot of your daily work will be outside of training people. You’ll be working on spreadsheets, in Quickbooks, with vendors and landlords, and you will be the one who is always on the hook – the risk “buck” stops with you. If you don’t like those aspects of it, I believe you will earn more money and carry less stress on your shoulders if you put yourself into a growable fitness trainer position that pays you strong commissions, percentages, and or incentives.
Want to get paid more?
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