Training to be a fitness instructor

fitness instructorI’m coming to the end of my training course which qualifies me as a fitness instructor, and although I haven’t actually passed yet (is this post tempting fate or what?) I thought some of you might be interested to know what the course entails.

I first became interested in the fitness industry when I started attending exercise classes. It started with Zumba, then was swiftly followed by Body Attack, Body Pump, Spin, Legs Bums & Tums, well the list goes on. My initial plan was to train to teach classes, but after looking into the courses available and the job opportunities available I felt the the Level 2 Gym Instructor course would suit me better. I was worried about my confidence levels as a class instructor and decided that working in a gym would ease me into the industry with less pressure. Like I said, I’ve yet to pass my assessments so I haven’t secured a job and have no idea if this plan was a good one or not! Anyhow, it explains my train of thought to you.

I live in Scotland and my course provider is CYQ (formally YMCA) and is ran through Glasgow Clyde College. You can check out the YMCA website for courses available in England. The course is held over five weekends, although there is also an intensive course which takes place over two weeks. I found the weekend only layout worked for me because I didn’t need too take as much time off work and it allowed time in between sessions to revise both theory and practical elements.

Typical day

Our teacher has been kind to us and splits up the theory and practical elements to break up the day. So the daily breakdown might look like this:

9.00am-10.15am:   Questions about previous day and assessment guidelines

10.30am-12pm:       Respiratory system theory

12.00-1.00pm:          Lunch

1.00pm-3.00pm:       Free weights workshop

3.15pm-4.30pm:       Muscle function theory


If you haven’t studied for a while (like me) then the theory side of things might give you a fright. I genuinely didn’t think that gym instructors would require such an in depth knowledge of human anatomy. It took me a few days to get my head around the amount of theory involved, but anything that seemed pointless or unclear was normally explained later on when you realise you need that knowledge on a more practical level. For example, knowing which muscles contract and relax during certain exercises.

Now, of course it makes complete sense and I would urge anyone with an interest in fitness to get a basic knowledge of how the body works. It will give you insight into why we perform certain exercises, how your body uses uses energy, how to correctly perform exercises to avoid injury and how to tailor your workout based on your aims and abilities.


The first few times we were asked to partner up and train each other were so awkward. How do you tell a man much older and stronger than you how to safely deadlift a 10 kilo barbell when he’s been lifting things heavier than ME for about 30 years?!

Well, the good news is that no matter how experienced and knowledgeable everyone else in the class might seem, they know just as little as you. In fact, sometimes the most confident ones know the least. Most people who have been going to the gym for years have picked up bad habits and have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to training, which normally consists of lots of chest presses. Yawn!

I tried to keep my mouth shut until the teacher had explained how he wanted us to train each other, and used that format without using my own ideas. I did however throw in a few lines that I learned from fitness classes (you will find yourself repeating the phrase ‘feet hip-width apart’ for the rest of time) so I would recommend going to a few classes to help reaffirm these ideas in your head.


The assessment process appears quite complicated at first, but it will all become clear as time goes on. Basically you will do half of the theory throughout the course in the form of Q&A worksheets which you can complete at home, and the other half in a multiple choice exam paper. The practical side is assessed throughout the course in various workshop environments (everyone working in pairs whilst the teacher watches over) and in a final assessment with an outside participant (e.g. a friend or relative) in front of an external marker. There are also a few paperwork elements based around planning and evaluation which will contribute to your overall mark.

Things to consider

If you are serious about a career in the fitness industry, I believe this is an excellent starting point which will qualify you to work in a gym straight away, and can lead onto courses in personal training and exercise to music. I would advise making sure you have a clear schedule for the days in between classes. There is a considerable amount of studying required and you may also want to try out the practical elements on friends and family for experience. Be prepared to get stuck in and make mistakes, as only practice will give you the confidence to talk about exercises and equipment like its your second language.

If you’ve read all this and still want to be a gym instructor then I reckon you are destined for a career in fitness! If you are considering training or have qualified and have any career advice for me, please comment below as I would love your input.


4 thoughts on “Training to be a fitness instructor

  1. My boyfriend has the gym instructor qualification and he completed is level 3 personal trainer qualificaiton with the YMCA in 2012 and has been looking for work ever since!! I don’t think our location helps (north west wales) but he’s not found it easy finding anywhere, and gym’s like to charge PTs rent whihc I think is ridiculous! Good luck with your studies xx

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