DPT-300-Principles & Practice of PT Essentials

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A PT is different to a fitness trainer in almost every aspect of their fitness training delivery.  Personal training was born from the provision of fitness facilities for athletes to supplement their training, to an industry that offers fitness to the general public.

In order to be recognised as a personal trainer (PT) in the UK, the PT must be recognised by the Register of Exercise Professionals at Level 3.  The PT must have a greater knowledge base than a fitness instructor and be able to deal with a larger cross section of the community. 

Personal Trainers Role within the Health Care Continuum

MedicalPhysiotherapistPersonal TrainerGym instructor

It is important for the PT to know that they are on a level with other medical professionals; they simply work with people when they are well.  Although most PTs are only qualified to work with healthy individuals they are vital to that person’s continual well being.  PTs hold their value with clients because they have the ability to stop or slow down the client’s slide from wellness to potential illness.  

Client Expectations

A PT will work more closely with a client than a fitness instructor.  They will also be charging an additional fee for their service. This will raise the level of client expectation with regard to the quality of the service they should receive.

An example of raised expectations: 

ExpectationPT requirement 
QualificationsRegister of Exercise Professionals Level 3 24 hours per year of continuing professional development (CPD)Further specialist qualifications
Long term expectation(the results)Initial resultsustainable resultGreat experience
Short term service expectation(the individual sessions)FunChallengingMotivatingEffectiveVaried

PT Responsibilities and Values

A PT has the following responsibilities with regard to their client:

  • goals to be client driven
  • client care
  • maintenance of professional relationship

In order to deliver these, the PT requires a certain set of core values, these include: 

  • integrity
  • passion
  • sense of fun 
  • a desire to give value for money
  • professionalism
  • honesty

The PT’s values will have an effect on all of their actions in delivering an appropriate level of service to their clients.  It is these values that will make them unique.

Linking With Other Professions

A PT will require an ability to refer clients with issues outside of their professional competence to the relevant professionals.  Many professionals in other fields offer  services that compliment or link with personal training, it is these individuals that a  trainer should build links with.

It may be that the PT possesses some of the above skills and therefore does not need to refer.  For example, they may be skilled in stress management and be able to provide this service for their clients.

Testing and Goal Setting

Exercise testing enables the trainer to find out the client’s starting point before any programmes are written.  They serve as a check on the client’s ability to take part in exercise and on their progression over time.  Testing is split into two categories, those that highlight illness and those that measure performance.

Once the PT has a baseline, they will need to know the clients goals in order to effectively plan their programme.  This will demand a high level of communication skills in order to help clients identify and define these goals.  Communication skills include building rapport, effective questioning and the ability to negotiate SMART goals.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreeable
  • Realistic
  • Time

Once these goals have been set, the client will be required to alter their lifestyle and begin exercising.  PT’s need to be skilled in writing programmes both for the personal training sessions themselves and that a client can and will use away from the PT.  They will also need to affect lifestyle changes that include regular activity, positive sleeping patterns and eating choices.  

A PT will need to be in regular contact with their client even when they are not actually with them.  This could be done by phone, email, in person, at classes or around the gym.

Venue, Equipment and Training Flexibility

Personal training takes place in a variety of venues so the PT needs to have the skills to make exercise safe for the environment and still effective.  These venues include:

  • inside the home
  • outdoors
  • in a busy gym
  • parks
  • streets


Once the PT starts training a client, the client will demand a consistently high standard of service.  This will be expected whatever barriers appear on the day.  Some of the barriers that might present themselves would include:

  • clients physical condition/state of mind
  • lack of space
  • lack of equipment

Record Keeping

The PT needs to keep good records of their client’s progress, condition, response to training as well as any changes in the programme and the reasoning behind them.  These notes need to be taken regularly:

  • prior to workouts
  • during each workout
  • after each workout


The PT must be proficient in communication, client assessment, goal setting, programme design and record keeping. They must also be able to be adaptable to different clients, venues and equipment choices. It is these skills that differentiate a PT from a fitness instructor.

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