What Does a Strength Trainer Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Find out what a strength trainer does, what education and training you’ll need, places you can work, salary, and career paths.

[Featured Image]:  A strength trainer is working with a client at the gym.

A strength trainer creates safe and effective strength training routines to help someone reach health, fitness, or sports-related goals. Strength trainers may work one-on-one with a client out of a gym or home, lead group fitness classes, or work as part of an athletic team or school’s strength and conditioning program.

What a strength trainer does may change based on the work environment and the job title. Some strength trainers are called fitness instructors, fitness trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, or strength and conditioning trainers. These titles are often used interchangeably with slight variations in the duties and responsibilities of each job title. 

Job description of a strength trainer 

A strength trainer works with individuals or groups on strength training techniques like proper form and creates fitness or exercise plans and programs to help a person reach specific athletic or sports goals. In essence, the role of a strength trainer is to support a person in whatever their fitness and movement goals may be while avoiding injury. As an overall approach to health and fitness, strength trainers often provide workout tips and lifestyle advice to help people reach their goals. 

A few duties and responsibilities of a strength trainer can include: 

  • Monitoring the progress of a client or athlete and tracking changes

  • Making fitness and lifestyle suggestions to help clients reach goals

  • Assisting in goal setting

  • Offering motivation when needed

  • Providing nutrition and lifestyle advice

  • Providing basic first aid care if needed or knowing when to call for emergency help

  • Referring clients to specialists who can help with sports-related injuries, such as chiropractors or physical therapists 

  • Creating specific workout plans that are evidence-based and effective 

  • Teaching group fitness or weight training classes

  • Working one on one with individuals to assist in weight training routines 

  • Teaching individuals how to use specific gym/exercise equipment 

  • Making suggestions to athletes to improve performance 

  • Modeling workout techniques for injury prevention 

  • Leading athletes in training exercises

Depending upon where you work as a strength trainer, you may also be in charge of a strength and conditioning program for a school or other organization. If you work at a school or for an athletic team, you will likely work with athletic directors or support staff within an athletic program, along with athletes, and your day-to-day duties may look different than if you worked for a gym or out of a home gym. 

What skills does a strength trainer need? 

Effective communication skills are essential for strength trainers since you may work closely with clients. You’ll need to be able to both listen to your clients and offer supportive and helpful responses to their needs. A few other personal skills that can be very beneficial to someone working as a strength trainer are:

  • Empathy

  • Motivation

  • Customer service skills

  • Public speaking when working with groups

  • Enthusiasm

  • Problem-solving

  • Creativity

  • Multitasking

  • Ability to take initiative  

The technical skills of an effective strength trainer are equally important to help your clients prevent injury. This requires an understanding of human anatomy, how muscles grow and change, and the overall dynamics of strength training. A few technical skills you’ll need are: 

  • AED/CPR training

  • First aid training

  • Knowledge of current trends in the fitness industry

  • The ability to compose and create effective workout routines

  • Knowledge of exercise physiology and kinesiology 

What qualifications are needed to work as a strength trainer?

You will likely need training and certification to work as a strength trainer. You may need educational requirements like a bachelor’s or master’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field. CPR and AED training certification is a requirement of most employers. 

Many certifications specifically for strength and conditioning coaches require a bachelor’s degree or current bachelor’s degree program enrollment to be eligible for national certifications. Personal training certifications typically only require a high school diploma or GED.

To become a registered strength and conditioning coach, which is a requirement by most colleges and sports teams, you can earn your Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) also offers other certification options. These are the Strength and Conditioning Certified Certification  (SCCC) and the Master Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification (MSCC).  

Strength trainers have other certification options if you want to focus more on fitness training that would involve teaching group classes or working one-on-one in a gym or home setting. A few options include the National Strength and Conditioning Association - Certified Personal Trainers (NSCA-CPT) certification, the ACE personal trainer or group fitness instructor certification, and the ISSA-certified personal trainer certification. These are certifications specifically designed for personal trainers, which may or may not be a good choice for strength trainers depending on where they want to work. 

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) offers certifications for strength coaches, personal trainers, sports nutritionists, and master trainers. Earning one of these certifications can qualify you as a registered personal trainer, a certified strength trainer or master trainer, or a sports nutrition specialist. This organization would be a good choice for someone who may want to work in various environments as a trainer. 

Where can a strength trainer work? 

A strength trainer can work in many different settings, from the sidelines of a football field to a private gym. It depends on factors like your specific job title, credentials, education, and the overall role the organization or business hires you for. 


Gyms may hire strength trainers to work more as personal trainers, working one-on-one with clients or teaching conditioning classes in a small group setting. Depending on the gym, your role as a strength trainer will vary. You may work with a team of other strength trainers, personal trainers, or conditioning coaches to create classes, workout plans, and other resources. Alternatively, you may create workout plans for individuals based on their goals and work with them to monitor their progress. Part of your job at a gym would also involve onboarding clients new to the gym and helping them set goals based on needs. You will likely need certification in personal training or strength and conditioning to work at a gym. Experience is a perk, but some gyms hire trainers right out of school or after gaining certification. 

Client homes

Strength trainers may train clients out of home gyms. In this work environment, strength trainers can work one-on-one with clients training them on the proper use of equipment, guiding them through workout programs, and offering tips on form and technique. Freelance strength trainers or trainer entrepreneurs will typically provide this service. This option requires some traveling, and the equipment may limit you at a client’s home, but it’s a great way to work closely with clients or even athletes to help them meet goals. 

Group fitness facilities 

Group fitness facilities typically offer boot camp-style classes that combine cardio and strength training. Strength trainers at group fitness facilities may work more as group fitness instructors. You will likely be offering form cues and monitoring your client's progress, providing alternative exercises based on need, and training individuals on the proper use of various equipment.  

Schools or athletic organizations

Schools and athletic organizations rely on strength trainers to help athletes prevent injury, improve performance, and boost endurance. In this role, strength trainers are typically called strength and conditioning coaches. Certification is required for this position, as is a bachelor’s degree. You may work one-on-one with athletes, an entire team, or other coaches and trainers to develop workout routines and programs.

As a trainer, you may work with a specific population, like children or the elderly. If you want to specialize in a particular population, such as young athletes, consider enrolling in an online course or specialization. The Science of Training Young Athletes and The Science of Training Young Athletes Part 2 are courses you can take on Coursera. These courses can provide helpful tips for anyone who wants to work in schools, summer camps, or rec centers as a trainer for young children.

Freelance training 

As a strength trainer, you also have the option to work as a freelance trainer or own your training business. Social media sites like Instagram and TicTok have made it possible to gain an online following where you can provide strength training programming tips and services to gain clients or build a reputation as an effective trainer. 

Salary and job outlook information 

Fitness trainers and instructors earn an average of $40,700 a year, or about $19.57 an hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. The lowest 10 percent of all earners make $22,960 or less annually, while the top 10 percent earn $75,940 or more as of May 2021. Of the most common employers of fitness trainers and instructors, the top paying are fitness and recreational sports centers, followed by educational facilities, local and state government facilities, and civil or social organizations 

The BLS projects an impressive 19 percent growth rate for strength trainers between 2021 and 2031, which is well above average for most careers [2]. In the upcoming decade, the BLS estimates that an average of 65,500 job openings will be added to the fitness training and instruction field. A few reasons for this high growth rate may be an increased awareness of health and fitness, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020, an aging population seeking better health, and discoveries in health and wellness. 

Read more: What Do Health Care Jobs Pay? Salaries, Job List, and More

Other career paths a strength trainer may pursue 

You may also have opportunities to move into other careers within the fitness industry if you have a degree in exercise science or certification in a related field.

Consider these possible career paths: 

  • Work as a personal trainer at a gym, take on more leadership roles and gain experience, then apply for a position as a gym manager.

  • Work as a personal trainer or strength trainer, either as a freelancer or in a gym, gain clients and experience, earn your certified nutrition coach certification (NASM-CNC), and work as a nutrition coach. If you want to work as a dietician, you’ll also need to earn your bachelor’s degree.

  • Work as a strength and conditioning coach for a school or athletic organization, earn your master’s degree in kinesiology, and become an exercise physiologist.

Some trainers may also move industries entirely and work as professors or in the sales or marketing department for an exercise equipment company or a gym. 

Personal trainer 

A personal trainer designs safe and effective workout programming for individuals and groups, typically in a fitness center or gym setting. Some personal trainers may work out of clients' homes or their own. Personal trainers help people reach fitness goals, which may include changes in weight, body composition, or improved endurance in everyday tasks. Like similar careers in health and fitness, personal trainers should be AED and CPR certified. Most personal trainers only need a certification, not a degree. A few popular personal training certifications are the ACE personal trainer certification, ISSA’s personal trainer certification, and NASM’s certification for personal trainers. 

Bodybuilding trainer 

Are you wondering what’s the difference between a strength trainer and a bodybuilder? Bodybuilder trainers work one-on-one with individuals who want to gain strength and cut fat, sometimes in preparation for a bodybuilding competition. A few duties of a bodybuilding trainer include: 

  • Designing research-based, evidence-based workout programming to gain muscle and build the physique

  • Providing muscle-building nutrition plans

  • Providing accountability and motivation

  • Creating goal-based timelines to monitor progress and help clients reach their goals

These coaches are usually certified or receive specialist certifications. A few certification options include the certified bodybuilding specialist offered by International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) or the competitive bodybuilding training certification offered by American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA).

Read more: What Is a Health Coach? Benefits, Salary, and How to Become One

Next steps 

Do you enjoy health and fitness and want to make it a career? Strength trainers get to do what they love daily, helping people meet their goals and seeing the results of their hard work and knowledge. It can be a rewarding, physically active career with many opportunities and growth. 

Not all strength trainers need their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Some positions may only require certification or specialized training. Start by increasing your knowledge and skills by taking an online Science of Exercise course or Weight Management course on Coursera. Dream up your ideal career as a strength trainer and get started.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Fitness Trainers and Instructors, Pay, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm#tab-5.” Accessed October 6, 2022.

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