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How do I become a Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer?

Are you a fitness enthusiast? do you enjoy sharing your knowledge and expertise with others?   A career as a gym instructor/personal trainer is an ideal career path for anyone who is passionate about keeping fit and healthy.    In this role, you will get the chance to help others reach a level of fitness by creating one-on-one fitness programmes. You will support, motivate and guide your clients achieve their exercise goals. To do this, you need more than enthusiasm for sport, you need comprehensive and appropriate training and qualifications.     

What is the best course to become a personal trainer?

With the proliferation of the health, exercise and fitness industry, identifying the most robust and reputable qualification for becoming a personal trainer can be difficult. Oftentimes certifications and courses provide an absolute minimum requirement of applied and technical skills development for personal trainers.  Dr. Susan Giblin, Head of Sport and Health at Portobello Institute suggests that “to really excel in the personal trainer space, it is essential that you have a strong foundation in anatomy, physiology and applied exercise sciences”. 

She explains that this is why Portobello Institute offers the ITEC (International Therapy Examination Council) courses in Gym Instructing and Personal Training concurrently.   You will achieve two qualifications that complement each other.   Dr. Giblin adds “Completing these two ITEC qualifications in gym instructing and personal training provides you with a strong, scientific knowledge of fitness, conditioning and exercise science. This course equips you to work across special populations (pregnancy, elderly etc.).  It provides a strong public-health focus that is the bedrock of the health and fitness industry, rather than focusing on current fads or trends, this course develops strong critical thinkers and effective practitioners. At the end of the ITEC Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer course you are ready to perform consultations, complete comprehensive needs analysis and deliver results-based interventions to your clients”.

How is the course delivered?

The combined Gym Instructor/Personal Trainer course can be undertaken part-time over 10 weekends (Sat & Sun 9.30 - 4.30pm) or as an Intensive 4-week course.  Emma Nevin completed both courses recently and she found the 10-weekend modality was best for her, she explains, “as I work full-time the option to study over the weekend meant I could do the course and continue working at the same time. The course delivery over a number of months was perfect so I did not feel overwhelmed and I still had some free time outside of college and work!”

What will I learn?

Gym Instruction

The Gym Instructor course will offers an understanding in the areas of cardiovascular, resistance and flexibility training for all individuals including young people aged 14-16 years, over 50's, ante natal and post natal women and individuals suffering certain musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis. Upon completion of the qualification students are ready to work in the fitness industry in a gym based setting.

Commenting on the practical element of the course Emma suggests that “the practical approach was just as important as the theory covered. The Sunday practical gym sessions really ensured that everyone felt confident in putting the theory and skills learned in the classroom into practice in the correct manner in a gym environment”. 

Personal Training

The Personal Trainer Certificate course builds on the Gym Instructor course taking a more in-depth look at functional anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, nutrition and also exercise prescription. This course enables students to provide clients with personalised training programmes tailored to their needs to improve overall fitness including strength, flexibility and cardio-respiratory function.  It also provides training to offer detailed lifestyle advice to maintain all aspects of their health, fitness and well-being.

Emma found the content to be extremely relevant to the end qualification and notes how “each section of the course content covered a different aspect of the body, how it functions and the relationship with health, fitness and nutrition. All assignments were tailored to encourage students to cover each core module in more detail”.

What other training is advisable?

Dr. Giblin suggests that it is advisable to complete advanced first aid training and manual handling alongside your personal training study. With your ITEC qualification you will be eligible to apply for insurance cover, this is required to practice as a personal trainer and you will need to evidence your continual professional development with courses to ensure your skills are up to date over the years of your practice.

In addition to your primary Gym Instructor Personal Trainer Qualification, completing a business development module for personal trainers can help set you up for becoming a proficient, self-employed practitioner.


So if you are a sports enthusiast and would like to become a gym instructor/personal trainer the ITEC combined course at Portobello Institute is a comprehensive qualification from which to launch your career in this industry.  To discuss your options further, please contact George Boylan on 01 892 0041 or or to book your place on the Gym Instructor & Personal Trainer course click here.

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