What is Online or Virtual Personal Trainer?

What is an online/virtual personal trainer?

What is Online or Virtual Personal Trainer?


A fast growing trend for both consumers and fitness trainers is to add some form of online training element to the mix to achieve fitness goals. Today, personal trainers are using social media and mobile technology to become more available and affordable than ever.


So what is an online personal trainer actually.  In the simplest definition it is someone that designs a safe, effective fitness training program for your unique goals, experiences and equipment, delivers this program along with any follow up digitally with no physical interactions.

How an Online Coach Works

Maybe you’ll have an initial consultation on the phone or via Skype to talk about your goals, or maybe you’ll communicate over email or an online system. However you and your coach decide to communicate, you’ll go to the gym on your own with the workouts they’ve created and report back on your progress.


This definition must be unpacked to insure you understand the huge variations each element can have and how it will affect your training experience and results.


How Do You Become an Online/Virtual trainer?

Currently there isn’t any regulation or oversite about who can and cannot be an online personal trainer.

There are a couple of certifications available but these are more geared towards how to market your training rather than how to be an effective trainer.

A quick google search shows many more how to become a six figure online trainer than how to become an effective trainer for your client.


When it comes to certification and qualification of online trainers. If a personal trainer has been hired at a gym, they’re at minimum certified through a major institution like National Academy of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, or International Sports Sciences Association, follow a safe and established protocol, and have a basic understanding of how personal training should work

This doesn’t guarantee they’ll be good at what they do or that you’ll see results, but it’s a start.


With an online coach, the potential for a bad experience, is increased


How to Find out if your Online/Virtual trainer is Certified and Qualified.

Check the qualifications of the staff that will be training you. Sites should provide background information about their staff. Make sure the personal trainers have a college degree in an exercise-related field and/or are certified by a well-respected organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or another NCCA-accredited fitness certification organization (www.noca.org/NCCAAccreditation/AccreditedCertificationPrograms/tabid/120/Default.aspx

How Did They Become A Trainer Anyway? (It’s actually really easy)

Here’s something you may not about becoming a trainer. The only requirements for most personal certifications is that you are over 18 and are cpr certified. The educational requirements are also pretty low- literally none in many cases.


Anyone over the age of 18 can become a personal trainer and there is no shortage of organizations that offer a weekend course, a simple test, and an official certification paper.


Over the course of my career I've set through many many weekend certification programs. I slowly begin to learn that many of these are cases are more of a get started as a fitness professional rather than the ultimate source of all knowing all seeing fitness knowledge. the education then threw the azzam the experience The professionalism widely from person to person some people were awesome and some people were complete musclehead buffoons.


After all that gloom and doom, you will be happy to know that  there are many good qualified and caring trainers out there and they can be a huge asset to helping you achieve your fitness goals.


Minimum Standards to Be a Personal Trainer


According to the American Council on Exercise the minimum standards are as follows.

Minimum Standards.

A personal trainer should hold a current certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to give you the assurance that you are working with a professional who has the knowledge and skills to provide you with a safe and effective workout. An initiative launched in 2003 called for all fitness organizations offering personal trainer certifications to seek accreditation of their certification exams to raise the standard of personal training to better serve and protect consumers.
Never be afraid to ask to see a copy of the certification to ensure that it is still current. Most recertification periods run between two and four years. You can always contact the certification agency to verify a trainer’s status. After checking the certification, there are a few other criteria you should consider when selecting a personal trainer.


Five of the most popular certifications are:

  1. NSCA, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  2. ACSM  ACSM | The American College of Sports Medicine 
  3. NASM:  NASM: Personal Trainer Certification
  4. ACE: ACE | Certified Personal Trainer | ACE Personal Trainer
  5. Crossfit: CrossFit: Forging Elite Fitness: Tuesday 180814

Liability Insurance and Business Policies

Many personal trainers operate as independent contractors and are not employees of a fitness facility. You should find out if the trainer you want to hire carries professional liability insurance.

Explain Billing and Cancellation Policy
A reputable personal trainer should also make sure that you understand the cancellation policy and billing procedure. The best way to avoid confusion and protect your rights is to have those policies in writing.

But let me be clear on one thing  I know plenty of trainers who have NO certification that are incredible, and I know other trainers who have the most elite certifications who are terrible at dealing with an actual real live person.  

A certification can be a starting point, but don’t let it be the determining factor.

Beyond the Certification

Here are some other things to think about when working with an online/virtual personal trainer.

  • What is the Online trainer’s experience with your age group or with your particular needs or health challenges.


  • Be wary of sites created by Instagram models,  celebrity trainers or professional athletes to sell their services. It’s important to find out who will actually be designing your workouts, and always avoid sites that make exaggerated claims or guarantee fitness results.


  • Look for a sample workout plan. Make sure the plans are thorough and detailed (weight, sets, repetitions, intensity) and not simply a list of exercises. Better sites offer pictures and videos to demonstrate proper form and technique.


  • Make sure the website  and app are easy to navigate. If it’s too complicated, you probably won’t stick with it. There should be a way to see a sample before signing up.


  • There should easy means of contacting your trainer for questions or concerns. Most sites provide email contact, but also look for sites that have a toll-free number so you can actually speak to a trainer. They should answers your question in a reasonable time.

  • Look for a trainer with an online  group support that you can use to communicate with other exercisers with similar goals,  private Facebook Groups, Slack and Mobilize groups are a great resource.

  • .Make sure the site requires you to complete a detailed health-history questionnaire. This evaluation should address, your goals, present level of fitness and health concerns.

  • How good is the intake assessment? This is the key to establishing base of your training experience. How is it conducted. Is it a questionnaire. It is a phone call. Is it via video chat? Each of these has unique advantages and disadvantages

  • Your trainer will need this to customize a program to fit your needs. Be brutally honest when filling out your forms. In other words, don’t lie about your age, weight or experience level, as it may reduce the how well your program will work and possibly lead to injury.

  • Is your program truly custom. It should be made just for you and not a boilerplate program ripped from bodybuilding.com.  

  • Is your program updated regularly. You can your trainer track your progress and give you feedback easily and regularly?

  • If you aren’t comfortable with your trainer please don’t hesitate to ask for a refund.

One last thing. I know that going to a gym is intimidating, especially if you’re starting out. And not knowing the difference between a bad trainer and a good trainer (who will prioritize your needs and get you results) can result in months of lost effort and money. It’s why we created our own experience for our community.

If you are in a location where there aren’t any great trainers, you don’t have access to a gym, or you’re just not ready to work with somebody in person, consider checking out my popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.


We build a workout program specific to YOUR goals, we help you make better food choices (which is 90% of the battle), and we help keep you accountable.


No guesswork. No confusion about what to do next. Just a coach you can text with questions, that builds a program for you, and can even check your form via video!


Schedule a free call to learn more by clicking on the image below:


If you have questions about what you need to look for when it comes to training with a coach in person or even questions about working with an online trainer, email me or reach out to me on social media.


Love, Peace and Less Chicken Grease

Alton Skinner