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Personal Trainer Trends and Where to Position Yourself for Success

Personal trainers, both private and as part of larger organizations, should pay attention to trends in the industry to help position themselves for maximum marketability. Understanding the concerns of potential and existing clients as well as the fitness or nutrition movements that are growing in popularity will help trainers to identify with clients and ultimately, lead to increased revenues.

Similarly, understanding that fads in fitness exist will help personal trainers avoid situations where they focus too much of their business in areas that the public no longer has interest in. For example, it would be helpful to know that the group fitness class Zumba once appeared at the number nine spot of fitness trends but now sits beyond the 20 most popular fitness trends.

Below is more information on 10 of the 40 fitness trends taken from a survey done by ACSMs Health & Fitness Journal based on the expert opinions of nearly 3,000 health and fitness professionals. Personal trainers should use this information to make future business decisions and develop marketing strategies that would suggest they shift their business model to one that resonates with clients.

Wearable Technology

Brands like Fitbit and Apple (Apple Watch) are projected to have more growth as the wearable technology trend is forecasted to be worth $31.27 billion by 2020[1]. Consumers have indicated a preference in high-tech gadgetry that includes smartwatches as well as footwear, bodywear, and even eyewear. The wristwatch market is the most dominant, with consumers showcasing that they are interested in both the functional health monitoring of such devices as well as their aesthetic uses.

Equinox, a fitness club brand with operations in multiple states, sees wearable technology as an opportunity rather than a threat. Trainers can utilize these technologies within their workouts to boost interest and to help their clients track their own progress and improve their experiences.

Body Weight Training

Body weight training moved down a spot from 2015 to take over the second-most popular fitness trend for 2016. It is theorized that body weight training has increased in popularity (it didn’t even exist on this list in 2012) because it does not require any (or little) equipment and lends itself to an inexpensive way to exercise that boasts solid results. While body weight exercises can be conducted virtually anywhere, it became a popular trend due to the marketing performed by commercial gyms which also means that private trainers and big box gyms (and everything in between) can likely capitalize on this fitness trend.

Further evidence that body weight training is something that personal trainers should actively market is the fact that it appeared at number three-three years ago, number one last year, and number two in 2016. In short, body weight training should definitely be on your radar if you are looking for a fitness trend that is growing in popularity.

High-intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, dropped from the first spot in 2014 to the second spot in 2015 and now, at the third spot for 2016, still remains a very popular fitness activity for trainers and clients alike. While there are some safety concerns cited for those persons who may live sedentary lifestyles then begin a HIIT workout, this training style has been popular for people of all fitness levels including those who are overweight or are seasoned athletes as these workouts provide similar, and sometimes better, results as continuous endurance workouts.

Ultimately, one of the reasons HIIT training is so popular is due to the shortened length of workout sessions and the various different aerobic and strength training exercises that can be implemented into the workout.

Strength Training

Training with weights has remained in the top five of fitness trends for the last four years and remains a popular activity in health and fitness communities. Strength training is appealing for younger adults but also has a place in training for individuals young and old, male and female, as well as those with stable chronic disease.

Personal Trainer Certifications, Experience and Education

Most personal trainers would probably tell you that they’ve never had a client ask them about their certifications. However, the survey results from this year and last revealed that accreditations offered by third-party accrediting organizations are becoming a major trend in the fitness industry. Colleges and universities are offering accredited health and fitness educational programs and the growing demand for fitness professionals has created a shift towards more regulation from within the industry and by the government.

In addition to personal trainers seeking four-year degrees in Exercise Science or Exercise Physiology the trend in fitness also suggests that certified personal trainers enhance their education/certification with additional credentials such as those within the corrective exercise, fitness nutrition, performance enhancement or weight loss areas to name a few.

Personal Training

Personal trainers are a highly popular segment of the fitness industry and increased emphasis on certifications is revealed in trend number five. In fact, personal training – one-on-one as opposed to small groups – has been in the top 10 of the ACSM survey for the past nine years showing that this is a trend that is likely to remain popular for many more years.

Rounding out the top 10 fitness trends for 2016, from sixth to 10th, are:

Functional fitness

Fitness programs for older adults

Exercise and weight loss


Functional Fitness is another trend that has fluctuated within the top 10 for the last few years. Typically paired with Fitness programs for older adults, these exercises can also be catered to sport-specific activities. The growing segment of baby boomers has increased the trend for age-appropriate programs aimed at helping them engage in more rigorous exercise programs, team sports or balance and ability activities.

In 2009 Exercise and Weight Loss was ranked at the 18th spot on this list showing the growing demand for fitness regimens that offer weight loss programs. As the trend of obesity in America continues to grow, this is likely to be a popular fitness program that will remain in the top 10 for years to come.

Yoga has declined in popularity since last year (formerly number seven), and fluctuates more than nearly every item on this list from year-to-year. Still, with the various forms and staying power within the top 20 of this list, it seems like it will continue to be a good fitness offering.

Fitness Fads You May Want to Stay Away From

The survey results also reveal some interesting data on fads, or fitness items that had a lot of popularity for a brief time. The obvious takeaway here for personal trainers is to avoid these or transition away from them if they are seeing a downward trend in popularity at their businesses.

In addition to Zumba (mentioned above) falling from the top 10 in 2012 to below 20 in 2016, other fads revealed by the survey included Pilates, indoor cycling, stability ball and exercise programs specifically for overweight children. Some theorize that exercises that require expensive equipment or technical instruction falter while others argue they have simply run their course.

Your Takeaway for Personal Training Success

The main takeaway from the survey results is that it is important to consider what to invest your time in as a personal trainer or perhaps more importantly, what not to invest your time in. If trends suggest stability or growth, those are areas that you may want to consider implementing or advertising to propel business development. While fitness fads do have their place and can be lucrative, their inability to sustain the tests of time means that those businesses that focus on these fitness programs will have to evolve and adapt more than others who make business decisions based on the more popular fitness programs. 

Enhance your personal practice or start a new career in yoga instruction with AFPA’s comprehensive yoga certification course.

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