When it comes to determining how much you should pay your trainers, you often want to know what other health clubs are paying so you can be competitive. And trainers want to know where they can earn more. Fitness Mentors undertook a study to see how personal trainer salaries at popular gyms stack up, to showcase the options personal trainers have for employment and to get insight into how popular gyms vary in their pay. We hope that this information will help you—whether you are a club owner or a trainer—determine whether the trainer pay at your gym is competitive.
Fitness Mentors is a fitness education site that helps aspiring personal trainers research the most ideal personal training certification and study for it. For this study, which was conducted primarily by Fitness Mentors CEO Eddie Lester, we contacted some of the biggest gyms in the country—as well as surveyed former students from their network—to develop our numbers.
As expected, the differences vary greatly from minimum wage to salary structures well over $150,000 per year.
“The research we conducted highlighted one aspect of training that has been getting a lot more well-deserved attention lately,” said Lester. “More professional growth in the areas of certifications and continuing education equates to more money for trainers and their ability to get into jobs that can support a healthy income.”
As many gym owners and operators know, the costs to make sure their trainers are all third-party certified can be prohibitive, even if those certifications mean credibility. However, Lester pointed out that certified and educated personal trainers are one of the top 10 trends identified by Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2018, suggesting that NCCA accredited trainers are what sets the trainers and gyms apart in what has become a competitive environment.
So what are gyms paying their trainers and is there any correlation with certifications?
The Fitness Mentors Personal Trainer Salary study findings are summarized below.
24 Hour Fitness
Non-training hours at 24 Hour Fitness are minimum wage, but the gym does offer some attractive incentives. For example, trainers can earn a 20 percent commission on individual training packages, 10 percent commission on group training packages, and a 5 percent bonus commission if the trainer can book 60 or more sessions within a pay period.
24 Hour Fitness trainers are set into payment tiers that are dependent on how many lifetime sessions they have performed. For example, the lowest tier trainer would have fewer than 750 lifetime sessions and a CPT certification. The master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness would have more than 2,251 lifetime sessions, a CPT, and three additional certifications.
Anytime Fitness gyms are franchised and had varied payment structures. The feedback from trainers surveyed mentioned that some of the gyms do a 50/50 split with their trainers for any clients they bring in, while others mentioned that their gym paid minimum wage plus bonuses contingent on selling training packages.
Like Anytime Fitness, Crunch Fitness has mostly franchised gyms with varying payment structures. Survey responses showed that trainers are only paid when training and are not paid for “working the floor” like at other gyms.
Despite not being paid for non-training time, the gym pays generous commissions. One respondent mentioned that they get between 40 percent to 60 percent of what they sell depending on the sales volume.
Equinox is one of the highest-paying gyms for personal trainers, and especially those with lots of experience. While non-training, on-the-floor hours are minimum wage, Tier 1 trainers can make $26 per session at the lowest training threshold, while the same Tier 1 trainer can make $31 per session at the highest training threshold.
At the other end of the five-tier spectrum, trainers can make $64 per session or $74.50 per session at the lowest and highest training thresholds, respectively. At the highest tier, TX, trainers who conduct 160 sessions per month can make as much as $158,400 per year.
LA Fitness pays minimum wage for non-training hours with training pay starting at $6 per 30-minute session and capping at $7.50. For a 60-minute session, trainers can make between $12 to $15. The differences in pay were influenced by the cost of living in the particular city the gym is located in.
Planet Fitness is unique in its approach to trainers. It only pays minimum wage to full-time trainers without bonuses or commissions.
The Y, like most of the gyms on the list, pays minimum wage for non-training hours. Depending on the tier of the trainer, they can make between $15 and $28 per session. The tiers are established at YMCA by the number of sessions a trainer conducts per week. The Tier 4 trainer, the highest tier at the gym, is also responsible for serving as a continuing education provider and serving as a mentor to Tier 1-3 trainers.
An interesting facet of YMCA gyms is that they pay for their trainers CEUs as well as their recertification fee.
Every Gym Has Its Market
Whether the trend in educated and third-party certified trainers will influence the pay of trainers and therefore the cost of training for gym owners is unknown.
“I think every gym understands how personal trainers and their associated costs are perceived at their gym,” Lester said. “For example, Planet Fitness thrives on its low-entry price points and is unlikely to put a stronger emphasis on highly credentialed personal trainers. Gyms like Equinox, however, are likely to continue the trend as they are positioned as a premium establishment and can therefore lean on the reputation of their trainers to justify prices.”
If we consider the purpose of education, certification and accreditation, we understand it as a means of quality control. Personal training without these milestones has no accountability, which can put consumers, and gyms, at risk.
Lester wants to help spread the word about accredited options and encourages gym owners to establish standards for the safety and wellbeing of consumers.
“Regulation, in my opinion, is only going to become more of a concern for the public and gyms,” he said. ‘A two-hour internet course shouldn’t be the only consideration a gym recognizes when hiring personal trainers. Requiring a CPT from an accredited organization can help to safeguard consumers, keep gyms out of the courtroom and increase the credibility of the profession as a whole.”
Daniel Lofaso is the CMO for Fitness Mentors, a personal training education site that helps trainers get their certification and excel in their fitness careers.