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Personal Training Vs Online Training: The Pros and Cons of Each

So, you are interested in working with a coach/personal trainer for your fitness and strength needs. You're in luck! There are multiple options depending on your goals, work schedule, and budget. Today, I will breakdown the options for both in person and online training as well as discuss the pros and cons of each. My experience ranges from personal training in a group setting to online training for the development of my own sport specific goals, so hopefully my perspective helps you!

Personal training

Personal training has been widely utilized for a variety of different clientele. Personal trainers are normally independent contractors that are certified/educated in exercise physiology and biomechanics. Some also specialize in nutrition or dietetics. When looking for a personal trainer, I would advise to find one with the following:

A. 1-5 years experience actually physically training clients.

B. An appropriate education level

This can range from credible certifications to a Bachelor's/Master's degree. While I've met great trainers that do not have a related degree, the truth is, the best in this industry will strive to continually educate themselves and gain practical experience. However, trainers with a background in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and program implementation will definitely stand out.

The big pro with in person training is having 1-on-1 time with them. That alone is amazing value. This can improve accountability for people who struggle with consistency, and also improve the quality and stimulus of training. Spending 60min alone in a session with a trainer can accomplish a lot! I can definitely improve someone's squat form more efficiently in person compared to trying to improve it remotely online ( will touch on this later).

The con of this is price range. I will be honest….personal training is definitely considered a luxury. There are different options within this realm. Semi-private/group training are more affordable options for clients inquiring about working with a training 1 on 1. Things to consider with this option is contact time may be spread out between you and the trainer's other group clients. I wouldn’t recommend this option for those that are new to training and the gym itself, as this could lead to frustration and slower progress if you need more accountability.

Thus, the Pros of Personal Training 1-on-1 are:

  • Faster progress and improved biomechanics

  • Individualized Programing( prevents injury, improves weak movement patterns, creates specific workouts based on your wants and needs, etc).

  • Accountability highest in this option.

Cons of Personal Training 1-on-1:

  • Highest cost (varies based on gym, trainer's education and experience)

  • May need to be lenient based on the trainer's schedule

Pros of semi-Private/Group training:

  • More affordable

  • Can meet fellow clients with similar goals.

  • Accountability is high in this option

  • Making new friends and networking.

Cons of Semi-Private/Group Training

  • May not get the attention and feedback you truly need

  • Times may be limited based on the options you are looking at.

  • Could be limited on space if its a big group class.

Online Training

The popularity of online training has been rising amongst those needing a trainer/ coach. This is due to the improved software, communication via the internet, and smartphone cameras (video feedback). Additionally, it allows for trainers to open up their schedule to more clients, due to the diminished 1-on-1 contact time.

Pros for the client in online training could range from affordability to more freedom of when they want to train based on their personal life schedule. Also some trainers may have a huge online resource library based on exercise and nutrition education for their clients.

Cons for the client can range from not researching the best trainer/coach option to not staying consistent with their training because of the diminished in person contact or scheduled time to train. Feedback from your trainer/coach may be delayed since most trainers do work full time jobs or multiple, so there can be frustrations with getting feedback from your training. The average turnaround time is normally 24 hours, which in my opinion is fair. Anything past that brings down the value of the trainer and coach, or their client load is way too high.

Pros of Online training:

  • Most affordable

  • Can be great education for the client

  • Accountability is medium based on the client

  • More freedom to train when and where

  • Can modify training if coach/trainer allows.

Cons of Online Training:

  • No regulation of credible trainers/coaches, any joe schmo can do it.

  • Not the best for new gym goers

  • No guarantee on feedback or when you receive feedback

Hybrid Training

Hybrid training, is a combination of online and in person. It may be called something else based on the gym or trainer. It can be broken down by how many sessions a month you meet with your coach/trainer and also includes online based programming with feedback. This is becoming more popular with gyms currently. The biggest reason being more affordable than multiple days a week of in person training, as well as improved feedback and coaching in real time. I would recommend this option if clients are good at being independent. The 1-on-1 or semi private sessions could be utilized as form checks, changes in technique etc. Examples would be clients for longer than a year, barbell based sport athletes, and clients that travel a lot for work.

My personal experience and opinion as a Coach and Client:

From a client's perspective,

I saw the most benefit in my early years of development as a multi-sport athlete. The immediate feedback was huge for me in high school and college. As I went off on my own after college, I noticed my accountability and drive was declining. When I got into powerlifting after my throwing career ended, I still wanted to learn and get feedback. Online training was an option that was brought to me by a past high school strength coach intern. He was huge into powerlifting at the time (Zac Cooper) and I figured he would be great to work with and learn from since I worked with him before. However, the limitations of him living on the east coast were a barrier. Still, this method works best for me at the time because I could afford the training and had prior training experience.

From a coach's perspective,

It depends on a few things.

1. Does the client need more one on one contact to grow and build a base of good movement patterns/ good habits?

2. Can the client afford one on one or online?

3. Are there obstacles to accountability?

My suggestion would be if the client has a great base of training experience under them, and just wants programming to fit their personal goals, online may be the best option for them (unless they can afford 1-on-1 and see the value). They may end up being a long term client that way. I also believe a brand new person to general fitness would benefit highly from working with a trainer or coach multiple times in a month if they can afford it. Once that client starts to have progress and builds trust with their trainer, they could become a hybrid/group client or online later. My last thing I would recommend as a coach, would be if you do pursue online training, it would be beneficial if you could work with someone you have been coached by before if that situation can happen. Higher chance of success in my personal opinion. Not saying working with a trainer or coach online you personally have never met can’t yield success, but growth as a client could have possible issues.

I hope this article clears the air and helps with your choice regarding in person vs online training. Both are great options, but it depends on what you personally think is right and what you can afford. Hopefully gyms you are looking at have this option. Phoenix A+ Coaching has these options, as well as five qualified and educated trainers on staff!

Please reach out to us for any questions about any of these options!

James M Freeman Jr BS-Exercise Science, MBA, CSCS, USATF LVL-1, USAPL-CC



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