Fitness Coach Vs Personal Trainer: Psychology In The Gym

Coach Fitness vs Personal Trainer. Learn about the different techniques and methods.

Although the Personal Trainer is known as a reference figure in the fitness sector to optimize physical results, a new trend is beginning to make its way, the Fitness Coach or Wellness Coach ,  coaching in a healthy lifestyle. 

The fitness coach helps and inspires you to be the one to set your own goals and achieve them, generating powerful and creative conversations that invite reflection and help you find a way to achieve your goals and maintain forever your new healthy habits.

The sessions deal with various topics such as  diet ,  exercise ,  sleep ,  stress, emotions, weight, tobacco …

You can find the Fitness Coach in your “gym”, but his work and the results go beyond the fitness rooms. The Fitness Coach fits perfectly in modern gyms where the new trend, wellness, proliferates, and as a consequence, instead of finding rooms full of machines, now it is moving to centers where there is not only a space to train muscles, but also relaxation activities (such as spa, massage cabinets, saunas), group classes (yoga, Pilates, tai-chi …) along with leisure and rest areas (cafes, hairdressers and aesthetics).

What is Wellness?

To this day, there are still many interpretations regarding the definition of fitness and wellness. We could consider Fitness as an equivalent of “physical condition” or “being in shape”. Fitness is based on two fundamental pillars: physical activity and healthy eating. It allows the person to improve cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength and muscular endurance, provides more agility and balance, speed, toning; all accompanied by a correct and balanced diet. If necessary, consuming the appropriate supplementation in each particular case, but never anabolic. Fitness is sometimes confused with bodybuilding, but the latter focuses on achieving extreme muscle definition and volume in symmetry, sacrificing the overall well-being of the person and functionality.

On the other hand, the Wellness concept or philosophy is considered a more global term. It would not only encompass fitness as improving fitness, but it goes further and uses fitness as a means of improving health, providing longevity, quality of life and beauty. In other words, wellness as a synonym for physical, mental and emotional well-being. It is not only interesting to be in shape, but also to seek a balance between body and mind.

Coaching in the gym

The staff of the fitness rooms and gyms has grown in recent years with professionals with degrees in the sciences of physical activity, sports or health. At the end of the s. XX, the personal trainers relied on their knowledge of physical activity and biomechanics, thinking that they were enough to keep clients adhering to their programs and get them to improve their lifestyle. As time has passed, many have realized that instruction and technical support are not enough to cover the diversity of client agendas and the need for individualized treatment of clients. If you want to maintain the client’s commitment, other variables must be taken into account, especially psychological ones.

Research on the factors that influence exercise led experts to explore emotional and nutritional needs , and many times revealed lifestyle patterns that were harmful, behaviors that were addictive, and personal and family challenges that interfered with achievement. of objectives. Regarding these aspects, it was necessary for them to be redirected in order to continue the training successfully. Even before psychology and coaching appeared in fitness centers, personal trainers were already aware of the need for communication skills and intervention models in these areas.

The inclusion of the Fitness Coach in the fitness rooms has given access to the appropriate methods to work with clients in these aspects. Two questions then arise regarding the Fitness Coach and the Personal Trainer: “Which method works best?” “Are the two methods equally effective for all clients?” .

In order to answer these two questions, it is necessary to understand the operation of both models.

Fitness coach vs Personal Trainer

Clients who want to hire a fitness coach instead of a Personal Trainer should know that they will find two different work methodologies and two different communication techniques. The Fitness Coach will prioritize relationship building and communication. It will focus on customer stories and their strategies, and will provide motivational and support messages (for example, using NLP techniques). Although some coaching schools recommend giving advice, most coaches encourage the client to only get to the answer using powerful questions (Socratic questions) that challenge and confront their self-perceptions and limiting beliefs.

It is a process of personal inquiry and discovery to help the client become more aware of, identify with, and take responsibility for realistic goals, with a focus on strategies, actions, and feedback.

The Personal Trainer may look similar, but it is more focused on instructions and technical information. In addition, he uses a more practical approach guiding the client during exercises and training, with a directive style of communication, and creating a relationship of dependence on the person he guides. Personal trainers are more concerned with defining their role as experts in physical training and biomechanical knowledge, but they do not promote personal growth or ensure that the client learns the true concept of wellness.

Now, after knowing that coaches and personal trainers rely on different work methodologies, it is time to answer the second question that I posed earlier: “Do the two methods work the same for everyone?” To answer this question we need to understand the client, since each person is different, has different objectives, unique past experiences and needs that may vary from one to another. Therefore, to better understand the client’s needs, it is necessary to understand the Theory of Selfefficacy of Albert Bandura (1977), which emphasizes the role that what one says to himself plays during the process of acquisition of the objectives that aims to achieve, and determines the behavior and the way to act in each situation.

Self-efficacy: The key to meeting long-term goals

The self – efficacy judgments and beliefs are possessed by a person on their ability to successfully execute a particular task and therefore directs the course of action. These expectations determine the preference for certain activities, motivation, persistence in those tasks and emotional responses to various situations. In addition, and very importantly, self-efficacy expectations are variable and specific to each context. For example, beliefs will differ when it comes to swimming or preparing to run marathons. Self-efficacy beliefs are affected by past achievements, vicarious learning or observation of the behavior of others, verbal persuasion, or level of emotional arousal.

Some clients may come to the gym with nutrition and exercise knowledge, but are unable to adhere to a training plan or diet. Others, on the other hand, will know absolutely nothing about the exercises they must perform.

The first example refers to people who master the self-efficacy related to physical activity, but may have cognitive and emotional difficulties when designing, implementing or maintaining behaviors related to the acquisition of goals. The second example refers to people who need instruction to be able to start exercising and, therefore, will need a management style to be able to start on the right foot, achieve quick results and not injure themselves.

Observing the Self-efficacy of clients from different angles, it will allow us to identify people who must improve their physical ability to achieve their goals, or it will give us information about people who need to improve their cognitive and emotional skills to successfully manage necessary transitions in a process of change.


In short, people can have skills and competencies that are necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve the objectives. One of the variables that influence the acquisition of goals is the perception of self-efficacy, that is, the expectation of success that the person has when faced with a particular situation, depending on the resources they believe they have and the characteristics of the situation and context. 

A person can avoid situations in which he doubts his ability, however suggestive a certain goal may be, by believing that he does not have the necessary resources to achieve it. The perception of self-efficacy is key in the coaching process and is necessary to achieve long-term goals . The Personal Trainer may have very useful tools and the Fitness Coach too. The ideal thing to be a good professional in this field is to have the necessary skills to be able to use both forms of work according to the client’s needs.

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