How to become an online personal trainer!

Author: Andrey Pilipets – Written date: 1 Nov 2020

“There is just news. There is no good or bad.” – Master Oogway

It’s early November, 2020 outside the window and the pandemic is still choking the world around. Covid-19, you’ve been a major game changer. A lot of people I know had to move to online space for work, education and, of course, training. For example, my 11 years old nephew living in Russia is learning English with a native speaker and destroying people in chess competitions online. It simply wasn’t possible when I was his age. Gym owners pull their hair out as more people now want to sweat safely at their home fortresses. More people want to become online personal trainers, as well. Please let me share with you my experience of becoming a full-time online personal trainer, spiced up by a bunch of Kung Fu Panda quotes. Enjoy!

-1. How I did it and why Kung Fu Panda quotes

“Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that does not make you who you are, it is the rest of it- who you choose to be” – Soothsayer

Twenty years ago, still working in a bank, I suddenly got a 10mm discus hernia in my lower back. My left leg was getting numb, excruciating pain around and doctor telling me to go for surgery or risk being paralyzed below the waist. Oh, and the same doctor told me not to exercise as it could make it worse. What would you do?

“You must believe!”- Master Oogway

It’s me 10 year apart, 2008 (130kg) vs 2018 (90kg)

I chose to use the most powerful muscle group in the human body, located right between the ears. I did some research and came up with an exercise routine to rebuild my lower back muscles. One year later MRI test showed my discus hernia going down to 3mm, and the same doctor was desperately trying to look cute with those big manga eyes. Another year, another test and it was completely gone. That made me believe in the power of exercise the first time. It took me 10 more years to change my lifestyle and transform from a 130kg (286 pounds) ‘Panda’ to a 90kg (200 pounds) personal trainer and a Jiu-Jitsu World Cup medalist ( Hope that can explain all that Kung Fu Panda quotes.

Worldcup BJJ @Abu Dhabi in 2016

The most obvious way to become an online personal trainer is to convert from an ‘offline’ personal trainer’. (you can check out my Facebook page here

“There are no accidents.”- Master Oogway

For those of you folks please feel free to jump straight to Section 3, ‘Technical issues’.

Another option is to become an online personal trainer from the scratch.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why they call it present” – Master Oogway

0. Why become a trainer and what to do? First please try to answer a few questions for yourself.

“Your real strength comes from being the best you you can be. Who are you? What are you good at? What makes you, you?” – Kung Fu Panda, Poo

In other words, please make sure this is what you want to do and how exactly you want to train people. Bootcamp? Pilates? Yoga? What is your training style going to be? There are a lot of styles around – find the one that suits you. For me it’s mostly body weight exercises, High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT), BootCamp style. Minimum or no equipment, safe and easy to demo, a lot of sweat around. That style secured me an almost flawless transition from offline to online training.

My online personal training introduction video

1. Build up your knowledge base

“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.” – Master Shifu

I believe that certification is the best option. I chose American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). It’s considered the gold standard worldwide and I have a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certificate. The test can be passed online and you can self-study to get ready for it. The other names in the Top-5 are ISSA, NASM, NSCA and ACE, so choose the one you like. There’s a great in-depth article about that. Why did I choose ACSM? The main reason is that it’s focused on corrective exercise, as a lot of people who employ personal trainers have some injuries or medical conditions. Another reason is that ACSM test has the lowest pass rate out of the big 5 which makes it the most difficult. Yes I know there are a lot of personal trainers around without any certification. You just have to realize that your actions as a trainer can injure people. Just to say, even nurses in medical profession have to study at least six years.

2. Practical experience

“Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.” – Kung Fu Panda

Got your certification ready? Time to get some on-hand experience. The best way is to observe people who conduct training based on your chosen style and learn from them. For me the biggest inspiration ever was Sgt. Ken with his Bootcamp Instructor course. Learn to do the right things in a right way. The most important of them? You have to develop the feeling of how much intensity your client can take. That’s a fine balance when too little is not enough to provide a result and too much leads to an injury or over-training.

3. Technical issues

“You must let go of the illusion of control..”- Master Oogway

Which program to choose for your classes? I have tried a number of those over my years of training – Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Cisco WebEx and Zoom. It looks like there’s Zoom and there’s everything else.

Main points to resolve when you do online classes are to have a steady Internet connection, be seen and be heard. Get ready to secure all three and be happy to focus on the class. Otherwise things can and will fail and they always do it in a wrong time.

Me during my online bootcamp

– Internet connection. There’s a great website called Speedtest to check your Internet connection quality. I use a fixed one with the wire going into my house and a spare one. Mobile WiFi, they call it, from a different operator. Any Internet service might have breaks and you want your classes smooth as silk and uninterrupted. If I see my main Internet being unstable, it takes me just a few seconds to switch to the spare. A mobile WiFi works during a blackout as well. Speaking of blackouts, I also keep my laptop plugged in and fully charged. This way I have a full battery all the time and it could last a few hours. A 1-hour Zoom class voraciously eats about 1.2 Gb of traffic. Feel like it’s too much pressure for your Internet connection? Might be a good idea to ask your family or other people living under the same roof as you to refrain from heavy Internet usage during your classes – such as online games, video calls or watching video online.

– Be seen – I use a separate room in my house for classes. If that’s too much, at least get some clean space of 4-6 meters. Great if you can point your laptop’ camera away from the window. This way you can use some natural light when you have it. If you have to point the camera at the window, don’t let your classes turn into fifty shades of whatever and kindly use curtains. The light in the room is important. It should be strong and preferably white. Also, Zoom has a feature of adjusting to low light, which might be useful. Would be great if you can raise your hands overhead without hitting the light and breaking it all over you in the middle of your class. The best place for you to demo exercises is 2 meters from your laptop. I position my laptop at the chest level and adjust the angle to show standing or floor exercises. Just make a habit to check your video before the class – both in standing and floor positions.

– Be heard. The microphone settings are crucial. You need to boost your microphone to the max, both in your system and Zoom (uncheck the auto-adjustment in Zoom). Noise reduction and echo reduction options are also very useful. A Bluetooth headset might be a great help for you to hear and be heard. A big microphone helps as well, just put it somewhere between you and the camera. My son loves to sing into in whenever he can get to it. Always a good idea to test your audio in Zoom before the class starts.

4. Building your client base

“There is no secret ingredient”- Mr. Ping, Po’s father

Ok so you’re ready to train. You know where IT band is located, how to teach people to squat right and have a corner in your house ready to do your classes on the laptop. That’s only half the job, and the easier half. You need clients to be a trainer. Where to get them? The best clients ever come from word of mouth – that is, your happy clients talking about you to other people they know. However, your initial clients might be more challenging to get. Use whatever you can – social media, trainer platforms (anyone actually knows a good one?), physical gyms. Free trial is a must as it allows people to experience your training without any obligation. It’s like a viewing of the house – nobody rents or buys it based on a few photos. However, don’t offer to train people for free. Everyone I know who tried it failed. Once people train with you for a month for free they won’t pay you when you ask for money, regardless of the income group. Also, people tend to only value things they pay for. Remember, you want committed clients who can get results and recommend you further.

5. Do’s and don’ts

“Time is an illusion, there is only the now.” – Master Shifu


– Talk to your family or people you live with to let you work uninterrupted.

– Be there 30 minutes before your class. Have a ritual to check and charge your laptop, Speedtest your Internet connection, light, sound. Make sure everything works instead of hoping it works.

– Have a class plan written on a piece of paper in front of you.

– Focus on the class. People pay for your time and they want your full attention.

– Do a regular voice training (thank you SGT Ken for this one). Say bye to training people if you lose your voice.


 “We do not wash our pits in the pool of sacred tears” – Master Shifu

– Sneezing, coughing, farting sounds are really distracting on a boosted microphone. Learn how to quickly mute your microphone if things are about to happen.

– Yawning – drop it or at least do it when you’re not seen

– Phone checking – let it rest somewhere during the class or at least check it during breaks if you expect something urgent.

Online personal trainer is a powerful profession that helps people. It can be challenging but quite rewarding as well. Good luck to you if you decide to follow that path!

Questions? Feedback? I love to hear from you!

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