While going with an online personal trainer might limit some of the personal touch, it can provide a more affordable, flexible, and convenient fitness option.
If you’re frustrated with slow results from working out or you want to get in better shape but have no idea where to start, a personal trainer can offer accountability, encouragement, and the skills you need to safely reach your fitness goals.
And now, you don’t even have to leave home to take advantage of a trainer’s expertise. As we’ve learned in recent years, many things are doable from your living room, thanks to video conferencing.
When it comes to working out, online personal training can give you flexibility in when and where you work out (and can often save you a few dollars too).
Here’s what you need to know about going with an online personal trainer.
A personal trainer works with you to develop a personalized, comprehensive training plan to help you meet your fitness goals. A good plan comes from assessing your physical capabilities, health history, fitness goals, and workout preferences to best maximize each workout.
Online personal trainers do the same by using video conferences, text, apps, and other online tools rather than meeting in person. They usually offer several levels or packages to give you flexibility based on your goals and budget.
An entry-level training package might include a 60-minute online, real-time assessment and weekly personalized training plans delivered via an app, website, or other means. Most plans also include daily check-ins using messaging, text, or email.
The next training package tier might include everything in the entry-level package plus an additional 30-minute nutrition coaching session (if the trainer offers nutrition coaching) or weekly real-time training sessions with an option to join live online fitness classes led by your trainer.
Online personal trainers often use digital spreadsheets or an app to track workouts and progress. They frequently offer video demonstrations along with your workouts to show correct form.
Some online trainers subscribe to an app where you can log in to access your weekly workouts and get all your instruction in one place. Others meet with their clients via live video conferences and offer real-time feedback. The services a trainer offers and the way you’ll access them vary from trainer to trainer.
Pros of online personal training
- save time by working out at home
- 24/7 virtual/digital access to the trainer
- work out at any time and anywhere
- often more affordable than in-person training
- access to trainers outside your geographical area
- access to specialized trainers
Cons of online personal training
- no in-person training options
- requires internet access
An in-person personal trainer usually works at a gym you have to go to for your training sessions. Some trainers may travel to their clients’ homes or run their business from their own home gym. The differences between online and in-person training are where, when, and how you access your workouts.
Both types of personal trainers offer personalized training plans and may offer additional coaching sessions, an app to track your workouts, and accountability by checking in via text, messaging, or email.
In-person trainers typically develop workouts around the equipment available at their gym, though they may also give you workouts that use equipment you have at home.
Online personal trainers develop all your workouts around the equipment you have access to, whether that’s at home or at a gym. Online personal trainers typically offer more digital or virtual training options, too, like prerecorded fitness classes or real-time live classes that they lead.
In general, online personal trainers cost less because they don’t have as many overhead costs.
Type in “online personal trainer” and thousands of results will pop up, so you’ll need to be more specific than that.
Take the time to define your fitness goals. Do you want to focus on strength training or Olympic lifts? Do you want to train for a half-marathon, or are weight loss and nutrition your focus? Online trainers have various areas of expertise.
Your age, gender, fitness level, and health history can help narrow the search too. For example, people with diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure require special consideration when choosing exercises. Some trainers specialize in prenatal and postnatal fitness, while others focus on power and conditioning.
Once you have an idea of your goals and health considerations, you can look for a trainer with certifications, experience, and specialties that fit your goals. If the trainer you’re considering has a certification you don’t recognize, look it up before moving forward.
Here are a few well-respected and reputable certifications:
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
- National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
If doing an internet search still feels too broad for you, another option is to try fitness apps that connect and sometimes match clients with personal trainers.
Some apps do the matching for you, and others let you pick a trainer based on their profile, which includes their specialties, interests, and training style. The apps also provide a platform for workouts and communication.
Here are some examples of these apps:
- Workout Trainer (a weight training app with the option of hiring an online personal trainer)
Finally, don’t count out word of mouth. If someone you know works with an online trainer they love, look up that trainer. But keep in mind that your friend’s goals may be different from yours, which means their trainer may not be a good fit for you.
In general, you can expect an online personal trainer to cost anywhere from $80 to $250 per month. Online personal trainers typically cost less than an in-person trainer. However, it depends on the individual trainer, their level of experience, and the training package you choose.
At the lower end of that price range, you’ll get a personal training plan with access to your trainer via digital and virtual communication. But you probably won’t get one-on-one virtual training sessions at that price.
At the higher end of the price range, at around $250 per month, you may have a real-time one-on-one training session or access to prerecorded or live fitness classes. You may also receive additional training or nutrition coaching based on your goals.
Here are some nuggets of advice if you fall into one or more of the following groups and are looking for an online trainer:
Women’s bodies are different from men’s and thus require a different approach. A trainer who is a woman can bring personal experience to the training sessions, but trainers of any gender can offer great training for women.
A trainer who specializes in working with women may create training plans based on a woman’s body rather than going with a more generalized approach.
If you’re a competitive athlete — whether high school, collegiate, or professional — you likely want to focus on performance.
Online personal trainers with credentials in exercise science or additional training in conditioning, strength training, or corrective/recovery training are all good options. A trainer who also works as a running or power and conditioning coach can help improve performance too.
If you’re a beginner, you can skip highly specialized (and higher-priced) personal trainers. You don’t need someone who can shave seconds off your 10K time.
A certified online personal trainer who offers general services and tailors your fitness plan to your fitness level can help you make serious gains.
Look for an online personal trainer who has experience working with older adults or specializes in this age group.
Older adults may have medical conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or arthritis that require special consideration. These trainers will likely focus on balance, flexibility, and muscle tone (all areas that deteriorate with age).
Pre- and postnatal people
Your body goes through some serious transformations during and after pregnancy. Online personal trainers who specialize in working with women may offer pre- and postnatal services, or you can find personal trainers who work only with pre- and postnatal people.
When designing workout plans, these trainers consider issues like diastasis recti (a gap in the abs that can result from pregnancy), the physical limitations of a cesarean delivery, and the continued flexibility in the ligaments and joints (thank you, pregnancy hormones).
While teens’ bodies are rapidly changing and developing, it’s still possible to meet some fitness goals in this stage of life.
An online personal trainer who connects with teens and focuses on appreciating the body in a healthy way can do wonders for a teen’s confidence. However, a teen may need to try a few different options before they click with a trainer’s personality and training style.
Online personal trainers can be an affordable, easily accessible option if you want personalized training and prefer a virtual experience. You can train at home or while traveling and get fitness tips and support when you need it.
While they’re not the least expensive way to stay fit, they are one of the most economical options for personalized feedback, encouragement, and coaching.