Starting Strong: The Advantages of Beginning Your Personal Training Career in a Big Box Gym

Posted by Nate Miller on 20th Aug 2023

Starting Strong: The Advantages of Beginning Your Personal Training Career in a Big Box Gym

When starting out in the world of personal training, the initial choices can be overwhelming. You might be tempted to jump straight into private studios, specialized niches, or even launching an online platform. But there’s a time-tested venue that can offer myriad benefits to budding personal trainers: the big box gym. Here’s why starting your personal training journey in such a setting might just be the best first step.

When I first broke into training I was thankful to have plenty of opportunities to explore and make plenty of mistakes. Pictured above is the actual Bally Total Fitness I started at, Webster and Clybourne in Chicago.  I learned a ton, mainly because it was a sink or swim situation.  "Go out there and find some clients," was my orientation and I remember my second day going in and thinking to myself, "what the fuck am I doing here?"  I nearly had a panic attack.  

Training in a big box gym is being a stage performer.  Every member is looking at you to see what you do as a trainer.  No one wants to be the first to try a new trainer and a trainer without clients is assumed, by the members, that there is something wrong with that trainer.  Body language, attentiveness, exercise selection, and results are all being evaluated by potential clients.

1. Exposure to a Diverse Clientele
Big box gyms are a melting pot of individuals with varying fitness levels, goals, ages, and backgrounds. This exposure is invaluable. As a novice trainer, you'll quickly learn to adapt to different requirements, from weight loss aspirations and bodybuilding goals to functional fitness needs and rehab-oriented exercises.

Moreover, by working with a diverse range of clients, you can more easily discover which client demographics resonate most with your style and passion. Maybe you're drawn to senior fitness, or perhaps the high-intensity world of young athletes appeals to you. Only by interacting with all these groups can you truly pinpoint where your passions lie.

2. A Ready Stream of Potential Clients
One of the biggest challenges for new trainers is finding and retaining clients. Big box gyms usually come with a built-in stream of potential clientele. This means you can focus on refining your training techniques and client relationship skills without the constant stress of finding the next client.

Furthermore, this environment allows for real-world practice of 'soft skills' like sales techniques, consultation tactics, and relationship-building strategies that are crucial for a successful personal training career.

3. A Wealth of Learning Opportunities
Starting in a big box gym can be like enrolling in a post-certification school. While personal training certifications provide a solid foundation, there’s a vast world of knowledge beyond that. In such gyms, you'll likely encounter seasoned trainers with years, sometimes decades, of experience under their belts. These individuals can be a treasure trove of insights, techniques, and tips.

Many big gyms also provide access to workshops, courses, and other continuous learning opportunities. They may bring in specialists for workshops or offer discounts on external courses. This ongoing education can be pivotal in differentiating yourself in a crowded market.


While the lure of specialty training or starting solo might be tempting, remember that a strong foundation can set the stage for long-term success. Big box gyms offer new trainers a chance to learn, grow, and understand the industry's intricacies in a supportive, varied, and opportunity-rich environment. And who knows? Once you've gained that experience, the sky's the limit in how you choose to shape your personal training journey.