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by Casey McIlvaine

Becoming a successful personal trainer starts with defining your market and niche, which become the cornerstone of a defined personal brand that enables you to build your business. For our purposes, market and niche are interchangeable terms. They define the subset of people with particular needs where the personal trainer has developed particular skills that allow them to address those specific needs in health and fitness.

While it can be manageable to have more than one niche, it’s best to go with a limit of two. Choosing them carefully will allow you to stand out from the crowd and define your personal brand, which we define as your image, or more specifically, the things that you stand for and the set of values that you apply to working within your niche.

Consequently, defining these things starts with understanding who you want to work with so that you can avoid having a poor fit with potential clients. The right “fit” between you and your clients is important because it will shape their potential results derived from working with you.

That is why a poor fit will negatively impact client retention, which in turn will damage your professional reputation in the long run. Now that we have an understanding of the importance of defining your niche or market, let’s look at some of the predominant choices that are available.



While working with children on health and fitness can be a great deal of fun, it requires an understanding of their level of physical development as well as age appropriate exercises. If they are very young, the exercises and fitness routines are likely to be structured more like games. If you choose to work with special populations such as children with obesity challenges, an understanding of childhood physiology and nutrition is imperative.

As with every niche, working with children requires a special temperament that is long on patience and a happy encouraging disposition that gently motivates them. This is in contrast to working with adults where a more driven approach to interaction and goal achievement can be applied as motivation.



Most personal trainers will start their careers with fairly healthy adults that either want to get in better shape or lose weight. As the easiest group to work with, most nationally recognized certifications are geared to providing the skills that you will need to effectively create fitness programs for this group as well as how to motivate and monitor their progress.

Since they are the easiest group to work with they define the niche with the most competition from other personal trainers. Further refinement of specialization within this niche can help you differentiate yourself from competitors. This can come in the form of specific nutrition approaches, special populations such as those with diabetes, post-injury strength training and a variety of group personal training niches like Zumba, yoga, spin training and more.

Baby Boomers/Seniors


With 78 million people born between 1946 and 1963 (approximately 50 to 70 years of age) baby boomers and seniors control $2.1 trillion in disposable income and spend more of that money on health care than on any other item. This huge and growing niche is attempting to live a healthier lifestyle as they age, remain active and avoid or manage chronic illnesses.

While they represent a loyal and financially viable market, they require programs that are appropriate for a wide variety of different health conditions and health levels. This means having a solid understanding of the predominant health issues of the group as well as mastery of the techniques that work best in arresting or reversing them.

Pregnant Women


Working with pregnant women requires an understanding of the different stages of pregnancy as well as specific exercises and techniques that are safe and geared to each stage. Most exercise regimens are designed to alleviate pains and discomfort of pregnancy as well as increase flexibility in order to reduce labor pains.



Being a personal trainer for athletes is a broad category that encompasses high school and amateur athletes as well as college level and even pro athletes in dozens of sports. While it is possible to become a generalist in terms of different sports when working with high school and amateur level athletes, college level and pros require specific understanding and training as it relates to the specific sport. Although there are instances where specialized certifications can be enough to work with many of these athletes, pros are often looking for a personal trainer with an advanced degree.

Certifications (and in some cases like professional athletes, advanced degrees) are a necessity to setting yourself apart to appeal to specific niches. In order to choose the best certifications that will help define your niche, you must begin by identifying who you are, what you do, and how you’re different so that you can recognize your particular strengths.

For instance, coaching groups requires multi-tasking skills that are not inherent to everyone while working with kids requires a specific temperament and personality approach. Each area of training requires a specific skill set to excel. By recognizing your strengths, you put yourself in the best possible position when deciding on your niche.

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