As a box owner, you’d probably agree that your trainers have a lot to do with your ability to create a community and retain customers.
In fact, we conducted an interview not too long ago where the operators of a box in a competitive location mentioned that “if you create good community, good community will recruit more good community” that seems to agree with this theory.
One of the interviewees went on further to say that part of this community process had a lot to do with the retention of clients.
While many boxes benefit from the organic growth of their client-base, others have to work a little harder at it. As a gym owner, there are a lot of areas where you can place the business development microscope, but perhaps one of the most overlooked is attracting and maintaining, the best trainers.
Today, we will look at some topics concerning typical gym-trainer relationships, how bigger gyms pay their trainers, how your gym can compete for good trainers, and how good trainers will help you grow your business.
Note: some of the analysis we do concerns standard big box gyms (i.e. non-CrossFit gyms). As these gyms also compete for trainers, it pays to understand how they work too.
Besides having a passion for fitness and helping others achieve their goals, trainers also have passion for one other thing: making money.
This is why, as a gym owner, it pays to understand the options trainers have when it comes to employment and how personal trainer salary can vary from gym-to-gym.
Commercial Gym-employed Trainers
Commercial, or big box, gyms are notorious for providing poor salaries. Part of the reason corporate gyms don’t pay as well as other gyms is because they feed their trainers clients as opposed to gyms who enlist trainers to drum up their own business.
Commercial gyms also W2 their employees, meaning they are part-, or full-time, employees and are not considered independent contractors.
Trainers who are self-employed may have relationships with gyms, but they are not employees like in the above example. These trainers find and maintain their own client-base, and use gyms that allow them to use their facilities for a modest fee.
These trainers are able to set their own rates though, which can be advantageous if they are good at marketing.
This model is a bit of a mix of the above two models as it concerns trainer salaries. The gym has a relationship with the clients as gym members, but contracts with personal trainers to train their clients in their facility.
In this relationship, many times the trainer and gym share a 50/50 split, but there are many variations of this payment program.
Of course, this model is most common to CrossFit and box gyms. The difference, however, is that boxes consist of groups, rather than individuals, like in traditional personal training.
In this setting, it is not uncommon to see the following types of pay structures:
While it can be argued that CrossFit trainers would not be found dead in the corporate gym setting, the challenges bringing home a decent full-time living within a CrossFit gym are very real. While it seems that it is becoming more realistic for non-owner trainers to make a decent living, for many it is still very much a part-time gig.
That said, gym owners who are competing for trainers should understand how they stack up. In a recent study on personal trainer salaries, it was found that at popular gyms like Equinox, entry-level trainers can make $37,335/year and seasoned trainers as much as $158,400/year.
On the other end of the spectrum are the LA Fitness and Planet Fitness-type establishments. These gyms often pay minimum wage for non-training hours and up to $15/hour for higher cost of living areas.
The market you are in is definitely a precursor for how much you should pay your trainers. Based on what we have seen, the per class payment ranges from $15-$45, and it goes without saying that if you are competing for trainers, you’ll want to be aware of what the average going rate is in your locale.
But raising your salary structure shouldn’t be looked at as an expense, it should be viewed as an investment (as we’ll get into below).
In addition to paying trainers a per class rate, many CrossFit gyms are also adding another component to pay that incentivizes trainers to further their education. For example, we saw a Phoenix, AZ gym that paid its trainers an additional $1 per credential on top of the standard per class rate.
So, if a trainer got their level 2 cert, they’d move up a dollar, and if they got a level 5 cert, they could increase their rate as much as $4.
Your gym may also consider further incentivizing trainers to bring in new members by providing them an opportunity to make a commission on the clients’ membership. For example, if a trainer sells a 6-month membership at $150/month, a 10% commission would net them a $90 commission.
As we’ll see below, this helps you compete for trainers but also helps you grow your gym.
Having good trainers at your gym goes back to the first point we made about building a community. If members get acquainted to your gym and build a relationship with it they are more likely to be retained as clients and refer their friends.
Part of this community-building aspect involves having consistency in trainers. If your trainers are incentivized to bring in more business, expand upon their education, and invest in their careers, they will align themselves with your gym for the long-haul and help you to build upon the community.
Of all the various gym-trainer relationships, it can be argued that the non-owner CrossFit trainer gets the shortest end of the stick. As they are usually paid on a per session basis with no other incentives, it can be hard for them to make a decent living.
As pay is the most important precursor to a long working relationship, this factor affects gym-owners too. To combat this identifiable payment gap head-on, gyms can use creative ways to incentive their trainers to both expand their certification levels, invest in themselves, and help build a community simultaneously.
When trainers stick around and become more seasoned the client base benefits. When the client base benefits, organic growth is sure to come.
Eddie Lester is a personal trainer from Los Angeles and the Founder and CEO of Fitness Mentors. With over 10 years experience and 8 different certifications and specializations, as well as multiple years teaching training at a vocational college, Lester loves sharing his knowledge of practical training experience as well as how to study for PT exams. Lester is the author of Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.