Hiring a Personal Trainer: Girls vs. Boys

workout trainer

Even the apps understand that some people prefer to work out with a male or female trainer.

Man or woman? Which is right for you? The decision to hire a personal trainer in the first place may seem easy by comparison. All that requires is simply finding a professional who knows their way around a gym, who can save you time, and keep you safe by picking smart, effective exercises to whittle your waist and sculpt your bum. But will you get a better experience from being trained by someone of the same or opposite sex? And does it even matter?

A Fitness Industry Dirty Little Secret

Here's the deal. The majority of health club memberships are sold to women (about 60%) and 55% of personal training clients are 45 years or older. This means there's a volume of middle aged and older women who are primarily beginner and intermediate exercisers.  They are interested in hiring someone who makes sure they're doing the right things. (By the way, I did quite a bit of online research and couldn't find any statistics for percentage of women that train with men.) At least anecdotally it seems that these women prefer to hire men. I own a Pilates studio and I've seen it first hand. A great, talented female trainer will get passed over by a client for a not-as-well-trained male staff member. I've seen the same in health clubs too. The gym I previously had a relationship with shied away from hiring female trainers; they preferred hiring men because they "made more money" for the bottom line. In my research I found a blog post by Jonathan Goodman, a trainer in Canada, who suggested that female trainers don't do as well as their male counterparts because the women are primarily "cardio bunnies."  After my initial urge to leave a snotty comment abated, I took a deep breath and realized I agree with him, but only up to a certain point. I'd harbor a guess that a lot of female trainers consider their work more of a part-time gig while many male trainers think of this as their career. While I definitely view Pilates as my full-time career, I'd bet most of my instructors don't.  That said, we each have completed a 500-hour certification program, so that tends to weed out the casual attitudes. A personal trainer can get certified in a weekend. I did get one response from a Facebook post that hadn't occurred to me.  One person preferred working with guys because they didn't want a female trainer with a great body next to them.  "It's easier to compare your physique to a girl and come up short and frustrated," she said.  I literally did a face/palm moment.  I've had people tell me over the years they like to train with me because I have a "real body" they can relate to.  (Which I guess is a back-handed compliment ... heh.)

Why are Male Personal Trainers Better?

Well the first thing is they're not better, they're just more popular.  In a vanity industry like fitness a guy with a V cut is a lot easier to spot than a girl with six pack abs (for the most part, trainers are trapped in baggy golf shirts, it can be tough to tell).  Also keep in mind there is a range of ideals for the feminine body.  Some like to look very strong like the CrossFit folks and some prefer more svelte lines like a Pilates or Yoga body.  Guys though, it's pretty much a V cut and six pack abs, some guns peeping out from that golf shift and you're ready to go. I'm also going to be so bold as to say flirting counts.  Yep, a compliment from a male trainer comes across differently than a compliment from a female trainer and honestly, quite a few of the clients like that.  I'm not saying guys making crass comments to women, I'm not saying there's anything inappropriate going on at ALL ... but I do think getting a compliment from a guy can help with motivation and with client retention and the good male trainers learn that pretty quickly and use it to their advantage.  Heck, I would if I was a guy.

Should You Hire a Male or Female Trainer?

Who should you hire to work with you?  Well ask yourself the following questions.  What is my ultimate fitness goal?  What type of trainer will best help me get there?  What are my weaknesses when it comes to sticking with an exercise plan?  What type of trainer will keep me motivated to succeed?  Write this all out and then look for someone with credentials that match your needs first, then when you get your trainers narrowed down to a handful of people see who appeals to you most and try that person. Remember, hiring a trainer doesn't have to be a long term commitment.  Feel free to try a few people out and see who you work with best.  You might be surprised at who you connect with. Have you worked with personal trainers before?  Have you worked better with a man or a woman?  Do you think a bit of sexual tension is a good thing? I can't wait to hear what you have to say. Cheers, Lisa

photo credit: Maria Ly


About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.


25 Responses to Hiring a Personal Trainer: Girls vs. Boys

  1. Tammy November 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    I actually prefer female trainers. While I realize my sample size is small, I’ve been injured each of the three times I’ve worked with male trainers (different one each time). I am used to pushing myself hard. I go to a trainer to learn a new routine, not to have them bully me into doing more than I know my body can do. Women have respected my boundaries.

  2. curlsz November 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    I prefer female trainers as well, ironically the gym I’m at now assigned me a male trainer – nice guy but good grief I must be boring because he kept looking around the room every 5 minutes. When I asked about the female trainers she said most of them were part time and taught most of the classes – aha well I guess that’s why wandering eyes gets all the clients.

  3. Meg (@LadyMegSoprano) November 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I’ve had four trainers–three were male, one female. The two best trainers were two of the men. The woman did not hold me to my end of things as two of the men did. She let me get away with not running, eating poorly, etc. This is, of course, her personality. I’ve seen women trainers at my new gym who don’t let clients slack. In my own personal experience, however, I have had more success with the men.

  4. Lisa Johnson November 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    really interesting comments here and of course, in the end it’s a highly subjective choice between who you find to train you and a whole bunch of other reasons … L–

  5. Minh November 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I’m a very in-shape male who’s had 4 personal trainers in 10 years, using each about 2 months for a refresher/new exercises. I was biased towards male trainers at first but actually learned more from the females…rounded out my “routine” better. Maybe it’s the same reason why females usually make better managers: they listen better.

  6. Fern @sitbones November 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Had a lady trainer at 24 Hour Fitness. She was the only one who had experience working with the older clients. All the men and women over 60 used her. She had great knowledge about resting muscle groups between sessions. I was always amazed how many personal trainers I saw at the gym “looking around” instead of watching their clients. Even saw trainers talking on their cell phones during a session.

    Unfortunately, she left the gym so I dropped using a trainer. Now, I just do pilates twice a week but am so fortunate that my pilates teacher is a physical therapist. Since I am now in my 70’s, she knows exactly how to modify any exercise for me. I am in the perfect situation for me at this point in my life.

  7. Lisa Johnson November 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Fern that sounds awesome that you’ve found such a great person that you click with and that *takes care of you!* … Minh, I think men maybe have a little bit of a tendency to train what they see in the mirror. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people over train the front delts and chest and not do too much on the backside … I think women look a bit more for balance all around …

  8. KellyJMF November 2, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I’ve tried a few trainers and of my two favorites one is male (my current one) and the other is female (you-how I wish you were still nearby!). Both of you push me to make the most of my time, give me tons of useful praise, and have a great sense of humor that matches mine (I can’t work with a trainer who doesn’t laugh with me). For me, the emotional connection is necessary to motivate me to stick with it and keep showing up, even on days when I don’t have a session.

  9. Lisa Johnson November 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    awwwh, thanks Kelly! :-) I wish you lived nearby too. L–

  10. Sonia Simone November 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    My trainer is a woman and basically I hope she keeps training until we’re both 100. She is fantastic — incredibly knowledgeable and very strong.

    She’s one of 4 women in the world who have completed the Iron Maiden challenge at RKC — not exactly a “cardio bunny.”

    I don’t have any terribly logical reason, but all things being equal (which of course they never are) I would choose a woman trainer over a man.

  11. Jo January 22, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Thank you for this article. i was kioking fir sinething tgat eould tell me Its not me; its society!

    I’m a 10 year veteran female trainer and I can tell you this, women trainers get taken seriously waaaaaaaayyy less than male trainers. With the exception of female boxing coaches & bidybuilders. I’m considered a chipper personality with a hardcore training style. I’m ex military and a Marine brat. My cute & flirty smile has been my biggest liability in this industry. I normally have a hard, bikini competition body but decided to gain wait to seem less intimidating to women, only to learn that white women & Asians are still intimidated, but young to middle aged Latinas and black women love my body and will hire .. But where are they? I am now a curvy 160 lbs!!!!

    Men on the other hand just don’t see potential in me. Oddly, I am college degrees with the ultimate certification for training, the ACSM-HFI! I do bootcamps & obstacle courses for my fitness!

    My Bootcamp mentor told me when I was in training, that female Bootcamp instructors have to learn to be more masculine, because men don’t take girlie instructors seriously and women get jealous! And your classes never fill up. That’s exactly what has happened to me in the industry.

    I am very close to calling it quits. Why love to help people, when people are so prejudgemental & sexist!!!!

  12. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Jo, I was where you’re at now. I gave myself one more month to finally start making money (it was a February) and I did. Barely. I stayed in and flourished when I opened my own training space. I found the more you put the “true you” out there, you’ll attract those that resonate with who you are. Those clients are the best and will stay with you for literally years. Take a look at the message you’re putting out and see if that truly jibes with who you are as a person. And good luck, I know it’s tough! L–

  13. ann February 6, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    i was asked if i wanted a female or male personal trainer.. (in my mind i was egging for a female PT because of the fact i will feel more comfortable around her,not having to worry about sweating a ton) but i didnt want to feel bad so i said “any”….and behold i was given a male personal trainer, and i wanted to run a mile haha. I was thinking why train me?? this little thing, who was trying to get back into fitness mode working along side a hulk like figure, in all honesty the first time we met he was really friendly it took the nerves away but the initial training that followed was hell….on the body!!!

    many months on,where some sessions/days are harder than the other, i cannot thank him enough for transforming me – what was all about how I looked im the beginning, now came a second distance to how i felt: I have never felt so confident in myself (hate to admit it). Sports and exercise was never a problem until injury after injury took over me, and i was pretty much in a rut and i needed a booster, and joining a gym was one move,but the next biggest step was getting a PT, and admitting i needed help – and i think luck played its role and i was given him. Some people may not see the purpose of spending money on one, but its money well worth it when you know its having a benefit to one self.

    I have smashed personal bests, did exercises i never thought possible – clean and press?!?girls can do it too!! and had some laughs and moaning along the way. Im in much better shape now then ive ever been, and even though we see each other 1-2 times a week, its given me the motivation to push myself alone on other days when i train without him. Sometimes i think he forgets that im a girl with some of the exercises and weights he has me lifting! but i guess if someone has that much confidence in you, than thats all it matters. Ive seen female pt training their clients – and i must admit they may not be for me after what mine puts me through,but then again….everyone has different goals!


  14. Lisa Johnson February 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Ann, that’s so awesome to hear your story! Thanks so much for sharing. :-)

  15. april June 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Just found this article… I’m also a trainer and FEEl this exact same way. One gym I worked at, the male pt’s were complaining about their female clients calling them at all hours of the night.

    what? To talk about fitness? That never happened with me.

    Well, find out that a few of my male pt’s were heavily flirting with their female clientele. At another gym I work at I saw one male trainer touch his female client’s glutes in a not so professional manner…and she seemed to LIKE it. A few hours later he did the same thing with another client…

  16. Lisa Johnson June 5, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    eewwwhhh! April that is so gross and that trainer should be fired not compensated for it. Geez!

  17. EnduringSpeed December 4, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    on the contrary i am suffering because I am a male trainer in business for myself and I am finding it so hard to pick up clients. I notice when a female answer the phone they response is favorable but they find every excuse not to come back or to inquire further when they find out that I am male black and have an accent.

  18. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    I’m sorry that you’re having that experience, I’ve definitely seen the opposite over the past 16 years in the industry … maybe your gym is a little more girl-centered? Perhaps a change of venue.

  19. Christie March 16, 2014 at 4:02 am #

    I love male personal trainers! I’ve had 2x male PTs and 2x one of sessions with chicks. The guys seem to push me more and don’t take my excuses haha where as on both occasions the girls let me stop and take huge breaks. With similar lines of its ok, your doing a great job baby steps etc ( I always test my boundaries and what the PT will do with me on my first session). I get PT session’s because I need to be pushed past my boundaries, I’m not the best self motivator in terms of exercise so its fantastic to have someone telling me what to do, how to do it and to give me a kick up the bum when I’m not performing! My current PT is amazing! When its our session’s he’s 100% involved ( no eyes wondering, cell phone breaks etc) and when he happens to be at the gym the same time as me for other things he always comes up to talk and give me tips or advice :)

  20. Abigail Garcia March 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    For me, there is no such thing as a better sex when it comes to trainers because of the many variables you should look at like their attitude towards work and their students and how they put their lessons into practice. I’ve had many experiences of meeting dbag (pardon for the word) male trainers.

  21. rose January 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    I hired a female personal trainer. My husband would not be ok with a male trainer. I was new to exercising at a gym and thanks to her I know what I need to do now. She knows her stuff, is professional, and I wish I could afford more than the amount I signed up for.

  22. MaryS April 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    I hired a male personal trainer at the beginning of October, 2014. When I went to the gym to sign up and inquired about PT, the fitness director suggested this male trainer. I said, “OK!” I signed up for a whole year.

    It has been so great. He is very knowledgeable and professional; he has taught me so many different exercises, but most importantly, he’s helped me develop confidence in myself. There’s no way I would have come to the gym on my own and started using the squat rack or any of the free weights without having prior knowledge. I would have only done the treadmill and maybe a few of the machines. I was so intimidated about everything before my PT.

    Another thing that we’ve been doing during training sessions is MMA. I LOVE IT. It is so much fun; either that, or I have a lot of rage. LOL

    I can’t imagine having a female trainer after working with and getting to know my current trainer. To each her own!

  23. Simply June 7, 2016 at 4:49 am #

    I am also a female trainer.. But now a days people are more into gym n gym people need a male persona.,
    If any one need a female personal trainer ping me..!!
    Stay fit??

  24. Manoj rana November 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    I want trainers for my gym in name of blue rock in delhi
    High salary above 25000

  25. Srinivas February 21, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    I want a female trainer for relationship

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