The Pros and Cons of Online Personal Training/ Fitness Programs

July 20, 2018

Photo credit: (Precision Nutrition


Firstly let me throw a few common scenarios out there for you first!


Client A: In her 50s. She's a really busy professional running her own business. She loves group fitness classes, where she trains with others and is coached. She has even done CrossFit in the past. However, she can't get to the specific times of the classes because of her varied schedule. Sometimes she has to work late or there aren't classes on when she is free. She doesn't go to a commercial gym because she doesn't know what to focus on and she misses the direction from coached classes.  She instead walks a lot, but knows this isn't having the desired impact she would like on her weight/fat loss goals. 


Client B: In her 30s, she's a formerly very active busy Mum with young children, and finds it hard to free up time to get to a gym. She tries to do her own workouts at home but there isn't much structure, direction or consistency. Trying to do something at home is convenient and it feels like this is her only option at the moment. 


Client C: In his 50-60s. He's had a scare from the doctors and has been informed that he's borderline type 2 diabetes and that losing some weight and being active could help avoid the road to medication. He became less and less active as old injuries meant he had to give up a sport that he used to enjoy.  He's never been near a gym, doesn't find them appealing, and wouldn't know where to start with fitness. 


Client D: He's in his 30-40s. He knows how to squat, press and deadlift and is an experienced gym goer with 10+ years of training different regimes of weight training and cardio based exercise. He's got bored of the gym (or routine he's been following). His progress has stagnated and is thinking of leaving the gym as he doesn't think he's getting his money's worth. 


All of them have problems blocking their progress. They also have a potential solution that is probably unexplored by them currently. 


Online personal training or online training programs can provide a great solution to many given the right circumstances. Some don't necessarily need hands on coaching, they just need a program! CAUTION: It's not for everybody though. Let's run through some of the pros and cons. 


You control the schedule


As you don't have to attend a class. You have your workouts sent to your phone/email. Most programs of worth have both a home workout program option as well as a gym option. You have way more flexibility to decide when and how you train. Gone is the rushing across town to get to class or missing out altogether. You can tap into the longer opening times of commercial gyms or do it from the convenience of home when you see fit.


Cost effective


We can't all afford 1-2-1 personal training especially if you want to train multiple times a week. It can be a big cost to absorb. Most online personal training/online programs are significantly cheaper than 1-2-1 personal training. You may find you can easily get one month of online training for the price of a single PT with some trainers. Basically you can make your money go a lot further. 


Trainer Interactions


With online training/programs you can pretty much contact the trainer at any time with the various forms of communications they tend to use. Most will use a training software platform for delivery and communication with clients. You can see what I use below. Call/text/Skype are the most common forms. It's actually possibly more interaction and attention as trainers will be routinely monitoring your progress and checking you are completing workouts through the software. 




Professional at your fingertips


Working with an online trainer means you can work with anyone. They don't have to be in the same city as you. Hell they don't even need to be in the same country if they work with international clients. You have a broad scope to shop around and find the trainer that suits your fitness goals and needs. That could be anything from Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, body transformations, CrossFit Individual Programming, Olympic Weightlifting, Physio Rehab, Gymnastics. The options are endless. 




Online training definitely needs more individual motivation and accountability but you are merely a click or a message away from your trainer. Plus your trainer, if of any note, will be periodically checking in to ensure you are doing the training. Excuses...not any more haha.




With the format being online things are trackable for you. A lot of the platforms used will allow you to go back and check weights/reps you've done before. They'll also tell you whether you've hit a personal best for example. If your body stats are incorporated you can even get graphs showing your weight and body fat percentage over time.


Now for the possible cons......




This is the main concern for both prospective clients and trainers themselves as to whether they want to offer it. Some people are, shall we say, a little clumsy, have poor body awareness and control. Or they can be just plain forgetful about things they've actually done before in the gym. They may not be independent enough to select appropriate weights. They may constantly second guess themselves as to whether they are doing something right or if something is heavy/light enough. They may not be familiar with all the movements in the program and struggle to execute exercises just from written instructions and video demos. Knowing how something should 'feel' and some understanding of muscle groups really should be there.


Technique Checking


Your trainer won't be there to see how you move or spot you with heavy loads. This could lead to potential injury particularly for the reasons mentioned above. It can possibly be remedied if your trainer addresses things with video assessment depending on the complexity of the issues at hand. Some trainers will use video going over faults and corrections. Some may not give this option as the program may specifically say it is for you to be able to work independently. Plus it could be very time consuming in the online format and effect the time given and overall experience given to other clients. 


Poor Motivation


Some people only respond to in person motivation from a trainer. They may prefer in person coaching and more hands on direction. Online training is really for people who are already highly motivated to follow a program and are a seasoned gym goer (unless they offer a program that is aimed at de-conditioned/new I offer haha).


Final thoughts.....

Online personal training/programs can seriously work for a lot of people. You'll find rafts of transformations and testimonials to prove that fact. 


It's possibly a temporary solution for you. Let's say you get injured and you are limited in doing your usual group fitness class. Maybe you need a rehab program or something tailored to work around the injury. Maybe the gym where you are at doesn't have the space for you to do an alternative program whilst classes are running?


Maybe it does but your trainer/coach doesn't have the time to write you a heavily modified program as they have their hands full with their group classes and standard PT clients?


When clients who are usually part of a large group class format have a lot of modifications sometimes scaling down just isn't an option (multiple injuries to work round). When that occurs one of two things happen.

A) The trainer(s) tries to accommodate you as best they can and this drains a lot of their time and energy around their usual duties (explaining programming/demoing/correcting).

B) Or the client has to fend for themselves doing their own limited workouts/rehab in or outside of the gym. The location depending on space/classes/opening times.  The dynamic changes and coaches can't always give the attention you'd like (danger of turning into personal training -but not paying for PT) They may only be able to touch base to see how you are getting on and its sometimes easy to feel like you're not part of the gang and people can sometimes ebb away and leave.



Online personal training/fitness programs are not for you if you struggle training on your own or if you need a lot of hand holding with your exercises.

You  should be familiar with a broad base of common exercises both bodyweight and weighted for most programs. Look to ensure you know all about any program you are looking at before committing. Expectations and what level of experience is required should be stated by quality trainers, and they should be able to map out for you its structure.


If you'd like to know more about the online programs I offer, check out the services page on the website, or email me to get further details.  






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