If you're thinking about starting personal training sessions, you'll almost certainly want to know what kind of commitment you're making before you sign up. How many sessions exactly should you be aiming for each week?
Depending on what you read online, you'll see all kinds of recommendations - some saying once a week, others suggesting five times a week. In reality, it's not quite as simple as picking a figure, as everyone's circumstances are different.
In this guide, we'll help you understand how many PT sessions are going to be right for you. We'll talk about how certain factors will help you decide, including:
- Your current level of fitness and gym experience
- The goals you're hoping to get from a physical fitness routine
- Lifestyle considerations to think about
- How online personal training might help
In a nutshell
For people new to personal training, 2-4 sessions per week will help you kick-start your fitness journey and create amazing results. For people with a good level of current fitness, 1-2 sessions a week will support your efforts elsewhere. For highly-fit people, 1 session a week is likely to be enough to complement your regime.
There are other important things to factor into too. Think about the results you're looking for, your finances, levels of motivation, and how personal training will practically fit into your week.
Your starting skill and fitness level matters
Firstly, it's important to understand that not everyone who's thinking about hiring a personal trainer is starting from the same place. As such, personal trainers are likely to make different recommendations based on your unique circumstances.
Take a look at how many sessions might differ based on whether you're a gym newbie, someone with some fitness history, or someone with lots of health and fitness experience under their belt.
If you're new to fitness or returning after a long time away, it's a good idea to start working towards your fitness goals fairly frequently. If you feel like you fit into this category, we'd usually recommend 2-4 personal training sessions per week, ideally for the first 6 weeks.
This many sessions is a perfect place to start for a number of reasons.
Reason 1. Getting to know you
This number of sessions gives your personal trainer chance to really assess your development and see how your body responds to the workout routine that's been put together.
Reason 2. Programming your body & brain
2-4 personal training sessions a week really helps your body get used to what you're asking of it. You may have heard of the term 'muscle memory' - it's your body and brain's way of committing certain movements to your subconscious. Muscle memory is very powerful - so you don't want to be making any mistakes at this early stage.
Frequently working with a professional trainer at this early stage helps you slip into good gym habits and develop 'proper form' - the right way of moving and lifting weights when you work out.
Reason 3. Frequent check-ins and accountability
There's a lot to be said for accountability when you're aiming to lose weight, get fit or work towards other fitness goals. Your personal trainer is a great accountability partner who can chat with you about any lifestyle tweaks you're making outside of the studio.
They may even suggest monitoring things like your nutrition, stress levels and sleep routine. This helps you both to build a picture of your overall health and understand where little adjustments can be made to support your fitness journey.
Reason 4. Building the habit
No matter what you read elsewhere about "no pain, no gain!" - fitness is really just a series of good habits that are done again and again.
The great thing about habits is that really putting one in place helps you to build others around it. We can't stop you from hitting JustEat when you get home from work - but we can show you what incredible progress you can make in a short time frame. When this habit of 2-4 personal training sessions becomes just another part of your week, you'll be amazed to see how other positive health habits start to fall into place.
So, how often should you work with a personal trainer if you consider yourself more skilled than a gym newbie?
Chances are, as someone with gym and fitness experience, you probably have many of the basics mastered. This means you can effectively work out elsewhere without worrying too much about slipping into poor form or not fully understanding what your body responds to.
If you feel like you're in this category, we'd perhaps recommend a training schedule that includes 1-2 personal training sessions per week. Again, sticking to this for 6 weeks is a great way to build the habit and see how your body is responding.
In many cases, people who have some fitness industry knowledge can find themselves stuck in a rut. You may have plateaued with your results and be keen to get some additional input from a specialist. If this sounds familiar, it's probably a good idea to talk to a specialist personal trainer who can help you push through - perhaps with some dedicated strength training, a focus on mobility, or even adding principles from another discipline - such as Pilates.
At the end of your first six weeks of PT once or twice a week, you'll get a real feel for the difference personal training is making. You can then decide if you'd like to take this knowledge to your own workouts - or stick with the in-studio training sessions.
We've covered how many sessions you might book with a personal trainer if you're a gym newbie or someone coming back to the gym - but what happens if you're an athlete or someone who considers themselves a fitness expert?
In this kind of situation, a personal trainer takes on a slightly different role. They'll help you delve deeper into your physique, making it easy to understand, monitor and develop more specific areas of fitness. This might include focusing on creating a truly balanced physique, looking carefully at dominant and non-dominant muscle groups, for example.
If you're an athlete or sportsperson, a good personal trainer will be able to work alongside the input you have from other coaching professionals, making sure you're always working towards the most appropriate goal.
In these kinds of situations, it's probably only necessary to have one session per week. Again, that's not to say you couldn't do more - but chances are, you're working out a lot elsewhere, so personal training will help you hit certain goals or overcome specific hurdles around your other training sessions.
What are your goals?
So far, we've talked about your current level of fitness and gym-related skill when it comes to deciding how many personal training sessions would be effective each week. While these are the first things to think about - you should also think about your goals.
Some goals are fairly short-term - like getting trim for an upcoming wedding or losing a few pounds for a bit of extra confidence when you go on holiday. Other goals are longer-term, such as losing significant amounts of weight, adding a lot of muscle, or training for an especially challenging event.
We'll take a look at some examples of shorter and longer-term goals and how many weekly sessions with a personal trainer will help you take meaningful steps towards those goals.
Training for weight/fat loss
Lots of people turn to a personal trainer to help them lose weight - or, more accurately, to bring their body fat percentage down.
Losing body fat can potentially be a short-term or long-term goal, depending on your goal weight.
If you're keen to move a few pounds quickly, this would be a short-term goal. For example, if you wanted to lose around 14 lbs (1 stone or around 6.5 kg), you're probably going to benefit from frequent personal training sessions supported by some small lifestyle changes. In this case, aiming for around 3-4 sessions each week would be a good idea.
On the other hand, a longer-term goal would be losing 20 lbs (1.5 stone or around 9 kg) or more. If this is the case, you're likely to be better and longer-lasting results if you commit to 2-3 personal training sessions a week over a longer period. This helps to build lasting habits around exercise and weight loss that will stick with you for the time needed to see the results you want.
Gaining lean muscle
No matter what you see elsewhere online, the kind of body transformations that have people going from overweight to 'ripped' in a matter of weeks are either A: outright make-believe, or B: extremely damaging to long-term health and involving some very dubious 'supplements'.
In the real world, getting visible abs, impressive arms, or a muscular chest is a slow process that involves stacking up a lot of positive habits in the longer term.
If adding lean muscle is your goal, a good personal trainer will be talking about months of training rather than weeks. Because of this, 2-3 personal training sessions is a great way to go - rather than committing to more and dropping out when you don't see big changes in 3-4 weeks.
That's not to say you won't see results in the first few weeks. If you're jumping into muscle building or strength training from a low level of fitness, you'll be surprised at how much you can do in the first 6 weeks. However, changing your body shape significantly is something you'll need to work at consistently for the best results.
Training for an event
Events come in all shapes and sizes. Some people are training for a one-off short charity run, whereas some people want to run a series of marathons or take part in competitive body-building or combat sports.
The time you've got before your event will go a long way to dictating how many personal training sessions will be appropriate. If it's coming up soon, say within 2-3 months, your PT might suggest an intense few weeks (perhaps 3-4 sessions per week) supplementing with lots of high-quality rest and excellent nutrition.
On the other hand, if you've got your eyes on running a marathon or taking part in a big event in a year or so, you might benefit more from 1-2 sessions a week over this longer period.
There are LOTS of variables to consider here - so this is just a rough guide and not a replacement for a chat with a PT who understands you and your goals. However, like you'll read throughout this guide, building longer-term habits will always create greater levels of fitness than shorter bursts of personal training that you stop after your event is done.
What else should you factor into your decision?
So far, we've talked about your levels of experience and any goals you might have. While it would be nice to just tick these boxes and choose a number of sessions based on these factors, we know there are plenty of other things that will dictate how much time you can spend getting fit!
Your financial situation
As with most things in life, it's always a good idea to make sure personal training fits with any spending budget you might have. Ultimately, you don't want your PT sessions to create any financial hardship.
So, it's important to factor in finances. If you think that the recommended number of sessions is going to stretch your disposable income a little too much, chat with your personal trainer about this and see what they suggest. They might suggest fewer sessions and offer some ideas about how to work out between those sessions.
It's worth mentioning that, as humans, we tend to take things more seriously if we're paying a noticeable amount of money for them. Millions of people have signed up for cheap gym memberships only to go a handful of times before cancelling the direct debit a year later. Personal training is different though. Each visit to the studio costs a fixed amount, so you'll be far less tempted to skip a session and let the habits you're creating fall by the wayside.
How motivated you are
For the overwhelming majority of people, motivation to work out is not something that comes naturally. If you've found that you've tried a few fitness fads in the past, but they didn't stick, committing to frequent personal training sessions can be hugely helpful.
People misunderstand motivation. Sure, there are people who jump out of bed every morning and head straight to the gym - but there aren't workout superheroes, they're normal people - exactly the same as you - who've got into super-helpful habits around fitness.
Motivation is something that's built. Sometimes, life sends big building blocks our way - perhaps with a health scare or an upcoming event you want to look your best for. In other cases, we need to carve out the building blocks ourselves in the form of habits - and this is something a great personal trainer will be a huge help with.
If you struggle with motivation at the moment, talk to your personal trainer about this when you have a consultation. If you think it would be a good idea to add another training session to your week to help cement the fitness habit, they'll be able to tell you whether this is feasible for you.
Either way, it's important not to underestimate how important building the habit of fitness can be. The right personal trainer will help you work towards achievable goals and celebrate every step you take on your journey. Before you know it, these small habits and small steps you achieve will add up to monumental changes.
How a personal training session will fit into your day
From a logistical point of view, personal training does need to fit into your day. If you're already committed to a long workday, a busy social life, or the pressures of family life, this can sometimes make fitting in the recommended number of PT sessions a little tricky.
So, what should you do?
If you're motivated by a weight loss target or another fitness goal, we'd encourage you to try your best to find an hour to make your PT sessions happen and see how this creates time elsewhere. This might sound like we're trying to get you to train no matter what - but actually, many personal training clients find that some strength and cardiovascular exercise actually inspires noticeable changes in other parts of life.
Even basic exercises are proven to seriously enhance your levels of focus, elevate your mood, and support positive habit-building. In fact, you're likely to find that getting a little fitter does as much for your mental well-being as it does for what you see in the mirror.
With greater focus when you're at work and a more relaxed mind when you're at home or spending time with friends, you'll often find that exercise effectively creates time for itself.
Of course, there are some days when you barely have time to take a bathroom break - and if that feels like it's common for you, our next point might be helpful...
Would online personal training help?
It's not always practical to get to our personal training studios - so we've done everything possible to give you the Fitness Lab experience at home, in your hotel, or even on a sunny beach (if you want to keep up with your personal training program when you're away on holiday!)
To make this possible, we created the Fitness Lab app - so you can get hit your recommended number of personal training sessions, whatever your circumstances.
It's worth mentioning that not all personal training studios offer this kind of in-depth online training. Therefore, you might want to make this a talking point with different studios if you're exploring different trainers or companies.
So, how does online training work? Well, we start with a consultation, and then we put together a program that can be carried out wherever you are with guidance from our app. If you have access to some gym equipment, we can factor this in - but more often than not, we design highly effective bespoke programs that are designed to use your body weight to burn fat and build muscle.
We'll make some recommendations about frequency and times to train - but these aren't set in stone like an in-studio session would be. This makes online personal training perfect if you could do with a little flexibility to fit your sessions into your week!
I want to do more! Can I speed the process up?!
If we recommend a number of sessions, it might feel like we're putting a cap on the amount of effort you can make to move towards your goals. Don't worry though, this is definitely not the case!
Too much exercise can be counterproductive. So, there's no ethical and responsible personal trainer who should ever say that the typical person needs to work out twice a day, seven days a week. This is because most of the changes you'll see in your body actually happen outside the gym as your body recovers from the workout you've done.
Therefore, the number of sessions you do might be capped - but you can seriously amplify the results you see by being mindful of your diet, getting enough high-quality rest, and taking part in some low-intensity exercise between sessions to support your recovery.
The changes you make to your diet will all depend on your goals - just like the changes you make to the rest you get will depend on your circumstances. A good personal trainer will be able to talk you through all of these factors in detail and then put together some recommendations that will support your goals. All these factors can seriously improve the results you see - so if you're keen to see changes, there's virtually no end of things you can do!
How often should you train with a personal trainer: Conclusion
Don't worry if you've skipped to the end for the TL;DR version! Here are the key takeaways.
The number of personal training sessions that's right for you will depend on your current level of fitness. If you're new to personal training, 3-4 sessions per week is a great basis to start from. If you're already a fitness fan but want to take your training to the next level, then 1-2 sessions a week, supported by what you do elsewhere, is likely to be right for you. If you're very fit or an athlete/sportsperson, then 1 personal training session a week is likely to be enough to supplement your intense training.
There are other factors to consider though. The right personal trainer will talk to you about what your goals are and other practical life factors to keep in mind. They'll also talk you through how to support your work in the gym with helpful habits for every day too.
Finally, try not to panic if personal training just doesn't sound practical. The best personal training companies will offer ways to train online - so you can sneak your personal training sessions in between work, socialising, and family life!
Ultimately, building great habits is the key. Consistency is a winner - so fewer sessions over a longer period will always bring better results than intense training that you give up on after a few weeks.