It’s no surprise that training clients online has seen a rapid increase over the past few years! Every year ACSM releases the top 20 fitness trends of that year and the last few have been dominated by versions of virtual or online training.

In the ACSM Top 20 Fitness Trends of 2022

  • Wearing Technology was ranked #1
  • Online live and On Demand Exercise Classes were ranked #9
  • Mobile Exercise Apps were ranked #16
  • Online Personal Training was ranked #17

As fitness professionals, this is great news as it gives us a whole new range of opportunities when it comes to training people and means we are no longer restricted by geography when it comes to training clients. 

What are our options? Let’s explore them below.

#1: Online Coaching

Online coaching is the “virtual” version of Personal Training. 

Traditionally, personal training consists of a client coming in to visit a personal trainer at a fitness facility, or having the coach come to their home. The personal trainer designs an appropriate program and takes the client through their workouts – motivating them and correcting their technique along the way.

Online coaching works differently. It’s less about doing the session with the client and more about prescribing the client a workout virtually and ensuring the client sticks to the workout via apps, check ins, or software. Higher tier programs involve training the client over video call as well, but this shift towards online coaching and accountability versus one-off training sessions over video call has gained the edge.

There are both advantages and disadvantages (from the client’s point of view) when it comes to online coaching vs personal training.

The biggest advantage for the client is that they are not restricted to time or location. If they had an in-person session booked, they need to train specifically at that time and specifically at that location. With online coaching they can complete their session whenever and wherever they want.

The disadvantages for the client revolve around the trainer not being there to motivate the client through the actual workout and nor be present to adjust their technique. 

The client’s needs, goals, and degree of personal motivation, will dictate if online coaching is an appropriate option for them.

#2: Live Virtual Classes

Virtual classes are the “online” version of group fitness classes. 

Traditionally group fitness classes involve a gym member attending a certain class at the gym at a certain time with a certain instructor. 

Live virtual classes work pretty much exactly the same as this, the only difference is that the member doesn’t need to be in the gym to take the class – they can do it from their living room, the park, their workplace – wherever is convenient.

Like online coaching, there are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to live virtual classes vs group fitness classes.

The biggest advantage is that they are not restricted to location. They are, however, still restricted by time (assuming the class is live) so they need to be ready to take the class at a specific time, without needing to be at the gym.

Like online coaching, the main disadvantage when it comes to virtual classes is that the instructor won’t be in person to personally check their technique. On top of this, the virtual class may not have the same ‘community/social’ vibe that a face-to-face class has.

#3: Online Challenges

Traditionally online challenges look something like this:

  • Participants commit to training for a specific amount of time (e.g. 21 days, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, etc.)
  • An instructor/trainer would prescribe a workout for the participants to complete each day
  • At the end of the challenge, there is often a prize for ‘most improved’


An online challenge works much the same. The biggest difference is that, instead of the challenge participants attending the gym to complete the workout, the participants can complete the workout wherever they want.

As you can see, the advantages/disadvantages are very similar to online coaching.

The biggest advantage for the client is that they are not restricted to time or location. They can complete their sessions whenever and wherever they want.

The disadvantages for the client revolve around trainers not being physically present to motivate and check technique. (much harder to do looking at 16 squares on a computer screen than surveying a room!)  


#4: Digital Products (e.g. Courses, Memberships, and eBooks)

Here this is a huge area and with so many different avenues when it comes to digital products, so I’m going to keep it simple and just talk about membership sites. We’ve recently discussed eBooks and how to conceive, publish, and deliver them.

When it comes to a digital membership, at its most basic level, it could be as simple as the recordings of all your virtual classes and uploading to a dashboard where you may grant access to any number of clients. If your clients/members can’t make one of your sessions, they can log on and complete a workout in their own time.

Also, the videos don’t necessarily just have to be exercise-related; they could be educational videos “teaching” your members/clients how to squat, deadlift, plank etc.; they could be nutrition tips; cooking tips; even motivational videos!


That’s the 101 of when it comes to training clients online

If you’re interested in learning more about how to start training clients online, at Fitness Education Online, we have a CEU Course that covers this topic “Online Essentials: How to Start Training Clients Online”.

Jono Petrohilos

Jono is the Co Founder and Director at Fitness Education Online, one of the largest providers of online CEC courses for Fitness Professionals. Jono has been in the industry since 2009 and also a best selling author, a podcast host and a winner of the Fitness Australia Educator of The Year Award.. Fitness Education Online also have one of the largest Facebook Groups in the world for Fitness Professionals with over 15,000 members click here to join.