How to become a great trainer; a step by step guide.

I’ve been in the fitness industry as a trainer, a manager, and a business owner for over 15 years now.

I’ve chatted with and interviewed and occasionally hired hundreds of aspiring personal trainers.

I’ve taken time to talk with college seniors in the exercise physiology department at local colleges, and have provided internships at my company, Emerge Fitness Training.

I’m often asked for “one piece of advice” for the aspiring personal trainer, and am asked to share some of my experiences (both bad and good).

It’s tough to give just one piece of advice.

So instead, I’m going to provide a step by step guide to personal training success for the potential personal trainer.

This information is a reflection of my own experience in the industry. Unquestionably, another successful trainer will have a different list.

But this is mine.

Here goes:

  1. Love fitness. If you don’t, don’t even start. The trainers that do will be obvious and it will be obvious that you don’t.

2. Look at personal training as a potential CAREER. You’ll hear ex personal trainers tell you that there is no money in training and it’s too hard to make a career. They probably sucked and couldn’t make it. It’s harsh but true. Like any other profession, if you’re good, it will reward you financially and otherwise.

3. Get a job at a big box gym. You’ll be fed clients, and you’ll get to see if you even like training. Contrary to the beliefs of many, personal training can be an exhausting, very competitive business. Build some experience and learn from your mistakes there.

4. Find a niche. After a couple of years dabbling in all aspects of fitness and reading everything you can get your hands on, start to specialize your fitness offering. Make sure your specialization is relevant to your customer and begin educating yourself with a narrower focus.

5. Find a mentor that can help you. When I first started training, the training industry was relatively young and trainers, especially great ones, were few and far between. Now, its much easier to find a local mentor who has had success in training. Ask them for advice and study what they do. There is no harm in emulating someone else who has figured it out. In fact, it’s a great way to get better, quickly.

6. Find a place to work with colleagues that have a similar mindset as you. At large gyms, you’ll likely be part of a training staff that has more than a couple of trainers who are bad. Trainers that are just putting in their time until an insurance job presents itself. Trainers that clearly don’t love what they do. You will only go so far in this environment.

Find a place to work that makes you better just by being there.

7. Educate yourself in fitness AND business. No offense to the training community, but in my fifteen years as a trainer, I never cease to marvel at the sheer bone-headedness of many in the profession. Know your customer. Offer them a relevant product. Understand pricing and seasonality and alternative ways to market yourself. Shirtless selfies in the gym are shit. Business classes should be a mandatory part of an exercise physiology program.

8. Learn that, at the end of the day, if you can listen and empathize with your clientele and really make their EXPERIENCE with you valuable through exceptional service, you will eventually be successful.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. I love talking business and about the training industry as a whole, so if you have any questions, email me at

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Stop Trying to be a one-stop Fit-Mart.

Stop trying to be Fit-Mart

One of the key “moments” I’ve had over the span of my involvement in the fitness industry was the realization that I should stop trying to be a one-stop fix all for my clients.

I was trying to be the Wal-Mart of fitness.

It’s convenient, but ineffective.

What I really needed to do was build a network of experts I could rely on as part of my team.

I had my hand in everything, not really having a true expertise in anything.

I obtained certifications in nutrition, performance training, corrective exercise and post rehab strength training.

I studied massage, stretching, manual muscle release, sprinting form, bodybuilding prep and Olympic weightlifting among other things.

I realized there wasn’t enough time in my life to become exceptional at ALL of these things.

So, I picked a couple that I liked (and had a little success with) and immersed myself in those.

For the others, I referred to “my guy” (or girl) in the field. I had my massage therapist, my soft tissue expert, my physical therapist, and my performance specialist.

These people became my team, and I was part of a group of individuals who were the best at what they did.

And my clients appreciated it.

Instead of getting average work (and spending some of their session time to get it) they received 100% of their time getting what I’m best at.

It makes you look smart and trustworthy, and you’ll have better results with your clients. And if you’re great at what you do, your network will refer their clients to you.

Moral of the story,

  1. Spend some time exploring everything.
  2. Identify what you like and are best at.
  3. Spend the bulk of your time getting great at those things.
  4. Build a network of experts who do everything else.

Any questions?

Email me at

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Meet Strength 101

Check out our new class, STRENGTH 101.

The focus is on classic strength and conditioning through simple, but not easy, lifts.

No frills. No skills.

Move better. Get stronger.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Monday @ 6 AM
Tuesday @ 7 AM
Wednesday @ 6 AM & 7 PM
Friday @ 6 AM
Saturday @ 9 AM

Sometimes, a Long Journey Starts With Penguin Steps

“We acquire the strength we overcome”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In late August this year, Brooke and Susie moved to St. Louis from Destin (Florida) and Chicago, respectively.

They both underwent a surgical procedure called a periacetabular osteotomy, or PAO for short, here in St. Louis.

This is a rather invasive hip surgery that involves cutting bone and screwing it back in a new position with large 3–4 inch screws.

Nine days after surgery, they were in Emerge to begin their post-op reconditioning.

The process at Emerge is accelerated as far as therapy goes, but can feel very slow to the person learning to walk without crutches again.

One of the first exercises to strengthen and ready the hip for walking is called “penguin steps.”

I can try to explain it, but this works better…

Client spotlight: Duane

If pictures tell a story than this one has a lot to tell. A year and a half ago Duane was extremely out of shape, unconditioned and on the verge of a double hip replacement. In the beginning he was unable to squat his own body weight with half range of motion without experiencing severe pain. After a year and a half of training, after many other hurdles that have come up along the way Duane is stronger and leaner than ever before. Today was a huge accomplishment for you and I both and I’m extremely happy with what you have been able to achieve. I am very lucky and privileged to be your trainer and friend. I look forward to your continued success. #EmergeStrong

Taylor D.

Sports aren’t Fitness

Sports have inherent physical risks. You take those risks knowingly for the enjoyment of the physical activity.

Fitness involves training with specific physical improvement in mind with minimal risk.

Sports: You’re sacrificing you’re body to win a game or to improve performance.

Fitness: you’re sacrificing only your energy to improve your health and movement quality.

These athletes use a specific exercise routine to both increase sports performance and lower the risk of injury.

Sports: put wear and tear on your body, an increase in health or fitness is not guaranteed, and is often decreased.

Fitness: the controlled wear and tear is offset by a greater return in health and fitness.

Form doesn’t matter in sports, performance does. If you win with compensatory, ugly form, you still win. Athletes will often “gut it out” to continue competing even though it is damaging their body.

Fitness will improve sports performance but sports often won’t improve fitness.

There is also some bad news if you’re using the sport as a method of burning calories. The better you get at the sport, the less calories (per minute spent) you’ll burn. Increased efficiency equals decreased “workout.”

With that said, many modes of “working out” are actually just competitive sports labeled as “fitness.”

They aren’t fitness. They’re sports.

The physical risks far outweigh the incidental increases in health or fitness.

If you’re involved in a sport, you should have a separate exercise program designed to enhance performance AND to minimize the injury risk of that sport. The sporting activity alone won’t do this for you.

Know why you’re spending your time and energy on an activity.

What is your goal? An improved performance in a particular sport (or specific movement patterns) or health and fitness?

Matt P.

Essential Exercises for the Hip and Core

From time to time, I will post a series of exercises that I consider “essential” for efficient and productive movement.

This post will be the first of a few targeting resisted movement from the hip while remaining neutral and stable in the core.

Hip Thrust

Rigid Robot

Reverse Skater

Reverse Railroad Tracks


Anti rotation

Walking deadlift

Email me at with any questions

Matt P.

Best Fitness Center and Best Coach in Saint Charles County

Thank you for voting Emerge Fitness Training the best fitness center in St. Charles County, 2016!

And congrats to Emerge coach Keelin Russell for being voted best coach!

We are looking forward to serving you into the future with exceptional service and innovative fitness.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Social Unintelligence

I’ve spent some time in the fitness industry both managing and observing personal trainers and strength coaches. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize the common characteristics that separate the good trainers from the standout trainers.

Far and away, at least in my experience and by my judgement, the most important trait in a very successful trainer is something called “social intelligence.”

“Social intelligence develops from experience with people and learning from success and failures in social settings. It is more commonly referred to as “tact,” “common sense,” or “street smarts.”

Sounds obvious. I thought it was. I thought this was what you learned early in life as a way of coping and getting what you want from your environment.


What seems so glaringly obvious to some is a puzzle to others. It started me thinking, “were some people born with this intelligence, or were they taught, or did they just observe it and assimilated?”

What I am certain of is this; the absolute best of the best (that I’ve had the privilege to observe) know the following…

1. Verbal Fluency and Conversational Skills.

Look people in the eye and say hello. Be able to carry on a conversation with all types of people. Be direct and articulate. Don’t bog people down with industry jargon, nobody wants to hear that. Can you just comfortably talk to many different types of people? Look for cues early in your conversation that may key you into talking points relevant to your client’s interests.

Learn how to carry on conversations with anyone.

2. Knowledge of Social Roles, Rules, and Scripts.

Understand what is important to the culture of your business environment. Fighting the culture doesn’t make you a rebel, it makes you unintelligent. When I was a much younger trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, I stuck it to the man by wearing name tags with names other than mine. I showed them!

Actually I was just showing them I was unable to work within the parameters of company norms. Young and dumb. Adjust to or change your current situation if you feel you cannot adapt to your company culture.

Understand your companies culture.

3. Effective Listening Skills.

Read body language, it tells you the real story.

Listen attentively without having to chime in with your personal experience. Nobody cares, and trainers are notorious for this.

I would sit at a desk in the office at my previous employer and hear a trainer absolutely own a conversation with a potential client. Literally a barrage of “I’s” and “me’s.” I would literally shake my head and cringe.

Stop talking. Listen.

4. Understanding What Makes Other People Tick.

Read people and their true emotions, what motivates them. Again, let them speak. Read their body language. Are they intimidated? Excited? Skeptical?

Why are they in front of you?

Listen and allow them to feel comfortable enough with you to share their REAL motivation behind getting fit. Don’t talk too much, their experiences are not likely to be the same as yours.

Even if they don’t divulge their true motivations, try to read between the lines. Have they mentioned one single point multiple times? How do they react to your suggestions and advice?

Understand what makes people tick.

Matt P.

for more information, reference:

Just one of our amazing clients

Every year Emerge client Carin Oliver donates the most amazing quilts for us to raffle off and she did it again this year! Stop by Emerge to purchase tickets for your chance to win!