How to pass the Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing and Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training practical assessment - Performance Training Academy

This blog is to help give you an idea of what we are looking for in your performance so that you don’t feel lost at any point.

The structure for the Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing and Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training qualifications will differ, but the key performance elements will be the same. 


Ultimately, there is no ‘set in stone’ Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer, you do not need to pretend to be anything different from yourself. Let your personality and ethos shine through and then we can give you truer feedback and get more of an idea who you are moving forwards as you build your new career as a fitness professional.

Showcase your personality and how you want to be seen in the health & fitness industry.



The Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing course requires you to programme a session for your client that you need to coach them through so that they can perform this programme on their own, i.e. without you coaching them in every session.

This is actually the scope of a Level 2 Fitness Instructors qualification, their role is to set gym members programmes that get reviewed every 4-6 weeks.

For the Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training, you are required to design a Personal Training session for a client that is specific to their goal. But it is important to remember, a Personal Trainer should always educate their client on ‘WHY’ they are performing each element of every session, and you should be building up their knowledge of training in a gym, environment.

As a Personal Trainer, you will also be required to give your clients programmes that they need to perform on their own when they are not seeing you. For example, if a client is having personal training sessions once or twice a week, you still need to give that client an exercise programme that they can perform on their own around these one to one personal training sessions.

So whether you are programming for your Level 2 Fitness Instructor assessment or your Level 3 Personal Trainer assessment, we will be expecting to see the same qualities from each performance.


For the assessment:

When you programme to meet the programming criteria, it may look like a very long session on paper, but do not worry you won’t be going through the whole session. The assessor is mainly looking to see you set up the exercise for your client (teaching), analysing your clients performance (coaching), then giving feedback on performance etc (educating). Once these have been observed the assessor will move you on to the next stage of the session (even if only 1 or 2 work sets of a planned 3 set exercise has been delivered – this will be re-iterated throughout this article).

The timings for the assessment are roughly as follows:

  • 5 minute – Assessment brief
  • 5 minute session intro – Trainer to client
  • 45 minutes – practical delivery
  • 5 minute – session evaluation
  • 10-20 minutes – assessor feedback

Let us now reference each stage of this assessment and go into what we are looking for in your performance.


Assessment brief

An opportunity for the assessor to put you at ease and recap how the assessment will run. This is also an opportunity to ask the assessor any questions.


Session intro

This is the start of your performance, the trainer and client meet and greet.

This shouldn’t feel like any cheesy role play for you, this is a part of each and every session that you will be performing with every client you train as a Personal Trainer – you can go on the fact that you know each other.

We will be looking to see something like the following:

  • How are you feeling today? Hydrated, eaten breakfast? Essentially, are you ok and ready for exercise…
  • An overview of what you have planned, i.e
    • “based on your client consultation I have designed you the following programme”
    • “Due to the fact we did a leg session at the start of the week, today we are focusing on upper body”
  • Give an overview of the planned session – what the objectives are, how it matches client goal etc. Have your programme card printed out and ideally on a clipboard with a pen to make notes and adaptions when needed.
  • Ensure that they are physically fit to train – i.e. nothing has changed since you did the parQ in the consultation or since their last session.
  • Brief overview of the gym – First and foremost, health and safety. For the purpose of the assessment make your client aware of where the fire exits are, and where telephone and first aid points can be located. Explain briefly that you will be ensuring that throughout the session, you will give your client a good idea of gym layout and where things are (remember you may be delivering a programme that they will be performing on their own the next time they go there on their own without you).
  • Explain how you will track their exertion levels using a 1-10 RPE scale. Explain the intensities you will be aiming for at certain stages of the session. If you like you can even print out the RPE scale and add it to the back of your programme to give a visual reference as well.
  • Put your client at ease, ask if they have any questions and if they are ready to proceed, make sure they have water (if not point out where the water dispensers can be found on the gym floor) and then you are good to go.


Practical delivery

This is your opportunity to take your client through the session itself, remember your objective is to ensure they can perform this programme on their own without you being there, they need to be able to perform what you coach them safely and effectively to your satisfaction and also know how to use the gym to do this – this is something you will be doing a lot with gym members and personal training clients when setting a client up with a session to perform when you are not with them.

The outcome of this session is to ensure your client:

  • Knows how this session relates to their goal
  • Why each element of the programme is important – including warm up and cool-down.
  • Understands what intensities they need to select for each exercise, i.e. speed on cardio, weights for lifts.
  • Has full knowledge of teaching points, set up positions and is confident to perform this workout on their own.


The warm up

Whatever your choice of cardiovascular machine for the pulse raiser, ensure you educate your client on where it is and the surroundings of this area of the gym.

The pulse raiser should be done for 6-8 minutes and effectively ‘warm up’ your client. We are looking for knowledge of the CV curve at this point.

Intro the chosen machine using IDEA.

Go through all the key teaching points that your client needs to know and demonstrate visually not just how it works, but any intensity that you will be getting your client to do, eg. if you are using the treadmill and will anticipate that your client will be running as part of the warm up, demo how to use the treadmill when walking, and go through how to use it for running.

This demo doesn’t have to be really long and drawn out, get the key points across, ensure your client understands how to use it and what they will be doing on it, then get them active, you can always add teaching points when they start to use it.

You are making sure your client can use this on their own remember so make sure they show you that they can use it as you have shown them.

Once they are active, get them working effectively enough so that the warm up is effective.

In regards to the CV curve, and as an example of using the treadmill, get them walking at a steady pace, then after a minute or so you can increase intensity slightly, i.e. faster walk or add incline. After another minute or so increase again to maybe a jog if your client is able to and keep track of their performance. Record down all intensities and speed changes on their programme.

The objective is to get them into their aerobic zone (70% MHR) by the end of the 6-8 minutes. Use RPE to ensure they are ok and to see if you need to increase intensity. Use your experience and expertise on this. What works for you when you do your warm up for example?

What to talk about? During the pulse raiser, this is a good opportunity to state to your clients the benefits and why it is an important part of the session. If you don’t do this they may very well skip over this part of the session if they don’t know the importance.

You can also build rapport here as well, talk through what the upcoming session holds and how it relates to their goal. If stuck for words, treat this person like an actual client (its only a warm up so they can talk), how’s your week been? Any other goals and ambitions ref training? How has their nutrition been? How did they feel after the last session if you have trained them before etc….

When the pulse raiser is complete, your client should look warm and be about a 5/6 on the RPE scale, you can bring that element to a close. Don’t just stop where they are and move on. In this example, come down from a run, to a jog, to a walk over a minute or so, bring it to a gradual stop.

The assessor may ask you to move on before you reach the planned end, if they do the same applies, don’t just stop, bring it to a gradual end.


After the pulse raiser – keep the warm up dynamic when coaching through pre-stretches and mobility (don’t talk too much as you don’t want your client cooling down – get the key teaching points in and get your client active, you can add more teaching points and target muscles when they are active).

Explain the importance of a pre-stretch (10 sec hold) to ensure your client does it on their own. Give relevant teaching points for each stretch, state the target stretched muscle, and every now and then relate to upcoming session (i.e. we are stretching your pectoralis major as we will be performing a bench press). 

Move your client around you when necessary to observe the stretch you demo and then when they perform the stretch, you observe them using different observations. You demo, client watches, then they perform and you watch, don’t stretch at the same time.

Make sure the stretch session flows from one stretch to the next – tip: start from ground up for example.

Teach your client to breath when stretching, this will be reinforced in the cool down a bit more.

Same with mobility, whole body, you coach while they observe then they perform and you watch. Make sure they are supported when necessary and if they don’t perform anything correct, show them what they are doing wrong and get them to do it right. Explain the importance of the mobility session.

This stage of the session is also a good chance to teach and reference correct posture.

*The assessor may ask you to move on before completing all of the planned stretches and mobility – this is perfectly normal.


Main CV

As with the pulse raiser, use IDEA to set up a different piece of CV equipment. Same coaching as before, demo anything they will be doing, i.e. if they are on the rowing machine and are to be performing intervals, or fast steady state rowing, show them the sort of intensity you will be aiming for.

Once your client understands the teaching points and objectives, get them active before they cool down too much. 

Do a quick re-warm of 2-3 minutes then start getting them into their aerobic zone.

Use RPE scale in a timely manner… only when you feel it is relevant (i.e. not after 30 seconds). Even if your client is going to be doing intervals, you want to get them working aerobically for a few minutes before going anaerobic for a short period of time.

Perform observations to make sure their technique is good and that you are happy, if you need to correct their technique then do so. Feedback to your client that they are doing everything as it should be.

Explain how this part of the session will help them achieve their goal. ‘WHY’ you are getting them to perform this as part of their programme.

Monitor, observe and ask for feedback before increasing any intensity, and obviously reduce intensity if they are are working too hard or if they show signs of over-exertion.

Address posture and joint alignment always.

You do want to try and find a bit of overload, but equally you don’t want to run the risk of putting someone off. You have the ability to tell them how they can increase intensity themselves as they perform this programme going forwards when you are not with them… let them know how they can steadily build this up over time.

If performing intervals, any rest periods you do ensure they are active rest, i.e. keep muscles moving slowly, on a rower if resting don’t just stop, but slowly move backwards and forwards until the next interval to allow the body to flush out waste products.

Again when this part of the programme is done, the assessor will more than likely move you on halfway through. At this point bring it to a gradual close… more of a cool down needed so reduce intensity over 3-4 minutes before moving on. Still showing knowledge of CV curve.

Encourage your client throughout, motivate.

Ask for feedback from your client in a timely manner.

Use RPE when necessary.

Relate to clients goal, and explain how they can progress and will progress if they consistently perform this from week to week.

Record down any paces, targets etc that will be beneficial for reference to your client and their programme.

Motivate, check joint alignment & posture, ensure client understands and is happy & hydrated.


Weight Training Lifts

With CV done you can now educate your client on the weight training area of the gym. Remember they are going to be using this part of the gym when they are on their own performing this programme, so show them where everything is that they need, dumbbells, weight plates, collars, benches, etc. Just imagine this is your gym and you want to make sure your client uses the gym and respects it as you want them to.

When coaching your client through your choice of free weight lift, ensure you follow NAMSIT as a guide to help you.

Make sure they can see and clearly hear your teaching points and demo, move them around you if needed.

With any coaching always have confident and clear communication – loud voice, be motivational, show energy in the session. If your energy is low and the session is quiet, it wont feel dynamic.

Always address posture and joint alignment…. always. Almost your first teaching point on everything you do.

Work from ground up, foot position, knees, hips, core, shoulders, elbows, wrists, grip, head position….

Give clear instruction of each teaching point and target muscles used. 

If a body weight exercise could be used, i.e. bodyweight lunge before a dumbbell lunge then go through that first to check client technique.

Always reference safe-lifting – dumbbells from floor for example, refer to a deadlift.

Apply warm up sets before trying any work-sets, light weight, this ensures you can check technique and that your client is happy with joint alignment and action before adding any load.

When performing work-sets, see if you can find a weight that will cause some overload but will also be a good starting point, remember your giving them a programme – they can work on increasing this weight going forwards, explain how they can and should do this – be sensible and safe.

If any lifts, including resistance machines, could benefit from a spotting position, make sure you put yourself in that position.

Show good observations.

Check posture.

Encourage and give relevant feedback to your client.

Keep energy levels up.

Apply relevant rest and explain why whey they need to rest.

Use mirrors when necessary to aid your clients performance.

Record down any necessary seat/bench/ machine adjustments, the weights they lift and ensure they know how it relates to their goal and how they can progress on their own.

Educate client on when to breathe, exhale on exertion (concentric phase), inhale on control (eccentric phase).

Use tempo to control movement – 2 seconds concentric, 2 seconds eccentric.

Always reinforce teaching points. If a client can’t perform it correctly, stop them, show them where they are going wrong and let them have another go. If they cant do it to your satisfaction, give them an alternative exercise they can do.

Assume you are to perform all planned work-sets and rest, the assessor will ask you to move on at points, don’t just rush to the next one, make sure the gym is left as it should (weights away, benches/matts wiped etc).

Motivate, check joint alignment & posture, ensure client understands and is happy & hydrated.

If performing the level 3 Certificate in Personal Training assessment, you will be required to use advanced training methods such as Super-sets, Tri-sets etc. Ensure your client understands and can perform each exercise correctly on its own before adding into a set method.

Remember to put all weights away, leave benches ready for the next person and ensure your client knows this is good gym etiquette too.


The Cool Down

Keep your concentration for this last part, too many students switch off and forget simple things.

Use one more piece of CV equipment (different from first two) for 3-4 minutes of low intense activity… simply to flush out lactic acid and waste products from the worked muscles. – Explain why this is important and they should do it even when you are not there.

This is also a good time to start reflecting on the session with them.

A good Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer should always have great knowledge on flexibility and movement work.

Really emphasise the importance of the post-stretch routine, if you don’t a client will likely substitute a good stretch routine for a hot shower.

Start your post-stretches (at least a 30 second hold and develop most stretches) by showing your client where they can do this on their own, and get them lying down on a mat. By starting with the lying down stretches first, you really enforce the para-sympathetic nervous system to start calming the body.

Your exercise routine should have a nice flow from start to finish, one stretch leads seamlessly into the next.

Demo each stretch first while your client watches, then get them to perform it. Give relevant teaching points and state the muscles being stretched.

Really emphasis breathing – deep breath in and on the exhale, create the stretch. 

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

The Level 2 Fitness Instructor needs to show good knowledge in using developmental stretching.

To perform developmental stretches, and do this and a good few of the stretches, coach as follows:

  • Breathe in and on the exhale perform the stretch on the muscle – hold for up to 30 seconds.
  • Without relaxing the stretch, to develop it simply take another deep breath in and then on the exhale, see if you can find any more range of movement for another 20-30 seconds.

During the Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training assessment, you will also be expected to demonstrate knowledge on PNF stretching and partner assisted stretches.

Motivate, check joint alignment & posture, ensure client understands and is happy & hydrated.

Explain the importance of this stretch routine for your client to do it on every session, ‘WHY’ it is important, how it relates to their goal and will it actually address any muscle imbalances that they have?

After you have finished the stretch routine, and you are satisfied, you can then close the session.

Remember to wipe down the mats.


Closing the session

Back to the gym reception, this is where you can ensure your client is fully happy with the gym programme that you have planned for them.

Get feedback from your client – are they happy with the programme? Happy to perform it on their own? Happy with the gym? Do they know what to do going forwards?

Give feedback, what you thought your client did well… anything they need to work on (in a motivational way)… give praise, “I thought you did great because…”

Once you have done this, you are done.


In summary we are looking for a professional, high energy, motivational session, that educates your client on their training, what they must do on a regular basis to meet their goal (even referencing lifestyle and nutrition if you like), and motivates them to want to come back to this gym environment to perform your session on a regular basis, each and every week.

We are looking for you to show our assessors how you will be coming across as a professional Fitness Instructor and/or Personal Trainer within the Health & Fitness Industry.

Show us your knowledge, your professionalism, your passion, show us how great you are going to be as a fitness professional.


Assessor Feedback

The assessor will then tell you the result of the assessment and give you feedback to help guide you in the industry as a Level 2 Fitness Instructor or Level 3 Personal Trainer.


Written by

Ashley Hough



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