The fog of instructors
The fog of instructors (Photo credit: Tyler J. Bolken)

To become a ‘Good Instructor’ (either a military physical training instructor or civilian fitness instructor) there are certain qualities the individual should possess. This is true regardless of the area in the industry in which the fitness professional works.

The 3 F’s best describe the qualities of being a Good Physical Training Instructor (PTI). The 3 F’s being:

  • Fair;
  • Firm; and
  • Friendly.

Quality 01: Fair

The first quality a Good Instructor should possess is to be Fair (meaning unbiased, impartial, just and unprejudiced).

  • Treat people equally: be unbiased towards any given situation, but always remember that everyone is an individual.
  • Take into account rank/status: always be aware of who is attending the session, some individuals may wish to be formal whilst others informal.
  • Take into account gender: the instructor should understand that a female differs from that of a male, a female may not be as strong male participants. Also be aware of the different ways to address either gender, not everyone responds the same way.
  • Take into account age: be aware that due to the ageing process the body starts to slow down so the PTI should remember that not all 35 year olds are as agile or as fit as someone of the age of 25.  Further, be aware that not all 25 year olds are as agile or as fit as someone of the age of 35!
  • Take into account an individual’s ability: be aware of what an individual is and is not capable of during the session.
  • Be consistent: do not chop and change your mind, be consistent with the decisions that have to be made.

Quality 02: Firm

The second quality a Good Instructor should possess is to be Firm (meaning steady, established not yielding when pressed or pushed).

  • Establish acceptable session behaviour: this is both from the group to the Instructor and from the Instructor to the group.
  • Maintain control: the Instructor should make their presence known from the start of the lesson.  However, do not be overbearing.
  • Use appropriate controlling methods: you would not necessarily control a Recruits session the same way you would control the Trained Soldiers attending a session in a working unit.

Quality 03: Friendly

The third quality a Good Instructor should possess is to be Friendly (meaning amicable and sociable).

  • Breakdown any barriers: usually done when the Instructor, group or individual meet for the first time. However, do not forget to introduce new joiners.
  • Be approachable: not only whilst conducting the lesson but also when carrying out other duties regarding the role of an instructor.
  • Do not be soft: instructor’s need to get the right balance and this will come in time and with experience.
  • Be enthusiastic-towards the lesson and the group: your approach to conducting the lesson should be that infectious it will rub off onto the group especially to those who do not really want to be there, are nervous or having second thoughts.
  • Be interested: not only in the session and the group, but also towards the duties carried out by an instructor.
  • Be knowledgeable: about the session and the duties of conducting yourself as an instructor.  If you are not sure about anything you should always ask for advice or clarification from colleagues.


Human Factors

A Good Instructor should also be aware of the Human Factors:

  • Individual differences: not everyone is the same.
  • Motivation: the instructor has to be self-motivated and have the ability to motivate others – including those who do may not want to be there!
  • Class Consideration: think about position of the class, who is behind you whilst addressing the class?

Use of Senses

All learning is achieved through the use of one or more of the five senses:

  • Taste & smell: do not normally play a part when taking a session.
  • Hearing: the explanation of something will be heard by the class.
  • Sight: the demonstration of something will be seen by the class.
  • Touch: for example, to place someone in a correct ‘sit up position’.

Own Personal Skills

An instructor’s own personal skills will aid in the quality and professionalism of conducting themselves as an instructor.  However, be aware of the following:

  • Dress: always be smart, clean and tidy; not necessarily just whilst conducting a session.
  • Conduct: always conduct yourself befitting the qualities of a Good Instructor.
  • Integrity: always be honest.
  • Bearing: your behaviour and manner are always noticed as an instructor.


Be reliable, be in the right place at the right time and do as instructed.  Always remember you have a responsibility to your company, work colleagues, yourself and most importantly your clients.


3 thoughts on “Qualities of a Good Instructor

    1. Hi,

      Being in an instructional role can be difficult, not everyone takes to it naturally. The first thing I would suggest is to reflect:

      1. Why do you think being an instructor is hard?
      A. Are you new to the field of instruction?
      B. Is it a new post?
      C. Are you instructing on a subject/topic that is new to you or you don’t know very well? Do you know your subject?
      D. Students can sometimes ask awkward/difficult questions or ask questions that you may not have the answer to. A decent reply for the latter is: ‘I don’t have the answer for that question right now, but I will find out and get back to you’. Don’t forget to find the answer and provide it to the student (along with the whole class), you will gain kudos/credibility with the whole class this way. Other students/instructors may also have knowledge that is useful in a reply. Another aspect of being an instructor is to act as a facilitator; you may not always have the answer but someone else in the group may have it, or the group could find it with the right nudge/encouragement.
      2. Why do you think you are not a ‘good instructor’?
      A. Military instructors are assessed on their instructor courses and periodically afterwards, have you looked at the comments made by your supervisors to gain some hints?
      B. You could ask a peer or senior to conduct a mock assessment/lesson in order to provide you with some quick feedback.
      C. Have you gained the opinions/feedback of your peers (e.g. fellow instructors) and students (generally post course)?
      D. Do you prepare for your sessions as taught on your instructor course?

      This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope it provides some answers to your question? Good luck.

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