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What is an Army 'PTI'?

At Rapid Results Australia Personal Training, we understand that you may have questions about the Army Physical Training Instructor (PTI) and how it compares to the typical industry personal trainer. Our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the unique benefits and approach that comes from our trainer who after many years has retired from the armed forces and now continues to provide high quality health and exercise support throughout the community's.

The Australian PTI program stands out from traditional personal training as it is rooted in the elite exercise provisions developed within the armed forces. This background allows the PTI to provide a level of expertise and knowledge that goes beyond the standard of personal training experience. The PTI program is designed to challenge and push individuals to achieve their full potential, drawing from the rigorous standards and requirements of military training. This is a key point in the level required to become an elite instructor in physical education.

One of the key aspects that sets our PTI  apart is his or her ability to train individuals to join the service, whether it be the Army, Air Force, Navy, or any state emergency services. The comprehensive approach ensures that individuals are fully prepared for the physical demands and expectations of these roles, providing them with the strength, endurance, and mental fortitude needed to excel.

The Difference between an elite PTI (Physical Training Instructor)

Verse a Personal Trainer.

This question has been raised so many times by clients and seems to get in the way of a lifestyle change for the Military Physical Training Instructor service personnel. We are elite in what we teach and bring to the industry. Our pathway in Physical Training is far different from the civilian Personal Trainer.  Don't for a minute think that I am lowering the level of the industry Personal Trainer, but when it comes to the active role of studies, training and instructing, no civilian qualification comes remotely close to the demands required to become an elite service instructor in physical education. 

NOTE: At this point I will point out that all military PTI's are employed in a specific service Corp. Their ECN... (employment category number is 185. They placed and managed within the Defense force Medical Corp due to the nature of their employment service. This means that they must also qualify in a second service position, and complete the senior sergeants medical course.

The service Physical Training Instructor is a selective person who has undergone up to 3 years of intense training, personal experience and total closure in life to make a selection. He or she has committed over 3204 hours of studies, training, performance requirements, assessments, tests and ongoing activities to meet the first stage of the entry course.

Then and only after selection and qualifying will he or she assemble a future 10950.00 hours of on-the-job learning, being assessed and tested for what will be his or her second phase in instructional training to become a senior Physical Training Instructor within the services.

These personnel do not falter, do not surrender to the weak and do not and will never accept the impossibilities many will accept. They are the elite, the strongest in mind and body and above all, the reason the government has spent over $350,000 to train them for what will be their outcome... To bring together service personnel, train them to endure no matter what they face and ensure they are ready at an elite level to combat the hardest physical requirements placed on any human. This is our PTI, and our service personnel are always in readiness.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge the amazing skills and abilities of all Personal Trainers. They come from backgrounds many will never understand.

For personal, emotional or visions, they have a passion that leads to helping so many. They undergo studies, training and assessments to meet the national levels of accreditation. They deserve every accolade for their endurance to be someone who can and will "HELP", and trust me when I say... I have many friends in the Health and Fitness industry who, in my mind, are just amazing. I have met and witnessed the hundreds who teach daily and with conviction. I stand next to them with one thing that shapes us a trainers...



So, what is it with a Service PTI & a Personal Trainer?

  • A Physical Training Instructor (PTI) and
  • A Personal Trainer (PT)

In this article, I will help separate the key differences between the two job roles, the connection and separation of each role and the key roles of each.


What Is A PTI Job And How Does It Differ from a Personal Trainer?

What Qualifications Are Needed to Become a PTI?

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a PT?

What Does a Typical PT Session Look Like?

What Does a Typical PTI Session Look Like?

Can I Become a Personal Trainer After Working as a PTI?

What is a PTI Job, and How Does It Differ from a Personal Trainer?

When presented with a question such as, what is a PTI? There is a fairly straightforward answer, which is that the acronym PTI stands for Physical Training Instructor.

To this level, each PTI will also study and train to become a master coach in all Sports.

However, this answer is far too simple and fails to explain the many differences between the role of a PTI employed within the Defense Force and that of a personal trainer employed within the civil sector.

To the untrained eye, these two roles could be identical and only separated in name alone, but this section analyses just how vastly they differ.

How to Become a PTI in the Army

First and foremost, a PTI course is typically not recognized as a civilian qualification in Australia. Due to the many variances of training required, it can only be accredited by the armed forces and is only accessible to individuals who are listed within the ranks of the armed forces.

In contrast

The general public can access a Level 3 or higher in Personal Trainer. The only prerequisite is that applicants must be over 16 in many cases.

As a PTI, you will be tasked by the Commanding Officers of the unit you are attached to with the responsibility of maintaining the physical fitness of all service personnel posted to or on detachment to that unit or supporting other areas as required. This role requires a high level of knowledge and experience to design and implement training regimes not found in the civilian sector.

Many of these roles in training are designed to suit the combat environment, the location of the unit at the time, and what will be required in the long term as a soldier or service personnel. The secondary role of one-on-one or group training is to train at levels far greater in intensity than those found within the civilian sector of personal training.

In contrast, personal trainers' roles and responsibilities are somewhat different. You aren’t training your clients for combat purposes, just their individualized goals. The word ‘individualized’ is stressed here, as each personal training client will have goals that are unique to their desires.

On the other hand, Service Physical Training Instructors will ensure that each soldier performs at the peak fitness level, making their goals somewhat of a blanket practice.

An argument could be made that a fitness class instructor operates similarly to a PTI, as this training includes multiple clients who share a similar goal; however, within the service, these training methods are only a small part of the full required group training session of service personal such as and not limited to:

  1. Combat obstacle training while under fire
  2. Training and surmounting heights in full fatigue dress with weapons
  3. Gas and chemical interaction training while performing exercises
  4. High-performance assessments, and
  5. Ongoing physical fitness assessments monthly and annually.

However, the difference remains that the clients are in charge of their own goals under the support and training of a Pt, whereas the PTI is under the management of a higher power such as a Commanding Officer.

However, one similarity between the two practices is that they can both take place in various locations.

As a personal trainer, you could realistically work from locations such as:


Fitness center's

Private locations


Client’s homes


Group classes PTI Training

Similarly, PTI in the army will work from locations including:


Fitness center's

Military bases

Assault Courses

Field operations

Overseas deployment

Navy Ships

Naval Air Bases

Whilst these different locations aren’t identical, they highlight the versatile locations that both PT and PTI.

With these differences in mind, you may question what qualifications are needed to become a PTI.

The answer isn’t as straightforward as one might expect; as PTIs in Australia, you need to understand and learn the different qualifications and teaching required depending on which branch of armed forces they wish to enter, be it:

The Army

The Navy


To simplify these processes, I will break each qualification down step by step.

Prerequisites required to enroll in PTI Army Courses

Entries to become a PTI

Applicants interested in enrolling on the All-Arms Physical Training Instructor (AA PTI) course must adhere to a strict list of prerequisites before advancing to the qualification selection.

Due to the intense physical demands of this role, the Armed Forces only want candidates at the very peak of physical fitness. Therefore, if you fail to meet any of these prerequisites, you will not move on to the next qualification stage.

As stated, Service personal Australian services PTIs must complete three distinct entrant tests.

Detailed information is given about the required PTI entry Fitness Test,

  1. Complete as instructed a minimum of 20 full chins from a hanging position,
  2. Complete as instructed a minimum of 100 controlled Sit Ups within 2 minutes, and
  3. Complete, as instructed, a 5 km run over undulating terrain within 18 minutes or less.

Fail any one of these assessments, and you will not make a selection.

The other two exams consist of:

  1. Military Swim Test (MST)—This test is conducted in the morning and requires applicants to tread water for 2 minutes fully dressed in combat uniform, remove clothing while in the water, swim for 100m, get out of the water unaided, assist another person from the water and apply First Aid for a draining victim.
  2. Combat Fitness Test (CFT) - A distance of 20km over undulating terrain whilst carrying 25kg weight. This must be completed in under 1 hour and 40 minutes or less.

Fail any one of these assessments, and you will not make a selection.

Completing these entry exams will secure a place on the Sub Unit PTI army courses. Instructors usually leave some room for re-tests, but these will typically take place the following day, leaving you very little room to rest.

General Outline of the PTI Course

Army training to become a PTI

Now that we have some insight into the Australian Army PTI prerequisites, we can focus on the qualification's content.

For reference, the PTI course curriculum consists of the following modules:

  • How to Deliver Fitness Assessments.
  • How to Deliver Physical Training.
  • How to Deliver Recreational Training.
  • How to conduct classes of up to 300 personnel simultaneously with assisted instructors.
  • Complete and deliver coaching in All Sports.
  • Conducting Physical Tests on land, in the field and water assurance and survival.
  • Designing PT Programs for single-person and group training requirements of up to 50 personnel.
  • Taking a Health Trainer Course on nutrition and food management.
  • Complete senior medical training for field combat.
  • Implementing Health and Safety for land, field and water exercise and training.
  • Conducting Job-Related Administrative Tasks and management roles.
  • Describing human anatomical components and exercise physiology, with a later study on Human Movements.
  • Complete a service degree in Exercise Sports & Science.
  • Complete the Australian water skills and survival training and teach in Life Saving and swimming.
  • Conduct all sports and specific codes.
  • Conduct specific training for combat personnel and relevant fitness training for the special armed forces.
  • Qualify in Unarmed combat and instruct service personnel in the prevention and protection as needed on the battlefield.

Candidates must complete the following modules to become recognized as an army PTI in Australia. This occurs only after the following assessments are completed:

  • The principles of warm-up, the aerobic curve and cool-down.
  • The principles of lifting and carrying, and pushing and pulling
  • Motivating and communicating effectively with clients.
  • A variety of individual and group teaching skills.
  • How to respond to health and safety issues in various fitness environments.
  • How to program safe and effective exercise for a range of clients, the health benefits of physical activity and the importance of healthy eating.

PTI training running

Develop the skills and knowledge required to plan, prepare and conduct gym- and outdoor-based exercise programs and sessions with apparently healthy adults, both individuals and groups, including:

  • Circuit training (role, variations and circuit dose)
  • Interval and fartlek training
  • Speed training and running drills
  • Strength training
  • Skill training
  • Endurance training
  • Plyometric training
  • Multi-stage fitness test (MSFT)
  • Develop the skills and knowledge required to plan, prepare and conduct outdoor-based military functional exercise programes and sessions for groups, including:
  • Basic Personal Fitness Assessment (BPFA)
  • Basic Combat Fitness Test (BCFT)
  • Advanced Combat Fitness Test 1 (ACFT1)
  • Advanced Combat Fitness Test 2 (ACFT2)
  • Military Swimming Test (MST)
  • Combat Military Swimming Test (CMST)
  • Logs, ash poles and medicine balls (indoors and outdoors)
  • Obstacle course
  • Command tasks for the Army, Navy and Air Force
  • Anatomy training to become a PTI
  • Anatomy and Physiology Modules

Modules within the curriculum include

  • Health & Safety
  • Conducting Risk Assessments
  • Various Sports & Team Games
  • Treating Injuries (delivered by qualified medical representatives from the Royal Army Medical Corps)
  • Developing and Implementing Training Programs
  • Communication Techniques
  • Man pulling weight for PTI training

All personnel completing the PTI army courses must also attain gymnastics assessments on three levels (basic, intermediate, and advanced). These promote strength, stamina, speed, agility and flexibility.

As part of the PTI gymnastic assessment, candidates must complete the following examinations:

  • Floor Skills
  • Vault Skills
  • Beam Springs
  • Rope Climbing

Running Assessment

Over the first 9 weeks, a PTI will participate in over 570km of road and field endurance, sprints and loaded runs.

On the second course they attend, they will once more undergo endurance training on roads, hills, fields and sand for up to 450km. Much of this endurance will be done in full and half combat dress.

They will also be required to push as a team member loads of up to 1 tone on land, sand and dirt for up to 5, 10 and 15km at a time.

As evident from the mass number of assessments involved, this qualification is highly specific, and not for the light-hearted. It is both physically and psychologically demanding.

On average, it is estimated that becoming a PTI in the Australian Army takes 238 weeks to complete over 4 years while posted as a PTI under instruction. This is a significantly longer process than all personal training qualifications and is a huge commitment.

This is even truer when you consider that PTI army courses require successful graduates to complete an annual assessment and a refresher course every three to five years (no exceptions), take an annual drug test or take one on demand and complete three PT assessments every year just to maintain and hold their promotional levels.

Grading structure to become a PTI

It should also be noted that the army assesses men and women on different levels during the fitness test. 

Once this is completed, you will be recognized as an army PTI in the Australian service; following this, you will then be assigned employment locations by your Commanding Officers.

This qualification will certify you to work as a PTI in the army, Royal Navy or RAF.

#3 - Prerequisites Needed to Enrol as a PTI in the Army, Royal Navy or RAF Physical Training Instructor.

The Physical Trainers Qualifying Course certifies individuals to work as PTIs.

As with the PTI Course, you must complete a series of prerequisites to become a physical training instructor. These include:

Phase 1 Training: Militarization

Phase 2 Training: Professional Training

Complete an Aptitude Test

 Phase 1 to become a PTI

Phase 2 to become a PTI

Candidates must also complete an Aptitude Assessment across a total of 2 days.

However, to provide an insight into how competitive the role of a physical training instructor is, these assessments only happen once every two years. The application numbers are around 3600. From this, only 60 personnel will make the selection.

On completing the basic entry course, approximately 20 will pass, with around 8 offered positions as entry PTI. They may not, however, receive a unit posting for up to 2 years from that date. Many of these candidates will move on, not prepared to wait in line for the next vacancy.

A short biography regarding why candidates wish to transfer and become a PTI.

Candidates must present a talk to assessors discussing issues relating to today’s fitness.

Complete a series of physical and theoretical tests to assess his or her fitness and knowledge levels.

Please note that information about these tests is not as accessible to the general public as it should be, as the PTI course structure is confidential in many areas.

Adventurous Training Leadership Skills and Teaching Requirements

  • Sailing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Abseiling
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Different Methods and Modalities of Fitness
  • Water and snow
  • Rope obstacle climbing and travel above 3 meters
  • Gymnastic instruction
  • Combat instruction
  • All sports code

Instructional techniques and assessments

Circuit Training, both theoretical and practical

Weight Training, both theoretical and practical

Weight Management

Advanced Anatomy and Physiology

Sports and exercise science

Studies in Human Movement

Sports injuries

Rehabilitation management

Ergonomics in the workplace

Fitness Testing

Strength and Conditioning

Diet and Nutrition

Sports administration

Basic Coaching and officiating numbers of sports

Senior First aid

Royal Life Saving Lifeguard

Benefits and skills to become a PTI

Written Test

Cardio-respiratory BLEEP Test

Endurance Test

Indoor Group Control & Management Tasks

Transferable Motor Skills

Stamina & Physical Courage Assessment

Swimming Test

Therefore, one immediate comparison I can make between the personal training qualification and the PTI course is that there is significantly less pressure within this timeframe.

Personal training certifications also don’t require any refresher courses but offer trainers the opportunity to grow with specialist Level 4 qualifications in areas such as assessment if needed after 10 years in the industry.

Advanced Sports Nutrition

Obesity & Weight Management

Lower Back Pain Management

Diabetes Control & Weight Management

The outcome… The Service Physical Training Instructor is highly qualified, ready to teach, instruct and, above all, provide the ultimate exercise resume for any person and any requirement. As the Journal of Exercise Fitness and Health puts it, he or she is the ultimate exercise instructor for which there is “NO” comparison.

After reading this information and adding information, I am proud to say…



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