NSCA or NASM: Whats Better?

Have you ever wondered what’s better, the NSCA or the NASM certification? Odds are, more than one person thinking about how to be a personal trainer has pondered this because both NASM and NSCA are heavy hitters in the personal trainer certification game. I started thinking about this question after I got an email from Dylan, one of the readers of my website. I wrote to Dylan privately but I thought I would review both NSCA and NASM certifications in a little more detail here, to help you decide which cert might be best for you. When your finished here, also read, How to Be a Personal Trainer: Step by Step for more information.



The NSCA is the organization I am certified by. The National Strength and Conditioning Association has been around since the early 1980s and has 3 different certifications :

  • NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS).


The CSPS certification was recently added to the list, as a way to better prepare fitness trainers to work with clients who have special needs such as arthritis, diabetes etc. People have to be either CSCS or NSCA-CPT certified before they can take the CSPS test. 


One thing I like about the NSCA is that they publish a scientific journal devoted to strength training called the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. All members of the NSCA get this journal each month. This is a peer reviewed publication, which means that the research is first reviewed by other competent scientists (the peers) to check for errors before it was published in the journal.


Aside from the ACSM, I am not aware of another fitness organization that publishes original scientific research  on exercise and health.


The NSCA also published the Strength and Conditioning Journal which is also peer reviewed and contains good review articles on a variety of exercise and health and wellness issues. All NSCA members get this publication also each month.

The CSCS certification, since its creation in the 1980s, has long been held as one of the best fitness credentials to have if you want to work with athletes —especially at the college level.

When I took the CSCS cert, in the 1990s, you had to have at least a BS degree in a health related field in order to take the CSCS test.


Unfortunately, the NSCA has watered down this requirement so that now a college degree in ANY field would qualify people to be CSCS certified. Still, it’s a hard test and lasts 4 hours consisting of 400 questions.

Tip. People do not need to have a college degree to take the NSCA-certified personal trainer test. The NSCA-CPT test is a two hour test and has 200 questions.

Just a heads up, be sure to read my other posts about the Best Personal Trainer Certification and Master Personal Trainer for more information and insights on fitness certifications.


My problems with the NSCA

I contend that the NSCA makes it difficult for some people to get re-certified. People holding the NSCA certifications must get re-certified every 2 years.

There are several different categories in which people can get continuing education units (CEUs) in to be recertified. But, the thing that drives me crazy is that the NSCA counts :

writing magazine articles and writing books

in the SAME CEU category. NSCA professionals need credits (CEUs – continuing education units) in more than one category.


For me, that’s a problem because I’ve written 6 books, so I max out the writing category very fast.  As such, the NSCA makes me work harder to keep my NSCA certifications.

Hey NSCA, I can write a magazine article in an hour. It takes me about 2 years to write a book! They are NOT the same thing!

I’ve posted my problem with this on the NSCA Facebook page —and had my comment deleted. Not cool NSCA!  When I called the NSCA to ask them :

1. How many NSCA members have written a magazine article?

2. How many NSCA members have written a book?


I was told that those statistics were not known. I’m not sure if I buy that or not but if it’s really true, this is easy to find out. Just survey NSCA members. I’m confident there are fewer NSCA members who have written / published books.

Are you listening NSCA? I challenge you to do this and prove me wrong.


Another problem I have with NSCA is that their textbooks do not cover much about fitness marketing or even getting a job in fitness. What good is all that science knowledge if you can’t get a job?  That’s a reason I covered this in the personal training book I wrote. All the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to get clients —or get hired.



The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).  First off, I want to be up front and say that I have not taken the NASM test and I have only read a little of the NASM textbook. As such, my information is limited to what I have observed and heard from others.

That said, I have graded tests of NASM trainers who sit for the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer test.  I hope NASM personal trainers will comment on what I’m about to say to help others better understand this organization.

Tip. Heather Dziczek has written a very good overview of how she passed the NASM test so check that out if you are looking to be NASM certified.


From what I know, the NASM certification is heavily focused on biomechanics —how the muscles work together, muscle imbalances and correct exercise.


Over the past few years I’ve noticed something interesting. When NASM certified personal trainers attend AAAI/ISMA classes that I teach and attempt to take the AAAI/ISMA personal training test, they often fail it or pass by the skin of their teeth.  Sometimes they fail the AAAI/ISMA test miserably!


How could this be? If you’re like me, you often hear gym managers, personal trainers —and people online —saying that NASM is one of the best personal trainer certifications out there. In fact, they usually say NASM is “better” than AAAI/ISMA.


So, how come NASM personal trainers can’t pass the AAAI/ISMA test? 


Maybe they have forgotten this stuff by the time they take AAAI/ISMA classes? I just dont know.


Let me be clear, I’m not bashing the NASM. Rather, I am pointing out something that I have personally have observed over the years.

I think the answer to this question might be related to the main the focus of NASM education which, if I understand it correctly, is heavily directed toward core stability and biomechanics.

There is nothing wrong with this and having knowledge of biomechanics is very valuable for personal trainers —and this is a strength of NASM also— but, from my own personal observations, NASM trainers seem to lack knowledge in areas of health and wellness like blood pressure, cholesterol, cardiovascular disease risk factors —and even periodization.

Since America is a country that is “growing older” and a LOT of people who join fitness centers will have various clinical and sub-clinical conditions, personal trainers need to be equipped to deal with this issues.

NASM Personal trainers: Can you tell me if there are chapters in the NASM textbook on cardiovascular risk factors (and other ACSM guidelines)? I’m not sure either way. I’d appreciate the impute.


Let me be clear. I am not saying that AAAI/ISMA is “better” than NASM. I’m also not saying that the NASM is bad either. Rather, I am saying that the scope of information learned by students seems to be different. I am pretty sure that AAAI/ISMA certified personal trainers would have a very hard time with the NASM test also.  Heck, I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time with the NASM test myself!



One thing that rubs me the wrong way about the NASM is all their marketing. They do so much marketing of themselves that they have become the squeaky wheel of fitness. They even have a 30 minute TV infomercial!  I know why they do this. They do it because if you only hear “NASM” you’ll get the impression that they are the best.

They aren’t.

Here is my review of the NASM TV commercial.


One thing that I don’t like about either NASM and NSCA is that they both make the science of fitness MUCH more complicated than it has to be. Both NSCA books and NASM text books can be hard for beginners to understand (a lot of them tell me this too). When I read some of these books, I wonder “who are they trying to impress with all those big words?”

Yes, there is a science to exercise , but it’s not rocket science —at least not for the most part.

And why are those books so darn expensive?

Tip. For what it’s worth here’s the CSCS book, the NSCA-CPT book and NASM book on Amazon, which may b e a little cheaper. Also, My resources page has more books, tests etc., on both of these organizations.

Also, how come none of those expensive textbooks discuss rhabdomyolysis?


So what’s better NASM or NSCA?

Ultimately this is a decision that we each have to make for ourselves but personally I don’t think either is “better” than the other. My goal here was not to bash either NASM or NSCA but to try to be objective and give people an idea of what I have seen to help them make a choice for themselves.

As I’ve said before, there is no best personal trainer certification. Different organizations have different specialties. For me, I prefer to take what I can use from different organizations and make it my own. The stuff that doesn’t apply to me and what I do, I toss aside. So, even though I’m “NSCA certified” I consider myself more of a hybrid trainer than anything else.

Whatever certification you do decide to get, the most important thing is to keep learning after the personal trainer certification. Learning never stops. For me, it’s all about being qualified, not just certified. If you remember that, you’ll be OK no matter what cert you have. For more info, read How to Be a Personal Trainer. My Resources Page has all the NSCA and NASM study materials.

What do you think?


  1. says

    this was a great article! your website is brilliant! i’m currently studying for my NASM exam. i chose this based on a very specific requirement by the biggest (best?) big fitness club in my area requiring this certification for its PT’s. it was an easy choice in that regard and i AGREE with your comments on the scope of the NASM.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Thanks Allie, I’m happy you found me and glad I could have been of service. I like your website also by the way. Looks like you have a lot of neat goals (Krav and deadlifting wow!). I have another site you may enjoy as well. Its called Supplement-Geek.com and its all about my in-depth reviews of vitamins, herbs etc. If its on TV, I’ve probably reviewed it.

      Keep me posted on your NASM studying Allie and thanks much for the feedback! Feel free to share any insights you have while studying for NASM also :)

  2. Shelley says

    I love the fact that you discussed this issue, Joe. I have been AAAI certified for about 10 years, and although it is a good cert, as a nurse with a BS in health sciences, I have a better than average understanding of the science behind exercise. But keep in mind, nursing school did not teach me anything about exercise physiology, I learned it on my own by continuing my education. Regardless of the certification credentials after your name, the take home on this is: do not stop educating yourself, no matter what.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Shelley, thanks for saying that! I actually -and happily -get quite a few nurses in the classes I teach. Say hi if you are attending the AAAI convention in MD in a few weeks :)

    • Exercise Nurse says

      Hey Shelley. I am a nurse looking to possibly get certified as a personal trainer. The realm of healthcare is somewhat tenuous these days with all of the reimbursement changes, and I am concerned with the direction healthcare is going.

      That said, I have been looking at other options for employment and thought personal training would be up my ally since I already enjoy promoting health in patients. How do you use your certification as a nurse? Have you found a way to combine your training as a nurse with your training as a personal trainer?

      Are there any politics in the fitness business that echo the politics in healthcare? I know it’s been a while since you posted – I’m hoping you get this and respond. Thanks for your time if you get this!

      • Joe Cannon says

        Exercise Nurse, I thought I’d chime in. I’ve run into several nurses who became certified personal trainers over the years. The only thing I’d mention is that some gyms get a little weary if you act in the capacity of a nurse while you are working as a personal trainer. That said, I’d think people would enjoy having a nurse as a trainer because they bring a knowledge set to the table that the traditional certified trainer would probably not have.

  3. wilfrid adjanohoun says

    Hi Joe,
    Again I’ll say thank you for your newsletter. It’s a good contribution for our knowledge of the personal training and the fitness industry.

    when i was preparing my NASM that i passed in May, i passed AAA/ISMA with you in January (by the skin of my teeth like you said lol). for me all is about the specialization of each cert, what they focus on.

    the trainers or trainers to be have to choose according to their goals, the kind of clientele they want to deal with. the solution to be a good trainer or to have the best certification, i agree with you should be having a few different certifications. each cert can be the best in a given specialization.

    Me with AAA/ISMA and NASM I’am considering getting a cert for senior population, and the best cert to help people after injury to recover mobility, full range of motion and strength. Any tip of advise will be welcome
    thank you.

  4. Jim Stacey says

    Joe, I think there is one reality here that has to be considered: which certification(s) is/are available. Right now I am taking the NASM course at our community college, simply because it is here and affordable. And I certainly did not want to take an on-line course which I feel could not be all that valuable or respectable.

    For example, our instructor will show us moves in class that are priceless, and which could never be shown in a book or on-line, or so I think. And we get to discuss and try out things in class.

    I am learning a lot more than I ever expected to and pleased with it so far. Oh, I have taken anatomy and physiology at the grad school level and am pleased to say that the NASM stuff is not fluff.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jim, thats fantastic! Really glad you are getting so much out of the NASM program and what you say does make sense about what cert being available.

  5. Mike says


    Thanks for the article.

    I think the biggest thing that you touched on in this article is for people to be more “hybrid” in their mentality. Nothing drives me crazier than the “my certification is better than your certification” mindset. Each certifying organization has its strengths and weaknesses.

    Ultimately, we’re here to serve our clients, and the best way to do that is to take the strengths of each organization and incorporate them into our training programs. Nothing positive comes out of being close-minded and provincial.

    Take care,

  6. Archer says

    Great article that reflects thoughts I have had while reviewing which certification would be most advantageous to a career in personal training. The arguments and marketing by the organizations make it confusing and frustrating especially when you are talking about spending your money in the best possible way.

    The question as I see it is which organization will give me the base knowledge that will allow me to start a career and progress towards a constantly evolving goal based upon my changing needs and demographics of the population. That gives a trainer both flexibility and a curriculum that is keeping pace with the changes made in exercise, health and nutrition.

    I don’t know the answer to these questions and I am not sure they are out there, but I will keep doing my homework. Thank you for your insightful articles and I appreciate hearing a voice of reason and commonsense during my research.


  7. Jim Stacey says

    Joe, first of all, I wanted to ask if you or anyone else has any knowledge of IFTA? It’s a NC outfit that offers all sorts of one day seminars, and also certification,but they don’t provide much in the way of details.

    Now, for an update on my experiences with NASM. I enrolled in a community college course (six months long) and quit it yesterday (after about six weeks), pretty fed up with the instructor being very unprofessional….an egotistical, flamboyant dude who is quite the athlete but knows nothing about how to teach.

    He makes just about every classical mistake a teacher can make: interjecting religious and political comments, making up nicknames for students, often dismissing a four hour course after two hours because he is tired or out of material, constantly berating doctors and everyone else because they don’t know as much as he does (so he thinks), etc. I’ve taken between 80 and 100 college courses over the decades (and taught around 300) and this is one of the three worst of my life.

    Above, in an earlier post, I said that I was learning more than I expected. That was true for about three weeks and then our instructor hit his wall, and it became obvious he just didn’t have a clue how to prepare to teach a course.

    However, this does not mean I have any problems with NASM, or at least with their information, standards, etc. It is the fault of the community college and they are about to hear that when I talk to them. Unfortunately, our only other experience with a NASM PT was also unpleasant. We signed up for her boot camp and she had a serious problem with “bedside manner,” so my wife and I left her behind. So far, these issues are personality based, and NASM has nothing to do with that.

    I have been frustrated with the NASM website. They don’t answer email or explain all that much about their program, so I was beginning to think they were solely interested in profit. So I did what someone recommended: research the different certifications and then call gyms where I might want to work (in Colorado).

    The desired gym said that they definitely liked NASM, so that was reassuring. They also said that if I had a NASM cert and any other cert I would most likely be hired on the spot. More good news. So I decided to take a different approach to NASM and call them instead of writing them.

    I talked to Kelly who was great. We talked about my class and then I slept on it and quit the course the next day and ordered what I needed to finish the program on my own, which I am sure will be much faster than in the CC course.

    OH, I also wanted to second the remark you made about personal training not being rocket science, but some of the “leaders” in the industry wanting to treat it that way. Their effort to create jargon that would make no sense to clients is often laughable (e.g. modalities and proprioceptive environments). And the NASM textbook can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether or not we are supposed to intimately know such things as the workings of the heart or just have a general understanding. There are pages that just leave you baffled as to what the message is. It reminds one of the committee that tried to design a horse and ended up with an ass instead. Ride on, amigos!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jim, thanks for the update. sorry to hear about your experiences with the NASM teacher. I think its good you spoke to the NASM. I’m sure if you mentioned him to them, they will speak to him so he doesn’t make the same errors. I’m sure all of their instructors are not like that at all.

      About the IFTA. I do know them. IFTA stands for Interactive Fitness Trainers of America. They actually use my book – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics – as the textbook for their personal training classes. I know the people involved with the company and trust them. They are respected in the industry, well known and knowledgeable.

      Basically the way it works is, study before the class. The teacher then covers a lot of material, answers questions and likely adds information on “real world” issues related to fitness/personal training. At the end of the day a test is given. Im sure they can give you more information if you call them they can give you more insights.

      I hope that helps Jim, and thanks again for updating me on your experiences with NASM.

      • Jim Stacey says

        Joe, as always, I am delighted with your quick and thorough response. As for my NASM instructor being “corrected” by NASM, that would take such a major overhaul that it is impossible. When an ego is that far out in space, getting back to earth would take a miracle, so I am ok with just doing the work on my own time and then taking the exam. I just feel sorry for the students in the class who are depending on him, and who may not have the discipline to study on their own.

        I have already written my letter to the college about what is going on and perhaps they will find someone else for next year. I mean, a personal trainer who thinks the carotid is found on only one side of the neck or that we should watch the TV show on moonshiners to see a good business model? Yikes.

  8. Lucas Cunha says

    Hi there, this is an interesting article you have here, but there are some things I would like to point out, and forgive me if at any point I sound confrontational.

    By the way, I’m currently studying to take the NASM-CPT exam.

    As far ” from my own personal observations, NASM trainers seem to lack knowledge in areas of health and wellness like blood pressure, cholesterol, cardiovascular disease risk factors —and even periodization.”:

    Yes, there’s an entire chapter in the textbook that talks about the fitness assessment, which covers everything from medical history, to the physical activities the client may partake in their daily lives, to checking blood pressure, body fat %, cardio-respiratory fitness, as well as current levels of stability and performance. Not only that, there’s an entire chapter on the cardio-respiratory system that stresses how important it is to take this part of the client’s health in consideration and how to methodologically improve it. It even goes as far as teaching basic information on how different medications that the client might take could effect their blood pressure and their heart rate.

    And although the text does in fact put emphasis on the understanding of bio-mechanics, I would say their real strength is that they take in consideration how sedentary most people are nowadays, and rather than just throwing people into strength and conditioning routines, it seeks to correct muscle imbalances caused by the sedentary lifestyle as well as lowering the risk of injury during physical activities by by putting just as much emphasis on neuro-muscular stability as on other more traditional aspects of fitness training.

    Now, I’m not trying to say that other certifications aren’t as good or better, because I don’t know enough about them. But what I can say, was that after looking through the options I had available, I felt that NASM seems to be the most well rounded one, mainly because of it’s approach to fitness, where the client isn’t just explicitly increasing the intensity of their exercises while implicitly improving their ability to exercise, but rather explicitly increasing their ability to exercise while implicitly increasing the intensity, i.e., with NASM the goal isn’t to be able to lift more weights, or run a longer distance, or do more push-ups, or lose more weight, instead the goal is to really learn how to have better control and awareness of their own body, the other things just happen as a result.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Lucas, I’m rally glad you said all that because I am hamstrung by what I have seen over the years – namely those NASM trainers who I have encountered in the classes I teach for another organization. they all just seemed to be lacking in special areas. I’m glad they do get training in these areas. I would agree on how its good to emphasize sedentary people. While I do think the NSCA-CPT cert is well rounded, one of my issues with NSCA is their overall mentality of “go heavy or go home.” For me, who prefers to work with older adults/beginners/special populations, that’s a message I never agreed with.

      Really appreciate you writing and good luck with the NASM-CPT test! :)

      • Lucas Cunha says

        While I haven’t been in any classes, I think I can relate to what you’re talking about. While doing research on which certification to get, most of what I found was people asking either which test was easier or which certification paid better. I felt like most people aren’t really trying to absorb the knowledge available from whatever certification they might be getting, but rather using these certification as nothing more than a means to an end. In fact, I read many places talk about how there’s hardly anything useful in the certification materials, which after reading through only half of the NASM-CPT I can most certainly disagree. Granted, experience in the gym is important, but I can guarantee that the majority of the information in the NASM-CPT book, which is useful information, cannot be learned from just going to the gym.

        Honestly, I think that this is a problem with the way education is approached as a whole nowadays. People don’t go to school to get educated anymore, they go to school to get a job. Moreover schools approach education as mere business, where if you pay and show up you get credit. They’ve made the requirements for all fields of education, from law, to medical, to technical, so easy that it takes very little for one to graduate, i.e. even though the material and the information is plenty, one is not accountable to really comprehend it. And because it’s human nature to always seek the path of least resistance, it comes to me as no surprise that most professionals nowadays, personal trainers included, seem lacking in expertise on the fields they hold degrees/certifications on.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Lucas, you make good points and I as well see people online asking “whats the easiest cert” and stuff like that. The same fact is that a lot of trainers are appear to be certified but not qualified. I can agree about college also where hey teach the science but not the application of the science.

          I am really glad you enlightened me on the NASM books and I am also happy you are getting a lot out of them!

        • Exercise Nurse says

          I agree in some ways and disagree in some ways. Yes, education (as well as all other businesses) is in it for money from what it seems (how else do you explain ever increasing tuition and $300+ texts), and I do think that we really only tend to get academic rather than experiential knowledge.

          We gain theoretical insights and then when it comes time to practical application, it’s up to our own abilities to think critically and analytically as to whether or not we will be successful.

          I strongly disagree that it takes “very little” for people in “medical” to graduate. Simply “showing up” to microbiology or A&P was not enough – this was even more true in classes like Chemistry and Organic Chemistry as well as pharmacology and Medical Surgical Nursing. Anything less than a 65% was considered failing and if you failed two classes you failed out of the program completely.

          Granted, I think this should be the standard for nurses (if not higher), because people’s lives are at stake. I also think “medical” is one of the few areas where they actually do still try to give you some practical hands on experience before you graduate (as a requisite for graduation in fact).

          I do think internships and apprenticeships should be required for more degrees as I think this will help ease the job transition.

    • Jim Stacey says

      I’ve already written (above) on how terrible my NASM instructor at a community college was (I dropped the course, wrote the school, and am proceeding on my own at a much faster rate, and I should take the test within a few weeks, four months faster than if I had stayed in the course). And as I said to Joe at one point, sometimes we can’t be too picky, and may have to take the certification that is available, affordable, etc. But that is no excuse for being inept in any area.

      I spend time every day on nutrition, disease, and such, completely on my own, and it seems to me that anyone in the training field would just naturally do this. Many years ago I owned a real estate company and I was shocked by how few books the typical agent owned (zero to three was about it). I will look at the same thing in training and be horribly disappointed if typical trainers don’t own dozens of books on anatomy, injuries, etc. What we do is important! And how well we do it is super important. A little knowledge can get a lot of people hurt, or disappoint them so much that we look like a bunch of muscleheads.

      And that brings me to the NASM textbook. It is such a mixed bag that it is hard to know where to start. Some of it is great (illustrations of different exercises) and some of it is poorly written and much too vague while trying to sound erudite only to end up being confusing, pretentious, and so on. In the end, I would think that this illustrates what common sense tells us: a conscientious trainer, no matter which certification, will be better than a lazy one, no matter which certification. So, it’s the motivation and discipline that will matter in the end.

      As someone said, call a gym where you might want to work and ask them. I did and they like NASM a great deal. So, for employment purposes, NASM will work for me, but no certification by any group will make up for a lack of aptitude or attitude.

      PS: The NASM DVDs and flip cards are a waste of money if you are a good student who can read and take good notes.

  9. Monte says

    Hi Joe,

    I love your site, it is very informative. I am 60 years old, do 10K USMC Mud Runs and now running 5K races. I started training for the Mud Run about 5 months in advance, being a desk jockey for the past 6 years. I found a local gym to help me and I lost 15 lbs, 2″ off my waist and improved my upper body strength.

    Anyhow I want to pursue getting my CPT. This may be a career change and or my retirement fun/income. I agree the population is becoming greyer and that may be my target demographics.

    I am looking at the NASM CPT, my question is what do I need for books, material(s) to get my cert ? What is the minimum that I need to purchase ? I do not want to buy or purchase anything I do not need.

    Thanks for your help,

    Monte ” The NitroSquid” Sloan

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Monte, I think targeting the older population is an excellent nitch market esp since most people who hire you will be over 40 (and they will be women by the way). Here is a post on how to study for the NASM cert written by somebody who is NASM certified.
      I also have a list of NASM materials on my resources page which may save you a little money.

  10. Jim Stacey says

    Monte, you said you don’t want to buy “…anything I do not need.” When you figure out how to do that, let me know. Seriously, to learn the details of personal training, no one book or publication has it all, so I find myself buying a good number of books to fill in gaps, and also doing lots of on-line research to get better explanations than I find in some of the books.

    Joe didn’t put in a plug for his own books, but I will. He has to be included in your library. The incredibly good news is that you can buy used books in both stores and on-line so that you can probably acquire twenty really good books for less than $300, and if you aren’t willing to put as much money into books as you do into shoes and clothing, well, that’s not a good sign about being a genuine professional.

    Somewhere I have written previously that when I owned a real estate company, the average agent owned from zero to three books, and then they wondered why the public had so little respect for them, and why most of them didn’t survive the first year. From a kid who is ten years older than you, Monte! Let’s do it!

  11. Kim says

    Thank you for this post it is insightful, but I would like to know what you think of other schools like ACE, NESTA, ISSA ect..

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Kim, most organizations – like ACE, NESTA, ISSA etc – are not “schools” but rather certifications. There may be prep classes to prepare people to take the certifications and sometimes these classes can last a few weeks but these classes are often optional (people don’t have to purchase them).

      ISSA is an exam you take at home. I beleive its mostly essays and there may be a video tape portion (where you demo some exercises). ISSA could give you more insights on this.

      Im not familiar with NESTA but I do hope to interview an NESTA trainer soon and that should shed some light on things.

      does that help? Any other questions?

  12. Jim Stacey says

    WHY NOT CHANGE CERTIFICATIONS? Joe, love to hear your opinion on this. I just passed my NASM exam, which was pretty badly written, so I walked out not having any idea if I passed (but I studied hard for three months so I was reasonably confident). NASM even “misled” me in one letter about what would be on the exam so I spent a long, long time on some things that were never broached.

    Anyway, now it’s down to the nitty gritty of finding work, but since I am disappointed in the NASM textbook, the test, and their website (have never had any luck asking anyone any questions by email, but they never quit sending out promos to buy more of their products), and since I am not sure who is minding the store at NASM, I am thinking that instead of renewing in two years, I would just pursue a different certification.

    This would, ideally, make me more rounded in different approaches, and I can study the other material during the next two years. In fact, I don’t have to wait two years. This will cost more to get a new certificate, but not all that much for anyone who is serious about working in the field.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jim, If you are not happy with NASM, take a look at NSCA or ACE. Both are well respected in the industry. I have no problems with either of these organizations.

  13. Kim says

    Thank you for getting back to me Joe. I can see how people see NASM, NSCA, ACE and NESTA ect… as organizations or just certifications. But I see them just a little different and here is why lol if you would like to know.

    I have a passion for health and fitness, but I never got a chance to join a gym or have a personal trainer; I home schooled three daughters so I just worked out at home the best I could. Now all three of them have graduated and I am only 37 so I decided I want to be a personal trainer (I did not know there was so much involved lol) this country is so unhealthy I want to help.

    Sorry I went into so much detail but I wanted you to understand where I stand. So I started looking into certifications; it took me awhile there are a lot of opinions out there but in the end without much being said about them I chose NESTA. They are a great school, well I think they are a school. I have learned so much from them; it is like being in a classroom, I read a chapter and then they have a video to explain what you just read and that is great because I do not always understand what I just read lol. Like I had never really thought about the different energies it takes to work muscles and the different muscle fiber types.

    Anyway NESTA is like a virtual school. I understand most people learn this stuff in a gym from there trainer and then decide to be a trainer, then they already know alot and do not have much to learn and just take a test and get certified. Sorry I did not intend to rattle on like that lol. In the next post I will tell you a little about NESTA.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kim, thanks for that. Since you mentioned you sometimes don’t understand what you read, can I suggest you grab a copy of my book Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. I’m pretty good at explaining the science.

      When do you get NESTA Certified? Id be interested in interviewing you for a review of the NESTA certification and get your thoughts.

  14. Kim says

    There are 17 lessons and 13 chapters and over 10 hours of videos
    Chapter 1
    The NESTA system of personal training
    Chapter 2
    Exercise Phyiology
    how the body adapts to exercise, the kinectic chain, metabolism and energy system ect…
    Chapter 3
    Kinesiology and Functional Anatomy
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Nutrition and Metabolism
    Chapter 7
    Special Populations
    Special populations teaches about What Makes a Special Population?
    Aging and the Elderly
    How should an aging client progress?
    Children and Teens
    Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiac Risk Factors
    Major Risk Factors of Coronary Heart Disease That Can Be Modified or Treated
    Major Risk Factors of Coronary Heart Disease That Can NOT Be Modified or Treated
    Diabetes Mellitus
    Other types of diabetes: and AIDS ect…
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Program Design
    Chapter 10
    Exercise Instruction
    Chapter 11
    Safety, Injury Prevention
    Chapter 12
    The Business of Personal Training
    Chapter 13
    Sales and the NESTA System
    Fundamentals of Selling Personal Training
    Communication and Sales
    Professionalism – First impressions
    Listening skills
    Active listening
    Interacting with Clients
    What do you do for a living?
    What Separates Successful Trainers from Marginal Trainers?
    A Successful State of Mind – The Traits of Successful Trainers
    The First Workout
    Working as a Team
    The Focus of the First Session
    How to Start the First Workout
    Maintaining Professionalism – YOUR big picture!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kim what is the title of the NESTA book? is there more than 1 book they use? what are their titles?

  15. Kim says

    Hi Jim, Congratulations on becoming a personal trainer. I hope you or Joe do not mind me replying to your post. NESTA has been great to me they have been there whenever I needed them and answered all of my questions right away and I have learned alot from them. But they are not well respected in the industry but I like them anyway. They have a Proctored test that I will take soon I hope and can tell you more then.

  16. says

    Since you asked, NASM has changed their book recently to include more information on Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Risk, etc.

    I went into this already knowing a great deal in that area, but there does seem to be a fair amount of focus in the newer chapters. I cannot compare it to other certs, but it seems relatively good in that aspect now.

  17. Jim Stacey says

    Here be another update on NASM vs NSCA: If you have followed the comments above, you may remember that I said to Joe that I have not been impressed with NASM, despite being certified with them. Too many things just don’t seem quite right. For example, day before yesterday my official, to-be-framed certificate arrived, but the ink was smudged. Yuck. Yes, that’s a small item and hopefully they will send another but every time I turn around, there seems to be something not quite right. So, Joe says, look at NSCA or ACE. I did look at NSCA and I love what I see. Another round of thanks for Joe.

    First of all, they are having their national conference in Vegas in July. Whoopee. Getting ready to pay for membership and buy the tickets today!

    Secondly, they are offering a certification that is a great fit for me, a former EMT in mountain rescue: the TSAC, where one works with fire and police departments to keep them in shape and lower the number of injuries and money spent on workmen’s comp. I have already bought the textbook and will start studying right away.

    As I said earlier, sometimes we select a certification simply because it was available. I did that because they were offering a NASM program at our community college which I found to be very poorly done. I mentioned the behavior of the instructor as flamboyant and egotistical. Then, my wife saw the instructor and said, “Oh, my, he was in my anatomy course and I don’t think he passed.” So we checked NASM’s data base and he isn’t listed with them, so this whole thing reeks. How can he be teaching the course if he isn’t certified?

    Of course, it sounds as if I should have done more homework before enrolling in the course, but sometimes you have to walk the wrong path before you recognize the right one. Do I regret getting the NASM certification? Absolutely not. I learned a lot and now I know a lot more about the industry and what are some of the very best ways to go. See you in Vegas?

  18. Jim says

    Joe, I just saw your mention of helpforpersonaltrainers.com for the first time and it is wonderful. I encourage you to plug it more often. I have never seen such a good article on portable equipment, plus details on obtaining professional documents. Wow.

    So, will you teach anything at Vegas or hold any sessions? Autograph session? Sell your books? Do some stand-up? Strut your stuff!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kim, thanks. Is that a free pdf ebook or do you get the NESTA book after you register for the NESTA cert?

  19. Kim says

    You get the manual after you register. Oh I seen you said something about Periodization, I just learned about it in chapter 9, the macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles, and also microassessment and marcoassessments.

  20. Kim says

    Joe your website is great, I put it in my favorites and will be going back often. I am learning alot from you and others like you and I am very greatful you guys are there. Thank you!

  21. says

    You have 15 days to decide whether or not you want to continue pursuing the certificate program. I went for the WLS within that time frame changed my mind and told them to go ahead and cancel. I paid $99 for the course. They submit a request for a refund that takes 30 days to be reissued.

    The complaint is that they take 10% “restocking” fee. So instead of getting my $99 refunded for a trial I am being told I only get $64.14 back because of the restocking fee. The problem with this is that I’m being charged a restocking fee for a ONLINE course, something electronic.

    Obviously no one is restocking something that you’re not even capable of touching, it is electronic in formation. They say try the program, you have 15 days, you’ll get your money back. Then they take 30 days to reissue and take 10% to restock a virtual product.

    If this is the area you want to pursue, great! My review is based solely on their ethical practices. The program was pretty cool and informative going through. I just think it is dead wrong for these people to be able to give you back what they want to give back even if you are not in the wrong and have proceeded correctly.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Cloe, Really? Restocking fee? Is This the NASM doing this? I’ve never heard of a restocking fee for an online course. That’s total rip off!

  22. jeff says

    I think the nasm CPT 4 textbook covers all the areas you mentioned to be not covered. How would you view nasm if they had a chapter on rhabdo? (Thanks for opening my eye to rhabdo by the way)

    Jeff Decker
    Nasm CPT/CES

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jeff, thanks for the update. I might view NASM in a better light except for what Cloe just said about a restocking fee for NASM online classes. I know its about money but for me, stuff like that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  23. Jim says

    Same bad taste with NSCA lately. I ordered the booklets for the TSAC-F exam, which were overpriced for what they contain, and paid the shipping charge of $13, which was absurd, especially in light of them taking nine days to arrive. They could have been put in an envelope, first class or media mail, and been here quicker. Then I paid for membership and now two weeks have passed without my membership kit, and no answer as to why.

    What is with NSCA and NASM that they don’t understand how poor service will bite them in the butt?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jim, agreed they should do better than that. Ever try blasting them on their Facebook page? maybe that will get their attention? No promises thought as the NSCA has deleted comments I posted on their facebook page in the past, but its worth a try.

      • Jim says

        Joe, that’s a good idea but I’m still a Facebook holdout. I am trying to get things accomplished and I fear that Facebook would mean I would waste even more time than I do, but yes, I need to keep in mind that maybe Facebook can be a good tool, as well as a sucking black hole.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Jim, yes facebook can be a double edged sword. As soon as you put in your HS and the year your graduated, everybody you went to school with finds you almost immediately -whether you knew them or not LOL

          • Jim says

            OK, Joe, so I put in my HS and the year I graduated, and then you promise that the long-lost girlfriend from those days will find me and we will live happily ever after? Now, if I had just had a girlfriend this would be fabulous.

  24. Chelsea Scott says

    Hi Joe,

    I loved the article and it provided me with a lot of good information. Although I do have one question.. are you biased towards NSCA because it is the one that you are certified by.

    I am from Canada and I am having difficulties finalizing my choice.

    Any additional help is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you,

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Chelsea
      Good question! I can see how it might seem that way by looking at some of my replies to others but I assure you I am not biased to NSCA. I do have more experience with them but that does not influence me at all. In fact I think Ive mentioned ACE as much – if not more – than NSCA.

      I also teach certs for another organization (AAAI/ISMA) but I don’t think Ive mentioned them much here as I didn’t want to give the impression of being biased to them either. I have problems with NSCA as Ive mentioned before. What I can say about them is that their books are top notch and the organization is credible and accepted pretty much everywhere.

      If you have any other questions, just ask :)

    • Jim Stacey says

      Chelsea, I am genuinely new to this field (NASM CPT for just a few months now) so I don’t carry the weight that Joe does, but I just had an experience that may help you. It is Monday afternoon and I am still dealing with the redeye flight back from the NSCA conference in Vegas, which I LOVED. Did I say I loved it? I am tired but also on a cloud, so to speak.

      It was four days of talks (so many you had to be selective: 58 separate presentations, with eight of those presented twice)) on every topic of exercise and various occupations. Almost every presenter was a PhD, and/or had awesome experiences, and the information was often new research that answered questions we all have on exercise, recovery, nutrition, and networking. I wish I could go into more detail on the topics but that might not be fair to this forum.

      Here is a major difference between NSCA and NASM. Neither is perfect at the details of membership and communication, but NASM fills my in-box with sales pitches; NSCA does not. NSCA is not-for-profit (correct me on this, Joe, if I am wrong) and it shows, emphasizing education at the most professional levels.

      As I was leaving, I asked a guy to take my picture at the entrance to the conference and I asked him if he had attended before. He said this was his 20th conference! I can see why. I will devote myself to NSCA and I will probably attend two or three of their conferences in 2014. I have yet to take any of the NSCA exams, but I can’t see any reason why I would change my mind about this organization. If you want to be the best in this field, this is definitely the choice I would recommend.

      Oh, almost forgot: the exhibit hall full of exercise equipment and booths on everything from drug testing to software, plus the dinners sponsored by Reebok and others, and then the sixty or so grad school papers and presentations on original research were worth the trip alone. Hey, can I get a job promoting NSCA?

  25. Jeff says

    Hi Joe,

    As a trainer holding certs in both NASM and ISSA I can tell you this: NASM ABSO-LUTELY makes the concepts much harder to understand than they need to be by using big language that seems to be put in place simply to make (NASM) appear to be a ‘smarter’ study.

    They attempt to confuse simple concepts with complex terminology. ISSA on the other hand is just about exactly opposite. Their text includes a wealth of practical information that can be easily applied in a gym setting. For my money ISSA is a much better study. Not a better CERTIFICATION, just a better study, but then I don’t work for someone else.

    I think that NASM certs carry more weight as ISSA is open book and there is no pressure or time constraints at exam time. Franchises tend to go for NASM, ACSM, NSCA, etc. where exams are given in a more traditional fashion. I would love to try NSCA’s CSCS but can’t sit for the exam.

    As for the materials covered I believe that each have their own area of focus which would explain NASM folks having a tough time of AAAI/ISMA and vice versa.

    The best course of action is to continue with an education/don’t stop learning.

      • Hoda says

        Hi joe
        I am moving to usa about a month . I am a personal trainer in my country and i came to usa to be certified by a good certification.

        A problem i have is that i cant speak English like a native guy. So some people suggested me to certified by nasm coz its more physically , and my goal is to have a course that has more live classes than online one, what do u suggest me to do
        Plz help me!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hoda, I would not recommend NASM for you because their book is very technical. People -who speak english well – tell me they have trouble understanding the NASM textbook. People tell me they make topics harder to understand than it needs to be. I have not taken the NASM cert but that is what people tell me.

          certification organizations should accommodate you if you have trouble understanding English. There are dictionaries that can translate words for you during the test. the organizations should let you use that during the test. You need to tell them your special needs before you take the exam.

          I assume you will be working in a gym, at least at first. Many larger gyms dont pay much so I dont want you to go into debt, getting an expensive cert. Since you are already certified in your country, I would recommend you get a lesser expensive cert since you should already know the exercise science and training principles. Look at these organizations




          Before you do this, when you come to the USA, go to local gyms and ask them for a list of certs they accept (dont let them talk you into getting NASM!). look to see if the certs I listed are there.

          If you have any other questions just ask.

  26. Joe says

    Thanks for the article. I’m not training to be a PT but I am looking for one. With all the different certifications out there its hard to know what the differences are. This cleared up at least 2 of them.

  27. katelyn says

    Okay so I went through the Eteach program through NASM and all I have to say is I wasted my money. They said I was getting a student discount. Pssst I got so ripped off! Along with barely passing the week preparation quizzes, my car had gotten totaled and I was going through hell with life.

    They only gave me two weeks extended to take the test with the guarantee I paid and extra 500 a hour for. That was the “best they could do.” The program is confusing and dont get the online videos, the guy is obnoxious! Irritated the piss out of me how clever he thought he was. They have the right idea, almost ( worked at a gym 4 years) but they are damn stingy!!!! Program overall…I wasted my money. 900 buckos worth.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Katelyn, really sorry to hear all you went through. Glad you were not hurt when your car was totaled. Why dont you take a look at ACE or NSCA. if you are looking at an online thing, take a look at ISSA.

  28. bodren says

    While I appreciate a lot of what you are saying it seems you are not too confident in saying one way or another what is the best path for someone to take. Everything has a disclaimer “I’m not saying … “

    • Joe Cannon says

      Bodren, If I did not appear to be confident, its because I was trying to be impartial and to give my insights in a way that allowed you to make your own choice. In other words, because I dont know you and your particular needs, it’s hard to say universally which is best for everybody.

      But, since you brought it up, I would pick NSCA over NASM. I say that not because I am NSCA certified or because they pay me to say it (they dont) but because based on my personal experiences, I feel the NSCA cert appears to be more well rounded than NASM. I hope that helps you in your decision making.

    • Ben says

      Bodren, that’s an unfair slam at Joe who has done a wonderful job of giving us lots of information and a forum to discuss these issues. He can’t tell you which cert or path is right for you any more than he can tell you which car or haircut is right for you. YOU have to look into this and make up your own mind, and accept that you may not take the perfect path the first time, which many of us can say.

      I know both NASM and NSCA and I have a good deal more respect for NSCA, but you could try NSCA and come up with a completely different opinion, so how in the world can anyone tell you what to do?

  29. Jarett Hanson says

    Joe, it seems like you are very knowledgeable when it comes to fitness and all the insight on the different cert’s (as seeing various posts from you on here and also bodybuilding.com). I’m new to the field and have been looking into taking a 6-month course at NPTI which uses the NASM textbook which then prepares you to then take the NASM exam. Have you heard of NPTI and would this be a good decision going through them?

    The tuition is steep from what it sounds like other people are getting certified for; being that it’s about $6600, but includes obviously the 6-month classroom and hands on instruction, but also the gym membership, NASM textbooks + exam costs, Anatomy + Nutrition textbooks, and also to get CPR/AED certified. It seems to me this would be a good course to learn a ton and be prepared for a job as a CPT, what are your thoughts?

    Here is the link to the NPTI brochure if you haven’t heard and are interested:

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jarrett, I am familiar with NPTI. They have been around for several years. Those who go through the program should graduate with more in-depth information than those who study on their without having a 6 month class room experience. That said, I think people should weigh the cost of the NPTI program ($6600 as you said) with how much they will make working in a gym. Considering some gyms pay as little as $7 per 30 min personal training session, it will take a long time to recoup the money invested in the cert.

      As I understand it, when people go through the NPTI program, they get a diploma (not certification) and the ability to take the NASM exam. there is no guarantee that people will pass the NASM exam although since NPTI uses the NASM materials, that is an assumption. If you do this, I suggest you first contact NPTI and ask what percentage of NPTI graduates pass the NASM test. This information is known. If you find out, please let me know.

      NPTI graduates please correct me if I’m wrong but I believe NPTI used to offer a certification (as well as a diploma). I’m guessing that they aligned themselves with NASM due to the NASMs greater acceptance in the gym world. Personally, I think this waters down the NPTI brand and I think its a mistake on their part because people could just take the NASM cert and save a lot of money on the NPTI education.

      I love the education aspect of NPTI even if it doesn’t guarantee people pass the NASM test. It can be expensive so if money is an issue, I’d recommend getting NSCA certified (or NASM if you are set on them) and then buying the books of the other organizations, studying those, taking online courses and one day courses on a variety of fitness related topics. It may take a bit extra time but you’ll save money.

      The fact that you are even thinking about NPTI means you are serious about the industry and plan on making learning a long term goal after the certification process is over. That’s is the mark of someone who I feel will be successful, no matter who he/she is certified by.

      • Wendy says

        I just started at NPTI, and they are moving away from an association with NASM, apparently because their graduating students didn’t like being locked into one specific certification that wasn’t necessarily accepted everywhere. They have also dropped their tuition by the price of the certification test and graduates will only receive a diploma, they will still need to test with some agency to receive their CPT.

        This transition is new for them, and since today will only be my second class, I can’t really comment on how it’s going yet, but if anyone is interested I can try keeping you updated.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Wendy, thank you so much for letting me know! I am so glad to hear NPTI moving away from NASM! Wendy, please do keep me posted on how you are doing in the program. After you graduate I would also love to interview you for my site about the NPTI program. Ive been wanting to add an NPTI review to my site for a long time.

  30. says

    This was REALLY good information. I was leaning toward NASM because, well, they have payment plans. I believe after reading this I will look at NSCA. The gentleman at NASM has been following up with me and I was very close to caving. When I asked him the difference between NASM and RTS (recommended to me by my brother) he was very aggressive letting me KNOW they have the best program because they “developed” it. Needless to say, I am still confused but grateful for this article. lol

    I am a health coach that wants to add some depth. I also have a deep interest in interval training, online training, etc. If you have any insight on RTS it would be appreciated. Thanks again for the info. Keep it coming. :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Sharonda, you told me something that never occurred to me before. The NASM customer support person was “following up with you” – does that mean he called you on the phone to follow up with you about whether you were going to get NASM certified? I ask because I know NASM is very good at marketing themselves. I wonder if calling perspective customers on the phone is part of that marketing? Let me know how this transpired. I’m curious.

      The fact that the NASM person got angry over your questioning about another certification would be a tip off to me. Here is my review of the NASM TV Commercial. Take a look at it.

      My personal opinion about NASM is they are over priced and over hyped. I believe their lowest priced cert is an online cert. They even have “restocking fees” for online classes that are not taken. what is there to “restock?”

      I’ve heard a little about RTS – resistance training specialist but I dont know much about it (I’ll see if I can find an RTS certified trainer and do an interview with them for more insights). I believe it was founded by Tom Purvis who is a physical therapist. Id imagine that there might be a good about of overlap between NASM and RTS since they both probably focus a lot on bio-mechanics.

      Sharonda, do you plan on ever working in a gym? if so do go to your local gyms and ask for the list of certs they accept. They all have this list. See if RTS is on the list. Gyms are funny because they think some certs are better than others. Many times their views are based on how good the fitness organization can market themselves. Im sure NASM is on the list – because they market themselves well. I’m not sure about RTS. It might be.

      If you think you will be a self employed trainer, then it doesn’t matter who you are certified by. your clients will probably never ask you about this. They only care about you having the knowledge.

      Here is my guide on how to become a personal trainer. These are the things Id do if I had to do it all over again

      What you can do -and I suggest you do this – is get the books of the other organizations (ACSM, NSCA, etc) and study those. Then you have their knowledge without spending thousands of dollars on their certs.

      If you have never been certified before, do take a look at my book Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. Im different than the rest and more life like. If I had to know it, you will have to know it too.

      If you have any questions about this let me know and do let me know how the NASM was following up with you. where they calling you up on the phone?

  31. Tom says

    I have NASM CPT and given the textbook and opportunity, there is no doubt in my mind I could pass a NSCA exam. I have worked with guys that have passed an NSCA and have more experience, yet somehow I can school them about anatomy, bio-mechanics, and physiology. I had my boss (NSCA certified) give me routines for his clients to look over and check, including the periodization aspect of it.

    I appreciate the author for hesitating to conclude one certification is better over the other. I cannot speak for the curriculum of NSCA so I won’t. NASM has a solid focus on bio-mechanics, and what it prides itself on is the fact that they use scientific research as a basis from which to extrapolate information.

    NASM does scientific research at the University of North Carolina. They have had a research institute since 2006 so I don’t know why the author of this article chose to say NASM does not do research. That is actually what lead me to comment on this.

    I have a NASM CPT, I know my work is supported by scientific evidence. I have trained bodybuilders, semi-pro athletes, and people with a plethora of medications/diseases ranging for pancytopenia, diabetes, heart transplant recipients, post-surgical rehab issues and more.

    I don’t know if NSCA prepares trainers for the majority of the population that has health issues. NASM does.

    I appreciate any organization that conducts research to help an industry further itself.

    I won’t say one certification is better than the other either. It’s about what you want to do. If training athletes is your thing, maybe NSCA. Keep in mind though that Michael Clark developed NASM and he is a physical therapist. He worked with Olympic and professional sports athletes for years.

    If your idea of training is to help everyday people as well as athletes and to use exercise a therapy, maybe NASM is the way to go.
    It’s up to you.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Tom, thanks for writing. Can you give me the name of the peer reviewed journal where NASM publishes their research? Do those research studies show up in the National Library of Medicine?

      I believe in education over certification which Im sure you agree with. When people consider fitness as a career, its been my experience that people often hear NASM is “the best” and that’s just not true. Just as you’ve met NSCA trainers that were less than spectacular, I’ve met NASM trainers who were the same.

      NASM is very good at marketing themselves – the NASM TV Commercial being an example – I wanted to give people an unbiased review to help them better decide especially if they are on a budget.

    • Ben says

      Tom, you sound so defensive that I am not sure that you are likely to listen to any other point of view, but perhaps what I say will be of use to anyone who is reading this series and trying to decide which way to go.

      I am NASM certified, and I don’t care for the organization very much, and will let my cert expire this year. I got so tired of it filling my mailbox with solicitations to sign up for everything under the sun that I unsubscribed. Its emphasis seemed to be way too much on its own welfare, not my education or support. If it conducts the level of research that I prefer, I must have been asleep when it happened. I also find its textbook horrible (I’m a published author so I don’t have much tolerance for typos on top of typos).

      That having been said, I joined NSCA, and attended last year’s conference in Vegas. It blew me away. If you like and appreciate the scientific side of physical fitness, this conference is incomparable. This was not a bunch of meatheads talking about how many reps or sets they did. It was paper after paper, presented by the authors themselves, on such things as blood glucose levels at intervals after a workout and therefore what was the best way to respond to such. Then, correspondence in the ensuing year from NSCA showed me that I had found the organization that best suits my intellectual interests and fitness goals.

      I will be 72 in about a week and have been working in medicine since 1974, and fitness training since the late sixties, so this is not a passing interest (well, not until I pass).

  32. Frank says

    I looked into both the NASM CES and PES and was told that you are given 3 attempts to pass, and that the exams are the exact same test each time? That can’t be accurate, almost too easy, seems really watered down if it is true.


  33. Stevan Dixon says

    Hi Joe,

    Those are some great points. There is so much that is wrong with the CSCS re-certification process. One thing is they don’t include a lot of events that count towards CEU’s in a meaningful way. There is no doubt that it is a money racket. How dare they take your comment down for pointing out the weak credit they give to authors. I just noticed they reduced the .05 quizzes for CEU’s to .02. At $20 a quiz, that’s $200 for just 2.0 of the 6.0 needing to re-certify. On average fees for attending events, tests, web events, etc. come close to $600.

    They say they are interested in development. You would doubt that if you look at the same lame quizzes they keep posting over and over for their expensive fees. On top of all this, I can’t even say paying the annual memberships fees is worth the journals.

    I helped out strength coach Mark Asanovich for a couple of training camps when he was with the Jacksonville jaguars. He was one of the first people certified with the CSCS. He came to the conclusion years ago that it wasn’t that good. They are making money and I’m sure its good if you are a presenter. That is unless you have an opinion that goes against their position like Mike Boyle did years ago.

    I’m starting to come to the conclusion that Coach Asanovich had. It’s definitely an organization that takes too much money from it’s members for little in return other than having a certification that has garnished undeserved recognized by many.

      • Stevan Dixon says

        The reason they gave for reducing the quizzes to .02 from .05 is they felt it took only 2 hrs per quiz. This is not true. It is strictly money. It more than doubled the cost per quiz. The truth is most of those quizzes can be completed in under 30 minutes The biggest farce is they have been known to repost the same quizzes for different certifying periods.

        I have no problem with continued education. It does seems ridiculous to expect someone who paid lots of money and spent a lots of time to take a $300 exam to pay more money than the exam cost every few years. If they were really focused on continued education, they would be more professional about not reposting the same quizzes and give more opportunities for CEU’s.

        When you think about the ten of thousands of CSCS out there, there is no doubt this is more about profits. They should not charge a lot to re-certify The expensive annual memberships fees should be more than enough to cover their investments in research.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Stevan, that’s so interesting about their rationalization on reducing quiz CEU value. If that is their logic, they just reinforced what I’ve said all along – that writing books and magazine articles should not count the same. I can knock out a 500 word magazine article in a few hours. It took me about 2 years each to write most of my books.

  34. Alyssa says

    Hi Joe, thanks so much for this article. I’m a group exercise trainer looking to get my CPT. I’m initially attracted to NASM because of the emphasis that you described. I’m particularly interested in training post-partum women and helping to correct postural deviations. (I’m a mom of 4 who has lost 40# and recovered from chronic back pain and uterine prolapse though regaining physical fitness).

    I’m less interested in teaching people to perform great feats of strength than I am in helping them recover quality of life, functional abilities, and counteract effects of sedentary lifestyle and/or childbirth.

    I have small studio in my home so at this time I’m not looking to work in a large gym. Advice for me? Thanks so much! Looking forward to picking up your book!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Alyssa, I think based on what you said I think NASM might be a good option for you. Because it can be a bit pricy, also take a look at the ACE cert as well. I don’t know if NASM has a pre/post natal cert but ACE might. Regardless you can always pick up some books or attend pre/post partum classes to gain this information if they dont.
      Since you are thinking about working out of your home, you might want to talk to your home insurance company about this. They may have ea policy for this or be able to upgrade your current policy. Also think about the parking in your area. If you dont know anyone who trains out of the home, you might want to reach out to Teresa Giordano who is a personal trainer in Maryland who has a studio in her home for some insights on this and other things. Here is my interview with Teresa. I know her personally so tell her I said howdy!

      I hope this helps Alyssa. I also hope you had a great Christmas and enjoy my book as well :)

      • Alyssa says

        Joe, thank you so, so much!!! I will definitely reach out to Teresa! Out of curiosity, do you think ISSA is worth considering? From what I’ve read, it seems a more basic certification. (Maybe that’s wrong though?) How respected are they in the real world? I have a group exercise primary certification and have been teaching a couple years so I feel I have a basic understanding down pretty well. My husband is military, so we are forever moving every couple years. Would it be safer to have a NASM cert if I needed to be employed by a gym (vs my own gig)? Sorry for all the questions…lol!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Alyssa, I don’t know if Id say ISSA is more basic than NASM. Ive met people who said that the NASM test was pretty basic (Ive met others who said it was hard too). I believe both certs cover the same stuff for the most part. While it doesn’t matter what cert you have – and clients likely won’t ever ask you/or care which one you have – if I had to take a guess, I think more gyms accept NASM than ISSA. that’s mostly about how well NASM markets themselves and not because they are better than ISSA. I still think NASM is over priced.

          I covered ISSA in my review of online certs. Here is my review of online certifications

          Here is an interview I did with an ISSA personal trainer that might also help.

          Have a great NYE! :)

  35. says

    Hello Joe, first time reader of your blog I found whilst searching about PFT certifications on big G. In regards to NESTA, have you heard of the new cert that I would like to pursue its called “Muay Thai Fitness Coach or MTF”, I myself have experience in basic/intermediate MT levels here locally in my area MD.

    I just wanted to know if you had a chance to base a review or had an opinion on this new NESTA cert, I’m pretty sure that this type has already gotten popular; my worries are that to actually grasp the basics and beyond take a lot longer than mere 4-5 weeks of study and can result in bad review from clients and affecting the reputation of this company in the long run.

    Thanks again regards,

    Brian C.

  36. Mike D says

    The NSCA has been nothing but a pain for me.
    Their website consistently gives me problems, and the only solution they ever have is to clear my cookies, which they continue to try to walk me through every time I call…

    I failed the second part of the exam by 1 mark, but still scored a 75%, with scoring 85% on the first part. Which is now going to cost me an extra 300$+ to do the re-write. The textbook is overly vague and dense and the test questions are super specific and misleading. This is not the way we should be training people to become certified to do things hands on in a gym.

    I guess they are making enough money charging people around 800$ plus continuing education plus textbooks to really care about what the organization really does for anyone.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Mike, that’s awful what you’ve been going through. My advice is if you don’t think the NSCA is something you really have to have, opt for a lesser expensive cert.

  37. Ruriko Hosaka says

    Hello, Joe
    I am female Japanese college student.
    I hope to be a personal trainer in a future.

    Then, I want to ask you that,
    if I would be professional personal trainer,
    it is necessary for me to get ATC?
    And is it hard to be personal trainer, just take NASM or NSCA CPT?
    In Japan, I can not get correct information about American certification and Association.

    I am so sorry about my poor writing
    And if I said something rude to you, I am so sorry.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Ruriko, nice to hear from you. I think if you spend enough time studying, you should be able to pass certifications of NSCA, NASM, ACE or other American fitness certifications. I believe many American fitness certifications are offered in Japan. I’m pretty certain that the NSCA is offered in Japan. What is your major in college? Is it exercise science? If yes, you should not have much trouble with most fitness certifications.

      When you say “ATC” can you tell me what that stands for. I want to make sure I give you the best information. Im not familar with what ATC stands for so if you tell me, I can help you.

      Your English is perfect – it’s better than some Americans I know :)

Leave a Reply and Join The Conversation.