My Experience with the NASM Personal Trainer Certification Program

NASM CPTI typically try to keep my posts here short ‘n sweet, but I wanted to cover all the details of my experience with the NASM CPT program. This is a long post, but hopefully all you interested in getting your PT cert will gain some useful insight from it.

Why I Chose NASM

In deciding which personal training certification to get, it seemed there were three options: ACE, NASM and ACSM. I quickly ruled out ACE because I read a ton of dissatisfied reviews from people saying the gym they wanted to work at wouldn’t accept the ACE certification. Because the ACE exam has the highest pass rate, the assumption is that it’s the easiest of the three certifications to get, and therefore not as highly regarded as the other two.

So it was down to NASM and ACSM. Honestly, had I spent a little more time talking to trainers I know instead of solely relying on online research, I would have gone with ACSM. In the future, I might actually get an additional cert from them. ACSM has the lowest pass rate (=hardest test) and is the only program to require candidates have a college degree. A couple trainers I spoke with after already signing up for NASM were adamant that ACSM was the way to go, but that ship had sailed.

That’s not to say NASM isn’t highly regarded. In most of the reviews I read, people agreed that any gym would be happy to hire a personal trainer with either a NASM or ACSM certification—it didn’t matter. NASM even cites ACSM research in their textbook, so I think at the end of the day, you’re getting a lot of the same information from either program. The main difference between the two I gathered from researching reviews online was that NASM emphasized training the vast majority of the American population, while ACSM was a better choice if your goal was to train high-level/professional athletes.

Choosing a NASM CPT Package

There are five different packages you can chose from when signing up for the CPT cert through NASM. They range in price from $699 for the most basic self-study package, to $1,999 for the most inclusive package that comes with job guarantee, free re-test and an associate personal trainer experience. I went with the cheapest, self-study package because 1. holy f*cking shit I’m not spending two month’s rent on anything and 2. I’m a huge nerd—I love studying, I’ve always been “good at school,” and I was confident I could teach myself the material and pass the exam without the added access to online classes, live workshops, etc.

So basically I spent $699 on a textbook, access to some online study materials and a test. Makes me angry every time I think about it, but sadly, that’s just life when it comes to pretty much any sort of degree or certification.

What I Liked about the NASM CPT Program

NASM lays down an excellent foundation of knowledge and will prepare you to train the majority of clients you’d encounter. I guess what was kinda sad for me during studying was the realization that the majority of clients you’d encounter (aka the majority of Americans) are sedentary, completely deconditioned, and afflicted by one or more chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiorespiratory diseases or hypertension. The program focuses a lot on dealing with these issues and either training around them or how to improve them.

While it is sad that our country is so afflicted by obesity and other chronic diseases, I’m really happy I have the knowledge base to work with and help this majority population. I found it so interesting to learn about today’s common postural imbalances (hunched shoulders from sitting at a desk, for example) and how to improve them by strengthening certain muscles and stretching others. While NASM doesn’t introduce you to any creative exercises or workout routines, it definitely will help you create more informed and effectively targeted workouts.

I actually already have been using what I learned on myself! My feet pronate slightly when I run (rotate inward). Whereas before I thought of it simply as a permanent trait of mine, now I’m conscious of trying to strengthen certain muscles and improve the flexibility of others in order to improve this pronated posture. Thanks to NASM, I am definitely better able to create workouts that address specific issues or goals, which is awesome. I feel much better educated in this respect. 

What I Disliked about the NASM CPT Program

While it gave me a great foundation of knowledge and I feel confident I could create a training program for the majority of people out there (elite athletes excluded), I was left feeling like That’s it? Ok…what’s next?

You won’t learn any new exercises through this certification; it won’t help you make creative, innovative workout routines and training programs; you won’t be an expert in any specific mode of fitness; and it pretty much focuses on working out in gyms. This NASM cert will 100% prepare someone for getting a personal trainer position at a gym; but since that’s not really my goal, I was a little disappointed.

The bottom line is that now that I have this awesome foundation of information (because NASM really does do an excellent job of teaching you the basics), it’s time to get the necessary certs and training experience in the specific areas I love: kettlebell training, Lagree method Pilates, spinning, etc.

Exam Advice

I can’t talk too much about the test—pretty sure that’d be cheating. But I would say definitely know your vocab, and also be familiar with muscle locations and functions so that you have an understanding of which would be affected during different exercises or postural imbalances. Also, definitely take the practice test NASM offers on their website. It gives you a great idea of the types of questions you’ll see.

You have six months to take the exam from the time you sign up. Before taking the exam you need to get your CPR/AED cert, if you don’t already have a current one. I signed up in July, but didn’t start studying until November. I spent the last month studying and then took the exam. You have two hours for the test, which is made up of 120 multiple choice questions. Only 100 count towards your score, but you don’t know which ones. It took me just under an hour to finish. You won’t get a numerical score, just a PASS or FAIL. One final piece of advice—try not to look like a total disaster when you go in for the test; they take your picture. Wish. I’d. Known.

Let me know if I didn’t cover anything or you have other questions!



  1. Congrats! I have mine personal training cert through NASM too.

    • William logan says:

      Hey Tamara buschel my name is William and I was curious on exactly what books the nasm study package comes with I’m thinking about buying some used ones of off amazon could you email me at that’s William without the I before the a thanks in advance

  2. CONGRATS!!! 🙂

  3. Congratulations! I went through the same thing you did last year figuring out which organization to get certified through. ACE is bullshit. I decided on my CPT through NSCA because like ACSM it requires a college degree to actually pass the test. You don’t actually need a degree for the CPT, but for the CSCS you do. NSCA has one of the lowest test pass rates (I just squeaked by on my first time!). I did the Corrective Exercise Specialist cert. through NASM and loved it. I definitely think that if you don’t have a science background (i.e. anatomy, nutrition, etc.) then NASM is the way to go over NSCA. Pilates is something I would love to get certified in too someday, but super expensive!

    • I’ve heard that about traditional mat Pilates certs–super intense training. I’m actually about to start training to teach Pilates on the Megaformer machines (so excited!), but I think the process is a little different.

  4. Congrats again! And this was really helpful, thanks for sharing

  5. Congrats, Nicole! And thanks for the tips. My NASM box came in the mail last week and I am excited to get started.

  6. This post is so great! I’ve been thinking of getting certified lately and this really helped me.

  7. Great Job Smarty Pants! I’m in a Health and Fitness college degree program now to become a CPT. I chose this path to use my Post 9-11 GI Bill to earn another degree. I just took an Exercise Science course last quarter where I learned about the difference between ACE, NASM, ACSM, NSCA etc. ACSM focuses a great deal of their efforts on scientific R&D as opposed to the others that seem to focus strictly on certs and CEUs. ACSM has a terrific reputation and is well known for research. That being said, they aren’t too well known for their CPT. Like you mentioned Nicole, it’s an additional CPT cert., not typically a first for new CPTs. NASM is competitive since most CPTs have it. NSCA focuses a great deal on Olympic lifting. I just joined their organization as a student because they are based out of CO Springs, CO-thought I could hit up some of their conferences in CO while we live here. And ACE well, it’s good for quick reads and tips but it’s not that impressive like everyone said. I mentioned that to my instructor and she quickly told me I was wrong. What does she know right?- LOL! The letters after her name were like alphabet soup! My plan is to earn NASM, find a job and specialize in women’s fitness and nutrition. I think it’s a good path for future independent work with aging baby boomers. Anywhoo-Thanks for sharing! And please keep us updated on your plans with your new CPT certification!

  8. Thanks for sharing, and again congrats!

    Hilary x

  9. Congrats!! I was wondering if you hold any other certifications (spin, Pilates, etc) and if so how that certification process compares (cost and studying) to the NASM? I’m considering getting certified in SOMETHING fitness-focused; but want to pursue the one with the best return on investment! Let me know and thanks again!!

    • Specific certifications run the gamut (most are less expensive than NASM, but some are much more). I’m not certified in spin, but that certification is roughly $300 (less than half that of NASM). And I’m actually about to start training to teach Pilates Plus (so excited!) and that certification is $250. Traditional mat Pilates is probably different though. I’ve looked into kettlebell certifications and some are upwards of $1,500–yikes!

  10. Great job, congrats and thanks for sharing! I got my NASM-CPT a few years ago and keep it active which (as a reminder) means getting an additional 2 CEU’s every two years and keeping my CPR-AED up to date. This costs money and is a bit of work especially since I’m not really using my certification, but I worked so hard to get it that I don’t want to give it up. I was a trainer briefly in LA, but being in my 40’s and needing to support my family, I decided to go in another direction. I am still, however passionate about fitness and nutrition and would love to create another path where this knowledge will come in handy (other than blogging-which I already do and enjoy). Having said that, I see you wrote that you’re not planning on using your certification to become a gym trainer, so I’m curious…what is your goal?

    • I could see myself doing in-home personal training (although I’d have to figure out the logistics of lugging the equipment to a client’s home haha). For now though, I really just wanted that base of knowledge to make the content I blog about that much more informed. And I definitely plan to teach group fitness classes at a few studios in Boston (pilates and spinning).

    • Ted have you seen NASM’s new Certify for Life option?? You should look into it. You still submit CEUs every 2 years but you pay one flat price for the recert fee and never pay it again!! Nicole this will be a great option for you in 2 yrs.

  11. Thanks for the recap on your experience. Very helpful!

  12. congrats!

  13. Hi Nicole! That’s great you got a certification. It’s a first step. I did ACSM back in the day and I don’t think it gets you that much closer to knowing what you are doing. ACSM is more fitness testing and management skills. You need to take seminars or find a mentor for the real hands on stuff. Also, real sport/athletic trainers move on to USA weightlifting certifications. Not sure what the prerequisite is for that. Also check out Mike Boyle, who is a well known strength and conditioning coach in your area.

  14. Congrats, again! I am still having a difficult time choosing a certification. It should not be that hard. 🙂 My ultimate goal is to obtain the NSCA CSCS. With that said, I thought about the NSCA CPT b/c it would be similar study material (thus less money spent), or the ACSM CPT as it is held as the “gold-standard”, I have some study material from undergrad as we used both ACSM test and prescription manual and NSCA strength and conditioning book.

  15. Nicole I have had my CPT with NASM since 2005 and I have to say the LIVE workshop was where I had access to new exercises and implementing the programs. also has exercises I believe. I always use my books to reference when working with a new style fitness client. If you want in person mentorship check out Todd Durkin’s 3.5 day mentorship. I did this after I completed my PES with NASM and it was a game changer for my life and fitness career. The people you meet and get access to and the variety of training over one weekend is unreal and able to be applied immediately. I’m sending you a message on FB as well. Let’s connect!

  16. Thanks for the great review. I have my group Ex cert through ACE and already bought the study stuff from ACE for PT. I trained in gyms before (got certified thru the gym and it has lapsed) But I hated it, all they cared about were sales!

  17. What about ISSA? Does anyone know how that stacks up to these?

    • Does anyone have any input regarding ISSA vs. NASM? I am ready to register for the PT program through ISSA, but wanted to make sure I was making the right decision.
      Nicole’s post is very informative, but haven’t seen much input about ISSA.
      Any comments are appreciated!

      • Great question, Jeri! I received materials from ISSA on April 23, 2014, but after reading through the various articles on-line, and for sure this post – I have decided to go with a NCCA accredited program, which is NASM. I will be returning my ISSA materials next week; however, there is a $95 non-refundable fee, but that is okay. I just wanted to make my PT program count for future use. I made that mistake when I entered a doctoral program that was not Georgia accredited for my teaching career. Although, ISSA is accepted in most gyms, it is best to just call the gym that you are interested in pursuing for employment to see what credentials they require. I also spoke with a personal trainer that I had for 2 years; he highly supports NASM, so I am going for NASM.

        • Thank you Nat, great information. I haven’t signed up yet, but after spending lots of research time and reading your post and others, I am convinced NASM is the one too.

  18. What an informative post! You’ve given me a lot to think about!

    I’ve been passionate about athletics and fitness my whole life, especially since I’ve been a runner since high school and I did competitive dance for 14 years. I finally decided to go ahead and get my CPT and am currently in the research mode. I’d basically all but decided on NASM until I read your post! =)

    The impression I was under, was that ACSM focused a lot more on scientific calculations like metabolism and what not, stuff that a lot of people said they never used in their jobs, and that NASM focused more on muscle mechanics and joint angles and whatnot. I am a huge fan of stuff like you mentioned with your pronating while running, how you are able to correct that through strengthening!

    To start out, I’m sure I’ll be at a gym, but what I really want to do with it is help dancers specifically, because there is such a lack of correct athletic knowledge in the dance world, so when you mentioned that ACSM would be better for working with high level athletes, that’s what put me back on the fence.

    Any advice on all of that? I’m finding out that personal input from people who have gone through this is turning out to be my most valuable resource in making my decision!

    For what it’s worth, I’m also looking into doing th CSCS from NSCA, but there’s just less info out there on it.

    Thanks so much!

    • I don’t know much about NSCA, but as far as NASM goes, I’d say you’d definitely feel you needed additional training after the CPT course to be able to knowledgeably work with advanced dancers. It would set a good foundation for working in a gym with your average client working an office job and looking to lose a few pounds or get into better general shape, but doesn’t go into sport specialties. You might want to look into NASM’s other specific certifications though–I’ve hear their Corrective Exercise Specialist cert is an excellent addition to the basic CPT. Hope that helps, and good luck with whatever course you choose! 🙂

  19. Congrats Nicole! My question to you is from your experience, do you feel that getting your NASM was necessary to making yourself stand out or have a foundation even though you’re wanting to specialize in other things? The reason I ask is I want to certify in specific things I enjoy (like you), but worry about clients not taking me seriously or wanting to do business with me when I don’t have a Personal Training certificate, just certificates in something else. I’m just debating if it’s worth the time and money to get the NASM CPT to ‘attract’ clients and mix the other things I’m certified in and love or if it really won’t make a difference if I market myself well if that makes sense…

    • Hi Trevon! For what I’m doing right now (teaching at a pilates studio), I honestly don’t think getting the NASM cert was necessary. But that’s also because people are coming there for one specific type of workout and then leaving. I could see teaching specialized classes at a gym with lots of different gymgoers and having the CPT cert come in handy (both in the eyes of your employer and for the general knowledge base).

  20. Thank you for the information. The detail about what you liked, disliked, and test prep was really helpful and gave me an idea on what to look forward to. I would like to contact you and ask you a few more questions if you don’t mind. My email is I am looking forward to hearing from you.

  21. Thanks!!!

  22. Thanks for the info…question. .When u take test do u have to go to a certain place? Or is it online?

    • You have to go to a testing center–they have tons of locations throughout the country. Practice tests are available online though. 🙂

  23. I just wanted to state how dissatisfied I am that I picked NASM to do my certification through, all they care about is getting paid. Looking at places to get a certification through CHOOSE SOMEONE ELSE.

  24. Thank you so so so so much! This totally helped me! I’m just starting my journey. (:

  25. Thank you for sharing this. when I came across this, I have been inquiring about going to be a personal trainer at a gym. This definitely helped with pros and cons of the program thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  26. Learn How Personal Trainers Are Attracting Dozens of New Clients Without Spending a Fortune on Marketing or Promotion. FREE Training Call Shows You How To Get High Paying Personal Training Clients That Are Eager To Hire YOU!

  27. Luke wilson says:

    Thank you for you for your thoughts. I have been in pest control for awhile and don’t like the feeling the poison do to my body. Fell in love with health a nutrition when I was over weight. Now I would love to help others get healthy. So I am sure I am going to enroll in nasm. I am new to training so if you have any other info I should know please let me know thank you.

    • My best advice is to shadow or work with a current personal trainer in addition to getting the certification–the biggest thing NASM lacks is a mandatory hands-on portion, and I think it’d be really helpful! 🙂

      • Eddie medellin says:

        I just took my nasm exam on july 1 2014 my birthday gift . I was so happy i passed the test. I just remember some of the question came out on the test. I will post some of it next time. Goof luck!

        • Here some of the questions came out on the exam:
          Head protrudes forward underactive muscles, buying decision based, calcium consumed,one gram of protein,how much comm. Non verbal,how much water consume, ice skaters on opt model,obesity related health increase,personal trainer maintain financial contract, requirement to maintain certification, time of the day conduct resting heart rate, to accomplish weight loss long term,diastolic pressure,low carbs diet rapid weight loss,marathon form of energy,performing CPR,new client never workout, training with arthiritis how many minutes, youth client training progress next phase training, hypertension client exercise, body comp. obese client, core power exercise,core strength exercise, superset strength upper body, technique express purported meaning just heard, correct order for stage change model,process asking clients to get their motivation are, protein recommendation goal of lean body mass,client following 800-1000 per day diet, core stabilization exercises, smart goal settings process is focused creating goals that are challenging but not to extreme. I hope this tip will help out to those who take the test this year. Good luck everyone.

          • Hi I have to take the test on Jan 3rd and I was wanting to know is the test a lot like the the test I took for my class in e teach or is it harder. I’m really scared. I have problems with the over active and under active muscles. Any help would be nice. Thank you .

          • Sorry I didn’t respond to this in time–hope the test went well!! As you probably noticed, the online practice test was a good representation of the real thing.

          • Hi, Nicole I didn’t pass, but I’m going to take it again. The test was nothing like the NASM teaches so I don’t know where to get my study stuff from so I can pass .Can
            you give me any ideals to pass this test. Thanks

          • Making flashcards was the best study aid for me–sorry I can’t be of more help, it’s been a while since I’ve taken the test so it’s definitely not fresh in my mind. Best of luck!

  28. Victoria says:

    Nicole, I am studying for the CPT cert through NASM as well. I was actually supposed to get my cert this past December, but literally failed by a point. Taking that very discouragingly I swiped my credit card again for a $199 retest (I die a little inside everytime I think about it), anyway, I’m supposed to take it in a month. How long did you actually take to study the exam material? I had originally signed up in July 2013 and took it in December. Then I got my retest around 4 months ago, just about to take it now. I’m nervous because I feel I have not studied how I should have. I am also a full-time college student, so it may not have been the best point in my life to do this cert. Any pointers or tips you recommend?

    Thank you in advanced!!

    • I took the e teach online for 9 weeks and 2 weeks to take an exam,one shot very much i still remember some of the questions.

    • I did the same thing–signed up in July and took it in December. Honestly didn’t even open the textbook until late October, though! When I did finally start studying, I was able to dedicate a lot of my time to it (maybe 25 hours a week?) and did that for probably 5 weeks. I felt over-prepared though–I read through the entire text book, made flashcards, typed up notes, watched the teaching videos NASM posts online–the whole 9 yards.

      My best advice is really focus on vocab words (make flash cards or buy the ones NASM offers) and on muscle imbalances (knowing which muscles are affected by certain tight muscles, etc.). Best of luck with the test! You got this! 🙂

  29. Nicole, I have been wanting to go to school to become a personal trainer, but ultimately I want to own my own gym one day. I do not quite know where to start with certifications or schooling for this goal to be achieved. Any advice would be awesome! If you could email me at

    Thanks so much!!

  30. Any thought on the posture certificaition NPI?

    • I haven’t heard much about it–is that related to the Corrective Exercise Specialist one? Because I’ve heard great things about that with NASM!

  31. nicole reed says:

    thank you for sharing this post. I did my research for a couple years before choosing NASM. Hopefully I should get my package this week. I might go for ACSM later on once i finish school next year.

  32. Hello
    My name is Zack I’ve been doing research about the personal training NASM certificate. But my question is what is the book name for I can study more about NASM test. Can I get the materials that I need off line like amazon???

  33. abdelaali20@hotmail.comu says:

    Thanks for sharing this info.. Its help me a lot.. Iam thiniking to get my CPT from NASM .. And i was looking for some guidness and i found it here.. I heard that the exam is so hard.. And my english is not that well. Iam afraid that it will be hard for me to pass. Any help plz

  34. Honestly, the trainer makes the certification — not vice versa. I’m ACE-certified and probably have a better understanding of functional anatomy, exercise physiology, corrective exercise, biomechanics, motor learning and control, and exercise psychology than most trainers I have encountered (who happen to be NASM-certified).

    I work in corporate wellness with MediFit, which is not an entry-level job. What dictates your employment potential is your ability to sell and your education. My knowledge in kinesiology was so good that I was able to convince the personal training manager that I do not need a NASM-CPT (even though I later rejected the job offer for a better deal in corporate wellness). I honestly believe the ACE material helped me with my kinesiology courses.

    Moreover, I’ve read the NSAM Essentials of Personal Training book (my roommate was NASM-certified) and, honestly, the book is a mirror image of ACE’s material. NASM uses OPT model;

    I think ACE really built a poor reputation in the past, but their new material is all reviewed by ATC’s and follows what ACSM recommends. I definitely believe NASM has a great program, but there is no best CPT certification from what I have experienced. Most gyms accept ACE, so it really comes down to price and convenience.

    • PS: Parts of my comments were cut off, but I was trying to say that NASM uses OPT model and ACE uses IFT, which follow the exact same principles in progressing a client through exercise programming. The job offer I rejected was with LifeTime Fitness, who wants uniformity of NASM trainers, but I was able to talk my way out of this so-called requirement by showing my education and ability to sell. In terms of ACSM, I admit they are more appropriate for a clinical setting, whereas NSCA is for athletes. ACE and NASM both does a great job for the general population, but NASM puts a slight bit more emphasis on corrective exercise. However, any of the certifications you have mentioned will get your foot into the door. You can always acquire more advance certs as I have — but to say ACE is worthless is a fallacy.

      Take care.

      Summers, ACE-CPT, CES, CSCS, H/FS

    • I totally agree–the trainer trumps the certification as far as getting a job! Experience and the way you interact with others/clients is so, so important. Thanks for commenting–I love that we have an ACE-certified trainer pitching in now as well. This comment section continues to get more and more informative by the day–wish I could have read it before making my program decision! 🙂

    • Nicole – Thank you so much for this post. It and its comments are super helpful! I too am looking to get my CPT certification this year and have been following your blogs on your transition into the industry full-time. Exactly what I want to do as well!

      Summers – I may be a bit late to the party, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the ACE CPT and also on MediFit as a company to work for. I’m an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor, and for that reason I’ll most likely stick with the ACE-CPT cert. as well. I’ve been seeing a LOT of job openings with MediFit and wondering how you like it? What’s your position there? Curious to hear more. Thank you so much! 🙂

  35. Thanks for the post. I’ve been considering which cert to get. I’m launching a group training/boot camp model, so I appreciate the comments about how NASM prepares more for working with average Americans with health issues. I think that would be beneficial for clients in that niche.

    Mike @vitabot

  36. Thanks for sharing your experience with the NASM CPT program. It is very helpful. I am considering to get the NASM certification just for personal interest (not for finding a job in the fitness industry). I just started going to gym a few months ago and I have not worked with any personal trainer. I want to take NASM to learn to train myself and I now just have an average (or slightly below average) fitness level. May I know if you think the NASM program is suitable for me? Thanks a lot for your advice.

    • I think it would help build a great foundation of knowledge for you. I do think that hands-on experience is the best though, and I’ve learned the most through talking and working with other personal trainers, instructors and fitness professionals. Even if you don’t train with them, I would suggest approaching personal trainers at your gym just to pick their brains a bit. Doing that in addition to what you’ll lean in the NASM course will really enrich your fitness knowledge!

  37. I am studying with nasm and I was wondering if the real exam questions are similar to the quiz in the e teach class

    • I didn’t do the e teach class, but if you check out the practice exam NASM has online, the real exam questions are very similar to those!

    • I just recently passed my exam with NASM, I can tell you the questions are not the same, but all the vocab words you will need to know. I also recommend knowing the what mucsles to work or SMR, for example someone with low back pain.

  38. Hello. I completely agree with this statement

    ” I quickly ruled out ACE because I read a ton of dissatisfied reviews from people saying the gym they wanted to work at wouldn’t accept the ACE certification.”

    I also had a bad experience with Todd Galati who is head of Certification for ACE. He is a real loser. He prevented a middle-eastern man from becoming a personal trainer and would not even give him 5 minutes to hear his side of the story. What a coward Todd.Galati is. His email is

  39. Thanks Nicole. Very useful info

  40. I found your post on pinterest while looking through NASM articles. I just got my NASM CPT last week! I agree with your overview (I couldn’t go with ACSM as I have a BA – nothing related to fitness!). My primary goal isn’t to be a personal trainer in a gym, either, and despite passing the test I’m still feeling a little unprepared to move forward as a coach/trainer. What did you end up doing after getting your CPT?

    • I got trained in Lagree Fitness and now teach megaformer classes at a boutique fitness studio in Boston. I also got my spinning certification and taught indoor cycling for a bit, but found that I didn’t love it as much as teaching Lagree Fitness so recently stopped. I’m also now certified in Indorow. As you can probably tell, group fitness appealed to me more than personal training 🙂

  41. Martin Miller says:

    Thanks for putting this out there. I am seriously going to start personal training and am looking for a basic certification to get credentials on paper in addition to what I have in my head. Have narrowed down to ISSA and NASM and will likely go on to NASM based on yours and other recent reviews I have read. I am actually in need of more general population based info they are heavy on. I have some experience training people with athleticism and drive, but frankly I believe this to be much easier than training the general population.

    You mentioned being interested in kettlebell certification – I got mine a few months back through Steve Maxwell SC and highly recommend it – the man has serious depth of knowledge in general fitness as well as KB specific training.

    • Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t heard of Steve Maxwell but am definitely going to look into the cert–hopefully he’s doing a session near Boston soon! 🙂

      • Martin Miller says:

        Have to check his site, he travels nonstop and is often overseas. Was just in the region and did a number of certs and seminars, including a mobility seminar in Boston that I was unable to make – I rec’d my KB cert in Buffalo, NY the week prior. He also has a KB seminar that incorporates a greater variety of exercises, but is not geared toward instructing.

        His videos are very useful for broadening horizons with the KB. For some perspective on the sport aspect, anything in Russian is worth watching. Olga Yaremenko has a great one on the snatch that doesn’t even need subtitles.
        In general I am not big on the sport “soft” style. However, understanding how it differs from the more popular “hard” style is invaluable for learning how to properly decelerate the KB when doing high volume or high weight repetitive lifts that initiate from a low hold or swing.

        For as long as they’ve been in the mainstream, I still see very few certified trainers or individuals that can properly use them.

        Take care and thanks again

  42. They took your picture?! I just passed my test last Saturday & no pic!

    • LUCKY! haha

      • Ok, so another question…b/c I just re-read this post and I realize you kinda feel the same way as me. I feel like when I go in for an interview, and they ask me to create a workout, I don’t even really know exactly HOW. I also kinda feel like I will have a hard time creating a workout that is easy enough for a new client, but still challenging, b/c I’m used to such intense, hard workouts…I’m thinking maybe I should have a personal training session myself so I get a feel for how it actually goes?? I just feel SO uncomfortable with even attempting to interview for a position…any tips???

        • I felt the same way–I was confident training MYSELF…but not other people. The best preparation is hands-on practice and experience. For me, teaching group fitness has given me just that. You learn how to modify exercises for different people and work around everyone’s limitations, but within the context of a set workout routine that everyone is doing together. Although I’m not an active personal trainer, I now feel 100% confident I could put together a plan for a client should I decide to go that route. So that being said, if you’re at all interested in group fitness, I think it’d be great to pick up a class here and there to get a feel for what it’s like training. In addition, finding an existing trainer to act as a sort of mentor would be a huge help. See if someone is willing to meet with you at a local gym! 🙂 Hope this helps!

          • Ahhh thank you thank you!! That is kind of EXACTLY what I was thinking too, so glad to hear that teaching group fitness helped you with your confidence. I was dead set against teaching group classes, but NOW, I started thinking it would almost be EASIER! I agree, I need to find someone that I can kind of shadow. Thanks so much for the feedback! It definitely helped validate my feelings about it and my confidence level. I was starting to think I made a HUGE mistake! haha

  43. Hi Nicole. I know this is an older post but I came across it on Pinterest. I’m a runner and blogger and am studying for my NASM certification. I have 2 more months to take my exam and also did the basic package. I’m a terrible test taker. Like, thinking about it makes me want to pee my pants. I’ve been studying for 4 months but off and on. I’ve only gotten really serious about it the last couple weeks(I am a mom of 3 and have been training for a marathon). Anyway do you feel using the study guide they give and the practice exam(the two main study sources I’m using) is sufficient for the exam? I’m so freaked out I’ll fail lol! Thanks!!

    • Hi Kelly! The practice test is a great representation of what the actual test looks like so definitely use it! I didn’t use NASM’s study guide, but made my own as I read through the textbook, which was sufficient. I think the biggest thing is to know all the vocabulary words that are bolded throughout the textbook. I made flashcards and it helped a ton. Don’t be scared–you’ll rock it! 🙂

  44. Hey Nicole, love the info, on the fence about trying this out. For your overpronation, have you tried insoles or stability shoes? if you haven’t you’ll notice the difference and help your posture.

  45. Nicole,

    thank-you for putting this article together. Exactly what i was looking to find out to get an idea of whether i should pursue a Cert. thanks again and best of luck!

  46. Nicole,

    I really appreciate the info. I’m bouncing back and forth between getting my cert through ACSM and NASM right now, so this post spoke to me.

    Quick question. My friend is planning on opening up his own gym for military vets. With that population (high likelihood of physical disabilities) in mind, which cert do you think he should choose – ACSM or NASM?

    Thank you!

    • Hmm I’m not really sure as I haven’t gone through ACSM’s program, but try looking into what other certs each offers. In addition to CPT, I know NASM offers specialty certs like Corrective Exercises, Senior Fitness, etc.–maybe one of them has a speciality program that would accommodate the CPT well for a disabled client base.

  47. I’m attending a NASM academy , taught hands on prep for exam!

  48. NASM is the hardest to pass , and ACE is easier like one mentioned! Hands training is the best route to Excell with your client.Anybody can go online I refuse with that bullshit !

  49. Nicole, my name is Marc. Thanks for the info. I’m wondering what kind of continuing education is necessary to maintain your certification. And what kind of degree does acsm require for their certification? Thanks again for taking the time to share.

    • Hi Marc! There’s no specific type of continuing education, you just need a certain number of credits every two years–these can be earned a ton of different ways. You can get them through NASM’s other specialized courses or with other fitness eduction unrelated to the program. For example, I got Spinning certified and Indo-Row certified this year, and can use both those towards my NASM ce credits. Not sure about ACSM–I think it’s just high school diploma for their CPT, but you can double check their website:

  50. I bought the NASM-CPT textbook, but then decided to go with ACSM. In an effort to save money, I was wondering if I could use the NASM course book in addition to the other ACSM suggested study materials. Thoughts?

    • I haven’t done the ACSM course or taken the test so I’m not sure–I’ve heard that the two programs have a ton of similarities, but as far as vocab words and subject matter focus go, it’s probably best to get the ACSM textbook. You could always sell the NASM one on eBay!

  51. Thanks for sharing, Nicole. I see you posted this a while ago and it’s still helping people a year and a half later. Great Job!

    I found this post particularly helpful because I too love to learn and am a self-study’er (did I just make up a word?)

    I am also considering getting Pilates certified. I noticed in one of your responses to a post that you were also Pilates certified and that your NASM certification was not necessary to get your Pilates certification.

    Could you give me a run-down on what you did to get Pilates certified, like and dis-likes about that process, and what you would have done differently in getting Pilates certified. And any info you have regarding costs.

    Thank a bunch! You rock!!

  52. I found a really great resource that helped me pass my NASM-CPT with flying colors. It’s called Fitness Mentors, found them on Instagram! I used their free CPT study guide but they also have some paid study guides that are wayyy cheaper than the stuff on the NASM site. Check em out at

    • Jessica M says:

      I used their study guide and audio lectures. They lay it out in a really easy to understand way. I felt super prepared and walked in and out of the testing room in 20 minutes with a pass. I don’t think there was one question they didn’t cover. Check out a sample audio lecture for chapter 9 here. I highly recommend them. Dont pay the $1000 for the better nasm stuff as Fitness Mentors is cheaper.

  53. Just curious on your opinion of which package to select from NASM? I realize you get more for your dollar if you choose the top package but is it really worth the money or will one of the lesser packages suffice?

  54. Johanna Athas says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this information! I signed up for the NASM eteach course (the $1000 one) a few weeks ago and I’m really liking it so far. My main goal is to become an independent trainer and have my own private clients. I have a medical background, so hopefully that will give me a slight advantage in this course. I just took my first quiz today and got a 90, so I’m happy with that. I feel like I’m learning quite a bit and retaining a lot of the information and terminology, so hopefully that will continue!

  55. I have to disagree with you.. Ive mer personal trainers failed ACE CPT examine. I took both and passed. ACE is international accepted. I took NASM because of the OPT model. Prepping for strength conditioning specialist examine. The ACE CPT is not easy. Bottom line you have to study. The problem most people don’t know what to focus on to pass.

    • Nancy Hoag says:

      I agree with you. I also have ACE and Nasm certificarions.
      I think they both bring something to the table as far as program and education . I would recommend both and I have two certifications in each program.
      HAVING said that, nothing beats training with a really good trainer and getting your feet wet!

  56. great article! I am about to sign up with NASM and I am really glad you took the time to write about your experience with them!

  57. Kelcey betustak says:

    HI nicole. I’m from Indiana and am moving to Florida in january. I have a serious weight lifting and athletic backgrounder but just recently thought about getting certified to work through college while I finish up my degree. I have looked into NASM but there isn’t much info so great post about it! Now I suppose my only question is, if I’m living in indiana while I get certified, can I use my cert countrywide? Like I will be able to train in florida? Dumb question maybe but I can’t find the answer anywhere. It would be super helpful if you could email me as well because I’ve also been very interested in pilates.

    • Hi Kelcey! Yes, your NASM cert would be recognized country-wide. 🙂 I’m not certified in Pilates (I teach Lagree Fitness, which is based on Pilates, but a whole different beast) so I probably wouldn’t be the best resource for questions on that. Feel free to shoot me an email though if you’d like:

  58. Thank you. I’ve been planning on getting certified. But feel lost. Thanks for being detailed.

  59. Thanks this helped me a lot in my decision making process!

  60. Hi Nicole I love reading your blog. I am an experienced group instructor in several formats; TRX, Barre, Spin/Cycle,Pilates and Strength training. I am super passionate about helping people reach their goal. These days the costs of certfications is crazy plus the mega hours to learn a new routine for every level of student brings the hourly pay scale below minimum wage. Are you getting support or sponsorship from your studio to off set these costs? (golly, Lagree is $2,900 without travel and hotel)

  61. Hey lady! Literally just scheduled my NASM test today and that last word of advice made me chuckle! THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW. My exam is at 9:00am on Saturday, and I plan on getting up extra early to arrive with plenty of time to study in the car 😉

  62. Peter Farrell says:

    Thank you for this information. 😉

  63. I like the way you write. You seem fun.

  64. You completely disregarded NSCA, which ranks higher than ACE or NASM by fitness industry leaders. If you were to focus on just understanding guidelines in fitness, stick to ACSM. All lawsuits between clients and trainers fall under those guidelines, ACSM has final say by the law regardless what you have. And btw, NSCA is just an athletic trainer extension of the ACSM organization!

  65. Teana Erekson says:

    how much is the full thing I don’t want to pay 99$ and then find out there is even more I have to pay for and its like 2000$

  66. This is great! Congrats on getting your Certification. I signed up for NASM in August. So currently I have 3 more months to take the exam. My deadline is Jan. 26th! I am so nervous and really don’t feel like I know everything yet. I did take the Associate program which includes the 8 week internship only because I really want the hands on experience and guidance. I can’t wait for it to start. You are so right about the creativity. NASM is very basic on a lot of things. I started working with a trainer and realized there are a lot more exercises out there that I still need to know. Hopefully the internship will give me the push to develop some cool programs. What do you do now? Are you working in a Gym or in-house training?

    • I’ve fallen in love with group fitness so don’t do 1-on-1 training at all actually. I now teach megaformer classes, bootcamps & rowing. 🙂

  67. They take our picture? Lol
    Just drove 3 hours to the city I originally scheduled it with. I guess I’ll be representing Puma as a Personal Trainer.

  68. I know I’m a little late to the party, but did want to mention to you that I am both a NASM and ACSM CPT. I use NASM when it comes to building programs, ACSM when I am dealing with clients with risk factors and how to pursue. I love NASM’s training model a ton.

    Just to manage expectations ACSM is very clinical focuses even less on new moves/exercise, etc to try out with your clients. The focus is very physiological and focus on risk factors and the body’s response to exercise and movement. ACSM also sets all clinical and legal standards and are a very research-based organization. As a fellow nerd, you would probably love this aspect. I am always giving my clients not just the how but the scientifically proven why.

    If you are looking for places to find new moves to try with your clients I would suggest attending conferences, taking group fitness classes at the gym you work(out) at or joining Facebook forums for other trainers..that is where i get the majority of my new ideas, actually!

  69. I enjoyed reading through this article and the comments, mainly to see what similarities and differences exist between personal training courses in the UK (where I recently completed a personal training course) and the USA.

    Here in the UK there are a lot of different providers who offer qualifications – when I was doing my research I found over 20 providers! A large part of my decision came down to price – do I pay nearly £4000 for a personal trainer qualification plus a load of semi-useful qualifications I’ll never use or pay nearly 1/3 of the price purely for the core qualification?

    It’d be nice to have qualifications offered by parallel leading bodies like the ACSM or NASM here. That being said, the course I did was really informative and despite it being intensive I was never buried under the work load.

    As for the exams… on our course we quickly adopted the slogan ‘P’s a P’ meaning ‘a pass is a pass’ because, like with your experience, you only get a PASS or FAIL grade so your actual score is inconsequential!

    I wrote 5 or 6 articles around my experiences on the course, starting with this one: Hopefully you don’t mind me sneaking it in here at the end!

    Cheers, Andrew

  70. Great posting. Thanks for sharing!

  71. This information is really helpful, thanks.

  72. Thanks for the nice tips. Actually, I am also a trainer in rehabilitation professionals. All your tips are very informative for me.

  73. Thank you!

  74. Sam Atherton says:

    Hi I’ve just started paying for the deluxe package and have 15 days to decide whether I want to stick with it or go down a level. The job guarantee is great, but the real reason it sparked my interest is the internship – the hands on seems invaluable to me. I was considering NIPT and with this you get that for $4500 less. Do you have any thoughts on this? Is this aspect overrated and something you’ll go through regardless once you start working?


    Also ACSM looks great after I finish up my bachelor’s in Athletic Training(ATC) – have you added this to your resume?

  75. Just plowed through my own as well. Fortunately have a large network of master and elite trainer friends. My approach and reason was a little different. Still going to keep pushing. Thanks.

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