For quite some time, I’ve been considering getting my personal training certification. The idea was originally planted in 2012 when I got my USAT (USA Triathlon) certification by one of the instructors reviewing strength training for triathlon. It was reinforced when I shifted my focus to strength training in February 2012 and I started researching my options.
I decided to enroll with NASM in December, when NASM offered a monthly payments deal that fit nicely into my coaching budget. This is one of my 2014 goals and will probably be one of the first to be completed! One of the things I learned through the decision process is there are a LOT of options. As I found it helpful to hear others’ opinions, I wanted to share what I found with you.
How did I choose NASM?
I made of list of the things I was looking for in a certification program and these were the top 5 things I was looking for:
- Respected & recognized organization
- Quality coursework based in science (and not easy)
- Focused on strength training and body mechanics (not group fitness)
- Qualifies for USAT Continuing Education Units (CEUs)
Through my research, I don’t believe there’s a clear choice for everyone, you really have to weigh your options and determine what is best for your situation.
Respected & Recognized
As I was evaluating my options, I asked opinions from a lot of friends in the fitness industry (including my own trainer). There were several that came up repeatedly (ACE was a strong contender), but NASM was recommended more than any other. It’s also the certification preferred by LIfe Time Fitness (where I used to lead Run Club), which I respect as a high-quality fitness company.
Quality Coursework based in Science
NASM places a great deal of emphasis on knowledge of human movement science, functional anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. I can tell you from my experience so far, there is a lot more science in this certification program than I ever expected! I obviously did not retain much from my high school science classes. I really want to learn through this certification, so I’m glad to see how challenging the materials are so far!
Focus on Strength Training & Body Mechanics
If you are interested in group fitness, NASM is likely not the best organization for you. It doesn’t even offer a group fitness certification! As I was looking for a focus on individual training, this was a benefit for me. Within strength training, they put a great deal of focus on progression and building a strong foundation in program design. I think this is critical for functional strength training (my focus for running and triathlon coaching clients) and I was excited to see this reflected in the coursework.
NASM also offers an advanced certification in Performance Enhancement (PES) and Corrective Exercise (CES) that fit my areas of interest and would benefit my existing athletes. These are areas that I didn’t see as strongly emphasized in the other certification programs.
Qualifies for USAT CEUs
For all but one of the organizations I reviewed, all personal training certifications cover 10 credits toward my next recertification period. This makes my life a little easier and it ruled out the one organization that covered less CEUs.
The pricing is fairly similar across the organizations, with different options for study packages available at each. NASM isn’t the cheapest option, but the additional cost seemed worth it based on what was important to me.
I chose the CPT Self-Study package (the lowest level), which includes: a textbook, online CPT materials, and an online flashcard bundle. I want to go at my own pace and am typically good at studying on my own, so I think this package should be enough for me (I guess we’ll see!). Many people I know that are also studying right now chose the CPT Online Classroom option. I chose to take advantage of their payment plan, so I pay a little each month (which fits nicely into my coaching budget).
I’m roughly following the 72-day study plan that NASM provides in the syllabus. I say roughly, because with my full-time job and other commitments, I have fallen a little behind. My goal is to stay on the schedule as much as possible and take the certification exam by April 1st. Assuming all goes as planned (and I pass!) that means the BWV Multisport services would expand to include online personal training as early as April!
For now, I have LOTS of studying to do. I can’t remember ever learning so much about the human body at one than I am right now. I’m going to pull out some of my old study tricks (like making flashcards!) and have Kirk quiz me on our drive to the mountains each weekend. I plan to pass this test with flying colors!
Question for you:
When was the last time you had to study for a big test?