The National Academy of Sports Medicine certification (NASM-CPT) is a leader in the fitness industry when it comes to personal training certifications.
The NASM CPT offer in particular is a respected fitness certification for personal trainers.
But how good is the NASM-CPT really?
In this article, we’ll share critical NASM certification reviews along with the following criteria:
By the time you finish reading, you will know whether the NASM-CPT is the best CPT certification for your fitness career goals.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
- Exam fee: $599+
- Study material price: $600-$1000+
- Prerequisites: CPR/AED, GED/High School Diploma
- Passing score: 70%
- Pass rate: 60%
- Typical completion timeline: 6 months
- Strong industry recognition
- Excellent OPT Model
- Teaches exceptional training skills
- Study packages get pricey
- Very difficult CPT exam
- Limited special populations discussion
- Complete, efficient study system
- Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
- 850+ practice questions
- 99% pass rate
- Exam pass guarantee
- Curriculum study preparation
- Video and written curriculum included
- Must purchase separate textbook
- 200+ practice questions
- Expensive supplemental materials
- Curriculum material overview
- Complete domain breakdowns
- Q & A format
- Study graphics
- Free from Trainer Academy
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) was founded in 1987.
Their mission was to merge the corrective and therapeutic aspects of kinesiology with the prescription and delivery of health and fitness protocols.
This is why the NASM personal training certification has a leaning towards corrective exercise as implemented through its proprietary Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model.
The NASM personal trainer certification helps trainers help their clients to achieve better physical performance.
This is done by utilizing NASM OPT model workouts to improve imbalances, impedances, and deviations, and to prevent injury while optimizing the standard pillars of fitness.
These pillars include power, strength, and stabilization.
This is what makes NASM programs such a hit with fitness professionals, making it one of the best personal training certs out there.
The OPT training model allows trainers to really open up their career options when you’re figuring out how to be a personal trainer.
The NASM-CPT equips you with the tools to work with anyone from the typical gym-goer, all the way to elite athletes. This program is a completely online course with optional in-person activities, too.
We always recommend new personal trainers incorporate either a nutrition certification or a specialization cert along with their CPT because it helps separate you from the competition. If you can help design your client’s meal programming, it makes you a one-stop-shop for all your client’s needs. If you become an expert in corrective exercise or athletic performance, you broaden the list of people you can work with. It’s just a no brainer and can really give you a head start in a crowded fitness industry.
NASM has some great bundle options including a package with both CPT and Nutrition for $999 (check the website for the current price) or an Elite Trainer Bundle where you get 6 different certifications! These packages end up saving you a lot of money and you’ll gain a whole lot of knowledge in the process and earning potential.
Now let’s talk about accreditation.
As we mentioned, the Trainer Academy only provides access and insight into THE BEST certifications and their study materials.
If you are wondering do you have to be certified to be a personal trainer, the answer in 99.9% of cases is yes, and you want a quality cert as well.
One of the ways we determine how good certification is also the first thing we look at when deciding it’s a hit or miss.
And that aspect is accreditation.
Accreditation is a certification’s certification so-to-speak.
It is a stamp of approval awarded by a panel of experts and organizations of authority in the field of health and fitness practice.
NASM is accredited by the NCCA, which is the most recognized and reputable accrediting body in North American sports science.
There are other legitimate accrediting bodies out there such as DEAC, but for the sake of this article and NASM-CPT, all you need to know is NCCA is the badge it carries, and that’s a really good thing.
Use the links below to find out other personal certifications that can compete favorably with NASM-CPT.
Cost of Study Packages
NASM has quite a range of prices all depending on which study package you choose.
There is not only one NASM price.
There are 4 different packages available and their standard pricing is as follows:
|Premium self-study package||$1099|
|Guided self-study package||$1499|
It’s important to note that prices occasionally change and there are opportunities to apply NASM discounts and special promotions.
You should check regularly the current cost of the CPT cert packages by clicking the link here.
The average price point of NASM falls on the higher end when it comes to cost, which we feel is justified based on the quality and reputation of this cert.
NASM is not one of the cheapest personal training certifications out there, but it is one of the best.
Discounts are also offered for special members of society such as military veterans and service members.
You can also get NASM discounts from participating or signing up for some of the membership deals and packages such as NASM Connected, which we’ll get into later in this article.
Again, remember that you can save a lot if you throw in the nutrition certification together with the CPT and you get all the added benefits of being a nutrition specialist along with a trainer. The more you invest in education and qualifications, the more you will be able to offer your clients, making it easy for you to stand out from other trainers out there.
Quality of Study Materials
|Self-study package||Premium self-study package||Guided self-study package||All-inclusive package|
|100% Online Course||100% Online Course||100% Online Course||100% Online Course|
|NCCA Accredited Exam||NCCA Accredited Exam||NCCA Accredited Exam||NCCA Accredited Exam|
|NASM-CPT Digital Textbook||NASM-CPT Digital Textbook||NASM-CPT Digital Textbook||NASM-CPT Digital Textbook|
|Content Learning Videos||Content Learning Videos||Content Learning Videos||Content Learning Videos|
|Exercise Video Library||Exercise Video Library||Exercise Video Library||Exercise Video Library|
|Practice Exams & Quizzes||Practice Exams & Quizzes||Practice Exams & Quizzes||Practice Exams & Quizzes|
|Exercise Coaching Demonstrations||Exercise Coaching Demonstrations||Exercise Coaching Demonstrations
|Job Guarantee||Job Guarantee||Job Guarantee|
|One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus||One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus||One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus|
|10-Week, Instructor-Led Course (Optional/Flexible)||10-Week, Instructor-Led Course (Optional/Flexible)|
|Certification Exam Retest||Certification Exam Retest
|NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook||NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook
|Access to Fitness Experts||Access to Fitness Experts|
|Business Accelerator||Business Accelerator|
|NASM EDGE CPT Exam Prep|
|Recertify for Life|
The resources you will receive in your study pack will depend on the program you have chosen. Generally, this includes the following:
- A NASM portal
- A digital NASM personal training book (eBook)
- Video lectures
- An extensive NASM exercise library
- Practice quizzes and personal trainer practice tests
- Personal trainer study guides
- Anatomy guide to help with memorization
- NASM test prep webinars
- Coach and mentor guidance
- A hard copy of the NASM textbook
- 80-hour real-world practical
- Access to the NASM Business Accelerator
Concerning each specific package, have a look at the table below for the distribution of study materials.
As you can see, the NASM certificate comes with quite a variety and depth of options, which is a breath of fresh air if you compare NASM vs ACSM or some of the other organizations.
You have an assortment of materials that provide both practical and theoretical study options.
There’s also a decent offering of career support resources with the higher tier packages.
It is however quite pricey which is why NASM courses and study materials get a 7 out of 10 from us.
If you really want to take your exam prep to the next level, then you’re definitely in the right place.
Our team of experts, many of whom have taken and passed the NASM-CPT exam has developed a suite of sweet study materials.
Try saying that 10 times!
Trainer Academy packages cut out a lot of the fluff and cut straight to the chase, offering you a guaranteed pass when sitting for your NASM finals.
Exam Layout and Passing Grade
Once you’ve settled on your preferred package, it’s time to get busy and prepare for the exam.
From purchase, you will have six months to take the test at a PSI facility or online via remote invigilation.
If you aren’t ready to test, or simply forget, within the 12 month period, you will need to pay an extra $75 to gain an extra 3 months of prep and exam time.
A 70% minimum passing grade is required across the 120 multiple choice questions in the final exam.
The NASM exam tests you on the various chapters and domains as set out in the course textbook.
These sections are also weighted differently, so you will need to prepare more for some than you would for others.
The exam is laid out as follows:
|Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts||17%|
|Exercise Technique and Training Instruction||22%|
|Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching||12%|
|Professional Development and Responsibility||10%|
And, where are the NASM exam locations?
Live remote proctoring is how the two-hour personal trainer exam is conducted.
This allows candidates to take the exam at a preferred location with all the structures and quality control you would expect from a real-world exam experience.
It’s important not to forget your proof of ID as well as current first responder certificates (First Aid, CPR/AED) on the day of your certified personal trainer test, every trainer cert requires this as being a first responder is part of the personal trainer job description.
NASM CPR requirements include current and valid certification; do not let your credentials lapse!
This NASM-CPT practice exam will ensure you are confident when you take your actual personal trainer certification exam!
Exam Difficulty and Pass Rate
The NASM exam pass rate is 64%, which means your odds of failing are 36%.
Although that means you’re likely to pass, it also means failing isn’t off the cards if you don’t prep adequately.
These statistics place the NASM test difficulty on the higher end of the difficulty scale when it comes to PT certs.
In this regard, it’s not the most difficult cert you can take, that dubious honor is reserved for ACSM and NSCA certifications, which are notorious for their difficulty.
However, compared to others such as the ISSA personal training certification, it’s not a walk in the park. Certainly, if you’re picking between NASM or ISSA and you want the easier route, ISSA is more of a sure thing (although in most cases ISSA lacks the NCCA accreditation).
But, with adequate prep and a thorough perusal of the study material, such as what we provide here at Trainer Academy, you won’t have any problems passing NASM’s CPT.
If you are unfortunate enough to fall into the 36% that fail the exam, fear not, because just like any other certification, you will be allowed to retake it.
The NASM retest will set you back $199.
If ever you run into trouble, contact the NASM customer service number located on the website.
As we’ve already mentioned, NASM is one of, if not the most popular fitness certifications in North America.
It is highly regarded and accepted by almost all gyms and health and fitness establishments.
You’ll probably only find it difficult to get a foot in the door with companies that have an affiliation with a competing certifying agency or who administer their own in-house competency assessment.
But we can go on and on about how popular NASM is, let’s look at the stats.
As far as enrollment figures go, NASM has the highest of all the top NCCA personal trainer certifications, with a 2019 figure of 22,304 trainers enrolling.
Not only that, but it turns out NASM is also the most searched certification based on google search queries. Search data comes at 1600, neck-in-neck when you compare NASM vs ACE, another juggernaut. (If you do pick ACE, Trainer Academy also has an ACE personal trainer study guide and an ACE quiz to help you prep for the test).
However, the Popularity of NASM only extends as far as the North American Area, unlike ISSA or ACE, which have made themselves popular choices internationally.
This seems to be changing as NASM is beginning to roll out a more global approach.
NASM has now rolled out in numerous global territories, these include:
- The UK and Europe
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- The Middle East and North Africa.
This new phase in NASM global presence along with the online administration of their exams means that the gold standard in North American fitness is now set to be a global standard.
Click on the links below for a more in-depth comparison of all certs.
Expected Study Time
As mentioned, you have 12 months from the time you purchase your exam package to prep and take the test.
But how long does it take to become a personal trainer with NASM? How much time do you actually need to adequately study for the exam with a guarantee that you will pass?
Well, that’s where we come in.
While there isn’t a standard reference for how long it will take you to properly prep towards guaranteed success, here at Trainer Academy, we’ve developed a system of study material that can help you do just that.
Our NASM premium MVP Study BluePrint helps you map out your study time based on what time you have available as well as your personal objectives.
Also, we have a free NASM practice test that you can take at any time!
Although we can’t put a standard on how much time you should take to study, we advise that you try to knock your prep and exam out of the park within 3 months.
3 months is the sweet spot in terms of giving yourself enough time to master a new set of knowledge principles while retaining it fresh enough to apply it with a sharp memory.
If you have extensive knowledge in the field of fitness science, say you’ve certified with another institution, or have a degree, the study time can easily be reduced.
Take full advantage of Trainer Academy’s free NASM-CPT exam study guide and the NASM-CPT practice test.
You may even review the corresponding NASM-CPT exam answers, to check your work.
Then, challenge yourself to only look at the NASM exam answers IF AND WHEN you are stuck.
And be honest!
(Hint: the NASM practice test vs real test is, of course, different, but the saying goes, “practice like you’re competing, and compete like you’re practicing!”)
Stuck on a chapter?
Maybe browse through the NASM-CPT textbook, too!
Check out the NASM blog as well.
On the flip side, if you’re completely fresh to the academic side of health and fitness, you might need some time to first familiarize yourself with basic concepts and terminology before you begin full-on prep.
It will also depend on your circumstances and current commitments. Having an existing busy schedule will mean you will have less time to allocate per day.
Having large amounts of otherwise free time means you’ll have ample opportunity to hunker down and minimize the period between registration and the final exam.
So you have a personal training certification NASM granted after passing your personal trainer certification test.
What is NASM-CPT salary like?
An interesting statistic you’ll find when delving into the world of professional fitness training is how income levels correlate with different credentials and specializations.
Many factors are influencing this ultimately, but one that we will take a look at is making money as a personal trainer as it relates to the certifying agency you’ve obtained your cert from.
When it comes to the NASM fitness trainer salary, it wasn’t surprising to find that trainers holding this cert raked in the highest annual income with an average of $41,598.00.
Now, this is partly because NASM certifications are amongst the most converted and widely accepted in the industry.
Also, for trainers certified by NASM jobs look for them more than they look for jobs!
The stat also shows that trainers who go for a NASM cert are likely to hold other higher education credentials such as a college degree.
Graduates in health and fitness sciences are often influenced to get top-tier certifications such as ACE and NASM.
Another interesting factor may be the socio-economic factors affecting trainers going in.
Since NASM is one of the more expensive certs, it makes sense that trainers who aim for it tend to be from more favorable financial circumstances.
What this means is trainers in this socio-economic grouping would likely have access to more savings, assets, and disposable income that can potentially accelerate their careers.
With this in view, NASM-CPT can be considered both a cause and effect of higher income stats in personal trainers, and the personal trainer job outlook is good overall.
Primary Focus Of Certification
As we’ve already touched on, the NASM fitness assessment has a focus or leaning towards corrective exercise.
This is a category of performance-focused health and fitness protocols.
Many of the other certifications and their agencies tend to lean towards the more cosmetic aspects such as weight loss, bodybuilding, or obscure knowledge you might need in exercise science jobs.
That’s what makes NASM-CPT such a stand out in comparison to most other certs.
NASM also doesn’t fully cover the nutritional aspects of fitness as much as a cert like ISSA, so you may want to also look into one of the nutrition certifications if you are interested in a nutrition coach job alongside being a trainer.
Despite all this, NASM does cater to all categories of fitness consumers, making it a versatile knowledge resource for most situations.
But let’s get back to the main story here, corrective exercise, which is administered through the OPT model or Optimum Performance Training model.
The OPT model NASM coined focuses on the movement assessments also, like the overhead squat.
This system focuses on the major all-inclusive pillars of fitness with a form follows function approach.
There are 3 OPT model phases; stabilization, strength, and power.
Then, these phases are collectively split into 5 subcategories.
Let’s take a look!
Stabilization is the first step in the OPT model.
In this step, you will be introduced to training methodologies that promote balance and proprioceptive training in the four extremities as well as the core muscles.
This is also often called stabilization endurance.
Strength is the most extensive category in the OPT model.
It covers a wide range of fitness concepts designed at correcting and optimizing the biomechanic state of your clients.
First off, you’ll have strength endurance. This sets the foundation for continued quality training.
Without the necessary muscular endurance, your clients won’t be able to push themselves to achieve other desired training effects.
Next up is hypertrophy or muscle building. This is where body composition is optimized for greater strength with the benefit of aesthetics as well.
Lastly, we have maximal strength which aims to improve overall strength, knocking on the door of one’s true potential.
Power is pretty straightforward. It is the amount of strength you can exert over a period of time. The more strength applied in as little time as possible results in more power.
So when all these aspects are combined, it leads to a boost in overall performance with the aim being longevity, independence, and a greater quality of life.
Simply put, corrective exercise helps fix imbalances and abnormal weaknesses in the biomechanics of the human body.
Things such as postural deviations, hyper-mobility or inflexibility, and even some forms of rehab.
This means NASM has a leaning towards strength and conditioning for the average person, and in so doing, is aimed at improving daily function and physical independence.
With this, we can begin to paint a picture of where your career could head by jumping in with a NASM cert.
You could essentially work with many special population groups, from athletes all the way to the elderly members of society.
That is to say, you will look as good as you perform and you perform as well as you train.
So while NASM does a great job of teaching basic periodization with the OPT model, if you want more in depth knowledge on that topic you should look at the Trainer Academy NSCA CSCS review.
The CSCS is the one of the best certs if you want to learn how to become a strength and conditioning coach, although it is probably the most challenging test to pass. Pick up our CSCS study book and practice CSCS test.
There also isn’t as much information on business skills in the NASM CPT as you might want.
If you are marketing yourself as an in-person personal trainer or starting an online personal trainer business we recommend always taking business courses to support your trainer skills.
As with most certifications, NASM has a validity period of 2 years from the date of certification.
After this period, you will need to recertify.
In order to get recertified, the NASM recertification fee will set you back $99 along with the required proof of continuing education credits or CEUs.
To obtain NASM CEUs, you’ll need to participate in academic or in field programs and activities, such as NASM workshops.
Another example is submitting earned credentials such as college degree transcripts or any other certs you may have obtained during the time between certification and recertification.
The number of CEUs you will need to recertify with NASM is 2.0, which equates to about 20 hours of continued education.
When earning CEUs, it’s important to get them done through institutions and organizations endorsed or recognized by NASM.
If you don’t, you will need to pay an added $25 along with the recertification fee to verify those credits.
Recertification takes place through the following steps:
- Access your NASM-CPT login and enter the NASM-CPT Recertification Portal
- Click My CEUs under the Continuing Education
- Enter your CEUs.
- Include relevant documentation (e.g., certificates of completion).
- Include a copy of the back and the front of your current adult CPR and AED certification.
- Click on Renewal
- Check the box next to your CPT expiration date and click on Renew or Certify for Life.
- After this, you will be directed to the cart to checkout and pay for your NASM recertification
- Finally, a verification email will be sent out indicating that your application has been received
NASM also has a great package called NASM Connected.
It’s a portal to a plethora of CEU opportunities all for a nominal fee of $299/year.
In NASM connected, you will have access to over 350 fitness courses, all of which will award you NASM recognized CEUs.
Aside from the credit earning potential, NASM Connected is just a great way to expand your horizon, allowing you to stand out from the generic personal trainer.
You’ll be keeping ahead of trends, and find new ways to implement exciting value to your growing business.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you will get:
- 30% off all NASM Specializations
- Articles by NASM Fitness Experts
- Courses from the best institutions and providers
- Easy access to NASM business tools and resources
- Easy access to NASM Webinars, videos, and podcasts
- Over 350 CEU Courses
Certification Take Away
What we liked:
- OPT model is phenomenal for training programs
- Online portal and digital textbook are the best in the business
- NASM-CPT cert is valued above most other certs
What we didn’t like:
- Study package might not offer enough value to justify the highest packages
- NASM Connected is a little pricey
NASM’s reputation precedes it. With a heritage of providing the industry with the cream of the crop when it comes to trainers and coaches.
Its extensive list of career-accelerating resources is one of the reasons why trainers who certify and exist in the NASM ecosystem are amongst the top earners.
While traditionally only accessible to the North American fitness community, NASM has now opened up to the world and is set to take over.
We rate NASM 9/10 for its stellar reputation and quality of education.