Welcome to the CSCS study guide. This complete CSCS test prep prepares you for the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification.

Now, let’s dive into the chapter-by-chapter exam breakdown.

Chapter 1: The Structure and Function of Body Systems

Before beginning, be sure to download the 22-step CSCS exam prep checklist to help you pass the final test.

You can also check out our premium Trainer Academy NSCA CSCS MVP study materials. These programs are proven to reduce your study time by half and you also receive an exam pass guarantee.

Chapter 1 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The structure and function of the skeletal system, including which bones in general fall into the axial skeleton, appendicular skeleton, and vertebral column.
  2. The factors that affect skeletal growth in adults
  3. The different types of joints and their relative involvement in human movement, including the definitions and examples of fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial joints.
  4. The categories of muscle attachment to bones.
  5. The macrostructure of skeletal muscle and connective tissue layers.
  6. The microstructure of individual muscle fibers.
  7. The organization of sarcomeres.
  8. Description and understanding of motor units.
  9. The phases of muscle contraction are based on the sliding filament theory.
  10. Muscle fiber types and characteristics.
  11. Relative composition of muscle fibers in different muscle groups and their involvement in activities.
  12. The effect of motor unit recruitment patterns on force production, muscle force grading, and methods for improving force production in athletes.
  13. The location and function of muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs.
  14. The structure of the heart.
  15. The nervous system’s involvement in heart activity and variation in resting heart rates.
  16. Electrical activity of the heart as represented on ECG readings.
  17. Blood and the blood vessel system.
  18. The respiratory system and process of respiration.

Chapter 1 Study Tips

Chapter 1 is heavy on anatomy regarding the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.

Memorizing these systems through reading alone can be difficult.

One trick that many of our students find useful is to draw out these systems and label them manually on paper. You can practice this multiple times for each system until you can draw and label each system from memory.

Start by simply copying the pictures in the textbook by making a rough sketch and then labeling each component.

Perform this exercise until you can confidently diagram from memory all the relevant anatomical structures.

You should do this label and sketching exercise for all the following structures and include the relevant label:

  • human skeleton – label axial, appendicular, and major bones
  • muscle macrostructure – label the tendon, epimysium, muscle fibers, and relevant connective tissue layers
  • muscle fiber microstructure – include the sarcolemma and organelles
  • sarcomere organization – include A-band, I-band, Z-line, and H-zone
  • human heart – include all chambers, arteries, veins, and valves
  • respiratory system – include all airway passages

Another key topic is the process of muscle contraction.

To learn this topic, make a list of all steps of muscle contraction and the specific occurrences within each step.

Include a description of what would cause muscle contractions to continue or stop.

You should also study the activity of the heart as viewed on an ECG reading, including the various waves and what part of the heart contraction they represent.

Chapter 1 Keywords

A-Band – The section of the sarcomere that corresponds with the alignment of myosin and actin filaments.

Acetylcholine – A neurotransmitter released when an action potential arrives at the nerve terminal.  The Acetylcholine diffuses across the neuromuscular junction causing excitation of the sarcolemma.

All-or-none principle – The phenomenon that a stimulus from the motor neuron will cause all fibers in that motor unit to contract.  As such, stronger action potentials do not result in bigger contractions.

Appendicular skeleton- Bones of the shoulder/pectoral girdle (left and right scapula and clavicle), bones of the arms, wrists, and hands (left and right humerus, radius, ulna, carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges); the pelvic girdle (left and right coxal or innominate bones), and the bones of the legs, ankles, and feet (left and right femur, patella, tibia, fibula, tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges).

Arteriole – smaller branches of the arterial system that deliver blood to the capillaries.

Atrioventricular (AV) bundle – Conducts the impulse in the heart to the ventricles.

Axial Skeleton – Bones of the skull (cranium), vertebral column (C1-coccyx), ribs, and sternum.

Capillary – Small end-tubes of the arterial system that facilitate the exchange of oxygen, fluid, nutrients, and other substances between the blood and other fluids in various body tissues.

Depolarization – The reversal of the heart membrane electrical potential and results in contraction of the atria or ventricles in the case of the P-Wave and QRS complex, respectively.

Distal – The attachment of a limb muscle that is further from the trunk relative to the proximal attachment. 

Epimysium – The outer layer of fibrous connective tissue covering the body’s more than 430 skeletal muscles.  The epimysium is contiguous with the tendons at the ends of the muscle. 

Golgi tendon organ – Proprioceptors located in the tendons attached to extrafusal muscle fibers.  Golgi tendon organs relay information regarding tension in the muscle and are thought to protect against the development of excess tension in the muscle.

Intrafusal fiber – Modified muscle fibers that run parallel to normal extrafusal fibers and relay sensory information concerning muscle length.

Intrafusal fiber – Modified muscle fibers that run parallel to normal extrafusal fibers and relay sensory information concerning muscle length.

Intrafusal fiber – Modified muscle fibers that run parallel to normal extrafusal fibers and relay sensory information concerning muscle length.

Intrafusal fiber – Modified muscle fibers that run parallel to normal extrafusal fibers and relay sensory information concerning muscle length.

Pulmonary valve – Valve in the heart that prevents blood flow from the pulmonary artery into the right ventricle.

QRS Complex – Recording of depolarization in the heart resulting in ventricular contraction.

Sarcoplasm – the cytoplasm fluid inside the muscle fiber connotation protein filaments, other proteins, stored glycogen, fat particles, enzymes, and specialized organelles such as mitochondria and the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

Sliding filament theory – The theory of muscle contraction states that actin filaments at the end of each sarcomere slide inwards on myosin filaments, which pulls the Z-lines towards the center of the sarcomere, shortening the muscle fiber.  As the actin slides over the myosin, the H-Zone and I-Band shrink.  The myosin cross-bridges pull on the actin filaments and are responsible for the movement of the actin filament. 

Sympathetic nervous system – Component of the autonomic nervous system.  Stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system increases the heart rate by accelerating the depolarization of the sinoatrial node.

Tendon – Connective tissue that attaches the muscles to the bone periosteum.  Muscle contractions pull on the tendon, which in turn pulls on the bone.

Tropomyosin –  A protein that runs along the actin filament in the groove of the double helix.  When calcium binds with troponin, a shift occurs in the tropomyosin that results in rapid attachments of the actin filament to the myosin cross-bridge.

Twitch – Brief contraction of muscle fibers that occurs when an action potential reaches the neuromuscular junction.  To develop force, multiple twitches occur before the complete relaxation of the muscle fiber. When there is resistance (ie from an external weight) to the actin-myosin binding process, multiple twitches will occur back-to-back.  The force from the twitches is additive. Multiple back-to-back twitches produce more force than a single twitch.

Type IIa fiber – Fast-twitch fiber with more endurance than Type IIx, slightly less maximum force production, and less endurance than Type I fibers.

Venous system – System of tubes that returns blood from the muscles to the heart.

Vertebral column – vertebral bones separated by flexible disks that allow movement to occur.  Vertebrae are grouped in the following: Seven cervical vertebrae (C1-C7), twelve thoracic vertebrae (T1-T12), five lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5), five sacral vertebrae, which are fused and make up the pelvis, and the three to five coccygeal vertebrae, which form a vestigial internal tail extending downward front the pelvis.

Chapter 2: Biomechanics of Resistance Exercise

Chapter 2 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The characteristics of fleshy and fibrous attachments.
  2. The roles of agonists, antagonists, and synergists during a given motion.
  3. Calculating the torque and mechanical advantage of levers.
  4. Differences between first-, second-, and third-class levers, including examples of each in the human body.
  5. The effect of tendon insertion variations on strength and speed in athletes.
  6. The anatomical reference position and major planes of motion.
  7. The relationships between human strength and power.
  8. Calculating positive and negative work performed during lifting and power output.
  9. Calculating rotational work.
  10. The implications of strength-power relationships for strength and conditioning.
  11. The biomechanical factors in human strength.
  12. The effect of muscle cross-section on force production capability.
  13. The effect of neural control on muscle force production capabilities.
  14. The three types of muscle action.
  15. The effect of angle of pennation on maximal force production and maximum shortening velocity.
  16. The effect of muscle length on maximal force production at a given moment in time.
  17. The effect of joint angle on a muscle’s ability to produce force
  18. The effect of muscle contraction velocity on force production.
  19. The main sources of resistance to muscle contraction.
  20. The pros and cons of weight stack machines and free weights.
  21. The primary joint biomechanical concerns in resistance training.
  22. The consideration for using a weight belt during resistance training.
  23. Knowledge of the major muscles in the human body and the movements performed by each muscle.

Chapter 2 Study Tips

Chapter 2 revolves around learning the various biomechanical aspects of human movement, and resistance exercise in particular.

This chapter requires both memorization and application to successfully answer the relevant questions.

You must memorize a fair amount of information from this chapter, as it will apply to application and analysis questions later in the curriculum.

Taking manual notes and using flashcards, mnemonic devices, and other study tools is more effective than reading the information over and over.

For example, making a list of the major muscles in the human body, including their concentric actions and eccentric actions and the planes of motion within which these muscles operate, will help you dial in your knowledge of several of the topics in this chapter in a single study exercise.

You will get even more bang for your buck if you list the angle of pennation of the muscle and whether it operates as a first-, second-, or third-class lever.

Performing calculations using real-world examples is the best way to get repetitions on the material that covers mechanical work and power.

Refer to the equations in the textbook and start with easy numbers, such as 100kg and 1 second barbell travel times, to make the calculations easy.

You should also make a list of all the factors that affect force production. For example, angle of pennation, muscle cross-section, and joint angle.

Determine which of these factors have to do with training, genetics, or the actual mechanics of the movement performed, and categorize them as such.

A big emphasis in this chapter is the factors affecting force production, the types of levers and their mechanical advantage, and performing the physics calculations for work (joules) and power (watts) using the equations in the book and realistic weight numbers.

The final considerations from Chapter 2 are knowing that weight belts should primarily be reserved for heavy sets of structural exercises and calculating the additional resistance from adding chains or elastic bands to traditional weight training exercises.

Chapter 2 is loaded with concepts and details, so be sure not to gloss over it during your studying.
Strength and conditioning coach requirements mean you need to know a lot more detailed info than becoming a personal trainer, so don’t slack here!

Chapter 2 Keywords

Acceleration – The change in velocity per unit of time.

Anatomical position – The anatomical position is a reference position of the human body that defines the planes of motion.  The anatomical position views the body from an erect, upright position, with the arms at the sides and the palms facing inwards.

The angle of pennation – The angle between the muscle fibers and an imaginary line between the muscle origin and insertion.

Angular velocity – An object’s rotational speed is measured in radians per second.

Concentric Muscle Action – Action that occurs when a muscle produces contractile force greater than the resistive force, resulting in the shortening of the muscle.  The lifting phase of a resistance movement is a classic example of concentric muscle action.

Distal – Further from the midline in reference to limb muscle attachments.  The distal attachment is also known as the insertion.

Eccentric muscle action – Action that occurs when a muscle produces force less than the resistive force, resulting in a lengthening of a muscle.  The lowering phase of resistance training exercises is a well-known example of eccentric muscle action.

Fluid resistance – The resistive force encountered by an object moving through a fluid or by a fluid moving past or around an object or through an opening.  Fluid resistance is significant in sports such as swimming and sprinting and is also used in resistance training in hydraulic and pneumatic machines.

Frontal plane – An imaginary plane that slices the body into front and back pieces when viewed in the anatomical position.  The frontal plane is used to describe motions performed by the human body.  The lateral dumbbell raise is an example of a frontal plane movement.

Mechanical advantage – The ratio of the moment arm through which an applied force acts to that through which a resistive force acts.

Rate coding – The rate at which motor units are fired.

Rotational work – Work measured in joules, calculated by multiplying the torque by the angular displacement.

Sagittal plane – An imaginary plane that slices the body into left and right pieces when viewed from the anatomical position.  The sagittal plane is used to describe movements in the human body.  Standing bicep curls are an example of a sagittal plane motion.

Transverse plane – An imaginary plane that slices the body into upper and lower halves when viewed in the anatomical position.  The transverse plane is used to describe human movement.  Dumbbell flies are an example of a transverse plane movement.

Valsalva maneuver – A method of generating intra-abdominal pressure by closing the glottis and keeping air from escaping the lungs while contracting the abdomen and rib cage.  The Valsalva maneuver creates a compressive force on the heart which can make it more difficult for blood to return to the heart.  It is possible to create intra-abdominal pressure by contracting the core and diaphragm without a closed glottis, which is a safer method for most resistance training exercises.

Work – The product of the force exerted on an object and the distance the object moves in the direction of the force.

Chapter 3: Bioenergetics of Resistance Training

Chapter 3 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The overall process of metabolism and ATP in human bioenergetics.
  2. The phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative systems.
  3. The Lactate Threshold and Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation.
  4. Favored energy substrates at different exercise intensities.
  5. Bioenergetic factors that limit performance during athletic events.
  6. Oxygen uptake and aerobic and anaerobic contributions to exercise.
  7. The factors affecting excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) during aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
  8. Metabolic specificity implications for strength and conditioning.
  9. Appropriate HIIT variable manipulation to target different energy systems.
  10. The indications and contraindications for combination training.

Chapter 3 Study Tips

Chapter 3 is all about the different energy systems in the body.

The key skill you need to take away is knowing which energy systems are used in activities, exercises, or a given number of repetitions at a certain percentage of 1RM.

You need to know which energy substrates are favored during each activity and intensity and the general biochemical pathways that are used to resupply the ATP for each energy system.

The glycolytic and aerobic systems get a bit complicated.

Just like we recommend when studying anatomy, consider drawing a diagram of how molecules of glucose or triglycerides end up as ATP when processed by each system.

You do not need a master’s level knowledge of biochemistry. However, you should know the difference between the Kreb’s cycle and Cori cycle, for example, and the role each plays during ATP rephosphorylation.

Labeling the energy pathway diagram with a summary of each step should leave you with sufficient knowledge to pass the test.

You do not need to memorize every word of the textbook, and you certainly do not need any additional information from outside the textbook.

The lactate threshold and onset of blood lactate accumulation are also key concepts from this chapter. You should know the definition of each and the implication for training athletes at different intensities.

Finally, you must be able to apply these concepts for practical programming purposes.

If you look at any given sport, you should be able to identify the primary energy systems needed for play and competition and make appropriate training recommendations.

These recommendations revolve around the work-rest ratios and relative intensities for programming based on your needs analysis of the sport.

These will play a big role in the later program design chapters as well.

Chapter 3 keywords

Adenosine triphosphate – An intermediate molecule used to drive anabolic and endergonic reactions through the energy derived from catabolic and exergonic reactions.  ATP is composed of adenosine and three phosphate groups.  The hydrolysis of ATP to ADP, and then ADP to AMP releases the energy used for biological work.  ATP is considered a high-energy molecule because of the large amount of energy stored in the chemical bond of the two terminal phosphate groups.

Aerobic glycolysis – The process of pyruvate being shuttled into the mitochondria and undergoing reactions resulting in ATP resynthesis.  Aerobic glycolysis depends on the presence of oxygen in the mitochondria and, as such, is only possible for ATP production when exercise intensity is low enough.  Also known as the Krebs cycle.

Allosteric inhibition – Process that occurs when an end product binds to the regulatory enzyme and decreases its turnover rate, slowing the formation of the product.

Anabolism – The synthesis of larger molecules from smaller molecules.  Anabolism is often achieved using the energy gained from the catabolism of other molecules.  For example, the formation of protein from amino acids.

Bioenergetics – The flow of energy in a biological system.  Primarily concerned with the conversion of macronutrients into biologically usable forms of energy.

Combination training – The process of combining aerobic and anaerobic training, postulated to improve recovery.  In heavily anaerobic sports (ie. powerlifting, Olympic lifting), the combination may be detrimental to maximum strength and power.  In highly-trained endurance athletes, the addition of strength training has been shown to improve aerobic performance.

Cytochrome – A series of electron carriers in the electron transport chain.  The cytochromes pass hydrogen down the electron transport chain to form a proton concentration gradient, which provides the energy for ATP production.

Excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) – The increase in oxygen uptake following intense exercise.

Gluconeogenesis – The formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.

Glycolytic – The system of ATP production involving the splitting of glucose to resynthesize ATP.  Glycolytic processes can be aerobic or anaerobic depending on exercise intensity, which determines the ultimate destination for the end-products of glycolysis such as pyruvate.

Inorganic phosphate – Pi, a phosphate molecule not bound to an organic compound.  Inorganic phosphate is one of the products of ATP hydrolysis.

Lactate threshold (LT) – The exercise intensity at which blood lactate begins an abrupt increase above the baseline concentration.  The LT begins at approximately 50%-60% of maximal oxygen uptake in untrained individuals and 70-80% in aerobically trained athletes.

Mass action effect – Also known as the law of mass action, this principle states that the concentration of the reactants or products in solution will drive the direction of the reactions.  In enzyme-mediated reactions such as those of the phosphagen system, the rate of product formation is greatly influenced by the concentrations of reactants.

The onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) – A secondary increase in the rate of lactate accumulation that occurs at higher relative intensities of exercise.  OBLA occurs when blood lactate accumulation reaches 4mmol/L.

Oxidative system – The energy system in the body that relies on oxygen for the resynthesis of ATP.  The oxidative system cannot supply energy quickly due to the number of steps; however, it can sustain long durations and overall can supply more ATP over time, provided the relative exercise intensities remain low enough.

Phosphagen system – The anaerobic system that provides ATP primarily for short-term, high-intensity activities.  The phosphagen system is highly active at the start of all exercises, regardless of intensity.  The phosphagen system relies on creatine phosphate to supply the phosphate group that resynthesizes ATP from ADP.

Rate-limiting step – The step in a reaction that determines the overall rate of the reaction.  In the case of glycolysis, the PFK reaction of fructose-6-phosphate to fructose 1,6 bisphosphate is the rate-limiting step.

Slow glycolysis – Also known as oxidative glycolysis, slow glycolysis is the process of shuttling pyruvate into the mitochondria to undergo the Krebs cycle.  The ATP resynthesis rate in slow glycolysis is slower due to the greater number of reactions but can be sustained for a longer duration, provided exercise intensity is low enough.

Chapter 4: Endocrine Responses to Resistance Exercises

Chapter 4 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The role of the endocrine system in strength and conditioning.
  2. General adaptation syndrome.
  3. The process of synthesis, storage, and secretion of hormones.
  4. The organs are responsible for hormone secretion.
  5. Muscles as a target for hormone interactions.
  6. The process of muscle remodeling.
  7. Primary catabolic, permissive, and anabolic hormones.
  8. Role of receptors in mediating hormonal changes.
  9. The main categories of hormones and their interactions with receptors.
  10. The response of hormones to heavy resistance training.
  11. Mechanisms of hormonal interactions with muscle tissue.
  12. Testosterone response to resistance training in men and women.
  13. Growth hormone response to resistance training in men and women.
  14. Insulin-like growth factor response to resistance training.
  15. Adrenal hormone responses following exercise and implications for muscle growth.
  16. Training principles used to positively manipulate the endocrine system.

Chapter 4 Study Tips

Chapter 4 focuses on the endocrine system and its role in athletic adaptations.

Some key knowledge points are knowing which organs are responsible for the production of each hormone, and the role that hormone plays in strength and conditioning adaptations.

You should know which hormones are anabolic, permissive, and catabolic, and how each hormone responds to exercise. Within this topic is knowing how to program a routine to optimize the production of certain hormones.

For the most part, high-volume, heavy resistance training is the answer for hormone optimization programming questions – note that this is a common theme in most adaptations such as bone density and connective tissue strength, so take serious note of the importance of heavy resistance training!

This is important knowledge to know even for someone making money as a personal trainer.

As a study strategy, make a global list of all the hormone-related organs covered in the chapter. Beneath this list, write down the individual hormones produced by that organ.

Categorize each hormone as anabolic, catabolic, or permissive.

Note whether the hormone is polypeptide, steroid, or amine.

Finally, write down how to hormone interacts with tissues, such as whether it enters the cell itself or interacts with external receptors.

The final key topic is the hormonal response differences between men and women. Make a list for each relevant hormone of the response difference and implication for resistance training.

Chapter 4 Keywords

Allosteric binding site – Sites on hormone receptors where substances other than hormones can enhance or reduce the cellular response to the primary hormone.

Cross-reactivity – The process/ability of a hormone receptor to partially interact with hormones other than the primary binding hormone.

General adaptation syndrome – The general response of the adrenal gland to noxious stimuli.  Begins with an alarm reaction followed by a reduction in function, but ultimately results in increased resistance to the stress above previous baseline levels.

Hormone receptor complex (H-RC) – The result of a hormone binding to its receptor, which causes a shift in the receptor which activates it.

Lock-and-key theory – A principle in endocrinology that a given hormone interacts with a specific receptor. While hormones individually have the specific characteristics to bind and fully induce a signal through a specific receptor, cross-reactivity can occur where a receptor can partially interact with other hormones as well.

Neuroendocrinology – The study of interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system.

Polypeptide hormone – Hormones made from chains of amino acids, such as growth hormone and insulin.  Polypeptide hormones are not fat-soluble and therefore cannot cross the cell membrane.

Steroid hormone – Fat-soluble hormones such as testosterone and cortisol that diffuse across the cell membrane.  Upon diffusing through the sarcolemma, the steroid hormone forms an H-RC with the receptors, leading to a chain of events within the cell that ultimately causes the double-stranded DNA to “open,” exposing units that code for the synthesis of specific proteins.

Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs

Chapter 5 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Major neural adaptations that occur during anaerobic training.
  2. EMG study findings regarding bilateral deficits and facilitation.
  3. Muscular adaptations to anaerobic training.
  4. Adaptations to bone tissue from anaerobic training.
  5. Anaerobic training principles to increase bone strength and formation.
  6. Connective tissue adaptations to anaerobic training.
  7. Endocrine system adaptations to resistance training.
  8. Cardiovascular responses to anaerobic exercise.
  9. Respiratory responses to anaerobic exercise
  10. Concerns about the compatibility of aerobic and anaerobic training.
  11. Performance improvements from anaerobic exercise.
  12. The phases and markers of anaerobic overtraining.
  13. The timeframe and effects of detraining.

Chapter 5 Study Tips

Chapter 5 is almost entirely about memorizing specific facts about the adaptations to anaerobic training.

While this information is relevant in later chapters, passing chapter 5 specific questions requires you to memorize and recall the material.

As with all memorization tasks, repetition is key.

In particular, writing out definitions by hand will help you burn the information into your long-term memory compared to glossing through the text.

Making flashcards out of the topics in the study guide is a good start towards this memorization.

For example, one side of a flashcard could be “respiratory responses to anaerobic exercise.”

The other side would include a bulleted list of these responses.

In this case, it would look something like this:

  • ventilation elevated slightly during resistance – most elevated in first minute of recovery
  • respiratory adaptations include:
    • increased tidal volume and breathing frequency during maximal exercise
    • reduced breathing frequency at submaximal exercise
    • improved ventilation efficiency in trained individuals

Performing this exercise after reading through the material once may be enough on its own for you to memorize the information.

Take a practice test after you make the flashcards to check your knowledge level.

Chapter 5 Keywords

Anaerobic lactic system – Glycolytic system.

Bilateral deficit – Force produced when both limbs contract is lower than the sum of unilateral force production in each limb.

Bone mineral density (BMD) – Quantity of mineral deposited in a given area of bone

Cross-education – Unilateral resistance training increases strength and neural activity in the contralateral resting muscle

Elastin – Elastic fibers found in ligament tissue

Fibrous cartilage – Tough cartilage found in intervertebral disks and at the tendon-bone junctions

Hyaline cartilage – Articular cartilage found on the ends of bones

Mechanical loading – The addition of external load to the body via resistance training.

Minimal essential strain (MES) – The threshold stimulus for new bone formation

Myosin – One of the main contractile proteins in muscle fibers

Myotatic reflex – Neural reflex caused by muscle spindles that enhances the involuntary elastic properties of muscle and connective tissue to increase force production

Nonfunctional overreaching (NFOR) – Stagnation of decrease in performance, increased fatigue, decreased vigor, and hormonal disturbance that can last from weeks to months

Osteoblasts – Cells in the bone that lay down collagen following damage to the bone from resistance training

Overtraining – Decrease in health and performance from a combination of excessive frequency, volume, or intensity without sufficient rest, recovery, and nutrient intake

Parasympathetic overtraining syndrome – The final phase of overtraining marked by increased parasympathetic activity at rest and during exercise

Selective recruitment – Allows advanced lifters to“skip over” the type I fiber recruitment associated with the size principle to rapidly generate maximum force by immediately recruiting type II fibers- i.e. Olympic weightlifters

Specificity of loading – Principle that demands the loading of the skeletal region where bone growth is desired

Structural exercises – Exercises that direct force vectors through the spine and hip

Chapter 6: Adaptations to Aerobic Endurance Training Programs

Chapter 6 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Acute cardiovascular responses to aerobic exercise.
  2. Acute oxygen uptake responses to aerobic exercise.
  3. Acute blood pressure responses to aerobic exercise.
  4. Respiratory responses to aerobic exercise.
  5. Mechanisms of blood transport of gases and metabolic by-products.
  6. Chronic adaptations to aerobic exercise.
  7. External and individual factors influencing aerobic adaptations.
  8. The phases, characteristics, and biological effects of aerobic overtraining.
  9. Strategies for preventing overtraining and detraining.

Chapter 6 Study Tips

Chapter 6 is like chapter 5 in that you must memorize facts and information about aerobic adaptations to resistance exercise.

Start again by making flashcards for each topic in the topics section of this study guide.

Refer to the textbook for definitions and make a short, bulleted list.

You can word the flashcard as a statement or question.

For example:

“What are the acute cardiovascular responses to aerobic exercise?”

  • Increased cardiac output during initial activity
  • Gradual increase and plateau as intensity increases
  • Rise in stroke volume during exercise onset
  • Increased venous return
  • Increased heartrate at exercise onset

Writing these out by hand is superior to typing for note-taking.

Although tedious, it will ultimately be more efficient if you tend to have trouble with memorization.

Chapter 6 Keywords

Alveoli – The final passages in the respiratory system where gases are exchanged from the lungs.

Arteriovenous oxygen difference – the difference in O2 content of arterial and venous blood

Bradycardia – Low heart rate

Detraining – The partial or complete loss of training-induced adaptations in response to an insufficient training stimulus

Diastolic blood pressure – the pressure exerted on arterial walls when no blood being ejected

Diffusion – The movement of gasses across a membrane based on their partial pressures (O2 and CO2 in the case of the alveoli and capillaries)

Erythropoietin – Performance-enhancing substance that increases red blood cell production

Functional overreaching – Short period of intensified training

Maximal heart rate – the maximum heart rate attainable via exercise

Maximal oxygen uptake – The maximum amount of oxygen that can be used by the body

Mitochondria – Organelle of cells that facilitates aerobic metabolism

Overreaching – Increased training volume and intensity over extended periods.  Can be functional or nonfunctional

Physiological dead space – Area of the respiratory system that does not allow gas exchange due to damaged alveoli

Stroke volume – The amount of blood ejected with each heartbeat

Systolic blood pressure – Pressure during contraction

Vasoconstriction – Tightening of veins or arteries to reduce blood flow

Venous return – The amount of blood returning to the heart

Ventilatory equivalent – The ratio of the volume of air ventilating the lungs to the volume of oxygen consumed

Chapter 7: Age- and Sex-Related Differences and Their Implications for Resistance Exercise

Chapter 7 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The phases of growth, development, and maturation in children.
  2. The differences between biological, chronological, and training age.
  3. The potential risks of resistance training during development.
  4. The process of muscle and bone growth in youth populations.
  5. Developmental changes in muscular strength.
  6. General guidelines for youth resistance training.
  7. The primary sex differences between men and women in terms of strength and conditioning.
  8. Primary considerations for youth resistance training.
  9. Potential risks and benefits of resistance training for children and strategies for mitigating risk.
  10. Responses to resistance training in women and avoiding the female athlete triad.
  11. Program design considerations for women and reducing the risk of ACL injury.
  12. Age-related changes that occur after 30.
  13. Biological responses to resistance training in older adults.
  14. Program design considerations for older adults.

Chapter 7 Study Tips

Knowledge of age and sex-related differences is needed to pass the chapter 7 content.

To be efficient, create a list of notes describing the respective training considerations for each population discussed.


  1. Considerations for youth athletes
  2. Considerations for female athletes
  3. Considerations for masters (older) athletes

While there are of course many different special populations, the above three are the only ones you will be tested on in the CSCS exam.

Be sure you know the differences between biological, chronological, and training age.

Also, be aware that the youth considerations change depending on the age of the child, and are not uniform across all stages of growth, maturation, and development.

Chapter 7 Keywords

Adolescence – Development period between childhood and adulthood with accelerated growth and sexual maturation

Amenorrhea – The absence of a menstrual cycle for more than 3 months

Apophyseal – Location of tendon insertion along the diaphysis where growth cartilage is located

Biological age – Human age are measured in terms of skeletal age, physique maturity, or sexual maturation

Chronological age – The age in months or years

Ectomorphic – Slender and tall build

Endomorphic – Rounded build with broader hips

Female athlete triad – The interrelationship between menstrual function, energy availability, and bone mineral density in female athletes

Maturation – The process of becoming mature and fully-functional

Mesomorphic – Muscular build with broad shoulders

Peak height velocity (PHV) – Age of maximal growth during a puberty growth spurt

Preactivation – Muscle contraction before ground contact

Puberty – The period of time in which secondary sex characteristics develop and a child transitions to young adulthood

Sarcopenia – Loss of muscle mass and strength associated with age

Training age – Amount of time spent following a structured, well-planned resistance training program

Chapter 8: Psychology of Athletic Preparation and Performance

Chapter 8 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Goals of sport psychology in athletic training and performance.
  2. The ideal performance state.
  3. The importance of emotional energy management for athletic performance.
  4. The characteristics of arousal, anxiety, and stress.
  5. The theories regarding the influence of arousal on anxiety and performance.
  6. The types of motivation and their roles on performance.
  7. Reinforcement strategies for coaches.
  8. The role of attention and focus on performance.
  9. Psychological relaxation techniques to control elevated arousal and anxiety.
  10. The process of systematic desensitization and use of imagery to improve performance.
  11. The use of arousal control techniques to enhance performance.
  12. The role and sources of self-efficacy and self-talk in athletic performance.
  13. The role of goal setting in athletic performance, including types of goals and guidelines for goal setting.
  14. The differences between whole and part practice.
  15. The application of random, variable, and observational practice.
  16. Different forms of instruction and feedback coaches can give to athletes.

Chapter 8 Study Tips

Sports psychology is the most recent addition to the CSCS exam (other exams like the ACE CPT have taught this for a while), however, it encompasses a broad range of topics that will be on the test.

These topics range from general psychological principles to the psychological skills for performance improvements in the athletes themselves.

Additionally, coaching methods based on a sound understanding of sports psychology are vital for the chapter.

Be sure you can distinguish between the different theories of arousal and their implications on training and performance.

The different forms of feedback, reinforcement, and punishment are also crucial topics that will absolutely be found in at least a few questions from the chapter.

Expect to have a question or two giving a real-world example of a coach talking to athletes and being asked to label the type of feedback the coach is using.

Chapter 8 Keywords

Achievement motivation – Efforts to master a task, achieve excellence, and engage in competition or social comparison – the desire to win

Arousal – A blend of physiological activation in an individual and refers to the intensity of motivation in a given moment

Augmented feedback – Feedback provided to the athlete by an observer such as a coach or video/lab equipment

Autogenic training – Focusing on a sense of warmth and heaviness in a muscle group to reduce arousal or anxiety

Counterconditioning – Combining mental and physical techniques to replace fear response to cues with a relaxation response

Discovery – Instructing the athlete on the overarching goal of the task and the athlete receives little to no direction

Emotions – Temporary feeling states that occur in response to events

Explicit instructions – Prescriptive information that gives the athlete rules for effectively executing a given task

Fractionalization – Breaking down tasks into subcomponents that must ultimately occur simultaneously

Guided discovery – Providing prompts for a task without explicitly telling the athlete how to do the task

Ideal performance state – Ultimate goal of every athlete – competition performance marked by psychological and physiological efficiency

Individual zones of optimal functioning – Different people in different types of performances perform best with very different levels of arousal

Inverted-U Theory – Theory of performance that states that arousal facilitates performance until an optimal level beyond which increased arousal decreases performance

Long-term goals – Overarching goal or vision of performance

Motive to achieve success (MAS) – The desire to challenge oneself and evaluate one’s abilities

Negative reinforcement – Increasing the occurrence of operant behavior by removal of something typically aversive – i.e. skipping sprints due to significant effort displayed during practice

Outcome goals – Goals over which the athlete has little control which is typically focused on winning or competitive results in an event

Positive punishment – Presentation of an act/object that could decrease an undesired behavior’s occurrence – i.e. pushups after practice due to poor performance

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) – Self-regulation of physical and psychological arousal through control of skeletal muscle tension

Psychological efficiency – The ability to overcome negative thoughts and arousal that may impede performance

Repetitive part training – Practicing first part in isolation, then adding each subsequent part until the whole skill is done as one movement

Segmentation – Breaking down tasks into subcomponents that have clear breaks

Self-controlled practice – Allowing athlete feedback and input regarding practice, performance, or which skill to work on

Short-term goals – Goals related to current training or competition that are attainable in a relatively short time-frame

Somatic anxiety – Anxiety manifested through physical symptoms such as tense muscles, fast heart rate, and upset stomach

Stress – A substantial imbalance between demand and response capability where consequences of failure to meet demand are present

Variable practice – Variations of a skill performed within a single practice

Chapter 9: Basic Nutrition Factors in Health

Chapter 9 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The role of sports nutrition professionals.
  2. The standard nutrition guidelines.
  3. Dietary reference intakes and nutrients of concern for deficiency in the general population.
  4. The definition of protein, component molecules, and location of the protein in the human body.
  5. The effect of protein quality on dietary recommendations.
  6. The concerns for the RDA of protein being too low, and the recommended protein intake for endurance, strength, and combination athletes.
  7. The lists of essential, non-essential, and conditionally essential amino acids.
  8. The definition of carbohydrates and forms of carbohydrates relevant to human metabolism.
  9. The definition of glycemic index and glycemic load and the effect of low fiber diets on health.
  10. The general carbohydrate requirements for athletes in various sports.
  11. The definitions and categories of dietary fat, the functions fat plays in humans, and the relationship between fat and athletic performance.
  12. The definition of cholesterol and the relationship between cholesterol and dietary intake.
  13. The definition of vitamins, the difference between fat- and water-soluble vitamins, and the toxic side effects that occur when vitamin levels are too high.
  14. The definition of minerals, location of minerals in the human body, and role of minerals in bodily function.
  15. The function of iron in the human body and the effects of insufficient iron levels.
  16. The function of calcium in the human body and the effect of insufficient calcium levels.
  17. The difference between nutrient-dense and calories dense foods and examples of each type of food.
  18. The role of fluid and electrolytes in athletic performance and methods to maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration during exercise.
  19. The primary biomarkers of hydration status.

Chapter 9 Study Tips

Nutrition is obviously a big component of strength and conditioning and spans two entire chapters in the CSCS textbook.

Chapter 9 is more general nutritional knowledge.

This includes topics such as the various macronutrient and micronutrient needs and the various terms such as RDA and other dietary reference intakes.

To grind this knowledge out, list all the DRIs for every nutrient discussed in the textbook. Repetition is key, so do not skimp on this type of practice.

There are also questions about the role of electrolytes, cholesterol, and other related concepts.

As with all our memorization recommendations, start with listing out bulleted definitions for the topics in the previous section, then test your knowledge with a practice exam and adjust from there.

Chapter 9 Keywords

Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) – The relative proportion of macronutrients needed as a fraction of total caloric intake

Anemia – Chronic health condition that occurs with insufficient iron intake

Cholesterol – Waxy fat-like substance that is a structural and functional component of cell membranes

Dietary reference intakes (DRIs) – Complete set of nutrient intakes for evaluating and planning diets for healthy individuals

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – Omega-3 essential fatty acid found in fatty fish

Fat – A category of macronutrient composed of fatty acid chains

Fructose – Monosaccharide with the same chemical formula as glucose that is found in fruits and vegetables

Glycemic index (GI) – Index that ranks carbohydrates according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed

Glycogenesis – Synthesis of glycogen

Hydration – Relative amount of water in the body

Lactose – Disaccharide found in mammalian milk composed of glucose and galactose

Macronutrient – Nutrients needed in large quantities by the human body – specifically protein, carbohydrates, and fats

Minerals – Inorganic substances required for structure and function in the human body

Muscle Protein Synthesis – The creation of new muscle fibers from amino acids

Omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – Omega-3 acid found in plant sources that can be inefficiently converted to EPA and DHA

Polysaccharides – Multiple-sugar carbohydrate molecules composed of up to several thousand glucose units

Protein digestibility – Relative ability of a protein to supply amino acids via digestion

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) – Average daily nutrient requirement adequate for the needs of most healthy people in each life stage and sex

Sports dietician – Registered dietician with specific education in sports nutrition

Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) – The smallest type of cholesterol molecules

Chapter 10: Nutrition Strategies for Maximizing Performance

Chapter 10 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The purpose and guidelines for pre-competition meals.
  2. Considerations for pre-competition, during event nutrition, and post-competition nutrition for aerobic and anaerobic events.
  3. Nutritional requirements for aerobic endurance, strength, and hypertrophy.
  4. The factors that influence and equations to calculate total daily energy expenditure.
  5. General strategies for maximizing lean body mass gains, minimizing fat gains, and nutrition for fat loss.
  6. The definition of BMI and the issues with using BMI as a diagnostic tool.
  7. The risks associated with obesity and the BMI and waist circumference measures that lead to these risks.
  8. The definitions and risks of rapid weight loss.
  9. The common feeding and eating disorders and their signs and symptoms.

Chapter 10 Study Tips

Chapter 10 is the second chapter covering nutrition and focuses more on the performance-related considerations for nutrition.

This includes the importance of meal timing and nutrient breakdown in relation to competitions and training, as well as the daily macronutrient needs for athletes in various sports.

Additional topics in chapter 10 are the guidelines for helping athletes with weight gain or loss, the use of BMI and other diagnostic tools, and the different eating disorders athletes may have.

You need to be able to calculate nutritional intake goals for athletes from specific sports with specific body stats.

For example, you might be asked to calculate the protein intake requirements for a female 100m sprinter.

Similarly, you could be asked to make carbohydrate-loading recommendations for a marathon runner.

Any nutritional context discussed in the chapter could be subject to these calculations.

Finally, be sure you know the strength and conditioning coach’s scope of practice regarding both nutrition and referring athletes with suspected eating disorders to the appropriate health professional.

This is not a nutrition coach certification, so you need to understand what you are qualified to know and give directives for.

If you decide you want to become a nutrition coach or just learn the info, Trainer Academy has a list of the best sports nutrition courses to look at.

Chapter 10 Keywords

Anorexia nervosa – An eating disorder characterized by extreme fear of weight gain and severely restricted eating

Bulimia nervosa – An eating disorder characterized by binge-purge episodes

Diet-induced thermogenesis – The increase in energy expenditure above RMR due to digestion that can be measured for several hours after a meal

Isocaloric – Equal in calories but not necessarily in macronutrient proportions

Obesity – Extreme overweight is defined as a BMI above 30.0

Voluntary dehydration – Intentionally dehydrating oneself via various methods such as sauna and water restriction

Chapter 11: Performance-Enhancing Substances and Methods

Chapter 11 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The definitions of dietary supplements and performance-enhancing substances.
  2. The definitions and positive and negative effects of anabolic steroid use.
  3. The definitions of and uses for testosterone precursors, HCG, insulin, HGH, EPO, beta-agonists, and beta-blockers, including risks, efficacy, and side effects.
  4. The definitions of and uses for EAAs, arginine, Beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate, nutritional muscle buffers, L-carnitine, and creatine, including risks, efficacy, and side effects.
  5. The primary legal stimulants are taken to enhance performance and their relative effectiveness, side effects, and risks.

Chapter 11 Study Tips

As you can imagine, the use of both legal and illegal performance-enhancing substances and methods is a big topic when it comes to strength and conditioning professionals.

The purpose of the chapter is not to teach you to give athletes banned substances.

Rather, you must be familiar with the general benefits and risks of using anabolic steroids and similar drugs for performance-enhancing.

This allows you to explain to your athletes why they should carefully consider their options before using a banned substance.

The substances discussed in this chapter go beyond just anabolic steroids and include things such as EPO and Beta-blockers that are relevant to non-strength and power sports.

Additionally, common legal performance-enhancing substances are covered as well, including their efficacy or lack thereof and safety concerns.

Some substances in this chapter, such as caffeine and creatine, do have recommendations based on research for use during specific sports.

Be sure you know exactly what you can and cannot say to your athletes about these substances, as this can have implications on both the test and your career.

Chapter 11 Keywords

Acromegaly – Condition that causes widening of bones and subsequent health problems

Branched-chain amino acids – Leucine, isoleucine, and valine

Dietary supplement – A refined non-food product intended to supplement the diet that contains any number of ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or amino acids

Erythropoietin (EPO) – Hormone that increases red blood cell production

Lipolysis – The breakdown of fat

Muscle dysmorphia – Persistent feeling that one is skinny and weak despite being strong and muscular

Testosterone – Primary male sex-hormone

Thermogenesis – Increased energy expenditure resulting in the production of heat

Vasodilation – Widening of blood vessels

Chapter 12: Principles of Test Selection and Administration

Chapter 12 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The primary reasons for athletic testing.
  2. The different measures of test validity and categories of reliability.
  3. Considerations for selecting specific tests.
  4. Health and safety considerations for test administration.
  5. Considerations for proper and effective test administration.
  6. Considerations for test sequencing during administration.
  7. Considerations for athlete preparations when administering testing.

Chapter 12 Study Tips

Chapter 12 is the first of two chapters on athletic testing.

This first chapter on the topic covers the general reasons for athletic testing, the measures used to assess the usefulness of attests, and the administrative considerations for implementing these tests on athletes.

This is one of the strength and conditioning coach responsibilities and it’s imperative you understand this topic.

The biggest memorization component is the different validity and reliability terms. You will be asked about these on the test. Often, the terms used to define these aspects of testing on their surface seem like they describe similar things.

However, the labels such as ‘concurrent validity’ or ‘external validity have very specific meanings within strength and conditioning and can get confusing if you try to use intuitive reasoning to define them.

Make specific flashcards for each definition and think of real-world examples that would illustrate these validity and reliability descriptors.

Chapter 12 Keywords

Concurrent validity – The extent to which test scores are associated with those of other accepted tests that measure the same ability

Convergent validity – A high-positive correlation between results of the test being assessed and those of the recognized measure of the construct (“The gold standard”)

Evaluation – The process of analyzing test results to make decisions

Formative evaluation – A periodic reevaluation based on midtests administered during the training, usually at regular intervals

Intrarater variability – Lack of consistent scores by a given tester

Midtest – A test administered one or more times during the training period to assess progress and modify the program as needed

Predictive validity – The extent to which the test score corresponds to future performance or behavior in the relevant sport

Test – A procedure for assessing ability in a particular endeavor

Typical error of measurement – Error in testing scoring due to testers, equipment, and biological variations in a given athlete

Chapter 13: Administration, Scoring, and Interpretation of Selected Tests

Chapter 13 Topics that You NEED TO KNOW

  1. Parameters for measuring all of the following:
    1. maximum muscular strength
    2. anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity
    3. local muscular endurance
    4. aerobic capacity
    5. agility and speed
    6. flexibility, balance, and stability
    7. body composition
    8. anthropometry
  2. The steps for statistical evaluation of test data and scores for determining the effectiveness of training programs, including the limitations of these comparisons.
  3. The descriptive statistics are available for analytical use by strength and conditioning professionals.
  4. The differences and applications of inferential and magnitude statistics.
  5. The procedure for developing an athletic profile.
  6. Protocols for the following:
    1. 1RM bench press test
    2. 1RM bench pull test
    3. 1RM back squat test
    4. 1RM power clean test
    5. standing long jump test
    6. maximum vertical jump test
    7. static vertical jump test
    8. reactive strength index test
    9. Margaria-Kalamen test
    10. 300-yard shuttle
    11. partial curl-up test
    12. push up test
    13. YMCA bench press test
    14. 1.5-mile run test
    15. 12-minute run test
    16. Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test
    17. Maximal aerobic speed test
    18. T-test
    19. hexagon test
    20. pro-agility test
    21. 505-agility test
    22. straight-line sprint test
    23. Balance Error Scoring Test
    24. Star Excursion Balance Test
    25. sit and reach test
    26. overhead squat test

Chapter 13 Study Tips

Chapter 13 is the second chapter on athletic testing and discusses the specific tests used in strength and conditioning to assess athletes’ specific skills and body stats.

With around 40 total different athletic tests discussed, this chapter can truly be a monster.

You need to study each test protocol and know the specific trait it assesses. Often, tests can appear similar but assess different athletic parameters.

Many of the tests are straightforward and just require basic knowledge of protocols.

However, when it comes to the anaerobic power, endurance, and agility tests, the names are not always as obvious in terms of the protocols for the tests.

For example, the 5-0-5, pro agility test, Margaria-Kalamen, and Yo-Yo intermittent recovery are all key tests that you must know the exact methods for conducting, the parameters they test, and their appropriate locations within an athletic testing battery.

As you can see, this chapter can get beefy.

Take it one athletic test at a time, make the flashcard with a description of the test, the purpose of the test, and sequencing of the test. Note which sports’ athletes would be most appropriate to test with each assessment.

Finally, you should be familiar with the different standard scores listed at the end of the chapter that discusses typical scores for athletes of different sports at various levels of the sport.

Some of the CSCS exam questions will give you an athlete’s test score battery and ask which score most requires improvement – or even a step further, they could give you a list of training programs and ask which one is most appropriate for the athlete.

This requires integration from the programming and periodization chapters, which will be discussed later in the guide.

Either way, you need to be able to look at test results and know which is ‘weakest’ relative to the standards of the sport and level of play.

Chapter 13 Keywords

Aerobic capacity – The maximum rate at which an athlete can produce energy through the oxidation of energy sources (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) – also called aerobic power

Agility – A rapid, whole-body, change of direction or speed in response to a sports-specific stimulus

Anthropometry – The science of measurement applied to the human body

Athletic profile – A group of tests related to sport-specific abilities that are important for quality performance in a sport or sport position

Central tendency – Values about which the data tend to cluster

Descriptive statistics –Statistics that summarize or describe a large group of data

Effect size – The difference or change in the mean score as a proportion of the pretest standard deviation

High-speed muscular strength – The ability of muscle tissue to exert high force while contracting at high speed – also known as anaerobic power

Low-speed muscular strength – The maximum force a muscle or muscle group can exert in one maximal effort while maintaining proper form

Maximal anaerobic muscular power The ability of muscle tissue to exert high force while contracting at high speed – also known as anaerobic power

Median – The middlemost score when a set of scores is arranged in order of magnitude – half of the group falls above and half below the median score

Percentile rank – The percentage of test-takers scoring below the individual being ranked

Smallest worthwhile change – The ability of a test to detect the smallest practically important change in performance

Stability – A measure of the ability to return to the desired position following a disturbance to the system

Chapter 14: Warm-Up and Flexibility Training

Chapter 14 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The purposes, benefits, and components of a warm-up.
  2. The RAMP protocol.
  3. The definition and role of flexibility in performance.
  4. The factors that affect flexibility.
  5. The guidelines for frequency, duration, and intensity of stretching.
  6. The role of proprioceptors in stretching.
  7. The different types of stretching.

Chapter 14 Study Tips

Warm-up and flexibility is a relatively short chapter that goes over the protocols for different stretching techniques and the best way to incorporate them into your programs.

The biggest trick in this chapter is knowing the differences between the different PNF stretching protocols.

Do not count on an intuitive guess, as “hold-relax,” “contract-relax,” and “hold-relax with agonist contraction” can be confusing terms and require specific knowledge of each.

The most effective method is to try these stretching techniques on a friend or client willing to participate.

The live repetitions are both practical and will build better connections in your brain than just writing down the information – which is also still a good idea.

Chapter 14 Keywords

Active stretch – A stretching technique where the person stretching supplies the force for the stretch.

Autogenic inhibition – Relaxation that occurs due to GTO activation in a muscle experiencing tension

Ballistic stretch – Stretch involving active muscular action using a bouncing type movement in which the end position is not held – can cause injuries if not appropriately controlled or sequenced

Dynamic stretch – A functionally based stretching exercise that uses sport-generic and sport-specific movements to prepare the body for activity

Ellipsoidal joint – Joints that have an oval-shaped condyle that fits into an elliptical cavity that primarily allows sagittal and frontal plane movement

General warm-up – First phase of warm-up generally consists of light aerobic exercise and stretching

Hold-relax with agonist contraction – PNF stretching technique involving isometric contraction of the muscle being stretched to cause autogenic inhibition, followed by concentric action of the opposing muscle to facilitate reciprocal inhibition

Muscle spindles – Specialized muscle fibers running parallel to normal extrafusal fibers that activate when a muscle is rapidly stretched

Plasticity – The tendency of joint and muscle tissue to return to assume new and greater length after passive stretching

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation – Category of stretching techniques involving a partner and active isometric and concentric muscle action to utilize autogenic and reciprocal inhibition for increase range of motion and stretch effectiveness

Specific warm-up – Second component of warm-up that Incorporates movements similar to the movements of the athlete’s sport and should include rehearsal of the skills to be performed

Stretch reflex – When the muscle spindle stimulates a motor neuron causes a muscle contraction in the extrafusal muscle fibers associated with the muscle spindle

Chapter 15: Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training

Chapter 15 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Handgrip styles and position options during resistance training exercises.
  2. The principles for stable body and limb positioning.
  3. Considerations for a range of motion and speed during resistance exercises.
  4. Breathing considerations during resistance training.
  5. Guidelines for spotting free weight exercises.
  6. Proper form during the following exercises:
    1. barbell bench press
    2. barbell back squat
    3. barbell front squat
    4. barbell forward step lunge
    5. barbell step-up
    6. barbell deadlift
    7. push press
    8. push jerk
    9. split jerk
    10. power clean
    11. power snatch
  7. Determining hand width during the power snatch.

Chapter 15 Study Tips

Exercise technique for free-weight training is vital for passing the CSCS exam.

Some of the exam questions will show you videos of athletes performing the different exercises and ask you whether the athlete made a specific form error or performed it correctly.

The errors could include improperly racking or unracking the weight or other subtle aspects of the exercise, so be sure you know every single bulleted step of the exercise.

The errors could also be with the spotting technique when the exercise might involve spotters.

The most important exercises and likely candidates for these questions are the compound barbell movement such as squats, step-ups, power cleans, and power snatches.

That said, any exercise is fair game – including bicep curls!

Finally, be sure you know how to properly determine the grip width for the power snatch.
Hint: there are two methods, and you need to know them both.

Chapter 15 Keywords

Alternated grip – A grip with one hand in a pronated grip and one hand in a supinated grip

Five-point body contact position – Position used during supine exercises for maximum stability and spinal support

Forced repetitions – Repetitions that involve assistance from a spotter

Hook grip – Apronated grip with the thumb positioned under the index and middle fingers, typically used for exercises that require a stronger grip such as power exercises

Neutral spine – A spinal position preferred for all structural exercises involving a natural lordotic curve in the lower back

Over-the-face barbell exercises – Barbell exercises such as the triceps skull crusher that involve moving the bar over the face while in a prone position

Spotter – One or more partners who assist the athlete in lifting the weight off the rack to assume a starting position, as well as assisting with forced repetitions and keeping the athlete safe in the event of partial or full failure during a repetition

Structural exercises – Exercises such as the back squat that involve vertical loading of the spinal column

Valsalva maneuver – Expiring air against a closed glottis during structural exercise to increase torso stiffness and spinal stability

Chapter 16: Exercise Technique for Alternative Modes and Non-traditional Implement Training

Chapter 16 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. General guidelines for nontraditional implement training.
  2. Considerations and benefits of bodyweight training.
  3. Principles of core stability and balance training methods.
  4. The methods of applying overload to the body.
  5. Applying chains to supplement resistance exercise and calculating loads for added chains.
  6. Applying resistance bands to resistance exercises and calculating loads for added bands.
  7. Common strongman exercises.
  8. Kettlebell training and consideration for kettlebell selection.
  9. The application, pros, and cons for unilateral training.
  10. Proper form for the tire flip and log clean-and-press.

Chapter 16 Study Tips

The alternative mode of training covers non-barbell, dumbbell, or machine exercises such as bodyweight training, basic kettlebells, and the tire-flip, farmer’s walk, and log clean-and-press strongman exercises.

Just like the traditional resistance exercises, questions from this chapter could include descriptions or videos of exercises and ask for the proper form or errors made.

Expect to see at least one strongman exercise, especially the log press or tire flips, as these have many different steps at each phase of the exercise.

Writing out the exercise descriptions is good – but performing them yourself is even better if you have access to the equipment.

Finally, list the benefits, downsides, and general form tips for performing the exercises in this chapter.

Chapter 16 Keywords

Accommodating resistance – Resistance where speed is controlled throughout the range of motion

Anatomical core – axial skeleton and all soft tissues with proximal attachments on the axial skeleton

Bodyweight training – Movements such as push-ups and pull-ups where the weight of the body is the primary source of resistance

Constant external resistance – External load remains the same throughout the range of motion as in traditional dumbbell and barbell training

Ground-based free weight exercises – Traditional exercises such as barbell squats and Olympic lifts where the athlete is standing on a stable surface and lifting a free-weight

Logs – Log-shaped strongman implements that are typically plate-loadable with a mid-range handle that allows a pronated grip

Muscle activation – The number of muscles and magnitude of muscle force generated during various movements

Strongman training – Training methods used by strongmen that typically involve lifting, pushing, or carrying weighted objects of different shapes and sizes

Variable resistance – Resistance that changes throughout the range of motion used to combat the inertial and mechanical advantage properties in traditional resistance training

Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training

Chapter 17 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The principles of anaerobic exercise prescription.
  2. Conducting needs analysis for resistance training program design.
  3. Steps for selecting resistance exercises.
  4. Frequency considerations for resistance programs.
  5. Exercise order considerations for resistance programs.
  6. Training load and repetition considerations.
  7. Volume considerations.
  8. Rest period considerations.

Chapter 17 Study Tips

As you can imagine, program design is one of the biggest topics in strength and conditioning. The NSCA personal training certification covers some of this, but once again, the CSCS goes deeper.

This is a big topic. Luckily, it is also one of the topics that easily lends itself to practical studying.

The trick we recommend is creating ‘athlete avatars’ that you use for creating different example programs.

Create an avatar for a strength or power sport, a field sport, and an endurance sport. Include chronological age, sport, position in the sport, training age and experience, and the level of play.

Ideally, create enough avatars to allow you a beginner, intermediate, and advanced athlete for each type of sport.

Then, design a training program for each athlete’s avatar. For bonus difficulty, assign each athlete a different training age.

List the goal of the program based on a needs analysis.

Then list the exercises in proper order and assign repetitions, rest periods, and frequency for each training day.

Compare your avatar training plans with the different plans discussed in the textbook and review all aspects of your program.

The more programs you design based on the principles in the textbook, the quicker you will be able to assess the programs that are possible answers on the test.

Chapter 17 Keywords

1-Repetition maximum – The greatest amount of weight that can be lifted with proper technique for one repetition

2-for-2 rule – Method of progressing resistance load – if an athlete can perform 2 or more reps beyond the assigned load for a given exercise for 2 or more consecutive training days, weight should be added to that exercise for the next training session

Compound set – Sequentially performing sets of 2 different exercises stressing the same muscle group

Exercise order – The order in which exercises are performed when following a resistance training program

Goal repetitions – The intended number of repetitions on a set

Injury analysis – Examination of common sites for joint and muscle injury and the causative factors in a given sport

Load – The amount of weight assigned to an exercise set

Mechanical work – The product of force and displacement (distance)

Movement analysis – An analysis of the body and limb movement patterns and muscular involvement

Overload – Principle of program design that calls for training intensities greater than what the athlete is accustomed to

Program design – The overall process of creating a resistance training program

Repetition – A single movement of an exercise performed as part of a set

SAID – A principle of specificity in program design which stands for “specific adaptations to imposed demands”

Split routine – Training plan that trains different muscle groups on different days

Training background – Assessment of an athlete’s training that occurred before the athlete began a new or revised program

Volume-load – Weight/resistance lifted multiplied by the total number of repetitions

Chapter 18: Program Design and Technique for Plyometric Training

Chapter 18 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The main mechanical and physiological models of plyometric training.
  2. The definition and phases of the stretch-shortening cycle.
  3. Considerations for plyometric training program mode.
  4. Considerations for intensity in plyometric program design.
  5. Considerations for frequency, recovery, and volume in plyometric program design.
  6. Considerations for program length, progression, and warm-up in plyometric program design.
  7. Age-related considerations in plyometric training.
  8. Plyometric training in conjunction with other exercises.
  9. Safety considerations for plyometric training.
  10. Equipment and facilities for plyometric training.

Chapter 18 Study Tips

Plyometric training introduces new concepts compared to the earlier topics.

Specifically, the phases of the stretch-shortening cycle: eccentric, amortization, and concentric.

The concept of the stretch-shortening cycle applies to the sprint training as well, so make your detailed bulleted lists for each phase and the events that occur within them.

You also need to memorize the different plyometric exercises. Following the same note-taking and live-practice protocol we recommend for all exercises is your best bet.

Pay attention to the intensity level for each exercise when making your notes, as this is key for assigning exercises in a program.

Finally, design a plyometric training program for one of your athlete avatars that would benefit from this training.

Consider the intensity and volume appropriate for your specific athlete avatar’s training age and level of play.

Note how many foot contacts will occur in each training day, as this is the primary method of judging volume for plyometric exercise.

Chapter 18 Keywords

Amortization phase – The second phase of the stretch-shortening cycle lasting from the end of the eccentric phase to initiation of concentric muscle action

Box drill – Lower body plyometric drills encompassing box jumps and their variations such as single-leg jump to box, lateral box jumps, and drop freezes

Concentric phase – The phase of a movement involving contraction of the agonist’s muscles – in plyometric training, the concentric phase occurs immediately after the amortization phase in the stretch-shortening cycle

Multiple hops and jumps – Lower body plyometric drills involving jumping forward, backward, or laterally using double or single-leg hops

Series elastic component (SEC) – A model that partially explains the increased force production during plyometrics as a function of the elasticity in connective tissues, particularly the tendons

Stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) – The cycle that occurs during plyometrics beginning with the eccentric phase followed by the amortization phase and finally the concentric phase – generally thought to occur from a combination of elasticity in tissues and the stretch reflex

Chapter 19: Program Design and Technique for Speed and Agility Training

Chapter 19 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The definitions of speed, change of direction, and agility.
  2. The mechanics of speed and agility.
  3. The definitions of impulse and rate of force development, and their implications for maximal speed, change of direction, and agility.
  4. The neurophysiological basis for speed and training methods to improve stretch-shortening cycle actions.
  5. The implications of the spring-mass model.
  6. Neurophysiological consideration for a change of direction and agility.
  7. Considerations for increasing sprint speed.
  8. Guidelines for sprinting technique.
  9. The fundamental movements that occur during maximal velocity sprinting.
  10. The main training goals for increasing sprint speed.
  11. The factors that affect change of direction and perceptual-cognitive ability.
  12. Technical guidelines for coaching change of direction and perceptual-cognitive abilities.
  13. The main training goals for agility performance.
  14. The primary methods for developing agility.
  15. Program design principles for technique, speed, and agility training.
  16. Methods of monitoring sprint and agility development.
  17. Phasic development for sprinting and agility.
  18. Techniques for the following drills:
    1. A-skip
    2. Deceleration drills
    3. Y-shaped agility drill

Chapter 19 Study Tips

Speed and agility training is relevant to track and field athletes as well as field athletes in sports like soccer and Lacrosse.

You must memorize the differences between the start, acceleration, and maximal speed form during sprinting, as the proper form mechanics are different for each.

Additionally, review the spring-mass model for sprinting, and the implications for ground contact time and impulse during sprinting.

For a change of direction and agility, you must know the differences between each. Agility involves a change of direction in response to an external stimulus, while a change of direction could be a preplanned route that does not involve decision-making.

The proper form during braking and reacceleration is key to understand for this chapter.

Study, review, and practice the different sprint, CoD, and agility drills at the end of the chapter, as these will certainly be on the exam.

Finally, design a sprint and agility training program for your field athlete avatars as you did in your practice for resistance and plyometric program design.

Chapter 19 Keywords

Acceleration – The rate at which an object’s velocity changes over time

Change of direction – The skills and abilities needed to explosively change movement directions, velocities, or modes

Ground preparation – Phase of sprinting where the stance leg drives down into the ground

Periodization – Strategic manipulation of athlete’s preparedness through sequences training phases defined by cycles and stages of workload

Rate of force development (RFD) – A measure of the time it takes to produce force, often used as an index for explosive strength

Spring-mass model (SMM) – Model of sprinting that views sprinting as the compression of springs in the body (ankles, knee, and hip joints) followed by rapid expansion to produce force and displace the body down the track

Stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) – Cycle of the rapid stretching of muscles and tissues followed by rapid mechanical and neurological contraction of the tissues – generally thought to be a combination of elasticity of joints and muscles and the stretch-reflex response

Chapter 20: Program Design and Technique for Aerobic Endurance Training

Chapter 20 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The main factors related to aerobic endurance performance.
  2. Exercise mode when designing aerobic programs.
  3. The role of frequency when designing aerobic training programs.
  4. The role of training intensity when designing aerobic training programs.
  5. The role of exercise duration when designing aerobic training programs.
  6. The role of exercise progression in aerobic training programs.
  7. The different types of aerobic endurance training programs.
  8. Aerobic endurance program design to different training seasons.
  9. Performing calculations using the Karvonen Method and Percentage of Maximal Heart Rate Method for determining target heart rate.
  10. Special issues related to aerobic endurance training.

Chapter 20 Study Tips

The aerobic training chapter includes the form for running, the training variables used to design appropriate aerobic training, and the overall design for aerobic training plans.

Your first focus should be on the mechanics and muscle actions that occur during the different phases of running, which are not always intuitive.

From there, design an aerobic training program incorporating every different training model discussed in the chapter, as appropriate. To recap, these are the concepts such as long slow distance, interval, and Fartlek training.

As part of your training plan, use the Karvonen method and HRR method to assign heart rate intensities for an athlete with specified age and resting heart rate, which is data required for the mentioned formulas.

The aerobic training knowledge requires you to assign the intensities based on calculations with these formulas, and at least one exam question will require you to use a formula, which will not be provided on the exam – although you will have access to a basic calculator.

Chapter 20 Keywords

Age-predicted maximal heart rate (APMHR) – Estimate of maximal heart rate that uses 220 – age to determine maximal heart rate

Cross-training – Additional aerobic training using modes other than the primary competition mode – i.e. distance runner adding swimming to the training regimen

Cross-training – Additional aerobic training using modes other than the primary competition mode – i.e. distance runner adding swimming to the training regimen

Frequency – Programming variable that refers to the number of training sessions in a given time period

High-intensity interval training – Repeated high-intensity exercise bouts (i.e. 90% VO2 max) with brief recovery periods

Interval training – Exercise at intensities close to VO2 max with work-rest intervals around 1:1

Lactate threshold – The point of intensity at which blood and muscle lactate levels begin to rise

Metabolic equivalent (MET) – The amount of energy required when at rest, used to express the relative energy demands of different activities as a multiple of 1 MET (i.e. 5 METS = 5x the energy requirement of resting)

Overload – The process of increasing demands on different bodily systems to stimulate athletic adaptations

Percentage of maximal heart rate method (MHR) – Method of prescribing target heart rate by multiplying desired intensity by an athlete’s age-predicted maximal heart rate

Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) – A subjective scale of 1-10 used to self-analyze the intensity of exercise – 1=no effort, 10 = maximal effort

Tapering – Period of planned, precise decreased volume or intensity in the days or weeks leading up to a competition

Chapter 21: Periodization

Chapter 21 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. General Adaptation Syndrome.
  2. Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation Theory.
  3. Fitness-Fatigue paradigm.
  4. The periodization hierarchy.
  5. The timing, structure, and purpose of the following periods:
    1. Preparatory period
    2. First transition period
    3. Competitive period
    4. Second transition period
  6. Differences between linear and undulating periodization models.

Chapter 21 Study Tips

Chapter 21 covers periodization, a massive topic that requires you to design annualized training programs for different athletes.

This goes beyond simply picking exercises and program variables for a single program.

Periodization requires you to design programs for each season for a given sport, and assign exercises, training variables, and durations for each microcycle, mesocycle, and macrocycle.

Take the programs you created while studying earlier chapters and create continuation programs for a full annual training plan for your athlete avatars.

While may seem simple, pay close attention to the specific goals of each mesocycle and the reason those goals are chosen based on the sport.

Periodization gets complex, and test questions may present you with similar programs and ask which program would be part of a given mesocycle.

The more repetitions you get designing programs then reviewing them against the textbook, the easier it will be to select the right answers to these questions.

Chapter 21 Keywords

Active rest – Postseason phase of training involving low-volume and intensity where athletes can rehab injuries and recovery from accumulated fatigue from the previous macrocycle – should not last more than 4 weeks

Competitive period – Phase of macrocycle during competition season involving high amounts of sport-specific technique and tactic training, frequent competitions, and reduced strength and conditioning volumes

Fitness-fatigue paradigm – Model of periodization that considers response to training as a combination of fitness and fatigue – properly managed training maximizes fitness gains and minimizes fatigue

General preparatory phase – Mesocycle of training that begins in the offseason and focuses on building work capacity and necessary muscle mass using high-volume, lower intensity training protocols

Macrocycle – A period of training lasting several months to a year incorporating multiple mesocycles and built around the different seasons of play

Mesocycle – A period of training between 2 and 6 weeks incorporating multiple microcycles

Peaking – Period of 1-2 weeks following a taper where the athlete performs at the highest level – typically timed for a certain competition

Restoration – Phase of the postseason where athlete’s focus on injury rehabilitation and mental and physical recovery from the previous training and competition season

Stimulus-fatigue-recovery-adaptation theory – Extension of General Adaptation Syndrome that suggests that training stimuli produce a general response influenced by the magnitude of the training stressor

Traditional periodization – Periodization model using the same set-rep schemes throughout the microcycle and focus on increasing the resistance used each workout or in the following microcycle

Chapter 22: Rehabilitation and Reconditioning

Chapter 22 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Qualifications and responsibilities of different sports medicine team members.
  2. Communication roles of each member of the sports medicine team.
  3. The different categories of injury.
  4. The phases of tissue healing following injury.
  5. Treatment goals during the inflammatory response phase.
  6. Treatment goals during the fibroblastic repair phase.
  7. Treatment goals during the maturation-remodeling phase.
  8. Overall principles of program design for rehabilitation.
  9. Protocols for reducing the risk of injury when rehabbing.

Chapter 22 Study Tips

The CSCS rehabilitation and reconditioning knowledge cover the various aspects of helping athletes through injuries.

You need to learn the various members of the sports medicine team and their respective roles in the rehabilitation process for athletes. A big aspect of being a strength and conditioning coach is staying within your scope of practice, so carefully review the duties of each team member.

Part of this chapter also requires you to understand the different phases of injury and healing, the biological occurrences in each phase, treatment goals, and the appropriate training protocols for athletes within each phase of healing.

Additionally, learn the different types of injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures, and the tissues they affect, respectively.

Finally, develop an appropriate program for each phase of training for your aerobic and anaerobic athlete avatars. Refer to the example patellofemoral reconditioning program in the textbook for assistance.

As always, flashcards and notes are your best friend.

Chapter 22 Keywords

Athletic trainer – The sports medicine team member responsible for the day-to-day physical health of the athlete typically certified by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association (ATC) as a “Certified Athletic Trainer”

Contraindication – An activity or practice that is inadvisable or prohibited due to a given injury

Contusion – Area of excess accumulation of blood and fluid in tissues surrounding the injured muscle caused by direct trauma

Exercise physiologist – Sports medicine team member with a formal background in exercise science who assists with designing conditioning programs that consider metabolic responses to exercise and how that reaction aids the healing process. Exercise science jobs often require a formal degree.

Inflammation – The initial reaction to the injury necessary for normal tissue healing to occur characterized by the injured area becomes red and swollen due to changes in vascularity, blood flow, and capillary permeability

Macrotrauma – A specific sudden episode of overload injury to a given tissue

Neuromuscular control – The ability of muscles to respond to sensory information to maintain joint stability

Open kinetic chain – Exercises where the terminal joint is free to move – allowing greater concentration on isolated joint or muscle – i.e. knee extension

Physical therapist – Licensed physical therapist typically certified through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as a “Sports Certified Specialist”

Psychiatrist – Sports medicine team member who is a licensed mental health professional who can help the injured athlete better cope with the mental stress accompanying an injury

Sprain – Ligamentous trauma ranging partial tear of ligament without increased joint instability to complete tear with full joint instability

Strain – Tears of muscle fibers assigned grades or degree ranging from a partial tear of individual fibers to complete tear of muscle fibers

Team physician – Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) typically proficient in musculoskeletal and sports injuries and sport-related medical conditions

Tendinitis –  Inflammation of a tendon caused by overuse that can become tendinopathy if left uncorrected

Chapter 23:Facility Design, Layout, and Organization

Chapter 23 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. The experts needed when designing a new facility.
  2. The phases of facility design.
  3. Steps needed during the following design phases:
    1. Predesign
    2. Design
    3. Construction
    4. Preoperation
  4. Considerations when assessing athletic program needs.
  5. Design considerations for strength and conditioning facilities.
  6. Equipment arrangement and spacing in strength and conditioning facilities.
  7. Equipment maintenance and cleanliness considerations.

Chapter 23 Study Tips

Facility design, layout, and organization require specific numerical knowledge of the spacing requirements for different gym equipment.

This can get complicated because of the requirements for safe paths for barbells and power racks.

The textbook has a fairly straightforward breakdown of this information, however, you should perform some separate design calculations for different facility examples.

Additionally, this section covers the overall phases of facility design and their respective components.

This includes the predesign, design, construction, and preoperation phases and the steps within each phase.

Finally, pay attention to the lighting, sound, and HVAC requirements for facilities. You will probably get an example square footage facility and be asked about how many fans and lights are required.

A good trick for this section is creating a few ‘facility avatars’ and designing your own facilities based on the textbook. Include all the relevant details.

Chapter 23 Keywords

Construction phase – Third phase of facility design involving physical construction of the facility

Feasibility study – Component of predesign phase that examines strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and competitive threats to the future facility

Predesign phase – First phase of design involving collaboration with experts and conducting needs analysis, feasibility study, and master plan formulation

Safety cushion – Walkway area between 36 and 48 inches between equipment that allows movement with additional room to avoid hitting equipment while walking

Chapter 24:Facility Policies, Procedures, and Legal Issues

Chapter 24 Topics that you NEED TO KNOW

  1. Components of a mission statement and program goals.
  2. Items to include in a facility’s program objectives.
  3. Responsibilities and qualifications for the Director of Strength and Conditioning at a facility.
  4. Required personal qualifications of the strength and conditioning staff.
  5. Legal and ethical issues when operating a strength and conditioning facility.
  6. The process of preparticipation screening and medical clearance.
  7. General guidelines for establishing eligibility criteria.
  8. Guidelines for record-keeping and liability insurance.
  9. Considerations for product liability in facility policies.
  10. Guidelines for discipline in the facility.
  11. Guidelines for supplements, ergogenic aids, and banned substances in a facility.
  12. Typical staff policies and activities.
  13. Guidelines for emergency planning and response.

Chapter 24 Study Tips

The final chapter in the CSCS textbook covers policies, procedures, and legal issues associated with operating a strength and conditioning facility.

For example, you need to know the difference between a mission statement and program objective and be able to elaborate on each. You will be asked about different components and required to identify whether they fall into the mission statement, program goals, or procedure manual.

Identifying the different team members, including the role and duties of the director of strength and conditioning, is another knowledge requirement from this chapter. This includes knowledge of all staff members including the director, the coaches, and the maintenance staff.

The procedures for disciplining athletes who do not follow facility rules are also covered in this section. You must know the procedures for each offense an athlete commits – for example, the disciplinary guidelines change whether it is the first, second, or third offense from a given athlete.

Finally, mitigating liability is a crucial and practical topic for the strength and conditioning professional.

This includes how to mitigate the liability associated with equipment use and visitors to the facility.

You must know the process for approving visiting teams or athletes in the facility, and the staff responsible for approving these decisions.

To really dial in this knowledge, create a mission statement, program goals, and procedures for your facility avatars from chapter 23.

This final chapter should be very noted and memorization-heavy, so get your pencil, paper, and notecards ready for some serious studying.

Chapter 24 Keywords

Assumption of risk – Knowing that an inherent risk exists with participation in an activity and voluntarily deciding to participate anyway

Duty – Responsibility an individual has based on training, certification, and position in the organization

Emergency action plan – A written document that details proper procedures for caring for injuries

Liability – Legal responsibility, obligation, or duty – strength and conditioning professionals have a duty to the athletes they serve by their employment to respond to injuries and attempt to prevent injuries

Negligence – Failure to act as a reasonable and prudent person would under similar circumstances

Product liability – The legal responsibilities of those who manufacture or sell products if a person sustains injury or damage as a result of using the product

Program objectives – The specific means of attaining program goals

Scope of practice – Proper legal parameters and professional duties

Standard of care – What a responsible and prudent person would do under similar circumstances – Strength and conditioning professionals are expected to act according to their education, level of training, and certification status

Statute of limitations – The time period following an incident in which individuals can file lawsuits for the incident

CSCS Study Guide Breakdown

Whether you want to be a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA CSCS) will set you apart as a professional in the fitness industry.

The CSCS certification is one of the hardest in the fitness and personal training industry

In fact, nearly 50 percent of students fail their first attempt.

While we cannot speak to every single failed exam, a big reason for failure is a lack of focused and organized studying and test prep. The roughly 700-page NSCA Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 4th Edition textbook contain massive amounts of information. Students rarely take CSCS practice exam questions for the difficult specialist exam.

Additionally, you need a passing score on every subsection of the CSCS Scientific Foundations and Practical/Applied exam sections, so you cannot skip any section banking on your knowledge of other sections to pass. Even a 90 percent overall score will cause you to fail if your missed certification test questions fall into the same domain.

The good news is that Trainer Academy has your back!

With this free CSCS study guide, we give you the top information required to pass the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist test.

Whether you are a first-time test taker or adding another fitness certification to your resume, we have your back.

This free CSCS study guide covers the following, so make sure to bookmark this page.

  • A comprehensive review of required CSCS exam content
  • Chapter-by-chapter exam content study tips
  • Need to know information for passing the CSCS test
  • Chapter CSCS keywords needed in the exam questions
  • Frequently asked questions about the CSCS exam

This is (in our students’ opinion) the best CSCS study guide available online and contains a complete study course for the NSCA CSCS exam.

This study guide goes chapter by chapter, looking at topics you need to know, study tips and keywords.

Remember the information covered in the NSCA CSCS exam is going to be much further in depth than most personal trainer certifications go.

Once you master all the concepts below make sure to use our free CSCS practice exam to see how you stack up!

Our NSCA CSCS review also has info to help you decide if you want to pick this cert or one of the other strength and conditioning certifications.

Alright, let’s get started!


How do I study for my CSCS test?

The best study methods for the CSCS test revolve around study questions, spaced repetition flashcards, mnemonics, and practice tests. These study materials are all included in the CSCS MVP Study Package from Trainer Academy.

Should I get the CSCS or CPT?

If you want to train athletes or focus on sports performance, you should consider the CSCS as a priority.

If you plan to train general fitness clients, it would be worth looking at CPT certifications in addition to the CSCS, as the latter may not contain sufficient beginner-level training programming.

Is the CSCS worth it?

The CSCS certification is a significant milestone in any fitness professional’s career.

Having a CSCS will set you apart from trainers who only have a CPT. The CSCS is also a requirement for collegiate-level strength and conditioning coaches

Which test prep book is best for the CSCS exam?

The bulk of the CSCS exam comes from the NSCA Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 4th edition.

The 3rd edition textbook is outdated. Additional CSCS study guide test prep books are available for purchase separately. There is no official NSCA CSCS study guidebook.

Where can I find CSCS practice test questions online?

CSCS practice questions are available from many third-party study guide companies, including the Trainer Academy CSCS MVP Study Guide.

How difficult is the CSCS exam?

The CSCS exam is considered one of the harder certification exams in the fitness industry, with a purported pass rate of 54 percent as opposed to the typical 70 percent of other mainstream certifications.

How long should I study for the CSCS?

Depending on your background knowledge, study ability, and available time, expect to spend between 2 and 6 months preparing for the CSCS exam.

Which test is hardest?

The tests are fairly similar overall. The ACSM requires more memorization of different risk cutoff points, while ACE requires more focus on programming.

What happens if I fail my CSCS test?

Depending on whether you fail the scientific foundations or practically applied section, or both, you can pay a retake fee for each section or both.

The retake fee for one section is $250, while the full retake is $340, which is the original exam fee. Some CSCS study packages offer an exam pass guarantee that will pay your retake fee if you fail the exam.

CSCS Exam Prep: the bottom line

Don’t forget to download our 22 step NSCA CSCS exam preparation checklist to ensure that you pass the test.

Do you have to be certified to be a personal trainer? Do you have to be certified to be a strength coach? The answer to both these questions is, technically, no, but you will be hard-pressed to get an actual job without the proper certification.

The CSCS exam has a tough reputation for a reason.

Nevertheless, if you follow the protocols in our study guide, you will have a good framework to guide your studying for the exam, and greatly improve your chances of passing.

By the time you pass the CSCS exam you will have a firm grasp of the essentials of strength training and conditioning from one of the best NCCA accredited certifications.

As we continually emphasize, note-taking and repetition are the keys to memorizing the facts.

For calculation-related questions, perform as many different repetitions as you can of the calculations using different numbers.

Pick realistic numbers to give you familiarity with the typical range of numbers that will come up.

Finally, creating realistic athlete avatars will help you put everything into practice.

The more in-depth your avatars are, the more useful they will be as you create programs and perform calculations for intensity and volume that mimic real-world strength and conditioning coach tasks.

Our final tip is to study the first few chapters and assess how long it takes you to get through the material.

Once you have a good estimate of the time you will need to get through all the material, schedule your test accordingly.

From there, stay disciplined with your studying, get enough sleep the night before your exam, and pass the test with flying colors!

Once you pass and find a job, having the CSCS will mean a higher strength and conditioning coach salary than without the cert, certainly higher than the starting personal trainer salary.

If you decide to opt for any of the other highly recognized fitness certifications, these premium study packages from Trainer Academy are available for your use.

We also have breakdowns of each major certification, like our NASM Review and ISSA Review.

If you’re comparing certs, we have head-to-head looks at NASM vs ACE, ISSA vs NASM, NASM vs NSCA, and ACSM vs ACE.

For NASM, there is a free NASM Study Guide and NASM Practice Test to get you started.

And we have you covered for the ACE cert as well with an ACE Study Guide and ACE Practice Exam.


  1. Haff G, Triplett T. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 4th ed. Human Kinetics; 2021. https://us.humankinetics.com/products/essentials-of-strength-training-and-conditioning-4th-edition-with-hkpropel-access
  2. ‌Almeda CG, Mangine GT, Green ZH, Feito Y, French DN. Experience, Training Preferences, and Fighting Style Are Differentially Related to Measures of Body Composition, Strength, and Power in Male Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Athletes—A Pilot Study. Sports. 2023;11(1):13. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/sports11010013
  3. ‌Davies G, Riemann BL, Manske R. CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. International journal of sports physical therapy. 2015;10(6):760-786. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637913/

Leave us a comment and we will reply ASAP

Trainer Academy - Staff of certified fitness experts

Trainer Academy

All Posts

The Trainer Academy Editorial Process

Here at Trainer Academy, we take pride in providing the most up-to-date and correct information. That is why we have a rigorous editorial process to fact-check and review all content on our site. We only provide up-to-date and accurate information that comes from relevant and trustworthy sources. If you would like to learn more, check out our editorial process here.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ACE CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $249 exam retake fee with the American Council on Exercise.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by ACE.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $249 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NASM CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $199 exam retake fee with the National Academy of sports medicine.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by NASM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $199 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NSCA CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $300-$435 (whether you are an NSCA member or not) exam retake fee with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NSCA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $300-$435 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ACSM CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $199 exam retake fee with The American College of Sports Medicine.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the ACSM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $199 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NCSF CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $99 exam retake fee with The National Council on Strength and Fitness.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NCSF.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $99 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ISSA nutrition exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $99 exam retake fee with The International Sports Sciences Association.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the ISSA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $99 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ISSA CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $99 exam retake fee with The International Sports Sciences Association.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the ISSA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $99 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NASM PES exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $99 exam retake fee with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NASM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $99 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NASM CES exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $99 exam retake fee with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NASM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $99 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NASM CNC exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $199 exam retake fee with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NASM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $199 to you for the exam retake fee.Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NSCA CSCS exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $250 - $475 (whether you fail one or both sections) exam retake fee with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.


How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NSCA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $250 - $475 to you for the exam retake fee. Additionally, we will upgrade your account to MVP lifetime access for free. 

100 CSCS Practice Q's

Start test