Congratulations on your decision or interest in becoming a personal trainer!
I absolutely love training. I have a passion for helping people reach their fitness goals, and I am extremely happy with my decision of furthering my career in the fitness industry.
I successfully passed my CPT exam through the National Academy of Sports Medicine in October of 2014, then released my own ultimate study guide to becoming a certified personal trainer a couple of weeks later.
While I was in the process of studying, I searched the Internet high and low for study guides.
There was SO much information to take in, and I felt very overwhelmed! After talking with a handful of friends and trainers who had already been through the process, I felt better about taking the test and wanted to create one page with all of the tips I acquired.
To anyone in the study process or who will soon be in the study process…
My biggest piece of advice for you is:
Take earning this certification seriously, but don’t let it run your life and stress you out. Schedule a specific study time every night, couple of nights, or block of time on the weekends to knock out the material and stick to it.
Actually engage in the information and don’t be afraid to ask your friends or spouse to help review Fitness Assessments or muscle movements. Focus on learning one chapter of material at a time. If something overwhelms you (I’m talking to you, Appendix D), skip it and return once you feel more prepared to soak in the information.
And finally, use all of the tools available. Online, on your phone, in forums, through eTeach (if you purchase that package) and talk to people who have been through the process. I am always here as a resource and invite any questions you may have!
Frequelty Asked Questions about NASM
• What made you choose this specific certification through NASM?
I wanted to get certified in personal training so I could study the science of fitness. Whether I use it to actively train clients at a gym or not, I wanted to back my workouts and information I share with you all with facts and research. I wanted to really dive in and understand how the body functions.
After doing an extensive amount of research and talking with a handful of people in the industry, becoming a CPT is what I needed to do to move forward and the NASM seemed like the clearest answer on how to get there.
NASM is one of the (if not THE) most accredited and highly respected online fitness education programs you can get certified with, and is immediately recognizable on professional resumes. I am currently scoping out my next educational move, and getting certified specifically in group fitness will hopefully happen sooner than later.
• What do you plan to do with your CPT?
I am excited to share I am now working as a personal trainer for small group, semi-private, and private one-on-one sessions! Soon, I will also be offering web-based coaching and will be sure to share the details when they unfold.
On top of personal training, I am hoping to get back into teaching group fitness classes. I truly miss being at the barre!
• What exact program did you purchase?
NASM offers several different levels of study programs. The cheapest is taking the Exam only (no textbook) for $599, and they keep building up to in-person learning classes and programs. I chose the CPT Self-Study program that includes the textbook and online resources.
The CPT Self-Study starts at $699, and I received a generous discount off of my package after speaking with my contact.
(Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for a discount offer if you’re interested!)
• what other specializations are you interested in?
I am currently enrolled in the Behavior Change Specialist program. Once I complete that, my next steps are to become a Fitness Nutrition and Weight Loss Specialist. Who knows where I will go after that!
Now… are you ready for the good stuff?
Ultimate NASM Study Guide
(Everything you need to know to feel over-prepared on your test day!)
Let’s start with the tips I picked up while studying:
Check out my full post on Tips for Studying with NASM if this is something that interests you!
The CliffsNotes version:
– Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one chapter at a time.
– Make notecards and review them often!
– Access the online Syllabus for a structured plan that makes sense.
– Watch the videos and really utilize the eLearning Center!
Now onto some questions I received about the test:
• How much time do you have on test day and did you use it all?
I shared my full experience taking the CPT test the day after I completed it.
In that post, I mentioned you have 120 minutes to take the exam. There are 100 graded questions and 20 extra ungraded research questions they throw in to gage the success or fail rate for possible future test questions.
I finished the exam in about an hour, then spent another half hour going through my marked questions. I ended up using all 120 minutes!
• Is there anything I should know about taking the test?
All of the questions are multiple choice, so you don’t have to worry about spelling vocabulary correctly or anything of that nature.
You have the opportunity to skip and mark questions along the way and can go back to re-answer those specific questions later on. I utilized this option and marked absolutely everything I thought I might get wrong. I wanted to see how I did before I submitted it, or at least how I thought I did.
I’m pretty sure I marked a lot of the research questions. Don’t let them freak you out!
• Is there anything you wish you knew early on?
YES. While I had plenty of help with study guides and blogs I found online, nothing helped me more than the discussion threads on bodybuilding.com.
Specifically this one!
The grammar isn’t awesome, but the information discussed is on point. It started in 2011, so some of the information may be old, but everything discussed is still very useful. To get to the most recent posts on the version of the test I took (CPT 4), I clicked over to the last page and went backwards.
I found these thread forums the night before my CPT exam and wished I found them months before that. There were very question specific tips, and I know my score improved because of them.
• What exactly did you see appear on the test?
The amount of information thrown at you in order to prepare for this exam can be overwhelming.
As soon as I got home from the test, I whipped out the official CPT Study Guide from the eLearning Center, circled what I saw on the test and crossed off what I didn’t. I fully recommend reading everything in the book and everything the Study Guide suggests, but here are specific subjects I saw pop up on the exam.
Ready? (It’s a long list… so Aspen is sending you good vibes!)
• The Certification Handbook – pay attention to how long a personal trainer should keep client records (4 years)
• OPT Model (differences and goals in all phases)
• overweight + obesity statistics
• Diabetes (Type I and Type II)
• prime movers
• Definitions in Chapter 2
• Muscle as Movers
(Agonist, Synergist, Stabilizer, Antagonist functions of exercises)
• Figure 2.34 (page 41) concentrate on Epimysium, Perimysium, Endomysium
• the function of bones (as levers)
• stroke volume
(The way they worded this one tricked me! Pay attention to this definition.)
• Functions of the right/left atrium and right/left ventricles
(and Figure 3.3 on page 57)
• arteries and veins
• depressions and processes in bones
• mechanoreceptors: muscle spindles fibers and golgi tendon organ (GTO)
• aerobic and anaerobic metabolism (ATP-PC, Glycolysis, Oxidative)
• force and force-couples
• Pay special attention to definitions and concepts in CHAPTERS 5, 6 & 12!
(The majority of the test stems from information here.)
• planes of motion (Frontal, Sagittal Transverse)
• flexion/extension movements + abduction/adduction movements
• muscle actions (Isotonic, Eccentric, Concentric, Isometric, Isokinetic)
• Guidelines for Health and Fitness Professionals (Table 6.1 on page 108)
• subjective vs. objective information for assessment
• motor behavior, motor control, motor learning, motor development
• Be familiar with all assessments:
(PAR-Q, YMCA 3-Minute Step Test, Rockport Walk Test, etc.)
• Max Heart Rate formula and Target Heart Rate Training Zones
• Davis’s Law
• Pronation Distortion Syndrome, Lower Crossed Syndrome, Upper Crossed Syndrome
• Checkpoints for Single-Leg Squat Assessment, Pushing Assessment, Pulling Assessment
• Self-Myofascial Release (foam rolling), Static, Active-Isolated, Dynamic Stretches (know differences)
• Definitions in Chapter 7
• Appendix D (the name of each muscle and it’s isolated function)
• Training Zones (Table 8.9 on page 215)
(Know the HRmax percentages and RPE numbers.)
• Circuit Training
• Local, Global, Movement Systems
• Phases of Plyometric Exercises (loading, transition, unloading)
• Integrated Performance Paradigm
• SAQ Training for Youth, Weight Loss, and Seniors
• General Adaptation Syndrome and SAID Principle
• Periodization: Macrocycle, Mesocycle, Microcycle
• Chronic Health Conditions and Physical or Functional Limitations
• protein, carbohydrates, and fats
(Know how many calories are in 1g of each.)
• Essential Amino Acids (Table 17.4 on page 468)
• daily recommendations and importance of water
• Table 18.2 Dietary Reference Intake Terminology
• SMART Goals
• active listening
• Stages of Change
(Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance)
• Ten Steps to Success (be familiar with the order)
• Four Ps of Marketing
Whew! That list looks crazy long, and it is. Just like studying, take it one chapter and one subject at a time. It will all come together!
• Any last tips?
» If you’re like me and had a hard time remembering anatomy terms,consider purchasing an Anatomy coloring book.
I chose The Human Body Coloring Book on Amazon and it was a great tool to help break it all down one muscle at a time.
I also found explanations of the nervous and movement systems extremely helpful. I took pictures of the diagrams and labels on my phone and referenced it whenever I was on-the-go.
» Use the Practice Test!
The format and questions on the Practice Test in the eLearning Center is a great preview of the real thing. In fact, I recognized a handful of questions that were taken straight from it. Be careful, however, not to just memorize the right answers when they are revealed. Really dig back into the material when you get something wrong.
» Download at least one good NASM Prep App
I personally used (and paid for) the NASM Test Prep app on my iPhone.
There are several great ones to choose from, and I highly recommend using at least one throughout your entire studying process. Whenever I had a free couple of minutes, I would whip through twenty questions or so and it really helped with reviewing information and vocabulary along the way!
NASM Special Offer
I had a wonderful experience with the staff over at NASM. Michael Golembewski is my main contact who I still communicate with as I continue to work towards my specializations.
I can’t promise anything, but if you are interested in purchasing the CPT package, definitely reach out and tell him you got his information from Heather at Life In Leggings. He might just give you a discount!
Be sure to contact him directly via phone (602-383-1263) or email (Michael.Golembewski@nasm.org).