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ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification Review (2024)

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification Review (2024)

Posted by Tyler Spraul, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) on February 9, 2024 — Updated on February 17, 2024

Read this ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification Review to decide if the ACSM CPT is worth it and what the best personal training certification is for you.

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification Review

The ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification is a well-respected credential in the fitness industry. It demonstrates that an individual has met the standards set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for knowledge and competency in the field of personal training. If you’re considering pursuing a career as a personal trainer, the ACSM CPT certification is definitely worth exploring.

Looking to become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)? Read this comprehensive ACSM CPT certification review to learn about the ACSM CPT certification process, exam content, and study resources to help you succeed in your fitness career.

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What is the ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification?

The ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification is a professional certification that validates your knowledge and skills as a personal trainer. It is recognized as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive certifications in the industry. The certification is designed for individuals who want to work with clients in a one-on-one or small group setting to help them achieve their fitness goals.

Overview of the ACSM Certification Program

The ACSM Certification Program is a multi-tiered system that offers certifications in various areas of exercise science and health fitness. The ACSM CPT certification is the entry-level certification and serves as the foundation for further specialization within the field of personal training. It is a nationally recognized certification that is highly regarded by employers and clients alike.

When you become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, you gain access to a vast network of professionals in the fitness industry. This network can provide you with valuable resources, mentorship opportunities, and potential job leads. Additionally, the ACSM offers continuing education courses and workshops to help you stay current with the latest research and trends in exercise science.

As an ACSM CPT, you will have the knowledge and skills to design safe and effective exercise programs for clients of all fitness levels. You will learn how to assess clients’ needs and goals, develop personalized exercise plans, and provide ongoing support and motivation. The certification also covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and exercise psychology, giving you a well-rounded understanding of the factors that contribute to overall health and wellness.

Should I choose the ACSM CPT or another PT certification?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer certification is widely respected in the fitness industry, known for its strong emphasis on scientific research and evidence-based practice. It’s ideal for those who value a deep understanding of the physiological and biomechanical principles behind exercise.

ISSA CPTHigh$$$Moderate
NASM CPTVery High$$$$High
NSCA CSCSVery High$$$$Very High
ACE CPTHigh$$$Moderate
ACSM CPTHigh$$$High
NCSF CPTModerate$$Moderate
NFPT CPTModerate$$Moderate

Read More: Best Personal Training Certifications

What is the ACSM Certification?

The ACSM CPT certification is designed to equip fitness professionals with the knowledge and skills to develop effective, individualized exercise programs for clients of all fitness levels and backgrounds.

ACSM CPT General Information

ACSM’s CPT program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), ensuring it meets high standards of quality and professionalism. It’s recognized globally for its rigorous curriculum and comprehensive approach to fitness training.

  • ACSM is known as the gold standard in the fitness industry.
  • There are three health and fitness certification offerings through ACSM.
  • ACSM has many different options for continuing education credits to maintain your certification.

Successful professionals in the health and fitness industry normally have two things in common: they are passionate about what they do and they have a reputable certification. While the desire to help others exists or is developed within yourself, a certification can be obtained through learning and passing an exam. The American College of Sports Medicine might just be the organization to help you get there.

About ACSM

Since its establishment in 1954, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has amassed more than 50,000 members and become a global leader in the health and fitness industry.

As the oldest organization amongst its competitors, ACSM has become an industry leader in regards to personal training and other certifications. The organization touts itself as the “gold standard” for certification, believing that they are setting the bar higher for customers who choose to purchase.

Despite using the word in its name, ACSM is not a college in the sense of degree offerings. Rather than a campus with a student body, this college is a membership association comprised of sports medicine and exercise science professionals. The common goal among members is to advance health through science, education, and medicine.

Although ACSM does not offer a diploma following completed coursework, there are plenty of ways you can join the team of professionals wanting to help others live a healthier life. Let’s take a look.

ACSM Certification Options and Requirements

In order to educate future fitness leaders, ACSM offers three different health and fitness certifications. These include group exercise instructors, personal trainers, and exercise physiologists.

As part of its desire to be the gold standard in the industry, ACSM holds aspiring professionals to a higher level. The organization is well-known for the challenge its exams possess, but the highly regarded credentials that go alongside make the extra studying effort worthwhile.

Most organizations utilize and teach the importance of science in their certifications, but ACSM takes this to the next level. Its website is filled with references to science-backed education, research, and the highest quality professionals in the industry. It is safe to say that, by pursuing one of the below certifications, you are challenging yourself to become a part of the gold standard.

Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

Personal training can be a very rewarding profession whether you are doing it part-time or making it your full-time career. As one of the most well-respected organizations in the industry, ACSM can give you the tools you need to become successful.

Studying through ACSM offers you a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), giving additional verification to the quality of your credentials. The exam is also less expensive than many competitors at a price of $349 for non-members and $279 for ACSM members, as is the cost to re-take the exam for $175.

Eligibility requirements for the ACSM personal trainer certification are fairly straightforward. Candidates must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent degree, and possess a CPR/AED certification with a practical hands-on skills component. There is no college degree, experience, or application needed in order to study for and take the certification exam (see video with tips above).

Certified Group Exercise Instructor (GEI)

If you have ever attended a group fitness class, you know that the instructor can make or break the quality of the class. Instructors are important not only in regards to safety and exercise choice but also the fun and energy provided to all participants. The group exercise instructor certification through ACSM will teach you how to intentionally design a class, motivate your participants, and provide a positive experience for everyone.

ACSM remains competitive with its price point for the GEI certification in comparison to other organizations. For the $299 exam fee, you can gain the quality credentials that potential employers want to see when hiring instructors. If you are unsuccessful in your first attempt, you are able to re-take the exam for $155.

Much like the personal training certification, the requirements for the group exercise instructor certification are simple. You must be 18 years old, have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree, and have a CPR/AED certification with a practical hands-on skills component. You will not need to apply, possess a college degree, or have any prior experience.

Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP)

For those who already have an established academic background in exercise, ACSM offers an exercise physiologist certification. This would be an ideal study for someone who wants to work in a more clinical or corporate setting as opposed to a fitness center. Exercise physiologists prescribe exercise programs based on physical assessments, much like personal trainers, but they do so at a more advanced level.

The differentiating factor with this certification is the requirement for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. All other components mirror those in the GEI and CPT programs. The cost of the EP certification is $349 with a re-take fee of $175.

Exercise physiologists often work with individuals who have a health problem greater than a sore knee or the desire for weight loss. These individuals may have chronic health conditions that require the EP to work in partnership with a medical doctor to develop a health program.

While personal trainers have the potential to help clients suffering from disease, the conditions often require a greater more in-depth knowledge of the human body and its functions. This need is reflected in the requirement of a bachelor’s degree for the EP certification.

ACSM Exam Prep

Once you have decided to become certified through ACSM and have met the minimum qualifications, it is time to start studying. This is not a task to take lightly. Exams through ACSM are regarded as some of the most challenging in the industry. Again, however, the reputation of the organization adds a great deal of value to your certification.

The ACSM offers a wide range of study materials to help you prepare, but most of these materials come at a separate cost from the exam. Whether you are a hands-on learner or prefer to be completely digital, you will be able to find something which works for you. It is up to you to decide how much value, or how much you want to spend, on your certification. Here is a breakdown of your options.


There are four different books available to candidates. Two of these are geared specifically toward a certain certification while the final two are applicable to all certifications. While a price is listed for each book, it may be helpful to note that customers can save 25% when bundling study materials.

ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer

Customers can purchase this textbook to learn the science behind anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, and other topics. In addition to more scientific subjects, you will also learn a practical application of skills and knowledge to share with your clients. Essentially, the foundational knowledge used in day-to-day personal training is covered in this text.

ACSM’s Resources for the Exercise Physiologist

With a strong emphasis on assessment and programming, this textbook helps prepare you to work with a variety of clients. This text also offers coverage of both healthy and special populations, as well as discussions on potential ethical and legal issues you may run into in your given field.

ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription

The material of this book ensures candidates know the importance of proper exercise testing methods and how to implement them consistently. It also discusses exercise prescription based on the results of testing and/or goals of the client or athlete. This book is applicable to all three certification offerings through ACSM.

ACSM’s Certification Review

This book gives candidates the chance to review everything they will need to know for their exam. The text highlights case studies and multiple-choice questions as pillars of the review and also helps students identify their areas of weakness among different topics. As with “ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription,” this text can be utilized for any of ACSM’s three certification offerings.

Online Resources

Students who are crunched for time or simply prefer to study from the comforts of home may benefit from utilizing the digital resources available through ACSM. There are currently two main options.

Practice Questions

If you are looking for a similar experience to an exam, the online practice questions offered by ACSM may be right for you. Offered through PrepU, these questions provide personalized quizzes and reports. Answer keys are included with the quizzes and also contain an explanation for each answer. Customers can purchase access to study questions for 90, 180, or 365 days for fees of $64.99, $74.99, and $84.99, respectively.

Currently, practice questions are only offered through PrepU for the CPT and EP certifications. ACSM’s website, however, does assure potential instructors that questions for the GEI certification will soon be added.


For those who still want to study from home, but would like more personalized instruction than what a textbook gives, ACSM offers Webinars. You can take advantage of a single session in this virtual classroom for $45 or participate in an entire six-week series for $240.

Either way, this is a great solution if you learn best through someone else’s instruction but are unable to attend a live workshop. Webinars are offered for all three health and fitness certifications (CTP, GEI, EP) through ACSM.

Social Media

For those who want to save money but are still looking for additional support, there is an ACSM study group on Facebook for CPT and EP certification candidates. This community of future fitness influences gives support to one another, discusses topics and study methods, and celebrates with each other when someone passes his or her exam. Although there is no group specifically for GEI candidates, members of these groups may still prove helpful for more general questions you have.

Live Workshops

ACSM also has a CPT workshop available on Zoom. These are two-day workshops with five-hour on-demand webinars. The workshop is from 9:00 AM-6:30 PM on both Saturday and Sunday, followed by a five-hour self-paced webinar. Finally, it includes a 65 question practice exam with detailed answers.

Exam Content

Each of the three certification exams is divided into four categories known as performance domains. The domains are individualized to each exam, as is the proportion of total questions they receive. In addition, all of the exams test on three different cognitive levels, each of which is tested in all performance domains. They are:

  • Recall: remembering basic facts, steps, or information involved in a process
  • Application: understanding and implementing processes, interpreting results, and summarizing information
  • Synthesis: differentiating or relating parts of a system, making judgments on new information, critiquing a process or product, or making recommendations

Each exam has a different seat time and number of exam questions. It is interesting to note that, on all of the exams, there are a certain amount of questions that are not scored. The purpose of this is to find out if these questions are effective and suitable for future tests. Students should treat all questions as if they will be scored. Here is a more in-depth breakdown of each exam.


Comprised of 135 questions, the CPT exam allows a seat time of 150 minutes. Of the 135 questions, 120 are score while 15 will be used more for research purposes. Performance domain breakdowns are as follows:

  • 25%: Initial client consultations and assessments
  • 45%: Exercise programming and implementation
  • 20%: Exercise leadership and client education
  • 10%: Legal and professional responsibilities


Also having a seat time of 165 minutes, the GEI exam is made up of 115 questions, 100 of which are scored and 15 are unscored. The performance domain proportions are:

  • 30%: Class design
  • 25%: Leadership
  • 30%: Instruction
  • 15%: Professional responsibilities


The longest of the three exams at 210 minutes, the EP exam includes 140 questions, 125 of which are scored and 15 are unscored. The performance domains are proportioned as follows:

  • 35%: Health and fitness assessment
  • 35%: Exercise prescription and implementation
  • 25%: Exercise counseling and behavior modification
  • 5%: Risk management and professional responsibilities

Maintaining Your Certification

In order to stay up to date on science and new information in the industry, it is common for organizations to require health and fitness professionals to obtain a certain number of continuing education credits (CEC’s) to maintain their certification.

The specific number of credits, as well as the amount of time to complete the credits, varies by organization. For CPT and GEI, ACSM requires 45 continuing education credits to be completed every three years. For EP, that number climbs to 60 credits every three years.

You can certainly earn CEC’s by completing more certifications from ACSM, but there are other acceptable forms of credit. Any certifications from nationally recognized organizations or certifying bodies are normally accepted by ACSM, and the number of CEC’s are matched or given an acceptable conversion. If you are unsure on whether or not a certain course will count toward your credits, contact ACSM and they will explain whether or not the course will be accepted and for how many credits.

In the event that you miss the three-year window to earn your CEC’s, you do have a six-month grace period in which you can still complete your recertification. Unfortunately, this is associated with a $75 late fee, on top of the normal fee to recertify ($45 for CPT and GEI, $55 for EP). If the grace period has expired and you have not renewed, you will need to take your original certification exam, having maintained the original minimum requirements.

Most successful professionals would tell you that, even though simply re-taking the certification exam may be less expensive, the effort and lack of professional development are not worth it. If a trainer or instructor is only using the same philosophies and exercises he or she learned 10 years ago, that person is outdated.

If professionals do not stay current in the industry, it is harder to facilitate results. As we all know, clients and class participants keep coming back when they see results. Therefore, your business will suffer if you do not continue to grow and provide your customers with the best service possible.

ACSM Membership and Benefits

Once you have passed your certification exam, or maybe even prior to doing so, you might consider a membership to ACSM. There are three different membership categories: student, alliance, and professional.

While the categories have some similarities, there are also differences in cost and benefits. It is worth pointing out that all three certification exams mentioned above can be purchased at a discounted rate with an ACSM membership.

Student Membership

The student membership is open to those studying in exercise science or sports medicine fields. Undergraduate students must be carrying a 12 or more credit hours while graduate students must carry at least 6. This membership category is also open to any student who has been accepted to a medical school and is carrying at least a half-time course load as defined by that institution.

Given that college students are normally on a tighter budget, ACSM offers the first year of membership to students at a $10 fee. This includes access to six different publications offered through ACSM, discounts on continuing education through ACSM, and a listing in the membership directory.

Alliance of Health and Fitness Membership

The most general of the membership offerings, the alliance of health and fitness membership is for health and fitness professionals wanting a practical application of exercise science and sports medicine. The cost of this membership is $99 per year, and includes access to two publications offered through ACSM, continuing education discounts, and listing in the membership directory.

Given that there is no requirement for a bachelor’s degree, professionals with a CPT or GEI certification might find this option most applicable. Having a bachelor’s degree, however, does not disqualify anyone from this membership category, and therefore EP certified professionals would also be able to apply.

Professional Membership

The minimum requirement for individuals to apply for professional membership in ACSM is to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution. A bachelor’s degree in any field is acceptable, but the applicant must be currently working in a field related to sports medicine or exercise science.

If an individual has achieved a master’s or doctoral degree in a field related to sports medicine or exercise science, current employment in that field is not a requirement for application.

The professional membership is the most inclusive of the options and carries a $240 annual price tag. In addition to the ability to access five ACSM publications, receiving continuing education discounts, and receiving a listing in the membership directory, professional members also enjoy voting privileges within the college.

Choosing a job in the health and fitness industry gives professionals a chance to transform their passion for helping others into a career. In order to be as successful as possible, you need to be seen as credible and knowledgeable in your field. A certification is a perfect way to do this and ACSM is a well-respected certifying body in the industry.

With options to become a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or exercise physiologist, ACSM has something for whatever you want to accomplish in your fitness career.  In addition, it offers a wide variety of avenues to maintain your certification and continue in your chosen profession.

There is no doubt that ACSM exams represent some of the more difficult options in the industry. When your studies become difficult, just remember that the end result will pay off in the long run. After all, you are becoming part of the gold standard.

ACSM Credibility and Reputation

ACSM is known as the “gold standard” in the fitness certification industry, with a reputation for fostering a high level of competency among its certified professionals. It’s a preferred certification for many employers in the health and fitness field.

ACSM CPT vs Other Top Personal Trainer Certifications

A comparison table here would highlight how the ACSM CPT certification stacks up against others in terms of focus areas, credibility, and career opportunities. This helps potential candidates make an informed decision about which certification aligns best with their career goals.

Utilizing Exercise.com, the best personal training software, can significantly enhance the application of ACSM’s educational content, allowing trainers to implement comprehensive and effective fitness programs.

Who is the ACSM CPT certification meant for?

The ACSM CPT is ideal for fitness professionals who want to base their practice on solid scientific principles and who may be interested in working in a variety of settings, including health clubs, wellness centers, or in private practice.


The cost of the ACSM CPT certification varies based on membership status, study materials chosen, and registration fees. ACSM offers several study package options to suit different learning preferences and budgets:


  • A budget-friendly option for those who prefer to study independently
  • Includes essential textbooks and online study materials

Premium Self-Study

  • Provides a more comprehensive set of study materials for a thorough preparation
  • Ideal for those who seek a deeper understanding of the curriculum

Guided Study

  • Offers interactive learning experiences, including webinars and access to ACSM educators
  • Recommended for those who benefit from a structured learning environment


  • The most extensive package, offering hands-on workshops in addition to study materials
  • Best suited for those who want the most in-depth preparation possible

ACSM Certification Test Topics

The ACSM CPT certification covers a broad spectrum of topics essential for effective personal training:

Section 1 – Health Appraisal and Fitness Exercise Testing

  • Understanding how to assess clients’ health status and fitness levels to design appropriate exercise programs

Section 2 – Exercise Physiology and Nutrition

  • In-depth exploration of the body’s responses to exercise and the role of nutrition in fitness

Section 3 – Exercise Prescription and Program Design

  • Skills for developing personalized exercise programs that safely and effectively meet clients’ goals

Section 4 – Safety, Injury Prevention, and Emergency Procedures

  • Knowledge of how to maintain a safe training environment and respond to emergency situations

ACSM Exam Prep and Study Materials

ACSM provides a range of study materials, including textbooks, online quizzes, and practice tests, to help candidates prepare for the CPT exam. These resources are designed to cover all the key areas of the certification exam comprehensively.

ACSM Certification Requirements

To become ACSM certified, candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Hold a current CPR/AED certification
  • Pass the ACSM CPT examination


ACSM-certified personal trainers often enjoy competitive salaries due to the certification’s strong reputation. Salaries can vary widely based on location, experience, and the type of employer.

Taking the Final ACSM Exam

The ACSM CPT exam is comprehensive, testing candidates’ knowledge across all essential domains of personal training. Successful completion of the exam grants the ACSM CPT credential.

ACSM Continuing Education and Recertification

ACSM-certified professionals are required to complete continuing education credits (CECs) and recertify every three years to maintain their certification. This ensures they stay current with the latest in exercise science and fitness trends.

Other ACSM Offerings

Beyond the CPT certification, ACSM offers advanced certifications and specializations for fitness professionals interested in furthering their expertise, such as the ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP) and the ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-CEP).

ACSM CPT Overall Rating


  • Strong emphasis on evidence-based practice and scientific principles
  • Global recognition and credibility in the fitness industry
  • Comprehensive curriculum covering a wide range of fitness and wellness topics


  • The cost of certification and study materials can be high for some candidates
  • The scientific rigor of the program may be challenging for those without a strong background in exercise science

For those committed to a career in fitness and wellness, the ACSM CPT certification offers a solid foundation backed by scientific research. Supported by Exercise.com, the best personal trainer certifications platform, ACSM-certified trainers are well-equipped to deliver high-quality, evidence-based training programs that produce real results.

Benefits of Becoming an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer

Obtaining the ACSM CPT certification offers numerous benefits. Firstly, it enhances your professional credibility and marketability, making you stand out in a competitive job market. Many employers specifically look for trainers who hold this certification. With the ACSM CPT credential, you can confidently apply for positions at fitness centers, health clubs, corporate wellness programs, and private training studios.

Secondly, the ACSM CPT certification demonstrates your commitment to ongoing education and professional development, which is crucial in a constantly evolving industry. The certification requires you to maintain your knowledge and skills through continuing education credits, ensuring that you stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices. This commitment to learning sets you apart as a dedicated and knowledgeable professional.

Lastly, becoming an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer gives you access to valuable resources, networking opportunities, and discounts on continuing education courses. The ACSM provides a wealth of resources, including research journals, online forums, and educational materials, to support your professional growth. You can also attend conferences and workshops to network with other fitness professionals and learn from industry experts.

Requirements for Obtaining the ACSM CPT Certification

Before you can become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, you must meet certain requirements. Firstly, you must be at least 18 years old. This age requirement ensures that you have the maturity and responsibility necessary to work with clients in a professional manner.

Secondly, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. This educational requirement ensures that you have a basic understanding of core subjects such as math, science, and English, which are relevant to the field of exercise science.

Thirdly, you must possess a current CPR and AED certification. This certification is essential for ensuring the safety of your clients in the event of a medical emergency. CPR and AED training equips you with the skills to respond quickly and effectively in life-threatening situations.

Finally, you must pass the ACSM CPT certification exam. The exam covers a wide range of topics, including exercise physiology, anatomy, nutrition, exercise programming, and client assessment. It tests your knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge in real-world scenarios. The exam is comprehensive and challenging, but it ensures that ACSM Certified Personal Trainers are well-prepared to meet the needs of their clients.

How to Prepare for the ACSM CPT Certification Exam

Preparing for the ACSM CPT certification exam requires careful planning and dedicated study. Here are some tips to help you effectively prepare for the exam:

Studying for a certification exam can be a daunting task, but with the right approach and resources, you can increase your chances of success. The ACSM CPT certification exam is designed to test your knowledge and skills in various areas related to personal training. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle the exam and earn your certification.

Recommended Study Materials for the ACSM CPT Exam

The ACSM offers a variety of study materials to help you prepare for the exam. The ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer textbook is essential and covers all the topics tested on the exam. This comprehensive resource provides in-depth information on anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, exercise prescription, program design, special populations, health appraisal, and fitness assessment.

In addition to the textbook, the ACSM also offers study guides, practice exams, and online courses that can supplement your studying. These resources provide additional practice questions, explanations, and tips to enhance your understanding of the material.

Tips for Effective Exam Preparation

When studying for the ACSM CPT exam, it’s important to create a study plan and stick to it. Breaking down the material into manageable chunks and allocating specific time slots for each topic can help you stay organized and focused. Consider using a study calendar or planner to map out your study sessions.

Reviewing each topic thoroughly is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the material. Take the time to read through the textbook chapters, highlighting key concepts and making notes. Supplement your reading with online resources, videos, and interactive learning tools to reinforce your understanding.

Practice exams are a valuable tool for assessing your knowledge and identifying areas that require further review. Take advantage of the practice exams provided by the ACSM, as well as other reputable sources. By simulating the exam environment, you can familiarize yourself with the format and time constraints, helping to reduce test anxiety and improve your performance.

Additionally, consider forming a study group or finding a study partner to help keep you accountable and provide additional support. Collaborating with others allows for the exchange of ideas, discussion of challenging topics, and the opportunity to learn from different perspectives.

Sample Study Schedule for the ACSM CPT Exam

Here’s a sample study schedule to give you an idea of how to structure your study sessions:

Week 1: Focus on anatomy, exercise physiology, and biomechanics.

During the first week of your study plan, dedicate your time to understanding the foundational concepts of anatomy, exercise physiology, and biomechanics. Familiarize yourself with the structure and function of the human body, the physiological responses to exercise, and the principles of movement.

Week 2: Study exercise prescription, program design, and special populations.

In the second week, shift your focus to exercise prescription, program design, and special populations. Learn how to create safe and effective exercise programs for individuals with different needs, such as older adults, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic conditions.

Week 3: Review health appraisal and fitness assessment.

In week three, review the concepts of health appraisal and fitness assessment. Understand the importance of gathering client information, conducting fitness assessments, and interpreting the results to develop appropriate exercise recommendations.

Week 4: Final review and practice exams.

During the final week of your study plan, dedicate time to a comprehensive review of all the topics covered in the exam. Use this week to reinforce your understanding, clarify any lingering doubts, and take practice exams to assess your readiness.

What to Expect on the ACSM CPT Certification Exam

The ACSM CPT certification exam is a comprehensive assessment of your knowledge and skills as a personal trainer. Familiarize yourself with the format and structure of the exam to better prepare yourself.

Exam Format and Structure

The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. You have two and a half hours to complete the exam. The questions cover various topics, including anatomy, exercise physiology, exercise prescription, program design, and client consultation.

Key Topics Covered in the Exam

The exam covers a broad range of topics essential for personal trainers. You can expect questions related to anatomy and physiology, principles of training, exercise prescription, exercise technique, special populations, and professional responsibilities.

Commonly Asked Questions on the ACSM CPT Exam

Some questions on the exam require critical thinking and application of knowledge. These questions may present scenarios or client profiles and ask you to select the most appropriate course of action. Thus, it’s important to develop your critical thinking skills and practice applying your knowledge to real-life situations.

One topic that may be covered in the exam is anatomy and physiology. This includes understanding the structure and function of the human body, such as the skeletal system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. You may be asked to identify the major bones and muscles in the body, as well as their function and how they work together during exercise.

Another important topic covered in the exam is principles of training. This involves understanding the fundamental principles that guide exercise programming, such as specificity, overload, progression, and individualization. You may be asked to apply these principles to design an effective exercise program for a specific client, taking into account their goals, fitness level, and any limitations or considerations.

Exercise prescription is another key topic that will be tested on the exam. This includes understanding how to prescribe the appropriate type, intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise for different individuals and goals. You may be asked to calculate target heart rate zones, determine appropriate resistance or weight for strength training exercises, or design a cardiorespiratory training program based on a client’s fitness level and goals.

Exercise technique is also an important area of knowledge for personal trainers. You may be asked to demonstrate proper form and technique for various exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, or bicep curls. Understanding proper exercise technique is crucial for ensuring client safety and maximizing the effectiveness of their workouts.

Special populations is another topic that may be covered on the exam. This includes understanding how to work with individuals who have specific health conditions or considerations, such as diabetes, obesity, pregnancy, or older adults. You may be asked to modify exercises or design specialized programs to meet the unique needs and goals of these populations.

Lastly, the exam will test your knowledge of professional responsibilities as a personal trainer. This includes understanding ethical considerations, scope of practice, legal requirements, and professional standards. You may be asked questions about client confidentiality, professional boundaries, or how to handle ethical dilemmas that may arise in your role as a personal trainer.

Strategies for Passing the ACSM CPT Certification Exam

Passing the ACSM CPT certification exam requires more than just memorizing facts. Here are some strategies that can help you succeed:

Test-Taking Tips and Techniques

  • Read each question carefully and pay attention to keywords. Look for clues that can help you identify the correct answer.
  • If you’re unsure about an answer, eliminate obviously incorrect options to increase your chances of choosing the correct one.
  • Manage your time wisely. Make sure you leave enough time to review your answers before submitting the exam.

How to Manage Time Effectively During the Exam

Time management is crucial when taking the ACSM CPT exam. Allocate a specific amount of time to each question and stick to it. If you encounter a difficult question, move on and come back to it later if time allows. This way, you can ensure that you answer as many questions as possible within the given time frame.

Dealing with Test Anxiety and Nervousness

Test anxiety is common, but it can hinder your performance on the exam. To manage test anxiety, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization. Additionally, ensure that you get enough rest and eat a nutritious meal before the exam to support your overall well-being.

After Passing the ACSM CPT Certification Exam

Congratulations on passing the ACSM CPT certification exam! Now that you’re certified, it’s important to understand the next steps in the certification process.

Next Steps in the Certification Process

Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll need to complete the application process to receive your official ACSM CPT certification. This typically involves submitting documentation, paying any necessary fees, and agreeing to abide by the ACSM’s code of ethics.

Maintaining Your ACSM CPT Certification

To maintain your ACSM CPT certification, you must fulfill certain requirements. These include earning continuing education credits, staying current in CPR and AED certification, and adhering to the ACSM’s code of ethics and conduct. The ACSM requires recertification every three years to ensure that certified trainers stay up to date with the latest research and best practices.

Continuing Education Requirements for ACSM Certified Personal Trainers

The ACSM requires certified personal trainers to earn a certain number of continuing education credits within each three-year recertification cycle. These credits can be earned through various educational activities, such as attending workshops, conferences, seminars, or completing online courses. Continuing education helps you stay knowledgeable and offers opportunities for professional growth.

Final Thoughts on the ACSM CPT Certification

The ACSM CPT certification is an excellent choice if you’re looking to establish yourself as a competent and knowledgeable personal trainer. It provides you with the necessary skills, credibility, and opportunities for professional growth within the fitness industry. By earning the ACSM CPT certification, you’ll position yourself for success and open doors to a rewarding career in personal training.

Overall, the ACSM CPT certification is a prestigious credential that can significantly benefit your career as a personal trainer. It allows you to demonstrate your expertise, attract more clients, and stand out in a highly competitive industry. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your career to the next level, the ACSM CPT certification is a valuable investment in your professional development.

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How much does the ACSM CPT certification cost?

The cost of ACSM certification varies depending on membership status and whether you opt for additional study materials or workshops. The ACSM CPT exam fee ranges from approximately $279 to $349 for members, with non-members paying a higher fee. ACSM members receive a discounted rate for the certification exam. It’s important to check the ACSM website for the most up-to-date information regarding exam fees.

Is the ACSM CPT certification recognized internationally?

Yes, the ACSM CPT certification is recognized internationally as a credible personal training certification. As the fitness industry becomes increasingly globalized, having an internationally recognized certification can enhance your career prospects, whether you plan to work domestically or internationally.

Can I take the ACSM CPT exam online?

No, the ACSM CPT exam is not available as an online exam. It is a proctored exam that must be taken at an approved testing center. This ensures the integrity and professionalism of the certification process.

How long does my ACSM certification last?

Health and fitness certifications through ACSM have a three-year span, plus a six-month grace period, before the certification lapses.

Do I have to be an ACSM member to get certified?

No, however, membership in ACSM does allow you to receive a discount on your certification.

Do all of my CEC’s need to come from ACSM?

No. ACSM normally deems certifications or classes from nationally recognized organizations as acceptable for credit.

Is the ACSM CPT certification right for me?

Ultimately, the decision to pursue the ACSM CPT certification depends on your personal trainer career options, goals, and aspirations. If you’re passionate about helping others achieve their fitness goals and want to establish yourself as a reputable and knowledgeable personal trainer, then the ACSM CPT certification is definitely worth considering. Take the time to research and weigh your options, and make an informed decision that aligns with your career objectives.

Is the ACSM CPT certification worth it?

The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) certification is highly valued in the fitness industry, especially for its strong emphasis on scientific research and evidence-based practice. It’s particularly well-regarded for those interested in working within clinical settings or with special populations. Given its rigorous standards and comprehensive approach to health and fitness, obtaining the ACSM CPT certification can significantly enhance your credibility and open up diverse career opportunities. When compared to other top personal trainer certifications, the ACSM CPT stands out for its scientific foundation and commitment to promoting health and fitness through evidence-based practices.

How difficult is the ACSM CPT exam?

The ACSM CPT exam is known to be challenging, reflecting the organization’s high standards and scientific approach to exercise prescription and health promotion. Candidates must have a thorough understanding of exercise science, assessment, program design, and safety principles. A solid study plan and a strong foundation in the relevant sciences are crucial for success.

How credible is ACSM?

ACSM is among the most credible and respected organizations in the field of sports medicine and exercise science globally. Its certifications are recognized for their scientific rigor and comprehensive coverage of fitness and health, making an ACSM credential highly esteemed in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

How many people pass the ACSM CPT exam on the first try?

Specific pass rates for the ACSM CPT exam on the first try are not widely published. However, the exam’s challenging nature and the depth of knowledge required suggest that comprehensive preparation is essential. Candidates should be prepared for a rigorous test of their understanding of exercise science and practical fitness knowledge.

What is the pass rate of the ACSM CPT?

ACSM does not publicly disclose the exact pass rates for the CPT exam. The exam is recognized for its comprehensive and challenging nature, underscoring the importance of thorough and focused study by candidates.

Is ACSM or ISSA better?

Choosing between ACSM and ISSA depends on your career goals and interests. ACSM is known for its focus on exercise science and its application in clinical populations, making it ideal for those looking to work in medical fitness or with special populations. ISSA provides a more holistic fitness education, including aspects of nutrition and business, which might be preferable for those aiming for a broad career in fitness training and wellness coaching.

Is the ACSM CPT test open book?

The ACSM CPT exam is not open book. It is a proctored test that evaluates your knowledge and application of exercise science principles without the aid of books, notes, or external resources.

How many times can you fail the ACSM CPT?

ACSM allows candidates to retake the CPT exam if they fail, but there is an additional fee for each retake. There is no specified limit on the number of retakes, but it is advisable to thoroughly prepare for each attempt to maximize the likelihood of passing.

What can I do with an ACSM CPT certification?

With an ACSM CPT certification, you can work as a personal trainer in a variety of settings, including gyms, wellness centers, and corporate fitness programs. The certification is also valuable for those interested in working with clinical populations or in environments where a strong foundation in exercise science is required.

What happens if you don’t pay ACSM?

Failure to pay ACSM for certification or recertification fees can result in the suspension or expiration of your certification status. It’s crucial to keep up with all financial obligations and continuing education requirements to maintain your certification.

How long is the ACSM certification good for?

ACSM certification is valid for three years. To maintain certification, certified individuals must complete a specific number of continuing education credits (CECs) and pay the recertification fee before the end of each three-year cycle.

What are the best personal training certifications?

The best personal training certifications are widely recognized and respected within the industry, including ACSM, NASM, ACE, and NSCA. Each has its own focus and specialties, so the best certification for you will depend on your career objectives and the specific clientele you wish to serve.

Read More: Best Personal Training Certifications

How can I learn how to become a personal trainer?

To become a personal trainer, obtaining a certification from a reputable organization like ACSM is essential. Supplementing this with a degree in exercise science or a related field, gaining practical experience, and continuously seeking further education and specialty certifications can enhance your knowledge and skills.

Read More: How to Become a Personal Trainer

How can I start an online personal training business?

Starting an online personal training business involves obtaining a credible certification, defining your target market, creating a professional online presence through a website or social media platforms, developing digital training programs, and effectively marketing your services to attract and retain clients.

Read More: How to Start an Online Personal Training Business

How can Exercise.com help me run a successful personal training business?

Exercise.com can help you run a successful personal training business by providing a comprehensive fitness business management software platform. This platform offers tools for creating and delivering personalized workout plans, managing clients and classes, conducting online training, tracking progress, and automating business tasks, enabling you to efficiently manage your business and offer high-quality personal training services.

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  1. https://www.acsm.org/
  2. https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/get-certified/health-fitness-certifications
  3. https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/get-certified/health-fitness-certifications/personal-trainer
  4. https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/get-certified/health-fitness-certifications/gei
  5. https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/get-certified/health-fitness-certifications/exercise-physiologist
  6. https://thepoint.lww.com/Template/RenderTemplateByInstanceId/-18
Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®). He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life.
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