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

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

NASM Certified Personal Trainer CPT Certification Review

If you’re considering a career in the fitness industry, one certification that stands out is the NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification. This comprehensive program equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the field of personal training. In this article, we will provide an in-depth review of the NASM CPT Certification, exploring its benefits, requirements, exam format, study materials, and much more. Read on to learn more in this comprehensive NASM CPT review.

Discover everything you need to know about the NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification in this comprehensive review. Then see why Exercise.com is the best personal training software to help you grow and succeed in your personal training career.

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Introduction to NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification

What is NASM?

NASM, which stands for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, is a globally recognized organization that offers various certifications in the fitness industry. Founded in 1987, NASM has become a trusted name in the field, providing evidence-based education and training to fitness professionals.

With a mission to empower fitness professionals with the knowledge and skills to positively impact the lives of others, NASM has developed a comprehensive curriculum that covers a wide range of topics, including exercise science, nutrition, and client assessment.

By offering a rigorous certification process, NASM ensures that individuals who hold their certifications are well-equipped to provide effective and safe training to clients.

NASM-CPT General Information

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program is among the most sought-after certifications in the fitness industry. Renowned for its evidence-based approach, the NASM-CPT program equips trainers with comprehensive knowledge in exercise science, nutrition, and behavioral coaching.

NASM Credibility and Reputation

With decades of experience and accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), NASM stands out for its high standards and commitment to producing qualified fitness professionals. The NASM-CPT certification is recognized globally, enhancing a trainer’s credibility and employability.

NASM CPT vs Other Top Personal Trainer Certifications

When compared to other top certifications like ACE, ACSM, or NSCA, NASM’s focus on its Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model offers a unique approach to personalized program design, making it a preferred choice for many aspiring personal trainers.

Exclusive NASM CPT Offers

NASM often provides exclusive offers for their Certified Personal Training program, including discounts, additional resources, or bundled study materials, making it a valuable investment for serious fitness professionals.

Who is the NASM Certification meant for?

The NASM-CPT certification is ideal for individuals passionate about fitness, eager to learn the science behind exercise, and committed to helping clients achieve their health and fitness goals.

Benefits of Becoming a NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Obtaining the NASM CPT Certification opens up a world of opportunities for aspiring fitness professionals. Here are some key benefits:

  • Recognition and credibility in the fitness industry
  • Increased job opportunities and earning potential
  • Access to continuing education and specialization options

With the NASM CPT Certification, individuals gain the necessary skills and knowledge to train clients effectively, helping them achieve their fitness goals while maintaining safety and proper technique.

Furthermore, NASM provides ongoing support and resources for certified trainers, including access to a network of professionals and the latest research in the field. This ensures that trainers stay up-to-date with industry trends and can continue to deliver high-quality services to their clients.

Educational Background and Prerequisites

Prior to pursuing the NASM CPT Certification, it’s important to understand the educational background and prerequisites required for enrollment. While there are no specific educational requirements, a basic understanding of anatomy, exercise physiology, and nutrition is beneficial.

However, NASM recognizes that not all aspiring trainers may have a formal education in these areas. To bridge this gap, NASM offers preparatory courses and study materials to help individuals acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.

In addition to the educational background, candidates must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or equivalent. This ensures that individuals entering the program have a solid foundation to build upon and are ready to take on the responsibilities of a certified personal trainer.

By setting these prerequisites, NASM ensures that their certification program maintains a high standard of quality and professionalism.

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The most affordable option, perfect for those who prefer to learn at their own pace using online resources.

Premium Self-Study

Includes additional study aids like flashcards and practice exams to enhance the learning experience.

Guided Study

Offers an interactive learning experience with live workshops, webinars, and a mentor to guide you through the course.


The most comprehensive package, including a job guarantee, hands-on experience, and additional workshops for specialized skills.

NASM CPT Certification Test

Section 1 – Professional Development and Responsibility

Covers ethics, professional conduct, and the business aspect of personal training.

Section 2 – Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching

Focuses on building client-trainer relationships, communication skills, and motivational strategies.

Section 3 – Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts

Delves into anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and basic nutrition principles essential for designing effective fitness programs.

Section 4 – Assessment

Teaches various assessment techniques to evaluate a client’s physical and functional capabilities.

Section 5 – Exercise Technique and Training Instruction

Provides in-depth knowledge of exercise techniques, equipment usage, and safety considerations.

Section 6 – Program Design

Introduces the OPT model, emphasizing personalized program design based on individual client needs and goals.

NASM CPT Pros and Cons


  • Globally recognized certification
  • Evidence-based OPT model
  • Comprehensive educational resources


  • Higher cost compared to some other certifications
  • Intensive study required to pass the exam
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NASM CPT Exam Format and Passing Criteria

Recommended NASM CPT Study Materials

Successful exam preparation is crucial for passing the NASM CPT Certification. NASM provides candidates with a comprehensive study guide and a variety of resources to aid in their preparation. Additionally, there are several recommended study materials available, including textbooks, online courses, and practice exams. These materials cover the five domains that the exam assesses, providing candidates with the knowledge and confidence necessary to succeed.

When it comes to preparing for the NASM CPT Certification exam, having the right study materials is essential. The study guide provided by NASM is a comprehensive resource that covers all the necessary topics and concepts. It provides a detailed breakdown of each domain and offers practice questions to test your understanding. In addition to the study guide, there are also a variety of other resources available to help you prepare. Textbooks, online courses, and practice exams can all be valuable tools in your study arsenal. These materials provide additional explanations, examples, and practice questions to reinforce your learning. By utilizing a combination of these resources, you can ensure that you are fully prepared for the exam.

Tips for Effective NASM CPT Exam Preparation

Preparing for any certification exam requires strategic planning and dedication. Here are some useful tips to help you make the most of your study time:

  1. Create a study schedule and stick to it
  2. Break down the content into manageable chunks
  3. Utilize a variety of study resources, including textbooks, online courses, and practice exams
  4. Participate in study groups or find a study buddy for accountability and discussion
  5. Use techniques such as flashcards and mnemonic devices to aid memorization
  6. Take regular breaks to rest and recharge
  7. Stay well-nourished and maintain a balanced lifestyle

Creating a study schedule is essential for effective exam preparation. By setting aside dedicated time each day to study, you can ensure that you cover all the necessary material and avoid last-minute cramming. Breaking down the content into manageable chunks is also important. Rather than trying to study everything at once, focus on one domain or topic at a time. This will help you retain information more effectively and prevent overwhelm. Additionally, utilizing a variety of study resources can enhance your understanding of the material. Textbooks provide in-depth explanations, online courses offer interactive learning experiences, and practice exams allow you to test your knowledge and identify areas of improvement. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself throughout the study process. Taking regular breaks, eating well, and getting enough sleep are all essential for maintaining focus and retaining information.

Domain 1: Basic and Applied Sciences

The first domain of the NASM CPT Certification exam focuses on the basic and applied sciences related to human movement and exercise physiology. It covers topics such as anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, and nutrition. Understanding these principles is essential for designing safe and effective exercise programs for clients.

Anatomy is the study of the structure and function of the human body. It involves learning about the different systems, organs, and tissues that make up the body. Kinesiology, on the other hand, is the study of human movement. It explores the mechanics of how our muscles, bones, and joints work together to produce movement. Biomechanics takes this understanding a step further by examining the forces and loads that act on the body during movement. By understanding these concepts, trainers can design exercise programs that minimize the risk of injury and maximize performance. Finally, nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health and fitness. Trainers must have a solid understanding of the principles of nutrition to provide appropriate dietary guidance to their clients. This includes knowledge of macronutrients, micronutrients, and the role of nutrition in energy production and recovery.

Domain 2: Assessment

The second domain emphasizes the importance of conducting comprehensive assessments to gather relevant information about clients. It includes topics such as client consultation, health history analysis, fitness assessments, and goal setting. By properly assessing clients, personal trainers can identify their strengths, weaknesses, and individual needs.

Client consultation is the initial step in the assessment process. It involves gathering information about the client’s goals, medical history, exercise history, and lifestyle factors. This information helps trainers understand the client’s motivations, limitations, and preferences. Health history analysis is another crucial component of the assessment process. Trainers must be able to identify any medical conditions, injuries, or other factors that may impact the client’s ability to exercise safely. Fitness assessments, such as body composition analysis, cardiovascular fitness tests, and strength assessments, provide objective data about the client’s current fitness level. This information serves as a baseline for tracking progress and designing appropriate exercise programs. Finally, goal setting is an essential part of the assessment process. Trainers work with clients to establish realistic and achievable goals that align with their individual needs and aspirations.

Domain 3: Program Design

Domain three dives into the art and science of program design. It covers topics such as program variables, periodization, exercise technique progression, and modification. With a solid understanding of program design, trainers can create customized workout plans tailored to clients’ goals and needs.

Program variables refer to the different components that make up an exercise program, such as intensity, duration, frequency, and type of exercise. Trainers must understand how to manipulate these variables to create effective and individualized programs. Periodization is a systematic approach to program design that involves dividing training into distinct phases to optimize performance and prevent overtraining. By incorporating periodization principles, trainers can help clients achieve their goals while minimizing the risk of injury and burnout. Exercise technique progression and modification are also important considerations in program design. Trainers must be able to assess and adjust exercise technique to ensure proper form and prevent injuries. Additionally, they must be able to modify exercises to accommodate clients with special considerations or limitations.

Domain 4: Exercise Technique and Training Instruction

This domain focuses on teaching trainers proper exercise techniques and training instructions. Understanding correct form and providing clear instructions are essential for preventing injuries and optimizing exercise effectiveness. Topics covered include stability and mobility exercises, resistance training techniques, and coaching cues.

Stability and mobility exercises are designed to improve joint stability and range of motion. Trainers must be able to demonstrate and instruct clients on how to perform these exercises correctly. Resistance training techniques, such as free weights, machines, and bodyweight exercises, require proper form to ensure safety and effectiveness. Trainers must understand the biomechanics of each exercise and be able to provide clear instructions and cues to clients. Coaching cues are verbal or visual cues that help clients understand and execute exercises correctly. Trainers must be able to communicate these cues effectively to ensure proper form and maximize the benefits of each exercise.

Domain 5: Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching

The final domain addresses the importance of building strong client relationships and providing effective behavioral coaching. It covers communication techniques, client motivation strategies, and behavior change models. Trainers who excel in this domain can effectively support and empower their clients on their fitness journey.

Effective communication is essential for building rapport and trust with clients. Trainers must be able to listen actively, ask relevant questions, and provide clear and concise instructions. Client motivation strategies involve understanding and addressing the unique motivations and barriers that clients may face. Trainers must be able to inspire and encourage their clients to stay committed to their fitness goals. Behavior change models provide a framework for understanding how individuals adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. Trainers must be familiar with these models and be able to apply them to help clients overcome obstacles and make lasting lifestyle changes.

NASM CPT Test-Taking Strategies

Taking the NASM CPT Certification exam can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, with the right test-taking strategies, you can approach the exam confidently. Here are some tips:

  • Read each question carefully and make sure you understand what it’s asking
  • Eliminate obviously incorrect options
  • Utilize the process of elimination when unsure
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Review your answers before submitting the exam

When taking the exam, it’s important to read each question carefully and take the time to fully understand what it is asking. Pay attention to key terms and any specific details mentioned in the question. By doing so, you can avoid misinterpreting the question and selecting the wrong answer. Additionally, eliminate obviously incorrect options to narrow down your choices. This can increase your chances of selecting the correct answer, even if you’re unsure. Utilize the process of elimination by eliminating options that are clearly incorrect. This can help you make an educated guess and improve your chances of selecting the right answer. Managing your time wisely is also crucial. Pace yourself throughout the exam to ensure that you have enough time to answer all the questions. Finally, before submitting the exam, take a few moments to review your answers. This can help you catch any mistakes or oversights and make any necessary corrections.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

While pursuing the NASM CPT Certification, many candidates may face common challenges. These can include information overload, time management difficulties, and test anxiety. To overcome these challenges, it is important to develop effective study strategies, seek support from peers or mentors, and practice self-care techniques to manage stress and anxiety.

Information overload is a common challenge when studying for any certification exam. With so much information to cover, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Developing effective study strategies, such as breaking down the content into manageable chunks and utilizing a variety of study resources, can help you stay organized and focused. It’s also helpful to seek support from peers or mentors who have already completed the certification. They can provide guidance, share their experiences, and offer valuable study tips. Finally, practicing self-care techniques is essential for managing stress and anxiety. Make sure to take breaks, engage in activities you enjoy, and prioritize your physical and mental well-being throughout the study process.

NASM Exam Prep and Study Materials

Preparing for the NASM-CPT exam requires a thorough understanding of the comprehensive curriculum provided by NASM. The exam prep includes a variety of study materials such as textbooks, online modules, practice exams, and interactive learning activities designed to enhance understanding and retention. NASM also offers study guides and schedules to help candidates stay organized and focused throughout their study journey.

NASM Certification Requirements

To become NASM certified, candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Hold a current CPR and AED certification from an accredited organization
  • Successfully pass the NASM-CPT exam

Meeting these requirements ensures that NASM-certified personal trainers have the necessary foundational knowledge and emergency response skills to safely and effectively train clients.


The salary for NASM-CPT certified personal trainers can vary widely based on factors such as location, experience, specialty, and employment setting. On average, NASM-certified personal trainers can expect to earn between $40,000 to $70,000 annually, with potential for higher earnings through additional certifications, specialized training, and entrepreneurship in the fitness industry.

Taking the Final NASM CPT Exam

The NASM-CPT final exam is a comprehensive test covering all aspects of the certification curriculum. The exam is administered at authorized testing centers, and candidates must schedule their exam within six months of enrolling in the program. The test consists of multiple-choice questions, and a passing score is required to earn the NASM-CPT certification.

NASM CPT Continuing Education and Recertification

NASM requires certified personal trainers to recertify every two years to maintain their certification status. This process involves completing a minimum of 2.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which equates to 20 hours of approved continuing education. NASM offers a wide range of continuing education courses, workshops, and specializations to help trainers expand their knowledge, stay current with industry trends, and meet recertification requirements.

Other NASM Certifications

In addition to the CPT certification, NASM provides a variety of specialized certifications and continuing education opportunities, including:

  • Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
  • Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES)
  • Nutrition Coach (CNC)
  • Group Personal Training Specialist (GPTS)

These additional offerings allow fitness professionals to diversify their skills, specialize in niche areas, and enhance their marketability and effectiveness as trainers.


  1. https://www.nasm.org/how-to-become-a-personal-trainer
  2. https://www.nasm.org/products/CPT5416K
  3. https://www.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/opt-model
  4. https://www.nasm.org/injury-prevention/corrective-exercise-specialization
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What’s a NASM certified personal trainer?

Get the Basics…

  • A NASM certified personal trainer has completed the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s certification program.
  • NASM offers four paths to becoming a certified professional trainer.
  • The certification courses are taught using the optimum performance training model.
  • NASM offers several certifications in addition to the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).
  • It is possible to obtain a personal training certification from an organization other than the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine has offered certifications and continued education in personal training for over 20 years. It is currently one of the most respected certification organizations in the fitness industry.

Because of this high level of respect, it’s understandable that aspiring personal trainers would want to learn more about this organization.

How do I get my Certified Personal Training (CPT) Certificate from NASM?

There are four personal trainer programs you can choose from to obtain your Certified Personal Training certificate from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The cost is different for each program.

The first option is the self-study program, which is the most flexible program and allows you to study whenever you have the time without a set schedule. The premium self-study program offers a similar level of flexibility with additional educational content.

If you learn best on your own, the self-study programs are a good option for you.

With the guided study program, you get access to all of the same educational materials as you would with the premium self-study program. Additionally, you receive a coach and mentor who will answer your questions and advise you. It can be helpful to have this additional level of support when learning a new subject.

The all-inclusive program offers the most support but also costs the most. You will have access to all of the guided-study materials, as well as access to the CPT Development Program. The CPT Development Program offers onsite, hands-on experience. The program also guarantees that you will get your money back if you do not find a personal training job within 90 days of graduating from the program.

What will I learn from NASM?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine uses the optimum performance training model. It is based on scientific evidence to help you and your clients achieve consistent and measurable results.

There are six components of the optimum performance training model: core, flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance, power, balance, and strength. The goal is to increase lean muscle, decrease fat, and improve overall health. The program will cover topics such as anatomy, physiology, the science of movement, kinesiology, and curriculum development.

Does NASM offer other certificates?

Although the CPT is the only NCCA accredited certification, the National Academy of Sports Medicine offers several other certificates other than the certified personal trainer option. The Corrective Exercise Specialist Certification teaches you how to prevent injuries and develop a sustainable workout program.

NASM also offers age-based exercise certifications, such as the Youth Exercise Specialist and the Senior Fitness Specialist.

They offer activity-specific certifications too, like the Golf Fitness Specialist Certification and the Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Specialist. Additional certifications offered by NASM include Performance Enhancement Specialist, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Behavior Change Specialist, Group Personal Training Specialist, Women’s Fitness Specialist, Weight Loss Specialist, and Master Trainer.

Can I become a Certified Personal Trainer another way?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine is not the only organization that offers programs to become a certified personal trainer. Other certification organizations are as follows: the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT). Some of these organizations require you to sign up for a membership before taking the certification exam.

So, what exactly is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer?

A NASM certified personal trainer has obtained certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, which means that they have taken a course and passed an exam on a broad range of personal training topics, including anatomy, physiology, and fitness basics.

Is the NASM CPT certification worth it?

The NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) certification is widely considered worth it for aspiring personal trainers. It’s recognized globally and valued by employers for its evidence-based approach to fitness training and emphasis on corrective exercise. The certification can open doors to various opportunities in the fitness industry, enhance your credibility, and potentially increase your earning potential.

How difficult is the NASM CPT exam?

The NASM CPT exam is known to be challenging, requiring a thorough understanding of the NASM training methodologies, anatomy, physiology, and program design. Adequate preparation and a strong grasp of the study material are essential for success. Many candidates invest significant study time to ensure they are well-prepared.

How credible is NASM?

NASM is highly credible within the fitness industry, with a reputation for providing scientifically-based, systematic training methodologies. It’s accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies), ensuring its programs meet high standards for quality and professionalism.

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

Exact statistics on first-time pass rates for the NASM CPT exam are not publicly disclosed by NASM. However, it’s commonly acknowledged that the exam is rigorous, and not all candidates pass on their first attempt, highlighting the importance of thorough preparation.

What is the pass rate of NASM CPT?

The specific pass rate for the NASM CPT exam is not publicly available, as NASM does not release these statistics. The exam is considered challenging, and candidates are encouraged to thoroughly prepare to enhance their chances of passing.

Is NASM or ISSA better?

Choosing between NASM and ISSA depends on your career goals and preferences. NASM is renowned for its focus on corrective exercise and functional training, making it ideal for those interested in working with clients to prevent or recover from injuries. ISSA offers a broader curriculum that includes nutrition and business skills, which might be better suited for those looking to have a comprehensive understanding of both fitness training and the operational aspects of running a fitness business.

Is the NASM CPT test open book?

The NASM CPT exam is not open book. It’s a proctored exam that requires candidates to have a thorough understanding of the NASM materials and principles without the use of textbooks or notes during the test.

How many times can you fail NASM?

If you fail the NASM CPT exam, you can retake it, but additional fees may apply for each attempt. NASM’s retake policy allows for multiple attempts, but it’s advisable to review their most current guidelines and any associated fees.

What can I do with a NASM CPT certification?

With a NASM CPT certification, you can work as a personal trainer in gyms, fitness centers, or wellness studios, offer private one-on-one training sessions, specialize in areas like sports performance or corrective exercise, or expand into online personal training and fitness content creation.

How expensive is a NASM certification?

The cost of NASM certification varies depending on the package and study materials you choose, ranging from approximately $599 to over $2,000. NASM often offers promotions or payment plans, so it’s a good idea to check their website for current pricing and offers.

What happens if you don’t pay NASM?

If you don’t pay NASM for your certification or recertification fees, your certification status may be affected, potentially leading to the suspension or expiration of your certification. It’s important to stay current with all fees and continuing education requirements to maintain your certified status.

How long is a NASM certification good for?

NASM certification is valid for two years. To maintain your certification, you must complete 20 hours of continuing education credits (CEUs) and pay the recertification fee before your certification expires.

What are the best personal training certifications?

The “best” personal training certifications include NASM, ACE, ACSM, and NSCA, each with its own specialties and focus areas. The best certification for you depends on your career goals, training philosophy, and the population you wish to serve.

Read More: Best Personal Training Certifications

How can I learn how to become a personal trainer?

You can learn how to become a personal trainer by pursuing a certification from a reputable organization like NASM, ACE, ACSM, or NSCA, gaining practical experience, and continuing your education through workshops, additional certifications, and industry conferences.

Read More: How to Become a Personal Trainer

How can I start an online personal training business?

To start an online personal training business, obtain a reputable certification, define your target market, create a website or platform to host your services, develop online training programs, and use social media and digital marketing to attract 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 comprehensive fitness business management software. This platform offers customizable workout plan creation, client and class management, online training capabilities, progress tracking, and business automation tools, enabling you to efficiently manage your business and provide high-quality service to your clients.

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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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