Continuing Education Credits (CECs) or Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are required for recertification for all certified personal trainers (CPTs). This is important because professionals must stay up to speed in their field and continue to learn new and updated information in the areas of health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.
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Continuing Education Courses Overview
There are various ways to earn continuing education units or continuing education credits. One way is by attending local, national, or international conferences. It is important to make sure to attend conferences that offer CEUs or CECs for the certifying organization and to attend the sessions that offer CEUs or CECs as some conferences may have sessions that do not offer CEUs or CECs for attendance.
Other ways to earn CEUs or CECs are by taking college or university courses in health, fitness, nutrition, or wellness, getting an additional or another certification, obtaining a fitness specialization or certificate, reading and taking quizzes from articles or newsletters, or participating in organizational committees.
One of the easiest ways to earn CEUs or CECs is by taking continuing education courses online. The great thing about these courses is that they can be taken from the comfort of your home at any time. There are no travel expenses and no need to take time off away from training your clients.
The required number of CECs or CEUs varies by each professional organization. Here are five of the most popular CPT certifications and how many CEUs or CECs each requires.
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainers must obtain 45 CECs (45 hours) every three years.
- American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainers must obtain 2.0 CECs (20 hours) every two years for recertification.
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainers must obtain 2.0 CEUs (20 hours) every two years for recertification.
- The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) does their CEUs a little different than other organizations for Certified Personal Trainers. They categorize each three-year period into a reporting period, so the current reporting period is for 2018, 2019, and 2020. The amount of CEUs needed varies depending on when you received your certification. For example, if you were certified before 2018, you need to obtain 6.0 (60 hours) of CEUs between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2020. Those who were certified during 2018 would need 4.0 CEUs (40 hours) and those certified during 2019 need 2.0 (20 hours) CEUs by December 31, 2020.
- International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Certified Personal Trainers must obtain 20 hours of CEUs every two years for recertification.
ACSM developed a chart to compare the difference in these five common certification requirements.
|Accredited by NCCA||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|For-profit or Nonprofit||Nonprofit||Nonprofit||Nonprofit||For-profit||For-profit|
|CECs or CEUs (contact hours) Required||45 (every three years)||20 (every two years)||60 (every three years)||20 (every two years)||20 (every two years)|
|Exam Retake Cost||$175||$199||$435||$199||First retake free then $50|
|Recertification Cost||$45 (every three years)||$129 (every two years)||$75 (every three years)||$99 (every two years)||$99 (every two years)|
There are a variety of different formats for CEU and CEC courses. There are online videos with quizzes, journal articles with quizzes, recorded presentations, specializations, certificate programs, textbooks or e-texts with quizzes, and live courses.
Some organizations offer discounts on CEU or CEC courses to their members and some organizations offer sales or specials. There are also opportunities for complimentary CEUs or CECs or free offerings on occasion, so keep a lookout for those.
Here are 40 of the most popular online continuing education courses for certified personal trainers. Some courses may count only for that organization’s CEUs or CECs, but some courses may count for outside organizations too.
Before you purchase a course, make sure it is approved for CEUs or CECs for your certifying organization and comes from a reputable organization.
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American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) CEC courses
Industry Presented Webinar: Protein Myths vs. Facts: What Active Individuals Need to Know About Protein Intake, Timing and More
This webinar costs $20 and counts for 2.0 CECs (2 hours). The webinar is all about protein myths, protein needs, distribution of protein throughout the day, the timing of protein intake, and types of protein for active individuals.
Coaching HIIT – A Practical Approach to Programming
This course is $200, counts for 10.0 CECs (10 hours), and covers the basics of HIIT programming, how trainers can help prepare their clients for HIIT programming, correct exercise technique for HIIT, and coaching cues for HIIT. There is also a demonstration of common exercises, such as squats and push-ups along with common mistakes and how to correct them.
ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal: July – August 2019 CEC Course Quiz Bundle
This quiz bundle costs $60 but is discounted to $28.20 for ACSM members. It counts for 8.0 CECs (8 hours) and includes four topics:
- EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) facts
- Aquatic exercise for health
- Hydration for ultra-endurance distance athletes
- Partnering with health care settings to increase physical activity promotion
ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal: May/June 2019 CEC Course #4: Revisiting Heart Rate Target Zones Through the Lens of Wearable Technology
This journal course is $32 but is discounted to $15.04 for ACSM members. It counts for 2.0 CECs (2 hours) and discusses monitoring heart rate during exercise using wearable devices and a discussion about heart rate reserve vs. percent of maximal heart rate to monitor intensity during aerobic exercises.
ACSM’s 2019 International Health & Fitness Summit Video CEC: Farm to Fork to Fitness Professional
This video CEC is $60 and counts for 3.0 CECs (3 hours). This is a video recording from the 2019 Summit on farming, agriculture, sustainability, and marketing label claims. This includes information on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides used in agriculture.
ACSM 2018 Industry Presented Webinar Bundle
This webinar bundle costs $100 and counts for 10.0 CECs (10 hours). The five webinars are:
- Myth-busting and scientific information about dairy products
- Protein myths vs. facts and all about protein intake and timing
- Carbohydrates: Are they essential or obsolete?
- Nutrition for performance: Theory and effective practice guidelines
- Wearable technology to understand acceleration and heart rate data
EXOS Presents: Medicine Ball
Currently, this course is being offered for free and counts for 0.5 CECs (0.5 hours). This course discusses how to integrate medicine balls into training to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury. Specific emphasis will be on instruction, error identification and correction, and cueing.
You can find all of ACSM’s continuing education courses on their website.
American Council on Exercise (ACE) CEC courses
ACE IFT Model: Personal Training Program Design
This course is free, counts for 0.1 CEC (1 hour), and is a good general blueprint on how to design exercise programs that improve posture, flexibility, muscular fitness, cardiorespiratory endurance, and balance for all ages.
Improving Wellness Through Behavior Change
This course costs $24.95, counts for 0.3 CECs (3 hours), and discusses techniques and strategies to help clients establish healthy habits. Specific topics include strength in numbers, coaching clients with chronic pain, and weight management behaviors.
Applying Nutrition Principles
This course is priced at $24.95, counts for 0.3 CECs (3 hours), and discusses nutrition coaching, nutritional balance, and helping clients make better eating choices when participating in fitness activities.
The Key to a Successful and Effective Client Consultation
This course costs $19.95, counts for 0.1 CEC (1 hour), and emphasizes planning and preparation strategies for effective consultations with clients. Strategies for active listening, identifying the needs of the client, and the development of a script for consultations will be covered.
Active Aging: Your Guide to Training a Booming Population
This course costs $19.95, counts for 0.1 CEC (1 hour), and is all about aging – the five types of aging, special considerations, and how to design workout programs and protocols for Baby Boomers.
Athletic Performance for Sport and Life
This course costs $19.95, counts for 0.1 CEC (1 hour), and focuses on the science of athletic movement and how to improve athletic performance. It includes information on the science of athletic movement, drills, and the four pillars of athletic performance.
Busy Days Call for HIIT
This course costs $19.95, counts for 0.1 CEC (1 hour), and discusses HIIT workouts, the difference between HIIT and Tabata methods, designing an effective warm-up, and how to create interval-based workouts for all clients.
Small-Group Training Workshop
This course costs $129, counts for 0.5 CECs (5 hours) and discusses building a successful small group training program. Topics such as the benefits of small group training, how to create a challenging program, and progressions/regressions for small group training.
You can find all of ACE’s continuing education courses on their website.
Human Kinetics Continuing Education
Strength Band Training
For this course, you will need to purchase a package containing both an e-text and continuing education exam for $59, or the physical text and exam for $69. This course counts for 0.5 CEUs or CECs (5 hours) for most organizations, but counts for 0.4 CEUs for NSCA CPTs. The topic of this course focuses on using strength bands, or resistance bands, for strength and flexibility. The text contains assessments, exercises (with pictures), working with older adults, and 27 different workout programs.
Complete Guide to Foam Rolling
For this course, you will need to purchase a package containing both an e-text and continuing education exam for $69, or the physical text and exam for $79. This course counts for 0.8 CEUs or CECs (8 hours) and covers everything you need to know about foam rolling. There is information on the benefits, equipment, performance enhancement, recovery and rehabilitation, and 27 foam-rolling techniques.
For this course, you will need to purchase a package containing both an e-text and continuing education exam for $119, or the physical text and exam for $129. This course counts for 0.8 CEUs or CECs (8 hours) and covers 120 supplements used in sports and exercise. The book discusses how the supplement works, as well as benefits, research, dosages, and health concerns of supplements. The text would be a good reference book for personal trainers.
Practical Yoga for Personal Trainers
This course counts for 2.20 CECs for ACE, 22.0 CECs for ACSM, 22.0 CEUs for ISSA, 0.9 CEUs for NSCA, and 1.90 CEUs for NASM. It costs $239 which includes the workbook and continuing education exam. This course covers yoga for active individuals, including sport-specific recommendations, 50 yoga poses, breathing and meditation techniques, and how to customize yoga programs for clients.
This course counts for 1.70 CECs for ACE, 17.0 CECs for ACSM, 17.0 CEUs for ISSA, 1.20 CEUs for NSCA, and 1.70 CEUs for NASM and costs $179 which includes the text, online video, study guide, and continuing education exam. This course introduces 95 kettlebell exercises to improve strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. Instructions, common errors, corrections, tips, and safety information is included with the exercises. A study guide is included that has clips of 43 common exercises with proper technique and form.
You can find all of Human Kinetics continuing education offerings via their website.
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IDEA Health & Fitness Association Continuing Education
– It Takes Guts! Connecting the Brain, Diet, and Microbiome
This course costs $64 ($59 for IDEA members) and counts for 0.1 CECs (1 hour). This course focuses on the connection between the gut, the brain, the microbiome, and our diet. New research-based information about how diet connects to both physical and mental health.
TriggerPoint™: Total-Body Self-Myofascial Release Certificate
This online certificate is priced at $179 and counts for 0.8 CECs (8 hours). This course discusses myofascial compression technique methods, common mobility dysfunctions, anatomy and mobility of select body regions, and how to move safely and reduce the risk for injuries.
Nutrition & Behavior Change Certificate Volume 1 and Volume 2
These are actually separate courses, but each one costs $199 and counts for 0.7 CECs (7 hours). Volume 1 covers tools, techniques, and strategies to use with clients to help transform their nutrition behaviors to meet their weight management and fitness goals. Volume 2 contains nine mini-lessons on meal prepping, mindfulness, protein, macronutrients, motivational interviewing, body clock science, current nutrition science, gut health, and a panel on sustainable weight loss.
The Death of Crunches: 20 True Core Exercises
This online video course costs $64 ($59 for IDEA members) and counts for 0.2 CECs (2 hours). This course provides a toolbox of 20 core exercises for better stability, posture, and strength.
Functional Anatomy Certificate
The cost of this course is $169 and counts for 0.7 CECs (7 hours). This course focuses on human anatomy and how muscles work together to produce movements. Assessments and corrective exercises will be shared to help connect the use of anatomy while working with clients.
IDEA Health and Fitness Association has all of their continuing education courses available on their website.
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Marathon Training 101: What Every Personal Trainer Needs to Know
This online course costs $119 and counts for 0.5 CEUs (5 hours). This course covers details about marathon training, including the mental and physical aspects of training for and running a marathon. A 20-week training program to use with clients is also provided with this course.
This course costs $19.95 and counts for 0.1 CEU (1 hour). This online course covers the four branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and their role in exercise, including immunity, fatigue, protein synthesis, and other physiological effects of BCAAs.
The Personal Trainer’s Guide to Owning a Fitness Franchise
This online course costs $69 and counts for 0.5 CEUs (5 hours). This course covers many details about owning a fitness franchise, including financing, how to operate a facility, obligations of franchise owners, and how to be a successful business owner. Participants will also receive a confidential report of 46 different fitness franchise comparison details.
Hormones and Exercise Part 1: What Every Professional Trainer Should Know and Hormones and Exercise Part 2: Exercise and Training Effects
Each one of these courses costs $120 and offers 0.3 CEUs (3 hours). Part 1 discusses how hormones affect exercise, including information about testosterone and insulin and how these hormones relate to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Part 2 covers the exercise effects on the endocrine system, how testosterone and growth hormone are effected by strength training, immune function, and the “exercise high” and how that relates to hormones.
All of the continuing education credits offered by ISSA are available on their website.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) CEU courses
Ultimate Cardio Trainer
This course costs $97 and counts for 0.6 CEUs (6 hours). This topic is focused on cardiorespiratory training to improve both weight management and sports performance. Also included is cardiorespiratory fitness assessments, determining improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness, and program design for fitness and sports performance.
This course costs $49, counts for 0.3 CEUs (3 hours) and covers 100 exercises for enhancing balance and stability. Also covered are balance assessments and balance training progressions in exercise programs.
Women’s Fitness Specialization
This specialization course costs $299, counts for 1.3 CEUs (13 hours) and covers in-depth training considerations for women of all ages, including exercise and fitness, nutrition, and weight management.
This course costs $49, counts for 0.3 CEUs (3 hours) and discusses core stabilization exercises using a variety of different equipment such as stability balls, foam rollers, cables, and medicine balls.
This course costs $49, counts for 0.3 CEUs (3 hours) and emphasizes designing effective and safe stretching programs and an explanation of four different stretching techniques to improve performance and decrease the risk for injury.
Senior Fitness Specialization
This course is priced at $199, counts for 1.0 CEUs (10 hours) and discusses detailed exercise program design for older adults, including limitations, fall risks, medical conditions in older adults, and other aging considerations. The aging process and fitness obstacles in seniors.
NASM also offers twelve specializations, which count for CEUs. These specializations include sports performance, nutrition, weight loss, behavior change, youth, women, seniors, and more. All of NASM’s continuing education courses are available on their website.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) CEU online journal quizzes
Foundations of Fitness Programming
This class is priced at $40 for non-members and $30 for NSCA members. It counts for 0.3 CEUs (3 hours) and provides recommendations and tools from science on the components of fitness programming, including progression, specificity, and meeting the client’s goals.
Special Population Considerations
This class is priced at $40 for non-members and $30 for NSCA members. It counts for 0.3 CEUs (3 hours) and covers unique considerations for exercisers with Type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
Coaching Your Athletes and Clients Through the Maze of Fad Diets
This course is priced at $30 for non-members and $20 for NSCA members. It counts for 0.2 CEUs (2 hours) and discusses the pros and cons of fad diets, how fad diets can affect training, successful dieting strategies, and resources for assisting clients in meeting their weight management goals.
Nutrition for Athletes Bundle
This course is priced at $60 for non-members and $50 for NSCA members. It counts for 0.5 CEUs (5 hours) and covers five different nutrition topics. Those topics are nutrition supplementation for body composition, aerobic training, and strength; alcohol and exercise; nighttime feeding; and recovery nutrition for high school athletes.
Personal Trainer Business Clinic
This course is priced at $60 for non-members and $50 for NSCA members. It counts for 0.5 CEUs (5 hours) and discusses marketing options, creating your personal brand/niche, and professionalism for personal trainers.
NSCA has all of their continuing education courses available via their website.
Now that you’ve got your course set for more continuing education, if you’re ready to take managing your business to the next level, schedule a demo with the Exercise.com team.
Melissa Morris is a professor by day and a part-time writer for Exercise.com. Melissa has a BS and MS in exercise science and an EdD in educational leadership. She teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the University of Tampa and has worked in health education, fitness, and nutrition for 15 years. In her free time, Melissa loves to workout at Orangetheory fitness and run 5K and 10K races.