What personal training certifications are most respected? | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

What personal training certifications are most respected?

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. 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. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • The most respected training certifications in the industry are NASM, ACSM, and NSCA.
  • Although ACE is the second oldest exercise or fitness association in the country, they are still not as respected as the others.
  • The main issue some insiders have with ACE is that it’s simply too basic and simplistic.

The most respected training certifications in the industry would arguably be the following:

  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association

What makes these three the most respected in the industry is that they are all NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accredited programs, have been in the business of fitness for 18 to 57 years, and provide higher levels of education for more in-depth analysis of physical fitness.

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Why Isn’t the ACE Certification Respected?

Although ACE – American Council on Exercise has been in the fitness industry since 1985 and is the second oldest exercise or fitness association in the country, they are still not as respected as the first three listed above certification programs.

The main issue some insiders have with ACE is that it’s simply too basic and simplistic.

While many gyms and health clubs will accept an ACE certification from a prospective personal trainer candidate, the program doesn’t go into as much detail in regard to physiology, anatomy, and biomechanics as the others.

With all this stated, many do say ACE is a good starting point for those who are interested in getting their feet wet in the world of personal training but are still not sure if they will make it a full-time career.

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Why Is NASM Certification Respected?

NASM is respected due to the difficult nature of their exams. They have been around since 1987 and are proud to have more than 100,000 members.

This is a widely accepted certification in the industry due to the academy’s continual updating of information with the newest and most pertinent fitness trends and findings through cutting-edge physiological and biomechanical research.

If you don’t have a background in kinesiology you may find the information in the training daunting but, once learned, will have a greater and deeper understanding of the entire body and its relationship with linear and vertical movement, strength and power training, rest and recovery, and a multitude of other factors learned through the training materials and DVDs.

Individuals who have passed this exam definitely feel ready to train others in regard to fitness and are both confident and knowledgeable in nearly all areas of physical fitness.

Why Is ACSM Certification Respected?

Known to some as “the gold standard” in the fitness industry, ACSM has a great reputation and is definitely one of the leaders in personal trainer certification.  Although some scoff at the nearly $800 price tag for training, testing, and optional workshops, many others feel it is money well spent.

The academy has both one day and three-day workshops and also has advanced certification programs. These advanced programs usually require at least an Associate’s degree in a health-related field in order to be accepted into these areas.

While many find the ACSM exam challenging, they do find it fair. You can’t just pick up a study guide, peruse it for a couple of hours and expect to pass this test. As with the NASM, you need to have a much more involved understanding of the physiology, anatomy, and biomechanics of the human body than with some other, less strenuous, programs of study.

Why Is the NSCA Certification Respected?

According to most, the NSCA is one of the most difficult certifications to get in the personal training industry. The exams cover a vast array of segments regarding fitness, from anatomy to nutrition.

NSCA was the first program to be recognized by the NCCA.

NSCA is known well for their CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) certification.

This is known in the industry as one of the more comprehensive certifications out there and is great for people who wish to get involved with high school, college or professional athletes.

Their personal trainer certification (NCSA-CPT) was established in 1993.

And although their NCSA trainer certification is not as lauded as their CSCS certification, their NCSA trainer certification is still widely respected in the industry.

With less than 58% of those passing the test on their first try, most have a respectful appreciation of those who pass this exam. Those who do pass the test feel they are more than well equipped for a career as a personal trainer.

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