Should personal trainers get a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification?

Should personal trainers get a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification?

Eddie Lester
By Eddie Lester
Apr 22, 2024
8 min read

Many promising fitness pros face an overwhelming menu of certification options when deciding how to become certified personal trainers. Cost, prerequisites, program specializations, and course length are key factors.

With many personal training certification options available, this article will give you an overview of one of the most recognized programs in the fitness industry: the NASM personal training certification.

Jump ahead:

What is the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a renowned and accredited certification for personal trainers, specializing in functional fitness training. Known for developing a training program called the Optimum Performance Training or OPT model, this program helps clients improve their physical abilities like flexibility, endurance and coordination, reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass.

The NASM’s certified personal trainer (CPT) program has educated over 1.4 million fitness professionals in 100 countries, offering certifications in nutrition coaching, sports nutrition coaching, wellness coaching, group fitness and indoor cycling instruction.

NASM-certified personal trainer program overview

The NASM-CPT program is an online course covering anatomy and fitness program design, divided into six sections. The course includes exam prep materials including learning videos, interactive graphics, exercise demonstrations, downloadable resources, a practice exam and mini-quizzes.

While most of the course is through self-study, certification candidates can receive guidance from fitness experts or hands-on experience.

You’re required to take a two-hour certification exam with 120 questions, with a 70% or better passing score. If you don’t pass the final exam, a retest may be available.

Prerequisites for getting the NASM-CPT certification

All NASM certifications have prerequisites. To be eligible for the personal training course, applicants must have:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • A current Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification
  • An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification

Candidates can obtain certification through the NASM, community education programs, or local Red Cross chapters. Trainers can enroll in personal training programs without CPR and AED certifications but must get them before taking the NASM-CPT exam.

How long does it take to get a NASM certification?

The NASM recommends investing at least 15 weeks to complete the NASM-CPT course, but completion times may vary. Candidates have up to 180 days to finish the online course and attempt to pass the exam.

Does the NASM-CPT certificate expire?

Yes, NASM-certified personal trainers must recertify every two years to ensure they remain current on best practices and skills.

To recertify, trainers must earn 2.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). The NASM charges a $99 recertification payment every two years. Your credentials will expire if you don’t meet recertification requirements by the certificate’s expiration date.

However, the NASM accepts recertification applications up to one year from the certificate’s expiration date if all continuing education courses are completed within 90 days.

How much does it cost to get NASM certified?

NASM-CPT certification costs vary depending on the program chosen, with discounts available through sales and bundling specials.

The base self-study program costs $899, including exam options, lecture videos, exercise library, study guide, and practice tests.

Premium tracks offer more benefits and personalization, and bundle options offer savings with other types of certifications including CPR/AED certification and Certified Nutritional Coaching (CNC).

The NASM also offers payment flexibility; trainers can make one-time payments or pay by the month after putting in a down payment.

Check NASM’s website for the latest prices; they often have sales and bundling deals to help potential trainers save.

NASM continuing education and specializations

To emphasize all-around fitness, corrective exercise and injury prevention, NASM offers various courses to enhance professional development.

Achieving a specialization in a specific niche sector increases your value as a personal trainer and broadens opportunities as your career develops.

Here are some of NASM’s fitness certification programs and specializations:

  • Certified nutrition coach (CNC). As a certified nutrition specialist, you’ll guide clients seeking to improve their body composition, athletic performance, and health through tailored nutrition coaching.
  • Certified sports nutrition coach (CSNC). Learn to develop personalized nutritional recommendations for optimal performance and recovery for fitness clients and athletes.
  • Certified wellness coach (CWC). Help guide, support, and motivate clients to make lasting lifestyle changes through movement (fitness), nutrition, mental and emotional wellbeing and more.
  • Certified physique and bodybuilding coach (PBC). Learn about physique training programs, including weight training, nutrition, and supplementation techniques for physique athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all levels and experiences.
  • Stretching and flexibility coach (SFC). Learn the exercise techniques and strategies needed to start helping clients with assisted stretching.
  • Corrective exercise (CES). Help your clients reduce the risk of injury — showing them how to move, feel and live better.
  • Weight loss (WLS). Help clients achieve long-term weight loss success through evidence-based nutrition, exercise, and behavioral change strategies.
  • Performance enhancement (PES). Help your clients achieve optimal flexibility, speed, agility, and overall performance through workouts.
  • Home gym design (HGD). Provide additional value to your clients by helping them reach their fitness goals by preparing, planning, and installing a home gym.
  • Virtual coaching (VCS). Learn the skills, tools, and strategies to launch or transition your current fitness or wellness business to a successful online coaching business.
  • Behavior change (BCS). Identify what motivates your clients most and leverage them to build sustainable results.
  • Group personal training (GPTS). Working out in groups can be an extra motivator for many people, and group training translates into higher pay rates.
  • Women’s fitness (WFS). Learn how to design safe and effective programming to support women in their fitness and health pursuits across all ages and life stages.
  • Senior fitness (SFS). Help seniors preserve their independence and stay in shape using exercise programs designed specifically for their needs.
  • Youth exercise (YES). Help keep kids motivated and engaged in sports, weightlifting, running, and more.
  • Golf fitness (GFS). Golf conditioning includes corrective exercises and fitness assessments aimed at helping your clients lower scores, improve head speed and prevent injuries.
  • MMA conditioning (MMA). Take clients to the next level with training techniques and coaching strategies professional mixed martial arts fighters use.
  • Social media fitness influencer (SMI). Learn how to grow your online presence and reach clients using social media channels.
  • Group fitness instructor (GFI). This certification will prepare trainers to effectively teach groups both virtually and in person.

NASM also offers other courses that help round out total fitness and health including:

  • Business blueprint
  • Mental toughness
  • Speed, agility and quickness training
  • Training the brain
  • Emotions in motion
  • Resistance training
  • Behavior change science
  • Bodybuilding meal prep
  • Mindful drinking
  • Metabolic makeover
  • Hydration
  • Nutrition series

Fitness trainer insurance

No matter which personal trainer certification and specialization you choose, getting insured is essential, especially if you start your own personal training business or contract with gyms. NASM has partnered with NEXT as the preferred business insurance provider for its trainers and coaches.

Being insured is often essential when you have a fitness career. Gyms often recommend or require personal trainer insurance before teaching, depending on employment status, services provided and local regulations.

Personal trainer insurance can also help protect you from common accidents, injuries and damages associated with your profession. For instance, if you accidentally drop a dumbbell at a client’s house and damage their wood floor, general liability coverage would help pay for repairs.

When you have business insurance, you won’t have to pay entirely out of pocket to defend your business or solve the problem.

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NEXT helps your personal training business succeed

NEXT is committed to helping personal trainers and every fitness professional thrive. That’s why we’ve made it easy to get affordable, customized business insurance.

Everything is 100% online, so you can get an instant quote, review options and buy coverage in about 10 minutes — no calling an agent. You’ll have immediate 24/7 access to your certificate of insurance (COI) as soon as you buy your insurance. Even better, NEXT customers have access to unlimited COIs at no additional cost.

Start your instant quote today.

Eddie Lester
About the author

Eddie Lester is a personal trainer from Los Angeles and the founder and CEO of Fitness Mentors. With over 20 years experience, 10 different certifications and specializations, and multiple years teaching personal training at the university level, Eddie loves sharing his personal training knowledge and PT exam strategies.

Eddie is the author of Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

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