Hello, hello! I hope you had a great weekend. I had some time yesterday afternoon to gather my thoughts on my recent personal training certification through the NSCA. I know some of you out there are trainers or aspiring personal trainers so I wanted to share the tips that I helped me pass the exam.
NSCA CPT Exam Review
As I have mentioned before my professional background is in marketing and advertising. No science or math since my first year of college. Just about zero experience when it comes to anatomy so getting a personal training certification was a bit of a daunting feat for me.
So why did I pursue it? Well, in the world of training (as I see it) there are certain things that give you “street cred” when it comes to presenting yourself to gyms and/or clients. Looking the part is HUGE. People usually want to be trained by someone who is fit. That is a little bit of a no brainer because it shows you know enough to keep yourself in shape. An athletic background is a plus. If you played major sports or do any type of figure competitions there is a huge niche in that style of coaching. If you have a history of transforming clients that can be hugely beneficial. They have walls dedicated to before and after shots at some gyms. This takes a very long time to have as part of your portfolio. Another piece of your social proof is certifications.
Certifications are very important to show that you are serious about your craft. In a bit of a crazy field there are many options when it comes to choosing a certification. Some are simply more prestigious than others. I accepted a job as a personal trainer that allowed me a three month window to get my certification finalized. Would I do this again? Yes, no – maybe?
On the plus side, the time crunch really forced me to make my studying a priority and get the exam done. Did I really need so much pressure? Not really. Starting a new job, let alone one in a new environment/industry, is enough to worry about without a ticking clock added to the mix.
I felt like I had to study every day. This of course became very difficult if I had a crazy day or wanted to get some blog writing or a workout accomplished. Plus, I sometimes think that already having my CPT would have made me feel more confident around other trainers and potential clients from the beginning. It was never an issue, but I think it made me feel a little insecure when I first started.
Depending on your goals and/or life situation. I would say dedicate yourself to getting your certification first. After that is out of the way, spend the time and energy working to finding the right job opportunity.
Why the NSCA?
The NSCA is very highly respected though it is definitely not as popular as NASM. One gym I looked into working at actually told me that even though I had the NSCA certification I would be required to get a NASM as well. This seemed a little bit like overkill to me. However, I have not really seen this anywhere else.
I chose the NSCA because Scott has his CSCS through the organization and I thought it would be make sense for insurance purposes if we ever did anything together for training. An added benefit – the NSCA is far less expensive than NASM by roughly $500.
How long did I study?
I started to study after I passed my exam for Precision Nutrition. I quickly found that I was really burnt out on studying and was just going through the motions. I was spending time reading, but not really absorbing any information.
In late January/early February, my studying became much more intense. I passed the exam at the end of March so it was about 7-8 weeks of serious studying.
My Top Study Tips
Buy the Practice Exams
Sure, I initially did not want to spend more money on this exam since I felt the book and the test were huge costs. However, the practice exams were hugely helpful because it shifted my mindset and helped me learn what I needed to study. I was trying to memorize way too much information. It was overwhelming. The practice tests helped me see the style of questions that would be asked which completely changes how you approach studying in my opinion.
I think this was the most crucial. This was one area I felt to be worth a little memorization because understanding the fundamentals of the human body are crucial to function. Anatomy was part of numerous questions and while some training styles may change anatomy certainly is going to stay the same.
We have a chart in our gym – a little distorted (look at those body building thighs) but you get the idea. Coloring books are another options I saw as a suggested supplement to studying.
Practice the Movement
When I was studying different movements I would often try to say them out loud to myself and even get up and perform it. It helped me to retain pieces of information when I felt like my brain was on overload.
I have a slight obsession with post-its and use them all the time. I would mark area to go back and revisit in the book with a quick note of why I put it there in the first place. Before I took the test, I relied on these “post-it” areas more than the study guide I had created.
Start with the Familiar
I started my studying with the 2nd half of the book which has a more practical focus. I feel this approach really helped me with studying for my Precision Nutrition Certification as well. By diving into training and program development first I was able to get comfortable with the process. The more science based sections were the last part of my studying.
All in all I think being consistent and focused are the most important qualities you can bring to the table. Establish a studying schedule you can maintain and that is realistic. You have a large window of time to take the actual exam so do not push yourself too hard, but do not allow studying to become too haphazard or you risk that expensive exam book gathering dust on your shelf.
There you have it!
I always love hearing from you! If you have any questions please feel free to send me an email.