All About NASM CPT

On Friday I passed my certified personal trainer examination and promised you guys a Q&A-style post with my answers to your questions about the exam and preparation process.

NASM Study Tips

I received my certified personal trainer (CPT) certification though the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and hope to address all of your questions below. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask away in the comments section of this post.

Let’s get to it!

  • Why did you choose NASM?

I did a lot of research and spoke to a handful of personal trainers. In the end, I felt like NASM was highly respected in the fitness industry. I also liked that everything that I read said that the certification included a lot of science-heavy information and focused a lot on the function of the muscles. Since I had not taken a science class since my freshman year of college, I wanted to soak up this information and challenge myself a bit.

  • What package did you purchase and how much did it cost?

NASM offers four different CPT bundles, ranging in price from $599 to $999. I purchased the NASM CPT Fourth Edition Pro, the second-cheapest option which provided me with access to online study resources, a text book and the exam. I paid $699.


The cheapest option is $599 and includes only the exam, so you would need to buy the book elsewhere. (I found it on Amazon for $62.) In my opinion, the extra $40 is worth it for the CPT Pro option since it provides access to online study resources (and a practice test) which I found quite helpful.

  • How long did you study and what study methods did you use to help you memorize all of the information?

From the time you buy your materials, NASM gives you 180 days to study before you have to take the test (or you can pay $200 to reschedule it for a later date – ick!). I was actually locked out of the online learning center, so my test date was reset and I had a little longer than 180 days to study, but I’d guess that I studied for 100 of the 180 days. The final 30 days were “crunch time” where I fully immersed myself in the material and studied for several hours each day.

My studying was very sporadic at first as I started to make my way through the book, but I started to really focus my studying during the final two months. As I made my way through the book, I created a study guide for myself that included all of the vocabulary words, important charts and notes. It ended up being nearly 40 pages, but it was a valuable resource for me!

NASM study materials

During the 30 days before the exam, I made notecards highlighting the areas that gave me trouble and studied them like crazy. I highly recommend using notecards.

NASM Notecards

Another thing that helped me immensely was physically going through the motions as I was studying. When I was memorizing information relating to postural distortions and the isolated functions of the muscles, I stood up, flexed my muscles and moved my body. Moving my body and muscles helped me retain the information much better than I would have had I simply looked at notecards.

  • If you could go back and start studying from scratch, what would you do differently?

I would still read the entire book and make a study guide, but I would utilize the online e-learning center a lot more. I didn’t really use it that much until I was more than 75 percent of the way through the book and ended up going back and watching the videos and taking the online quizzes for every chapter. The videos were really helpful to me when it came to decoding some of the “science speak” that went right over my head in the second chapter.

I also followed NASM’s online study guide and would recommend it! When I was about halfway done studying, I found a “Syllabus” in NASM’s e-learning center and wish I would’ve seen that earlier! It provides a 75-day study planning guide that I think could be very beneficial to those looking for a little guidance.

  • I am about to take the CPT test this month! Can you highlight the main areas that you studied or saw pop up on the exam?

Yes! I would highly recommend paying extra attention to the following material:

  • Vocabulary in Chapter 2
  • Golgi Tendon
  • Muscles as Movers (Agonist, Synergist, Stabilizer, Antagonist)
  • Vocabulary in Chapter 3
  • Support Mechanisms of Blood
  • Structures of a Respiratory Pump
  • Three Metabolic Pathways (ATP-PC, Glycolysis, Oxidative)
  • EPOC
  • Three Planes of Motion (Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse)
  • General Understanding of Muscle Action Spectrum
  • Exercise Progressions (Push-up)
  • Force Couples
  • Pulse (Radial and Carotid)
  • Target Heart Rate Training Zones
  • Straight Percentage Method
  • Blood Pressure (Systolic, Diastolic)
  • Body Composition Assessments
  • BMI, Risk of Disease
  • Progression Continuum
  • 3-Minute Step Test
  • Postural Distortions (Shortened and Lengthened Muscles)
  • Performance Assessments
  • Vocabulary in Chapter 7 (Reciprocal Inhibition, Altered Reciprocal Inhibition, Autogenic Inhibition, Synergistic Dominance)
  • Flexibility Continuum
  • Chart on Page 183
  • Warm Up
  • Circuit Training
  • Local Stabilization System
  • Designing a Core Training Program
  • Balance Training Programs (Balance Stabilization, Balance Strength, Balance Power) + Balance Training Program Design (pg. 249)
  • Levels of Plyometric Training
  • Kinetic Chain Checkpoints During Running
  • SAQ Program Design
  • Principle of Specificity (SAID Principle)
  • Horizontal Loading, Vertical Loading, Peripheral Heart Action System
  • Acute Variables
  • Isolated Function of Muscles
  • Training Hypertensive Clients
  • Fitness Assessments for Pregnant Women
  • Daily Requirements of Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates
  • Adequate Water Consumption, Effects of Dehydration
  • Calcium
  • Stages of Change
  • Active Listening
  • SMART Goals
  • READ


  • Do you feel like the practice test was an accurate representation of the real test?

Yes. I found the official exam a bit more challenging, but the practice test is definitely a good representation. I also had three or four exact questions from my practice test on the official exam.

  • Did you struggle to finish the test in the time given?

Not at all. I think I finished in 75 minutes. When you take the test you have the ability to “mark” questions that you find tricky, so you can go back at the end and look at them again. When I took the test, I answered all of the questions I felt confident about at first and then went back to check over the questions I marked and took more time answering them.

  •  Special NASM Offer

I received a call from NASM yesterday afternoon which initially freaked me out and made me think something went wrong with my test! As it turns out, Michael Golembewski called because one of you mentioned my name and PBF when you bought your CPT study materials! Mike then said that NASM is offering anyone who signs up and mentions my name or my blog a discount of at least 5 percent. (I think the discount may vary depending on what package you buy.) I just wanted to pass along the information because I know the certification isn’t cheap! To get the discount, you can call Mike (602-383-1263) or email him ( and mention my name or Peanut Butter Fingers. Happy studying! Good luck!


  1. says

    This is all really useful information! I want to look into training at some point and I will definitely keep this in mind for when I do seriously look into it! This is the program I’ve heard of the most so I’ll probably use it if I decide to go that route.


  2. says

    Wow! This is really helpful info thanks Julie!
    As a registered nurse (in Australia, not where I’m living in the US) all this sciencey talk kinda got me excited about possibly getting certified. What a nerd!


  3. Sonya says

    After moving to Cali 2 1/2 years ago and NEVER seeing a ‘602’ number (becasue it is a Phoenix, AZ number-where Im from) I got way too excited, ahahah!


  4. says

    Thanks for all the information! Definitely stuff I’m considering in the future! I also want to do a pilates teacher training, which I’m pretty excited about! I’ve recently become addicted. Again, congrats on the pass!


  5. says

    Congrats again! That is so exciting! You definitely worked hard for this! I had fun reading through some of the stuff you mentioned was on the test–reminds me of college & grad school! I need to brush up on some of it 😉

    To be honest, I think that price is crazy ridiculous, but that might just be me. Hehe. Once again, nice work!


  6. says

    Thanks for the info! I just ordered mine last week and it should be here sometime today!
    I actually mentioned your blog when I ordered. I had talked to other trainers as well but I had heard you talk about NASM more than any other blogger, so I put it down too :)


    • says

      Julie, first of all, congratulations on passing! This is an awesome post! It answered some of my major questions. I’ve been doing a similar thing on my blog, interviewing personal trainers to understand their experiences. I have until July to take the test, and I’m learning so much!


  7. says

    Congratulations! I’m so glad that you posted all your information about the process and what all it includes. I would love to be able to do that one day and I know I’ll be returning to this post when the time comes. I know you mentioned earlier that you would like to teach classes, but is there anything else that you have planned to do now that you are certified?


  8. Jenny says

    Julie, thank you SO much for passing along the information! I’ve been wanting to become a CPT for years and finally want to make that a reality this year. Your info is supremely helpful. Congrats on passing!!


  9. Lyndsay says

    Congratulations on passing! I just passed mine last Monday! I was so relieved to pass that I wanted to hug the woman behind the counter and take her out to celebrate! Well, if it hadn’t only been 10am! :) Did any other NASM test takers feel this way!? Congrats again!


  10. says

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing this info! There are so many places to choose from when it comes to getting a certification, so it really helps to have some insight. And congratulations on passing you’re going to do awesome at whatever you do!


  11. says

    I’m totally bookmarking this. Two summers ago I studied and was going to get certified through AFAA and they cancelled the workshop TWO weekends in a row and then school started and I couldn’t take Friday off (it was a 3 day workshop with the test at the end). It left a bad taste in my mouth for AFAA so whenever I do decide to become a trainer, I’m going to investigate NASM!


  12. says

    Hey I have a question for you, I’m looking into possibly getting a PT certificate (i have a great groupon for it), but I’m more interested in teaching group fitness than doing PT. Would a PTC really be that helpful to me? Or do you think it would be more beneficial just to get group fitness cert. instead. It’s still a lot of money and I’m worried I’ll spend it on something that isn’t going to get me to my goals.


  13. says

    Congrats, again! This is something I would consider doing if I was good at taking tests. I get material fine but I am somehow a terrible test taker. I’m also really confused by science/math a lot. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t ever try to do this!

    What lead you to want to get your certification?


  14. Jenna says

    Hi Julie! I’m a huge fan of your blog and have been reading it for almost a year now!
    I’m auditioning for Fargo Star (a local singing competition in North Dakota) and in order to make it through, you need people to vote for your video!

    If I could get a vote from my favorite blogger, that would be seriously AWESOME! You can vote AS MANY times as you want til Friday at noon 😉
    Thanks for reading!!


  15. says

    This is AWESOME information!

    Thank you very much for sharing! I have been looking into which exam to take – I am an athletic trainer so have a lot of the training and education already, but it has been a few years since I have actually studied that stuff!

    Congratulations! :)


  16. Kari says

    how does this compare to the ISSA certification? Would you recommend this one instead or are they about the same-education/credential-wise?


  17. says

    This really came at the perfect time. I’ve been considering becoming a personal trainer for quite some time, so I think this is a sign to just go for it! Congrats on passing your test!


  18. says

    Congratulations on passing the test! I’ve been thinking about doing the CPT program, as well as the fitness nutrition specialist program recently. I currently work at a climbing gym and instruct a bootcamp style fitness program. I went through the institute for integrative nutrition which was an amazing program, but I’d love to add some more fitness focused nutrition knowledge to my repertoire. I’m glad to know you had a good experience. Thanks for all the information!


  19. says

    CONGRATS! It is a hard test! I have this certification, as well as ACE, and (actually many others-as I have been doing this a long time!) but NASM was probablly the most in-depth.

    Good for you Julie. I wish you all the best. Being a Personal Trainer is the best job ever! Moni xx


  20. Carrie says

    PLEASE!!! Tell us that you will be offering online personal training programs *fingers crossed* :D!!! I live and am completely motivated by all of your workouts. By the way, thank you for sharing them. I appreciate you SO much and get excited to see your new posts daily :) HUGS


  21. says

    Thanks for the study guide I think the best job in the world is a personal trainer and plan on someday becoming one. Unfortunately for right now I am just saving up the money so that I can purchase the CPT package. However; it was very motivating to hear that you passed and that it can be done. When I do purchase the package I plan on using this post as a guideline for what I should study for. Thank you so much and enjoy being a personal trainer.


  22. says

    Congrats on passing! So much studying! I would like to eventually get some type of fitness/nutrition certification, so thank you for sharing your experience with NASM.


  23. Lisa says

    Hi Julie, I want to congratulate you on passing NASM CPT Course that is awesome. I was the one that spoke to Michael at NASM when I registered and told him about your Blog and how I read it faithfully every day. I am awaiting my books to come in the mail so that I can start my studying. I am doing the CPT and the WLS. I cannot thank you enough for the information that you just provided about the course. Again congratulations that is wonderful.



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