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!
NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam Study Guide
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. At the time I took the exam, the bundles ranged in price from $599 to $999, but those numbers fluctuate. 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 at the time I took the exam was $599 and included only the exam, so if you choose that option, 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!
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.
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)
- 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
- Stages of Change
- Active Listening
- SMART Goals
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 (Michael.Golembewski@nasm.org) and mention my name or Peanut Butter Fingers. Happy studying! Good luck!