An Inside Look into the NASM Study Guide: How to Set Yourself up for Success

By  //  April 5, 2023

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If you’re studying to become a personal trainer, you’re probably preparing to become certified.

You can become certified as a personal trainer through multiple different organizations, including the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). NASM, NSCA, and ACSM are the top three nationally recognized programs. 

In deciding which of these programs is best for you, you’ll want to consider the cost of each as well as the type of client that you’re serving. For example, the NASM will help you understand how to train the general population while the NSCA is mostly used for athletes and the ACSM is used for medical and clinical patients. 

Once you have decided to move forward with becoming a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there are a few essential ways to prepare. 

How Should I Prepare for the NASM-CPT Exam?

Most certifications and courses require you to take an exam in order to assess your understanding of the material, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Certified Personal Trainer exam is no exception. Fortunately, you don’t have to sit in a classroom or complete actual coursework in order to become certified. To be eligible to sit for the NASM-CPT exam, you only need to have a completed high school degree or GED and hold CPR and AED certifications.

As long as you’re able to demonstrate your understanding of the material on the NASM-CPT exam, you’ll be certified in no time. While you’re not required to enroll in formal courses, you may want to look for a NASM study guide online or enroll in a self-study program. These self-study guides and programs allow you to study at your own pace and provide more flexibility than a regular school schedule. While NASM’s official self-study programs can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000, websites like Trainer Academy offer free study guides and resources that mimic NASM’s programs.

What Does the NASM-CPT Exam Look Like?

The NASM-CPT exam has 120 questions to be completed over the span of two hours. Test takers must pass with a 70% or better on the exam in order to become certified. You’re only able to take the test once per purchase, but if you fail or don’t perform as well as you would like, you can purchase a retest. Each exam costs around $600 and requires a proctored session. After you pass the exam, your certification will be valid for two years, which means you’ll want to regularly brush up on the material that you’re learning. 

The NASM-CPT will cover a range of different topics including basic and applied sciences, nutritional concepts, client relations, behavioral coaching, exercise technique, training instruction, professional development, and safety procedures. 

Professional Development and Business

As a Certified Personal Trainer, you must demonstrate your ability to understand business fundamentals, marketing, and sales as it applies to fitness. Ultimately, you are selling a service to your clients, and you’ll want to understand how to confidently present a service that demonstrates value and quality. According to Trainer Academy, you may be asked about the four “P’s” of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion. 


Proper communication is key to understanding your client’s needs and going above and beyond to meet them. The NASM-CPT exam may ask you about different methods of communication, including active listening and non-verbal communication. You’ll also be assessed on your ability to manage your clients’ goals and expectations while also providing emotional support, encouragement, informational support, and companionship.

Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts

If you enjoy learning about science as it relates to fitness and the body, you’re in luck! You’ll need to have a thorough understanding of the following systems in order to prepare for the NASM-CPT exam: the nervous, muscular, skeletal, endocrine, and cardio-respiratory systems. Exercise effects these systems in different ways, and it’s important to understand how. You’ll also want to refresh your memory on micro and macronutrients, portion size, and caloric intake. 

Training Instruction and Program Design

Finally, once you have shown your knowledge of basic science, fitness, and business concepts, the NASM-CPT exam will ask you to demonstrate your ability to design a fitness program for a client. This might include setting up exercises as well as demonstrating safe training practices, spotting techniques, and proper breathing. You will then demonstrate your knowledge of different training methods such as resistance, cardiorespiratory, core, balance, proprioceptive, plyometric, and SAQ. 

You’ll choose a program and methods based on your client’s individual body type and goals. All of this info can be found on Trainer Academy’s study guide, so don’t forget to check it out. 


In studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer, you have taken the first step on your newest career journey. You already know about fitness, but you’re on your way to learning about nutrition, business, communications, and science, all essential aspects of a personal trainer’s day-to-day life. A personal trainer is not just a fitness guru—they’re a teacher and a mentor, and we know you have what it takes to do it. Good luck!