ACE vs NASM- Which Certification is Best for You in 2023?

Welcome to my ultimate comparison breakdown of the ACE and NASM CPT certifications, two of the best personal trainer certifications around.

My review looks at the following key NASM vs ACE certification components:

Topical information: comparison of pricing, packages, and prerequisites
ACE vs NASM content deep dive: knowledge and skills
Exam difficulties, preparation timelines, and study material review
Explanation of my expert review process

While you’re here, I suggest you take this quiz to get a quick idea of which cert is best for you.

Alright, let’s dive in and find out which of these fitness industry certs is best for you!

ACE vs NASM - The Best of The Best [year] 5
CPTACSM vs ACE Quick BreakdownFeaturesPrice
  • One of the most popular and highly regarded certification providers in the world
  • A non-profit organization that drives many community-based projects
  • A good entry point for new, up-and-coming fitness professionals and group fitness experts
Check ACE Pricing
  • The most popular and recognized certification providers in the world
  • Specializing in corrective exercise technique methodology
  • Great for newcomers and seasoned professionals
Check NASM Pricing
Exam cost
Exam cost
Study Material Cost
Study Material Cost
$699.00 – $2199
CPR/AED, 18 years of age, high school diploma/GED
CPR/AED, 18 years of age, high school diploma/GED
Exam Passing Score
Exam Passing Score
Exam Pass Rate
Exam Pass Rate
Average Completion Time
Average Completion Time
3 to 6 Months
3 to 6 months

ACE vs. NASM (Video)

ACE vs NASM - Which CPT Certification Is Best in 2023? 🤷‍♂️


Out of the gate, I want to emphasize that ACE, and NASM are two of the best personal training certifications in existence.

Additionally, both ACE and NASM offer a range of nutrition certification programs, strength and conditioning certifications, and group fitness instructor programs.

As I tackle each critical aspect of how to become a personal trainer, you’ll begin to understand which is the best personal trainer certification program for you.

Both certifications are equally convenient since they are both online personal trainer certifications that do not require you to attend any in-person training.

ACE vs. NASM: Quick Information

ACE Personal Trainer Certification

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) Brand Anthem

ACE is the American Council on Exercise. They are a well-recognized and well-received certification provider with a global influence.

Founded in 1985, ACE is a non-profit organization focused on improving public health by training fitness professionals within the ethos of enhancing the lifestyles of the general population.

This ethos is espoused by the IFT model, short for integrated fitness training, providing a way to be creative with your exercises and workouts.

This is the main feature of ACE fitness certifications as you will soon learn.

ACE is an accredited program through the NCCA, meaning it has been thoroughly vetted by subject matter experts.

For a more comprehensive look at the top organizations in the fitness industry, check out my article breaking down the best personal trainer certifications.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

The World's Best Trainers Start with NASM

The National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM, is a certification provider that educates health and fitness professionals.

Founded in 1987, it has become one of the leading names in health, fitness, and nutrition certification programs.

NASM is often indicated as the most popular certification institute by various metrics, including Google search trends.

This has allowed NASM-certified trainers to be the most successful from a personal trainer salary perspective.

Additionally, NASM trainers are typically sought after in gyms across the globe.

It is accredited by the NCCA, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Aside from my free NASM study pack, you’ll find a ton of useful prep resources from them when we go through the study materials later.

The General Focus and Popularity/Recognition of ACE vs. NASM

Each certification provider has its own unique flavor. What this means in formal terms is that each provider has a niche field such as group fitness certifications, that they pour a majority of their academic focus towards.

This is regardless of the different specialty certifications on offer.

One certifying agency might focus more on strength and conditioning certifications, while another might be more about health coaching programs.

It’s important to understand these differences so you can make informed choices and become a successful personal trainer.


ACE has tasked itself with the mission of improving public health through behavioral change, health coaching and lifestyle optimization.

The epidemic of obesity and metabolic disease in modern society, and especially in western societies like the US, has led to a health crisis with a dire need for alleviation.

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, along with the reduction in quality when it comes to nutrition, are both factors that plague modern health.

With this being the case, ACE provides the right education and tools for a sustained influx of qualified professionals who will be equipped to help the general public towards a healthier state, while also earning a good personal trainer salary.

That means many of the principles and concepts outlined in the ACE certification curriculum fall within the general category, thus imparting candidates with an all-rounder approach to fitness instruction.

Despite this, ACE does touch on special populations training.

ACE leads this initiative with its IFT model.

The Integrated Fitness training model is a fitness training methodology based on the core principles of fundamental human movement.

By tackling fitness in phases that go from fundamental function and essential health all the way up to the optimized performance.

This is one of the strong aspects of ACE training programs.


NASM is a sports medicine-orientated organization as its name applies.

From a generalist perspective, this translates into corrective exercise certifications.

Corrective exercise specialists have a career in the methodologies and protocols around improving musculoskeletal issues caused by:

  • Injury and recovery from injury
  • Movement compensations
  • Imbalance 
  • Poor posture
  • Chronic conditions
  • Disabilities and impediments
  • Sub-optimal movement patterns

That means trainers who qualify through NASM have the tools and know-how to administer principles that enhance the quality of physical function while also catering to general needs such as maintaining healthy body composition and cardiorespiratory health.

This approach is exemplified in the NASM OPT model, short for Optimal Performance Training.

Skills and Knowledge Covered in ACE vs. NASM

The area of focus of each certification gives us a quick impression of their curricula.

But to get a complete image of that, I want us to go through each significant aspect of personal training and how each of these certs helps you sell personal training.

Exercise Science Principles

Exercise science principles are crucial for PT education as they form the foundation for all other understandings.

Helping your clients establish a mind-muscle connection through scientific principles is what gets things going, literally.

Both ACE and NASM have an approach towards exercise science.

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NASM tackles this in Chapter 5: The Nervous, Skeletal, and Muscular Systems, Chapter 6: The Cardiorespiratory, Endocrine, and Digestive Systems and Chapter 7: Human Movement Science.

Topics covered in this regard include:

The principle of exercise science is prevalent throughout the course curriculum underpinned by the OPT model.

ACE presents exercise science by describing the IFT model, short for Integrated Fitness Training, a method of implementation developed by ACE.

You can get the low-down on this in Chapter 11: Integrated Exercise Programming: From Evidence to Practice.

Chapter 9: Muscular Training: Foundations and Benefits also digs into many exercise science-related topics.

Outside of that, exercise science isn’t expanded on in any fundamental detail and leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion.

NASM definitely takes the cake when it comes to this topic, going as far as equipping trainers on how to improve bench press technique to grow a bigger chest, build strength, and avoid injury.

Behavioral Coaching Principles

To have what it takes to motivate your clients and help them achieve results, you need to know how to catalyze a shift in behavior.

Change psychology is of significant importance for practical, results-driven personal training tips for beginners.

ACE does an excellent job of highlighting this topic, in my opinion.

This is based on content in Chapter 3: Basics of Behavior Change.

NASM also covers behavioral coaching, but to a lesser extent than ACE.

The topic can be found in Chapter 4: Behavioral Coaching.

ACE vs NASM - The Best of The Best [year] 6

For this reason, I would conclude that ACE has a superior approach to behavioral coaching principles than NASM does.

This makes sense considering the focus ACE has on inspiring change of attitudes within the general population, motivating people to even engage in at-home workout routines.

Consulting and Screening Clients to Reduce Risks of Injury

Before any workouts or training can occur, you need to understand your client’s strengths and limitations so you can plan accordingly.

You also want to know if any circumstances or conditions need to be specifically accommodated to prevent aggravation of medical conditions.

All this lies in your ability to conduct initial assessments with your prospective clients.

NASM covers this extensively in Chapter 11: Health, Wellness, and Fitness Assessments and Chapter 12: Posture, Movement, and Performance Assessments.

As for ACE, Chapter 10: Muscular Training: Assessments, Chapter 8: Cardiorespiratory Training: Physiology, Assessments, and Programming and Chapter 7: Resting Assessments and Anthropometric Measurements  comprehensively expand on fitness and health assessments.

This part of the curriculum even covers how forming positive bonds with clients (Building Rapport) is important in conducting accurate initial assessments, an essential aspect in how personal trainers get clients.

Resistance Training Program Implementation

Resistance training will form a large portion of the exercise methodologies used with your clients.

In fact, most exercises can be considered resistance-based to an extent, so understanding the biomechanics behind it is crucial in a general sense.

I went into this topic assuming NASM would trump ACE, but it turns out that ACE has a bit more of an in-depth approach to resistance training principles than NASM.

NASM brings resistance training up in Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts.

ACE vs NASM - The Best of The Best [year] 7

ACE makes it’s own case for resistance training with Chapter 9: Muscular Training: Foundations and Benefits.

With that said, NASM isn’t incredibly far off and spreads out its attention across other pillars of fitness such as core strength, balance, and flexibility, areas not well covered in ACE’s curriculum.

Aerobic Training Program Design and Implementation 

Aerobic fitness, commonly known as cardio fitness, is probably the most fundamental aspect of fitness and exercise.

Without “good cardio,” other areas of your client’s fitness goals will suffer, including general health.

Understanding aerobic training and implementing practical cardio protocols in a program are the keys to success.

The ACE IFT model is a tremendous pre-packaged strategy toward implementing successful aerobic fitness principles.

Aside from that, Chapter 8: Cardiorespiratory Training: Physiology, Assessments, and Programming also provides value.

The NASM OPT model provides a similar richness in its approach to cardiorespiratory programming principles, expanding on the unique benefits a personal trainer can provide.

NASM delves into aerobic training in Chapter 15: Cardiorespiratory Training Concepts.

I would say both ACE and NASM are on equal terms regarding aerobic training implementation.

Helping Special Populations with Fitness 

Each client you consult and train with is a unique individual; as such, their needs and preferences, as similar as they might be to others, will always have a uniqueness about them.

Sometimes the unique attributes of a client’s needs or goals fall far outside the range of what’s considered normal.

If this is the case, you can consider such clients to be members of a particular population group.

Such groups include:

  • Competitive athletes,
  • Personal training for seniors
  • Youth and children
  • Prenatal and postnatal women
  • People with disabilities
  • People with chronic conditions

Understanding the nuance behind training people with such special requirements allow you to diversify and cast your net wider as a trainer.

ACE highlights training principles for special populations in Chapter 14: Exercise and Special Populations.

The chapter is relatively large and touches on most of the fundamentals of different unique client scenarios.

NASM’s curriculum does consider special training scenarios in the way of clients with chronic conditions and exercise limitations.

This is in Chapter 23: Chronic Health Conditions and Special Populations. NASM covers methodologies around training clients with limiting health conditions.

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ACE vs NASM - The Best of The Best [year] 8

While this grouping does fall under special populations in a sense, it’s just one of many different types of special populations, as you would have gathered from the list I mentioned above.

Perhaps the lack of focus NASM holds in this category is due to the fact that they have a number of dedicated special populations certs such as the NASM Senior Fitness Specialization program.

I would say ACE has a superior take on special populations training than NASM with that in mind.

For a more in-depth look at the content in these CPT programs, you can read my comprehensive NASM CPT review and ACE CPT review.

Certification Popularity and Recognition of ACE vs. NASM

Popularity and recognition are essential considerations when deciding which cert to go for.

The more popular certifications are obviously the ones with a better track record. The pre-selection bias around picking something popular helps people make good decisions with far less of a challenging investment.

As far as industry recognition and the collective opinion of personal trainers is concerned, that’s also important to bear in mind.

Industry recognition allows you to understand what opportunities and job prospects you can expect while carrying specific qualifications.

Having the right cert can count towards gaining access to the best gyms to work in.

As far as popularity and recognition are concerned, no two certifying agencies are more popular than ACE and NASM, thus making them poised to lead you to be a successful personal trainer in no time.

They are by far the most recognized certification providers by the academic fitness community accounting for a large portion of personal training internships.

They are almost equal in annual enrollment figures and are equally accepted in the labor market for online personal trainers.

The only area where NASM has an edge on ACE is google trends search data over the 2020 – 2021 period.

This shows that there is a bit more interest in NASM than ACE when looking for the right cert.

The Study Materials and Pricing of ACE vs. NASM

Study materials determine the quality of your learning experience, so no matter how good a cert looks in terms of its popularity and recognition, you need to understand the content you’ll have access to and determine if it will work for you.

When it comes to CPT certifications, the top agencies usually present several options for their tentpole qualifications.

The variance in these materials will determine how much it costs to become a personal trainer as well as how long it takes to become a personal trainer.

These tiered options contain varying amounts and types of materials and are priced accordingly to suit your needs and budget.

You might be well versed in PT principles, meaning your best bet is the cheapest personal training certification.

When it comes to personal trainer certification cost, you need to measure up the quality of the qualification vs its monetary value.

In the case of ACE and NASM, they are so close qualitatively, that your decision could be influenced by which is the cheapest certification of the two.

ACE Certification Cost and Materials

ACE has three packages on offer, the Basic, the Plus, and the Advantage.

The Basic package has the essential study materials, but only at a bare minimum level.

It includes the following:

  • ACE Practice Exam
  • ACE Answers (Basic) 
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion 
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook 
  • ACE University 

The Plus package has a more rounded approach, offering most of what you need to reach for exam success.

It includes:

  • 2 ACE Practice Exams
  • ACE Answers (Plus) 
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion 
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook 
  • ACE University 
  • ACE Exercise Science 101

The final tier, the Advantage package comes with all the basics and necessities plus a few extra bells and whistles.

Honestly not necessary in my opinion, but it will help you cross the finish line quicker and more comfortably, provided you do the work required.

  • 4 ACE Practice Exams
  • ACE Answers (Advantage) 
  • ACE Certification Exam

The Basic package costs $849, the Plus is $999, and the Advantage package is $1,499.

To take the ACE exam only without additional materials costs $499.

If you want to get started on your ACE CPT test prep as soon as possible, take a look at my free ACE CPT study guide and practice exam.

My students regularly lean on third-party resources such as the Trainer Academy ACE CPT Prep Course, which includes flashcards, study guides, practice tests, and an exam pass guarantee.

You should always consider purchasing the higher-priced official ACE study materials directly from the organization itself.

NASM Certification Cost and Materials

NASM takes a similar approach to ACE in that they have a multiple-study package offering.

The only difference is that NASM offers four packages as opposed to ACE’s 3.

These packages are: Self-study, Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive

The cheapest package from NASM, Self-study, includes the following::

The Premium Self-study includes everything in the Self-study package in addition to

  • Job Guarantee
  • One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus

Next, we have the Guided Study package, which in addition to everything you’ve already see, includes the following:

  • Unlimited Access to NASM Fitness Experts
  • Certification Exam Retest
  • NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook
  • Bonus Course: Motivational Interviewing for Coaches

I like this package specifically for the inclusion of a hard-copy textbook. I personally prefer being able to flip through a physical book. You can also highlight and bookmark essential sections in the book for permanent retrieval.

Lastly, we have the All-inclusive package, which, as you may have guessed, includes everything.

In addition to everything the other packages have, All-inclusive also contains:

  • NASM’s Edge CPT Exam Prep
  • Gymternship™
  • Recertify for Life
  • CPR/AED Certification Online

I honestly don’t think the All-inclusive package has any value to justify the price. Perhaps if you consider the recertify for life feature, you could rationalize your spending on that package.

Speaking of price, NASM is often considered one of the more expensive certification providers.

The Self-study package costs $899, while the Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive cost $1,199, $1,599, and $2,699, respectively.

Note that you can take the NASM CPT exam only for $599.

Whichever of these you choose, I can’t say enough about the Free NASM CPT study guide and practice exam, or the Trainer Academy NASM MVP Study System. It’s always good to get some extra help.

Don’t forget to check out the pricing on NASM’s official site as they often have specials and discounts running.

NASM often has deals on certifications so be sure to check out the NASM website for the latest pricing.

Prerequisites: ACE and NASM Certification Requirements

Most courses or education programs will have a list of requirements that prospective students must fulfill to be granted access.

These are called prerequisites, and they also apply to personal training certifications.

The requirements for a PT certificate are pretty relaxed and only ask that you be 18 years or older, hold a high school diploma, and have all their first responder certs in place (CPR, AED, First Aid).

Information On The Tests and Recertification: ACE vs NASM

Before sitting down for your final exam, it’s wise t go into it with a good understanding of what to expect.

Understanding difficulty, and figuring out which of the two is the easiest personal training certification might just sway your decision.

That way, you can minimize confusion and anxiety and just focus on retrieving the knowledge you would have gained through your learning and studying experience.

After you pass and become certified, you should also consider the impending need for recertification.

Every couple of years or so, certifications need to be renewed.

This renewal process is designed to incentivize certified trainers to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date with current trends, research, and knowledge.

For this, you will be asked to produce CEUs or continuing education credits as well as a nominal recertification fee.

In order to gain CEUs, you’ll need to take part in credit-earning activities, and other CEUs for personal trainers.

ACE Certification

The ACE certification exam runs for 3 hours and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions.

In order to pass the ACE CPT exam, you need to achieve a scaled score of 500 out of 800, equivalent to  90 out of the 125 scored questions, leading to a pass mark of approx 72%.

About 70% of ACE test takers pass the exam to become certified.

You may be wondering why you only need to score out of 125 questions when there are 150 of them in total.

That’s because there are 25 floating or non-scored questions.

These are included so that the exam panel can assess their viability for future tests.

You won’t be able to tell which questions are scored and unscored, so your best bet is to just go through the material and answer as many questions as you can.

As for recertification, you will need to submit 2.0 CEUs of continuing education credits every two years to maintain your cert with ACE.

NASM Certification

The NASM certification exam is a two-hour-long paper consisting of 120 questions.

You will need a score of at least 70% to pass.

The current pass rate for candidates taking the NASM exam is 64%, making passing considerably more challenging than many other top-tier certification exams.

NASM Recertification is necessary every two years at the cost of 2.0 CEUs and a $99 recertification fee for on-time recertification.

Review Methodology

I used my access to NASM and ACE resources gained through enrolling in each certification to provide an insider, first-hand account of the certs and their structure as well as how long it takes to become a personal trainer through the different programs.

I also used anecdotal information gathered from forums and reviews to gauge the general impression of these certifications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Conclusion: Which is the best personal training certification, NASM or ACE?

ACE and NASM training certification offer similar if not equal value; where one is weak, the other one shines, so there’s no clear winner on which to certify with.

Both have fantastic fitness methodologies. ACE has the IFT model, and NASM has the OPT model.

Both have NCCA accreditation and are widely accepted by employers in the health clubs and gyms sector as gold standard certs.

It all depends on what sort of trainer you want to be.

If your goal is corrective exercise, strength training, strength and conditioning, and performance enhancement, then NASM is the specializations cert for you.

If you’re looking at a more general approach that will allow you to explore a more diverse range of career options, then ACE is your golden ticket.

ACE is also better suited for health and wellness fields, such as being a health coach, while NASM certification courses would be great if you want to be an athlete coach.

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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75 thoughts on “ACE vs NASM – The Best of The Best 2023”

  1. PTPioneer User

    I am absolutely fresh to the PT world and I have a heart for the elderly. I am 55 and out of shape but I want to start the foundation for a second career, and I do believe that this will also motivate me to get back into shape. My hope is I can get certified and begin working with healthy seniors and not so healthy ones. I am still unsure of which cert to go with! My friend says NASM because that is what she has. I just received my BSc in an unrelated field and still want to continue studying.

  2. PTPioneer User

    Just wanted to thank you for the article you wrote comparing Ace & NASM, it was very informative and helpful! I plan on beginning my PT certification studying right after Christmas. I kept going back and forth between Ace & NASM but now I’m almost positive I will be going through Ace. I will definitely be coming back to your ptpioneer site!

    Thank you again,

  3. PTPioneer User

    I just signed up with NASM in February 2017, the full course, which is $1999 but they seem to always have a 25% discount sale going on most of the time so I got mine for $1500. One thing I have read after purchasing this course is that I have to buy my exam. One would think with this high price the exam would be included. Another thing is that their instructions are hard to follow on the website. I am not sure if my course has started or not, so I tried to call and no one home on the weekends or at night. Also, they are very hard to get a hold of if you are already a customer. I have to wait on hold for up to 20 minutes just to get to talk to someone then after that it takes them a long time to help me with my issues. They are not open 24/7 for assistance and I have to dial them at least seven times before I get an open line, meaning when I call I get this message, “no routes found” and then they hang up. So I have to keep calling until there is finally an open route then it’s, like I said, up to 20 minutes to talk to someone. This is very discouraging. Needless to say, I am now looking to switch to ACE, but will do my homework more in depth.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Carol,
      I am sorry to hear you had such a horrible experience with NASM. I have never had those problems myself and when I call I always reach somebody helpful very promptly. Sorry to hear, you can always switch to ACE.

    2. PTPioneer User

      Dear carol,
      thanks for sharing your experience with NASM. I myself was having a difficult time choosing what program to go with. You definitely made my decision a lot easier. When it comes to learning something new, its very important to have proper direction and guidance. It disappoints me that NASM is failing in this category because it was my #1 choice. I am still researching both programs but as of now it looks as though i will go with ACE. Thanks again!

      1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

        Great to hear, both of these organizations are fantastic the National Academy of sports medicine as well as the American Council on exercise will provide you fantastic personal training credentials to start your career.

  4. PTPioneer User

    Good morning Mr.Taylor thank you for your article! Please let me know which certificate is better for working with senior citizen group of clients.
    Maybe I missed this information.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Olga,
      I’m sorry if this information was missed. I think that NASM is definitely a better personal training certification for working with elderly individuals. This is because of the OPT training model takes more precaution and increases the intensity of exercises more gradually. It is meant to focus on stabilization for a long time before moving on to strength training which is very important especially for elderly individuals or people that have not exercised in a very long time. I hope this helped answer your question 🙂

  5. PTPioneer User

    Hi, I am contemplating becoming a personal trainer, but my goals are different to the ones outlined on your article. I would love to work with people who struggle with diabetes and help them achieve health through exercise more than relying on medication. I have a bachelors in psychology with a minor in nutrition. Do you know which program would be best based on what I want to do? Thanks

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Sophia,
      This is a very specialized concentration of individuals that you would like to work with. Honestly, neither one of the certifications dives too much into special populations although both of them do a little bit. What you would want to do is get a specialist certification. Unfortunately, most specialist certifications require you to have a general personal training certification before you can take them. A certification that talks will do more about special populations needs is the senior fitness specialization from nasm. I hope this helps

  6. PTPioneer User

    hey so I plan to become a PT very soon now that I graduated high school, and I am leaning more towards taking the NASM exam but Ace still looks so good, so I was wondering, would it be possible to be certified for BOTH nasm and ace?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Both the American Council on exercise and the National Academy of sports medicine have fantastic personal training programs. It is absolutely possible to get certified through both NASM and ACE. Having multiple certifications only improves your knowledge as a trainer. But you should probably do one before the other is my suggestion. What type of people do you want to train when you become a personal trainer?

  7. PTPioneer User

    Thank you so so much for this article. I am a Stay at home mom, fitness blogger, athletic clothing designer, I own a successful Etsy shop selling kids party supplies. I have been talking to my husband for 6 months about taking my fitness blogging to a new level and becoming a PT. I am so glad I came across your site. I have been thinking about taking the NASM but after this, I am really considering ACE.

    Mine and my husband’s hobby is working out. I help family and friends get in shape as well. I am not really in it for the money (at least for now) because I do not want to work outside the home. I am looking to just learn more about helping people get fit.

    In 2016-2017 my husband was very sick from pancreatitis and respiratory failure and on life support. He pulled through and it changed our lives. My goal in life is to help others.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Maegen,

      Fantastic story and I’m so glad that your husband is healthy now. It is true that learning about health and fitness is an incredible gift not only for your own family but also giving you the ability to help other friends and family as well.

      I totally agree and the American Council on exercise is a fantastic certifying organization to go through. You will love their study materials and support that they offer. NASM is also a fantastic option but has a slightly different focus. You could always come back and get certified with them at a later date or even get an advanced certification to really specialize in the type of training that you want to learn.

      Even if you don’t work as a personal trainer in the typical gym situation, it is still a fantastic knowledge to hold. I’m curious what you’re fitness website and clothing line is? Maybe we can collaborate on some ideas together as bloggers. Let me know 🙂

  8. PTPioneer User

    What a great article! The comments leave me feeling a little uneasy but I like the idea of stability first before strength training. It’s like learning how to stand before you walk. For that and many other reasons, I feel NASM will be right for me. Thank you for your articles. I will definitely check out your other blogs.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Yasmin,
      I like your analogy for the national Academy of sports medicine in regards to learning to stand before you walk. I totally agree with you with this regard in terms of the stability phase. Make sure to check out my article on the top personal training certifications as well as this could further help your decision.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Petr,

      Unfortunately, I do not know too much about the IYCA certification as I have never gone through it or reviewed it on my website. That being said, NASM is recognized as one of the top all-around certifications for all age ranges. On top of this they also have a youth exercise specialist (YES) advanced certification that is excellent. I highly recommend it.

  9. PTPioneer User

    Hi, great information. Thank you. I am looking for a new career later in life and I love working out and group classes. Teaching group classes will be my focused. Do I need to get certified as a Personal Trainer to teach group classes or get the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification?

    Thank you,

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey TJ,
      You do not necessarily need a general personal training certification such as ACE or NASM in order to get the group exercise certification. I do think that it is helpful though. This is especially true if you are trying to do both group training as well as general personal training as you can pull clients both directions to get a lot more work. It also is good to have a general understanding one-on-one personal training for your group classes in regards to injury prevention, proprioception training etc. I hope this response helped!

  10. PTPioneer User

    Hi, thank you for the article. I am still very confused between ACE and NASM. I signed up for NASM and took a test, unfortunately I failed the test few points. I read the book, did lots of practice test at the app and still failed. Test was hard and nothing close to a book material or any prep tests I was practicing. OPT model is a great approach but I don’t think NASM really teaches you how to create a workout. I feel like NASM is great for those who already have some fitness experience and whar to advance in anatomical knowledge. Now I feel so much resentment to study again and take the test again. I was thinking to try ACE, considering that they might take a different approach in teaching. My question is, does ACE teache you how to put together a workout to meet someone’s fitness goals? I don’t know if I should just study NASM again or try ACE. Any feedback is very appreciated, please.
    Thank you

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Yuliya,
      First of off, sorry that you did not pass the exam on your first try. The test is definitely a difficult one and a lot of the practice tests and study material supplied by NASM are not the best. I would still suggest trying to go with NASM one more time as it is still one of the most recognized certifications in the industry. On top of that, the retake fee is only $199, whereas you will have to pay over $500 to start with ACE. It would require less studying overall to stick with NASM, then to switching certifications and trying to learn their information. I highly suggest checking out my personal study materials that will point you in the right direction of what exactly you need to study to pass the exam. I promise this will help tremendously. You can check it out right here:

    2. PTPioneer User

      I self-prepped for NASM exam after 10 years as a Certified Public Accountant. I’m not really sure how the test was much different from the materials in NASM’s book. Not only do they lay out the weights that each topic will represent on the exam, they also highlight the areas that are most important within those topics. I didn’t feel any question on my exam was unfair. NASM’s study guide option does a fantastic job of preparing you for test success. It’s also possible you ended up with a terrible question pool in your exam. But, I assure you I passed without any prior textbook knowledge of the fitness industry.

      1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

        Awesome to hear Sean,
        I am glad that you passed the test without any problem. A lot of people do not have the same success that you do on the exam. The NASM exam is graded on a scaling score which means that some versions are much harder than other versions of the exam. It might’ve been that you got one of the easier versions, or it might’ve been that your study techniques were awesome. Either way congrats on passing the exam!

  11. PTPioneer User

    Does the recertification cost include the required 20 hours? Or Do you have to pay the recert cost plus the cost of 20 hours?
    Awesome article!!!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Denise,
      the cost for recertification for both NASM and ACE does not include the continuing education itself. It is just to recertify with those certifying agencies for two extra years. On top of that, you will have to pay a continuing education provider in order to go through a course, webinar or other curriculum in order to show proof of the 20 hours you completed of continuing education. I hope this helps and good luck!

  12. PTPioneer User

    Hi Tylor,
    Thanks for the informative article. I am from India and my education is mostly related to technical background. Recently past few months I have started getting habit of eating clean and healthy and slowly it has become quite a part of my life and I want to pursue my career as nutritionist. After going through your multiple articles I have zeroed down to ACE for nutrition coach. But as I see CPR/AED something as prerequisite. Can you tell me something about it?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Vivek,
      Yes you need to get a CPR/AED certification from an approved supplier. This is basically for safety purposes as you need to know how to use the AED defibrillation machine in case somebody’s heart stops beating. You also need to know CPR to maintain oxygen flow to the brain to keep them alive as long as possible before an ambulance comes. These are general prerequisites for working in a gymnasium and is also a fantastic idea if you are going to be working for yourself doing nutrition or fitness consultations. I suggest checking out the American Red Cross for more information on how to get certified.

  13. PTPioneer User

    I’m retired from the military and I coach HS Cross country and I wanted to use a program that can assist me in training my young student Athletes which program would you prefer.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello William,
      Although both programs are excellent, if you purely want to work with youth athletes NASM has a youth exercise specialist certification. You may want to look into their general certification, and later on down the road pickup of this youth exercise certification as well. I hope this helps!

  14. PTPioneer User

    I love the article and thank you very much for your effort. I am looking to go in the direction of training athletes. I study training methods, nutrition, anatomy, kinesology, etc. on my own. Now i’m looking to get certified and take the neccessary steps to make it happen. With your info provided, I am assuming ACE is the route to go? Or do you suggest NASM which focuses more on imbalances. I have a YMCA in my area but not an LA Fitness, and I saw you suggested ACE for that gym which is why I hesitate with NASM. But I do not intend on staying in this area for as long as I have to. Eventually becoming a self employed personal trainer is my ultimate goal. Im looking to be the best trainer I can be for the people/athletes I serve. Thanks for your time man, have a great day!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Well it sounds like you are on your way to becoming an awesome personal trainer. In terms of training athletes, both will do just fine. On the other note of where you will work, both of these certifications are so highly recognized that any gym you working will recognize them as a top-notch certification. So that part I would not worry about. If you just want to specialize in athletes, I do recommend picking up a specialization certification. But first obviously, you do need to get certified with a general CPT certification. If you want to go the route of training athletes, I usually recommend going with the general NASM certification and then going for the NASM PES performance enhancement specialist certification afterwards. I really hope this helps and good luck with all the studying!

  15. PTPioneer User

    Thanks for this great post! I still have a question though. My goal is to get my initial certification, and then get a specialty senior fitness certification, which NASM and ACE both offer. Are you very familiar with the senior fitness certs for either? I really feel like the one that would better prepare me for working safely and effectively with seniors is the one I want to choose. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Aline,
      Thank you for the great feedback. To be honest I have more information on the NASM senior fitness specialist program and I know it is a fantastic one. Either way, I would suggest sticking with the same company for both of them although you do not have to do this. I hope this helps and good luck with all the studying!

  16. PTPioneer User
    Anna Lee McDonald

    Thank you for all the helpful information!
    However, I was wondering if the final exams for these certifications were online on a computer or paper/printed out at the special locations?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      For both the ACE and NASM exams you will need to go into a test taking facility and take them in a monitored setting. This is to prevent any sort of cheating from going on. Once you are done with the exams for either one of them you will be able to find out if you have passed or failed on the spot. You will be able to print out a temporary certification online but the full certification will be mailed to you and arrive within a couple weeks after passing the exam. I hope this helps!

        1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

          You do not need to bring your laptop to the exam location. All you need to bring is identification, proof that your CPR/AED certified and proof of payment. You are not allowed to bring any study materials and to the testing area while taking the tests.

  17. PTPioneer User

    After getting my CPT I plan on getting other outside certs for my continue Ed. Have you found that more outside certs offer CEUs for one more than the other? Or if they offer CEUs, they offer both ACE and NASM. Also is the process easy for getting CEUs approved? Lastly, I’ve had a difficult time learning anatomy though I think it’s super important. Does one over the other present anatomy material better than the other? Thank you.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Vanessa,
      In my experience, most full personal training certifications whether is the specialization certification or an additional CPT will offer complete continuing education for the majority of any other certification requirements. I hope this makes sense. Basically, if you need continuing education for the American Council on exercise, going through the full national Academy of sports medicine program will be sufficient continuing education to renew with ACE. And vice versa.

  18. PTPioneer User

    Hi, Im very new to your channel and webpage. Love what I see so far,but I am very excited about starting my quest to being an ACE cpt but don’t have the full amount of money to get the study material. Is there anything you can recommend that I can begin studying now just so I don’t feel like Im wasting time when I can be studying? Thank you in advance.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Patrick, that’s cool to hear that you’re starting out with the American Council on exercise certification. You can start here with my free study guide and practice test on my website Once you have enough money, I highly suggest picking up a study package from Trainer Academy. They have a premium study guide that has helped thousands of my students pass the exam. They also have helpful practice tests as well.

  19. PTPioneer User

    Hi, I’m an Ace certified group instructor. Was formally also certified through Nasm CPT. Year’s ago now. I let it lapse. I’m familiar with the opt model, I’m thinking about recertification, become a certified pt again along with my gfi. I am training a few people without a cert. As in my state anyway, it is perfectly legal, up to the gym owners. I’m an independent contractor. I’m wondering about the ift model through ACE and how it differs from the opt model. Honestly, I use some of the theories I learned from the opt. Model, but never fully grasped it? I don’t personally feel that training someone who has never worked out before on an unstable surface is a good idea. Learn to stabilize on 2 feet before 1 or a bosu, stability ball. Lunges aldo help to teach balance. I find new people to be very nervous. We don’t want to scare them off! I prefer to help them learn proper form in exercise and educating to why it’s important, work on correction of imbalance in the body as part of a training routine. If it’s all corrective, people get really bored. There’s only an hour, people don’t want to warm up for half of, sorry, my opinion. So wondering what ace teaches?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Monica, This is all very important questions that you have. And to be honest, there are a lot of similarities between the IFT model and the OPT model from NASM. It doesn’t focus as strongly on corrective exercises as NASM I would say is the biggest difference. There are still lots of fitness assessments for muscular imbalances but it does not Focused so heavily on stabilization. This might be a good option for you and it’s always a good idea to get a different opinion from a different certification. Since you already have a lot of knowledge from the National Academy of sports medicine, I would switch it up and go with the American Council on exercise to expand your skill set.

  20. PTPioneer User

    Hi Tyler!

    I am very interested in signing up for a bundle package so that I can get certified as a personal trainer and nutrition/health coach. This would be a huge career change for me. I’m aiming to primarily work with youth, particularly those seeking to lose weight and implement healthier ways of eating into their lifestyles. Youth athletes would be of interest too, but not at the top of my priorities list. Both NASM and ACE sound excellent, but I would like to know which one would be the best for me based on my goals.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Candace,
      I’m so sorry that this message is super late. All of December I was crammed. If you are looking to get a personal training certification as well as a nutrition certification, I would lean more towards the national Academy of sports medicine. And this is mostly because there nutrition certification is much more up-to-date and in-depth compared to the American Council on exercise. Both of their personal training certifications are fantastic. And if you were just getting a personal training certification, they are pretty similar in terms of quality. You can always focus later on down the road on the youth exercise with NASM’s youth exercise specialist certification. I hope this helps and happy new year!

  21. PTPioneer User


    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      No matter if you have a bachelors degree or Masters’s degree in physical education or kinesiology, most gymnasiums do require you to be certified by a credible personal training certification in order to work in their facilities. I don’t necessarily agree with this logic, but it is the way it is.

  22. PTPioneer User

    Hey! So I work out Mon-Friday and LOVE it. I often get asked to provide some workouts for others or people ask me can they work out with me in the gym. I thought about getting certified and came across your article. Which do you recommend for me? I love strength training and lifting weights and stress the importance of doing that and not just running to lose weight or get to fitness goals. It’s all about diversifying your workouts. I just want to train others to get in shape, meet their goals and have a better understanding of health and fitness. What should I do?!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Kennedy,
      this seems like all of the information you’d like to help people with come from a general personal training certification. Both the American Council on exercise as well as the national Academy of sports medicine are great options for you. Both of them touch on the importance of cardio, flexibility as well as a lot of weight training or resistance training to include in their programs. If I had to pick one out of these two I would go with the national Academy of sports medicine because I file the better layout their information in a logical format.

  23. PTPioneer User

    Hey Tyler,
    First of all I wanted to thank you because you’ve been extremly helpful .. i mean in my case lol.
    So I’m a french dude who use to live in Canada, Toronto for 2 years before I came back to Paris 7 years ago. I’m planning on going back there to start a Personal Trainer career (got a hook up in the gym industry there) !! So as a french gentleman without any VISA for now … can I get to start the NASM courses from France. Paris (I workout since almost two decades now) ?
    I’m gonna take your quiz by the way mate

    Best regard have a great day Tyler


    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello, that’s a great question. You should be able to take the exam at some sort of test-taking facility over there in Europe. I know they have testing facilities for the National Academy of sports medicine all around the world but you will have to check the website to make sure where they are. Good luck with your personal training career.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Some specialist certifications have prerequisites of a general personal training certification. I definitely recommend you get a general personal training certification before you tried to specialize in anything as well.

  24. PTPioneer User

    Hi Tyler,

    I have worked in the industry for 20+ years, starting out as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach and I currently run a corporate facility that offers personal training and group exercise classes. I held both CSCCa and NSCA certifications in the past and missed my recertification deadline with NSCA last year, so I lost it (CSCCa is cancelled once you no longer work in industry). I took your what certification is tight for you quiz twice and it suggested ISSA (despite originally thinking I was going to pursue NASM). If I do ISSA and wait for offer to get 3 certs in one (PT, nutrition and 1 choice), will ISSA’s Corrective Exercise cover what I would miss by not doing NASM? While I continue to grow, my primary focus at this point of my career is having a certification, as my job extends well beyond PT (wellness and wellbeing). Thanks for any advice!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Well the corrective exercise specialist from the international sports Sciences Association is significantly different from the general personal training certification that you would be doing with NASM. If you were looking to Simply get recertified NASM is a fantastic option. But, the three for one deal is definitely enticing and an excellent bundle of certifications and knowledge.

  25. PTPioneer User

    ACE is basic AF. It’s great more if you want to be a mediocre trainer. They just want your money. When you need support they are slow AF!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Good to hear your feedback on the customer service aspect of the American Council on exercise. I have never personally experienced this but it’s good to hear all opinions.

  26. PTPioneer User

    Thank you for the detailed information.
    One question, I am from India and working professional in finance & A/c’s from last 6 years and always have passion into fitness and been into training and follow healthy nutrition from last 8 years. So, Can I do any of this course apart from my current job time and also do part time job to gain experience in this field.
    My purpose is to study and apply for job in abroad if its possible to get there and settle. Please guide what courses and path to make me move out of India and work in any foreign country ?

    Thank you!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      You can absolutely work as a nutrition coach part-time. It really depends on how many clients you can get on your own or if you need help from an organization such as a gym to get you those clients.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      That’s a good question, both the American Council on exercise and the National Academy of sports medicine or actually pretty well known in the European countries. I would definitely contact local employers to see which ones they accept though.

  27. PTPioneer User

    I am wanting to work at a small town gym teaching group classes mainly. Some general personal training on the side. But I love step, Zumba, barre, and yoga. I am also interested in the “transformation” program. With the idea I could be next to someone through their whole journey.
    Anyway, I was wondering what program you think would be most beneficial?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      I usually always recommend to start with a general personal training certification such as nasm or Ace. From there you have a good building block of fitness and you can expand into other specialty certifications such as transformation specialist, corrective exercise specialist excetera

  28. PTPioneer User

    Hey Tyler,

    I was an ACSM CPT for 6 years and then let it lapse. I then started looking at recertifying and read your blogs with the company vs company. I truly feel NASM is far superior to ACE or ISSA and on par with ACSM and NSCA. I chose NASM because of its overall focus and it’s in depth content on the industry itself, the business aspect, the corrective exercise, It’s programming (it’s there you just have to click on all the links to see the sample workouts), along with its science and anatomy content. As with any general certification it lays the foundation and through CEUs, professional development, and experience the niche and fortes of the individuals coaching/training style will evolve. I did the elite program through NASM and I finish my last course the Behavior Change Specialization (BCS). All in all NASM blew away my expectations and I’ve nothing but great things to say about them. If you want a well rounded, very thorough, not “Easy” but not impossible (you get what you put in…kinda like health and wellness) NASM is the way to go! I also have a BS in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching from ASU and I’m a Assistant Fitness Director for US Fitness. I will be getting my CSCS this fall. Again thank you for your blogs and your desire to help and educate!

    In health,

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey there, I’m so glad that you had a great experience with the National Academy of sports medicine. They are definitely one of my top three certifications hands down. They have a fantastic curriculum, support, study materials and I really like their Optimum Performance training model. That’s why I definitely give them an A+ on my site. Good luck with your personal training career and I’m glad that you have enjoyed your experience becoming a trainer up until this point.

  29. PTPioneer User

    Hi Tyler,
    Thanks for the great website! My choice comes down to between ACE and NASM and after taking your test, i got NASM. I have been comparing the two, going scrutinizing your reviews and study guides (over and over again), i have the NASM 6ed book, the new ACE table of contents and ACE 4ed book. I have to say i absolutely love the book structure and the OPT model with its 5 phases and how clear it is what to do in each phase – highly quantitative.

    However, it boils down to costs and course content, and i have decided to go for ACE. My reasons are:
    [Superficial reasons]
    1. ACE logo looks cooler and their website looks much much better (more this decade look). Well i will have to log in regularly right, guess it helps if i like what i see.
    2. ACE is non profit – not sure why this matters though.
    3. ACE is also recognized by EREPS – this would be a plus point if you’re like me in Europe
    4. Why the so many “please call … for …” in NASM website? It’s 2020, it’s all online, there’s email, live chat, zoom, skype etc. Can’t afford to call from europe.
    [Value for money]
    5. With the current summer sale, ACE would cost cost me €150 less (NASM without book and ACE with book)!
    6. One can purchace ACE courses anywhere. You have to go to NASM international partners (they charge you their prices) and you cannot take advantage of the discounts in (US) website!
    [Course content]
    7. Will i miss out on the OPT model if i don’t take the NASM-CPT? No, i already have 6ed book, it’s easy/clear to read.
    8. ACE based on the 4ed (terrible to read, reminds me of my old thermodynamics textbook) offers a whole lot of softskills and the writing style highly qualitative. The qualitative and lengthy writing does a good job at explaining the whys and discusses the approach that is being dealt with. Therefore by doing ACE-CPT and with NASM book i will learn more.
    9. ACE has just launced the new&improved course material – hope the book looks much better 😉
    10. PS. ACE 5ed book is impossible to find online for a good price. I got my NASM 6ed boook online for a fraction of the price!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      That’s a very in-depth breakdown. Let me try to give my info. I do think that the optimum performance training model is fantastic. It really helps you work with a wide variety of personal training clients. If you were looking to only train in Europe, that bite be a factor. Although I do know that a lot of people have used their National Academy of sports medicine certification in various parts of Europe. I do agree that the NASM is a little bit easier to follow although the 5th edition of Ace has definitely gotten better. It is pricey to find online though. In terms of price for the exam, calculating the price for the textbook that you already have I would say they probably come out about even. I personally like NASM more and the OPT model is definitely part of that reason. So that would be the choice I go with. Good luck with your personal training career. Either one will serve you well!

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