Hey everybody, and welcome to PT Pioneer.

My name is Tyler, and I’ll guide you through the intricate world of professional fitness.

I also highly recommend that you take the quiz and find out which bodybuilding certification is best for your career goals.

What bodybuilding certification is right for you?

We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.

This quiz is something I developed to provide you some insight on which cert would be your best bet based on your variables.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the topic at hand, which in this case, is the Best Bodybuilding Coach Certification you can catch to become an excellent coach.

To get you up to speed, I’ll be touching on the following points:

  • About bodybuilding
  • Best bodybuilding certifications
  • Accreditation
  • Cost
  • Study materials

Let’s get into it ASAP!

The Best Bodybuilding Coach Certification in [year] 6

What Is “Bodybuilding”

Bodybuilding is a competitive physical activity that differs from most other sports.

That’s because bodybuilding is based on aesthetic conditions rather than athletic performance.

However, that should not diminish the athleticism and physicality that goes into bodybuilding.

To achieve an optimal physique, a very strict and precise weight training program needs to be developed and executed, and a heavy emphasis on stringent nutritional protocols.

With that being said, the ultimate mark of success is physical appearance.

Bodybuilding competitors are judged on their appearance through several poses where judges look at the size, shape, leanness, and adeptness with bodybuilding technique.

If you want the full scoop on what a bodybuilding program is about, I’ve gone into detail in a separate article.

How to Become a Bodybuilding Coach

To become a successful bodybuilding coach, you will need to have a handle on several things besides just being certified.

In fact, and even though this article is all about certifications, you don’t need a cert to be a bodybuilding coach.

So why am I speaking about certifications?

Well, there’s a difference between unnecessary and non-beneficial.

PT Pioneer is about providing maximum benefits, which means I’m all for it even if something isn’t essential, as long as it can boost your career.

With that said, let’s look at five key steps in becoming a successful bodybuilding coach.

Step 1: Know How To Build Muscle

To be a bodybuilding coach, you’ll need to know how to build a body, ideally through the experience of building your own body.

Building muscle in bodybuilding follows some very standard principles regarding exercise and nutrition, which most fitness professionals are familiar with.

The main key for exercise is resistance training, a fine balance between strength and hypertrophy training.

Nutrition plays a huge role, if not the main, in achieving success in bodybuilding.

So I would suggest you get as clued up as possible on nutrition and sports nutrition before tackling the role of bodybuilding coaching.

If you have a background in participating and even competing in bodybuilding, that’s a huge bonus; if not, you’ll have your work cut out from you when it comes to an understanding the correct protocols for exercise and nutrition.

Therefore, I suggest obtaining a personal trainer certification before diving into bodybuilding. As a coach, you’re essentially a personal bodybuilding trainer.

If you want to know which PT certs are the best for you, check out this article on the best certified personal trainer certifications in 2021.

Step 2: Determine Your Prerequisites

It would be best if you met the prerequisites to be allowed entry into a certification program.

For most certifications, including the ones I will be discussing here, all you need is to be at least 18 years old, have a valid high school diploma or equivalent, and ensure you have current First Aid, CPR, and AED certs.

But why do you need first aid certifications?

Well, fitness instruction brings some risk, and you must be prepared to be the first line of support should one of your clients experience an accident or medical emergency.

It’s also necessary to get the correct insurance coverage and protect yourself and your clients in the event of an incident.

Step 3: Find the Best Powerlifting Certification for YOU

Now that you’ve met all preliminary criteria, it’s time to choose a cert and get certified.

I’ll look at four certifications, which we’ll be going into detail on throughout the article.

Those are:

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  • ISSA BBS
  • IAFS UBB
  • IFBB Academy
  • ASFA CBTC

Your choice will be influenced by various factors and aspects such as cost, industry recognition accreditation, etc….…

Step 4: Prepare for Your Certification Exam & Pass!

Once you’ve chosen and enrolled in your preferred fitness trainer program, it’s time to get busy.

Your study process is only as good as the materials you have, a topic I’ll discuss in more detail.

Studying effectively is as much about having the right material to study as it is about having the right study structure. You may prefer home study or study at your own pace.

Manage your time, schedule your studies, and break down key units and concepts into chunks making the knowledge easier to retain.

From there, it’s time to nail the final assessment, which may come in different forms. In this case, we’re dealing with written, multiple-choice exams.

Knowing what the exam will look like beforehand lets you practice your exam-taking approach.

Should you fail your first attempt, many exams allow a retest with a nominal fee or completely free.

Step 5: Start Working with Bodybuilding Athletes

Once you’re certified and gotten all your credentials lined up, it’s time to take on the role of bodybuilding coach.

Unlike many other coaching and instructor careers, bodybuilding relies predominantly on who you know and what you can prove.

For instance, if entering the strength and conditioning field, you would search for jobs through professional recruitment platforms and job classifieds for sports performance specialists.

Bodybuilding is a bit different; many coaches attain their roles through word of mouth, reputation in the game, and even social media presence.

It’s a community-based environment with a lot of culture and tradition that goes into it.

That means becoming a trusted coach is as much about having the right credentials as it is about having a personal connection to relevant community members.

Best Bodybuilding Certifications

Now that you know the five steps to success, let’s look at the training certifications underpinning that success.

ISSA BBS

The International Sports Sciences Association, or ISSA, is a top-tier certifying agency and institution in fitness.

They are in the same league as industry juggernauts like NASM, ACSM, NSCA, and ACE.

They have administrated certifications for over three decades, cementing themselves as a top name in fitness credentials.

ISSA also has one of the most robust varieties of specializations in fitness credentials, allowing trainers from even the most obscure fields of fitness to certify.

That brings us to their bodybuilding training course or BBS (bodybuilding specialist).

This certification bears all the hallmarks of a good ISSA program and is endorsed by Kai Greene, one of the world’s most successful bodybuilders.

IAFS UBB

The International Association of Fitness Science was founded on functional exercise, weight loss, basic nutrition, and understanding basic human body types.

When fine-tuned, these key aspects lead to success in bodybuilding.

The curriculum behind IAFS UBB is endorsed and approved by the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding), making it a credible program for anyone looking to work with pro-card physique athletes.

IFBB Academy

The International Federation of Bodybuilding was founded in 1946, making it the oldest institution on this list.

As you will already know, the IFBB is not a certifying agency but, rather, the governing body of bodybuilding globally.

Because of that, one can assume that whatever program they offer will be geared towards the best possible skills and results in bodybuilding coaching.

We’ll have to see how true that holds. 

ASFA CBTC

The American Sports and Fitness Association hasn’t been in the game for that long.

They focus on providing credentials through their online platform, mainly aimed at seasoned professionals wishing to expand their credentials.

They also have a wide variety of specialist certifications, of which online bodybuilding trainer is one helping bodybuilding coaches online gain their credentials.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a certification’s certification.

It’s a seal of approval that tells you whether or not a certification has cleared all the required criteria.

These criteria typically look at how the education is administered and the quality and relevance of the course content.

In fitness credentialing, you’re mainly looking for one of two accreditation seals.

Those are NCCA and DEAC.

There are more, but when it comes to the fitness industry in the US, those are the ones to get your foot in the door.

The NCCA stands for the National Commission on Certifying Agencies.

It is responsible for accrediting the majority of cert agencies in America.

DEAC stands for Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

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As the name suggests, they are the leaders in approving remote learning institutions.

It is believed that DEAC will feature more prominently as education takes on a more online, remote approach.

With that said, let’s look at which accreditation each certification comes with.

CertificationAccreditation
ISSA BBSDEAC
IAFS UBBIFBB
IFBB AcademyIFBB
ASFA CBTCNONE

The table shows that ISSA is the only agency accredited by a traditional accrediting commission.

Both IAFS and IFBB are endorsed and approved by the IFBB, which, while it isn’t a traditional accrediting commission, is very relevant when specifically dealing with bodybuilding.

ASFA is a non-accredited institute, largely because it is a continuing education platform and not a foundational entry into health and fitness.

Accreditation and reputable approval are important in knowing that your certification meets all the recommendations and allows you to avoid illegitimate cash grabs and scams.

Keep your eyes peeled for accreditation no matter what certification you’re interested in trying out.

Study Materials Rating

In step 4 of my keys to being a successful bodybuilding instructor, I spoke about acing your exam using good study materials.

And how good those materials are is of major importance.

When it comes to studying materials, I generally lookout for the following:

  • Course textbook
  • study guide

That’s why we will look at each certification’s study materials and rate them out of 10 based on the knowledge and expectations I’ve cultivated through years of engaging with various study materials.

CertificationStudy Material Rating (out of 10)
ISSA BBS9
IAFS UBB9
IFBB Academy7
ASFA CBTC6

Based on my review of all the materials, and some anecdotal accounts I gathered, I can say ISSA and IAFS have the most comprehensive options.

ISSA is well known for its no-nonsense study suites, which only come in one package option, contrary to the multi-package norm from most other cert agencies.

What ISSA lacks in variety, they make up for in precise, relevant, and essential materials, easy to navigate and learn from.

IAFS also comes with a single package, one which includes a robust offering of study materials

Besides the great materials on offer, I rate ISSA and IAFS so highly because they include career support resources as part of their packages.

It’s one thing to have a good set of resources to help you ace your exam, but after that, getting your foot in the industry is the real trial.

By providing career support, I rate ISSA and IAFS 9/10.

You would think that the IFBB cert would be the winner here, but based on what I experienced, their study materials are rather lackluster, comprising mainly of a collection of unit-relevant PDF files.

Finally, we have ASFA, whose study packages leave something to be desired based on former candidates’ experience.

Bodybuilding Certification Cost

When selecting a certification program, the cost is probably one of the main considerations.

Affordability will come into play for most, not just based on how much you can fork out but also on the program’s value vs. its price.

That’s why I’ll rate the value for money on each cert against the value of its study packages.

First, let’s look at the cost breakdowns for each cert.

CertificationCost of certification/qualification
ISSA BBS$799.00
IAFS UBB$850.00
IFBB Academy$1000.00
ASFA CBTC$299.00

IFBB comes in as the most expensive certification at $1000.00.

Given that their study package is rated poorly by my standards, it’s safe to suggest that IFBB loses the price war.

ASFA is the cheapest, but its pricing is a bit of an anomaly.

Firstly, you only pay if you pass, and lastly, there are three pricing options, with the one I included being the most expensive.

The cheapest one, which is $99.00, offers you a valid certification for only one year before you need recertification.

The pricer $299 option guarantees a lifetime certification.

Judging from many reviews, the cert’s low price is a testament to the quality, with some citing irregularities with student portal access.

Despite being the cheapest, I don’t rate ASFA that high.

That leaves us with ISSA and IAFS.

Both are equally regarded in my books regarding the quality of materials, but ISSA manages to edge IAFS out by $50, making it the winner of the price war.

The moral of the story is price according to quality.

Popularity and Recognition Rating

For the last category in this review, I’d like to look at a metric that is a little arbitrary and not as quantitative as the other factors we’ve dealt with, and that’s popularity and recognition.

To set up an idea of popularity and recognition, I will rate each cert out of 10, with ten being the highest and zero being the worst.

Popularity and recognition might seem like they have more to do with vanity than they have to do with practical value.

However, your credentials’ popularity plays a huge role in your career prospects regarding education and qualifications.

Take, for example, Ivy League colleges such as Stanford and Yale.

The prestige and notoriety attached to these institutions are enough to get any graduate to the front of any line.

The same is true for fitness certifications, although, in the case of bodybuilding certs, things are a bit more complicated first; let’s look at the rating figures.

CertificationPopularity and Recognition Rating (out of 10)
ISSA BBS9
IAFS UBB7
IFBB Academy10
ASFA CBTC7

As you can see, IFBB Academy is the most popular and recognized out of this lot.

So what’s complicated?

The complication lies in the fact that, when it comes to certifying agencies, ISSA is by far the most popular, so it would technically win this challenge.

However, because bodybuilding is such a niche, the most popular brand and organization in the sport would be the governing body itself.

That’s why in the world f bodybuilding credentials, IFBB is the most popular name and will grant you more favor within the sport it governs.

I can almost imagine that having an IFBB Academy cert would grant you special favor within the bodybuilding community.

Certification Takeaway

So now it’s time to crown our overall winner based on all the criteria we’ve evaluated.

In the last place, we have ASFA CBTC.

Based on user reviews, this unaccredited certifying agency offers a substandard experience compared to some of the more established certifying agencies.

ASFA does, however, offer the most affordable option if the price is your only real concern.

Next, we have IFBB Academy taking third place.

The structuring and administration of the cert fall below my standards, but the influence and relevance of a cert offered by the sport’s governing body make it an attractive option.

IFBB Academy would have made it higher if it wasn’t for the exorbitant price tag.

And in a tie for first place, ISSA and IAFS present equally compelling reasons why you should take their bodybuilding certs.

ISSA is a fitness industry stalwart and one of the health and fitness credentialling leaders. 

One of the world’s most prominent bodybuilders, Kai Greene, also endorsed their bodybuilding course.

IAFS, while not as well recognized as ISSA, sports a comprehensive curriculum with a robust study package, priced a bit lower than ISSA, along with a full IFBB approval.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do you become a certified bodybuilding coach?

Bodybuilders require an astute and precise knowledge of resistance training, body recomposition, and nutrition coach practice.

With that being the case, your success as a certified bodybuilding coach means you have been certified in these areas and have a grasp on how to apply them practically.

You can achieve this through several qualifications, such as personal training and nutrition coaching; however, you can also consolidate all those concepts and earn a bodybuilding certification.

In this article, you’ll find four options for bodybuilding credentials to help you on your way.

What certification is the best?

Based on my analysis and opinion, ISSA and IAFS offer the best bodybuilding coaching programs.

They have the best balance of price, depth of study package, and industry recognition.

While I highly recommend these, your choice is subjective and depends on several factors.

These factors include budget, location, previous experience, and current qualifications.

Some bodybuilding coaches don’t even have a certification to their name, but by their experience and reputation, they can leverage themselves as competent coaches.

Is there a difference between a personal trainer (CPT)and a bodybuilding coach?

A personal trainer is a fitness instructor with a broad skill set that can be applied to some extent toward most fitness goals.

A bodybuilding coach is a specialist whose practice focuses on hypertrophy and body recomposition.

While the concepts of hypertrophy and body recomp are recognized in a typical personal training career, they are not as honed in and meticulous as they would be when applied to bodybuilding.

What are the benefits of getting a fitness certification?

Getting any fitness certification can benefit you as a trainer in several ways.

The most fundamental way is through the education and knowledge you will receive.

By certifying, you will learn so much based on science and practical skills regarding human health and fitness.

You will also earn credentials that will validate and authenticate your position in the industry, allowing you to practice as a trustworthy professional.

A fitness certification is also important in several administrative instances such as insurance, legal, and business establishment.

References

  1. “American Sport and Fitness Association: Is this a good place to get a certification?” IDEA Fitness Connect, https://www.ideafit.com/answers/american-sport-and-fitness-association-is-this-a-good-place-to-get-a-certification/.
  2. “International Association for Fitness Science (IAFS) Certification.” IAFS Certification, https://iafscertification.com/.
  3. “Online Course: Master Bodybuilding & Fitness Degree.” IFBB Academy, https://ifbb-academy.com/product/online-course-master-bodybuilding-fitness-degree/.
  4. “Competition Bodybuilding Trainer Certification.” American Sport and Fitness Association, https://www.americansportandfitness.com/products/competition-bodybuilding-trainer-certification.
  5. “Strength and Conditioning Coach Salary.” Salary.com, https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/strength-and-conditioning-coach-salary.
  6. “Certified Strength Coach.” National Council on Strength & Fitness, https://www.ncsf.org/strength-coach/?irclickid=1koVDbSsJxyLUmNw9bwsZ0byUkBW7eXHJ0y83Q0&irgwc=1.
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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