The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialist (NASM PBC) is a unique specialization that will give you the tools to coach physique and bodybuilding athletes. It can also be used to coach any client interested in building muscle and losing fat. 

Training high-level physique athletes is a complex endeavor that requires a lot more know-how than the basic personal training approach. If you want to coach bodybuilders, or you just want to learn the science behind the process, the NASM PBC is the right option for you.

I’ve worked for over 12 years as a fitness professional, and I’ve taken many different personal training certifications. I’ve also used the information I learned in the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialist with many of my own clients who want to prepare for a show or the beach in the summer. 

In this article, I cover: 

  • Content covered in the NASM Physique & Bodybuilding Coach Specialization
  • Exam difficulty and study materials
  • Who is the NASM-PBC certification meant for?
  • Is the NASM Physique Coach worth it?

By the end of this review, you should have a full picture of whether the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization is right for your needs.

If you are still choosing between personal training certifications and want some guidance, take my quiz to figure out which is the best option.

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What is the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialist Certification?

The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization gives you access to the techniques coaches use to help clients achieve their physique goals. Rather than other NASM certifications which are geared towards the general population that just wants to be healthier and fitter, the NASM PBC is a complete bodybuilding coach program.

You learn goal setting, coaching, training programs, and bodybuilding techniques like how to bring up lagging body parts, and improve overall aesthetics.

If you want a career as a bodybuilding coach, this should give you a head start in the game. 

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization

  • Exam cost: $539
  • Study material cost: Included with exam
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: Not known
  • Average completion time: 4-6 weeks

NASM Organization credibility and reputation

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is recognized as a leader in the field of fitness certifications. They are known for their personal training certification as well as their corrective exercise specialization

NASM has certified over 1.5 million fitness professionals worldwide and has working partnerships with some of the biggest gyms and health clubs. Many of the NASM’s programs also come with job guarantees, which is ideal for anyone just starting out in the fitness industry. 

Great for
  • Coaches working with bodybuilders and physique competitors

  • Trainers working with people who want to build an aesthetic look
Not Great for
  • Fitness professionals training general population clients
  • Coaching strength sports 

Is the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist worth it?

The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization is definitely worth it if you are preparing a client for a physique contest or if you want to learn how to step on stage yourself.

This is a serious look into the world of aesthetics with content on how to set up a peak week and manipulate carbs and water for a contest. You could even use this to train someone who wants to get into single digit body numbers for the summer or get in shape prior to a wedding. 

You can also use this course as a good way to help renew your NASM CPT, because it gives you NASM continuing education credits. 

4out of 5

Credibility and Reputation4
Study Materials4
Cost/Value5
Exam Process5

NASM PBC vs Other Specializations

The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization has very few rivals from other established certification providers. 

The only real alternative to the NASM-PBC is ISSA’s Bodybuilding Specialization

You can find a million “bodybuilding programs” online, but none of them currently carry the same weight of an organization like NASM.

NASM’s programs are created by high-level fitness experts with experience in the field. 

They do a good job at separating the research from the “bro science,” so you don’t learn misinformation from poor sources of knowledge.

Having fitness credentials from an organization like the National Academy of Sports Medicine shows that you’re serious when it comes to your education. 

NASM is one of the three biggest fitness certification providers, along with the likes of ISSA and ACE.

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Who is the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization meant for?

The NASM PBC is meant to help personal trainers learn how to coach an athlete preparing for their first physique competition. The Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization could also be used to help a client get to single digit body fat numbers for the summer or for a photo shoot.

This program may also appeal to people who aren’t coaches, but want to take the journey themselves and get ready to look their best for any event. 

The NASM Bodybuilding Specialist is not intended to replace your base CPT. In other words, if you want to work only with general population clients who simply want to get healthier and fitter, then you don’t need the NASM PBC.

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Cost

The NASM PBC typically costs $899, but it’s currently on sale for $539. You can also split the full amount into 11 payments of $47 with $25 down.

Even with the payment options, the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist isn’t an inexpensive purchase by any means. However, it is on par with NASM’s other specializations. You do get a lot of value, but without the sales price, I might think twice about shelling $900 out for a specialization. 

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization review – content coverage

The NASM PBC curriculum has 11 chapters of content, taking you through the fitness knowledge you’ll need to help someone build their physique.

Section 1: Introduction to Physique and Bodybuilding Coach

The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization first gives you an overview of the history of physique competition. Bodybuilding has been around since the Greek civilization, but formal competition didn’t start until the start of last century. 

NASM then describes the different categories of bodybuilding. If you want to coach a competitor, you need to know what class they’re in. The standards are different in “classic physique” than “open bodybuilding.” If you’re coaching a “bikini” competitor, you need to know what look you’re trying to achieve onstage.

Section 2: Physiology, Anatomy, and Biomechanics of Physique Enhancement

This next section goes over the basics of anatomy, body systems and biomechanics and kinesiology.

Then you learn the science behind metabolism, the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy, and how metabolic stress impacts the body. 

If this is your first real exposure to this content, it’s useful to know, but a lot of this content is a review of your personal training certification.

Section 3: Nutrition Principles

Chapter 6 discusses macronutrients, their structure, and function. 

The next chapters discuss micronutrients, hydration, and other supplementation.

You get fundamental nutrition techniques: ways to calculate energy balance and total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). 

The section of supplementation techniques includes both the standard supplements like creatine and beta-alanine, but also content on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

It’s nice to know that NASM doesn’t shy away from the topic of PEDs. You get a frank discussion on the compounds different athletes use and the purposes behind them. NASM tells you the risks involved as well.

Section 4: Body Aesthetics, Fitness, and Nutrition Assessments

Chapter 10 goes into how to perform assessments for physique athletes. You also learn an assortment of physiological, posture, and body composition assessments. 

Again, some of this is review, but NASM does discuss assessments in the context of physique enhancement versus general health.

The Nutrition assessments portion teaches you how to develop healthy eating habits and how to assess a client’s daily intake, which again is similar to what you’d find in their Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC)

Section 5: Exercise Training Principles

Exercise training topics covered include warm-ups, injury prevention, core and resistance training, and cardiovascular exercise.

I’m glad NASM included content regarding how to train around injuries and execute a proper warm-up. These topics will save you a lot of headaches as a personal trainer. In a 2014 study which investigated high level bodybuilders, researchers found that 45% of the participants dealt with injury symptoms. If you train any elite athletes, you need to know how to prevent and deal with the dangers of weight lifting.

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I also think you’ll learn some great weight training exercises to maximize hypertrophy with your clients. Most clients want to build their body even if they won’t admit it, and if you can increase the size and density of their shoulders and arms, they’ll start feeling more confident and want to come back for more gym training sessions.

The NASM-PBC teaches how to build a balanced physique with weights too, which is different from any other NASM fitness credential. 

Cardiovascular conditioning is also taught from a bodybuilding perspective, where cardio is used to fire up your metabolism and burn calories rather than to build endurance for sports.

Section 6: Programming and Coaching Principles

Here, NASM discusses how to motivate and support your athletes through their physique changes. This is where you learn how to coach clients and apply your fitness programming knowledge in the real world. 

You get behavior change principles and physique competition psychological tools. Building an award-winning physique requires extreme discipline, so you need to know how to inspire your clients to stay on the path, even when they’re experiencing diet fatigue prior to a show. 

Then, the NASM bodybuilding certification goes over exercise programming with case study examples to help you with real world situations. 

It’s great that NASM included some real-world examples, but personally, I wish they were a bit more detailed. 

Knowing the proper periodization for clients is integral to helping them through a contest prep. 

In the next chapter, NASM covers nutrition strategies for physique competitors, things like macronutrient targets, nutrient timing, meal prep and reverse dieting. 

In Chapter 18 the NASM PBC tackles how to peak athletes for bodybuilding competitions. This is really the section of the course that differs the most from any of NASM’s other programs. 

Knowing how to build a peak week and manipulate water, carbs, and salt to help someone look their best is one of the most important parts of the bodybuilding sport. Knowing how to peak someone safely is even more important for coaching physique. 

Finally, in the last chapter, NASM covers how to hold onto gains after a competition or peak. It’s so easy for individuals to blow up after spending 12 or 16 weeks dieting down to nothing. 

You can develop serious health problems if you start eating everything in sight, so you need to give your clients a framework for how to maximize the post-competition phase of their year. This can also be a good time to add some serious muscle as your body will be growth sensitive after dropping to extremely low levels of body fat. 

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Exam Prep and Study Materials

At the end of each chapter are quizzers designed to prepare you for the final exam. In addition to the normal textbook content, NASM includes handouts with templates for different exercise programs and meal plans. These are great additional resources.

My only real complaint with the NASM PBC materials is the lack of video content in the student portal. Most of NASM’s other certifications have videos that cover most of the material as part of the study program. While the Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization does have some videos, they’re not as complete as what you get from the NASM Personal Training Certification learning platform.

Personally, I prefer reading textbooks as a learning method, but there are a lot of other people out there with different learning styles. Some people are more visual learners and prefer synthesizing concepts in video format. Maybe in the future NASM can include more videos for people who prefer learning that way. 

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization Requirements

No prerequisites are required for the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization. NASM considers this an advanced program, and recommends that you either have a previous bachelor’s degree in exercise science or a personal training certification, but it’s not necessary. 

This program is designed for people who already have a foundation in exercise knowledge, so I’d recommend beginners start with a CPT before the PBC.

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Salary

Average personal trainer salary in the US is around $67,141. The more clients you can reach, the more income you bring in. Physique athletes are some of the most dedicated and consistent clients I’ve ever worked with. This is a serious group of people who tend not to miss or skip sessions. This means more earnings for you. 

Some of the top IFBB coaches make millions of dollars per year, but you’ve got to start somewhere. One of the other benefits of personal training bodybuilders is that once you help one do well in a competition, everyone else in the lineup will see your good work and want to reach out for a workout with you. 

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Final Exam 

The exam is 100 multiple-choice questions in an open-book format, which you must complete in 90 minutes. You need 70% or higher to pass and you get 3 total test attempts.

Like other NASM programs, you can take the final once you pass each chapter quiz. Everything takes place over the internet from your home, so you don’t have to go anywhere special for the final exam. 

Personally, I found the test middle-of-the-road in terms of difficulty, but I’ve taken many certification tests. I’ve talked to others who took the final and thought it was pretty challenging. The good thing is, you can always use the retests, but I’d recommend making some notes as you complete the course, so you can refer to them later.

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Continuing Education & Recertification

You do not need to recertify this specialization, however, the NASM PBC will give you 1.9 NASM CEUs to help renew your other certifications. 

Other NASM Offerings

NASM has a spectrum of other fitness training certifications and specializations which can help you renew your current personal training certification. 

Each course deals with a different fitness population. If you want to train sports performance, you’d pick the Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES). If you are one of those trainers who want to coach clients who need to lose large amounts of weight, you’d pick the Weight Loss Specialization.

Some of these NASM specializations include:

NASM offers some good packages which put certifications together for a lower price. If you want to get the Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization for a bigger discount, check out either the Bodybuilding Success Bundle or the Ultimate Bodybuilding Coach Bundle.

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Overall Rating

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization
NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization Review 2

The NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialist (NASM PBC) is a unique specialization that will give you the tools to coach physique and bodybuilding athletes. It can also be used to coach any client interested in building muscle and losing fat. 

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 539

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4

Overall, I give the NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Specialization a 4 out of 5. If you want to work with bodybuilders specifically or learn how to peak a client’s physique for an event, this is a good program to check out. If you’re looking to renew your current CPT and want some continuing education units, this would be a good option as well. This program could even appeal to fitness enthusiasts who want to learn how to learn more about improving their own physiques. 

However, if you’re just training general population clients who want to be healthier, maybe drop a few pounds or work on overall strength, then you don’t need the NASM PBC. Most client’s body transformation needs don’t involve getting stage ready. 

It’s only when a client’s fitness goals are a bit more extreme (i.e. single digit body fat or striated glutes and hamstrings) that you’ll want to rely on the Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization.  

NASM Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Specialization FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do you become a physique coach?

To become a bodybuilding coach, you need to know how to help clients build a balanced aesthetic package, and how to prepare them for a competition. You can learn this through taking a course like the NASM-PBC, through trial and error, or other forms of mentorship. Coaches need to establish trust with their clients above all else, which means you need the right education or, at the very least, a proven track record of results with previous actual clients. 

How much does a physique coach cost?

Pricing for physique coaching varies from coach to coach. There are different payment structures as well. You might pay a coach $50-$200 per session, or a one-time fee for bodybuilding prep for a show. This could be between $500 and several thousand depending on the coach’s level of involvement.

Who is the best bodybuilding coach in the world?

If you use IFBB results to judge the best bodybuilding coaches in the industry, a few of the best bodybuilding coaches would be Hany Rambod, Chris Aceto, Milos Sarcev, and Chad Nicholls. 

References

  1. salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/personal-trainer-salary
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24886919/#:~:text=The%20overall%20injury%20rate%20was,lumbar%20spine%20and%20knee%20regions.

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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