Thinking of becoming NASM-certified and not sure which of the courses to start with?
Take advantage of my 10+ years of experience as I compare the following certs:
My aim is to help you discover your best-suited cert at the end.
Let’s get started without much ado!
Introduction to NASM certifications
Welcome to the ultimate guide on NASM certifications.
Whether you are looking to advance your credentials as a personal trainer or are merely looking for some continuing education credits, the certifications in this article will improve your knowledge.
Before we go straight to NASM certifications reviews, the question of “what personal trainer certificate is most respected” often arises when discussing personal training certifications or fitness certifications.
Choosing a NASM specialization certification can be difficult if you don’t know which way you want your personal training career to go.
To be NASM certified, you must obtain one of the personal trainer certification programs that they offer.
No matter the NASM exam you choose, using the NASM study guide for the NASM personal training certification will definitely help you pass.
This also guarantees you get a higher PT salary.
There are various options to choose from, the goal of this guide is to help you pick which one is right for you.
Make sure to take the quiz to get a good idea of which certification is right for you.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours).
Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.
Make sure to check out Trainer Academy as well.
The team over there creates epic study materials for training, which will dramatically reduce your overall study time, and boast a 99% exam pass rate.
The NASM CPT is at the top of the fitness industry as far as personal training certifications.
This certification is well-renowned for its focus on corrective exercise and the use of the OPT model of training that NASM teaches.
The OPT or Optimum Performance Training model is what NASM believes to be the ideal way to administer evidence-based exercise protocols as a fitness professional.
It is broken down into three levels, each subdivided into five distinct phases.
The OPT model looks like this:
- Level 1: Stabilization
- Phase 1: Stabilization Endurance
- Level 2: Strength
- Phase 2: Strength endurance
- Phase 3: Muscular development
- Phase 4: Maximal strength
- Level 3: Power
- Phase 5: Power
This model, while similar to the offerings of other companies, is established as the gold standard when it comes to personal training, and it is a big reason to why NASM is so loved.
Typically, personal trainers will seek to add to their personal training business by adding specializations, which will receive the majority of focus in this article.
If you would like to check out the price for the NASM CPT, check it out here.
We also offer an excellent free study guide for this certification here.
But, let’s look into the specializations, which is what really helps to make the NASM shine.
What are the NASM Specializations?
In this first section, I will introduce you to all the NASM specializations just before we proceed with the reviews.
NASM specialization certifications are meant for personal trainers that are already certified through a general CPT certification and are looking to specialize in one area or another.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine(NASM) certifications vary in many ways, while some are focused on senior fitness professionals, others like the group fitness certification are focused on group personal training.
I will be comparing some of NASM’s most popular certifications such as the PES vs CES vs CNC. Overall, these are the most popular certifications from NASM.
I will also go over the WLS, YES, WFS, MMAS, GFS, and SFS as well.
I know all these acronyms might seem confusing right now but keep reading to find out what each certification is all about.
Performance enhancement specialist certification (PES)
Is the NASM-PES right for you, or will you consider a different certification?
Let’s find out!
The NASM PES certification is a fantastic option if you would like to increase your knowledge of sports performance or are planning on working with athletes.
Who is the PES meant for?
Something to keep in mind is that this certification is for people trying to reach peak performance.
It is most suited for people working with high school, college or professional athletes.
If you are planning on training the average Joe American, there are other things they need to focus on rather than peak performance training.
Now that you have this in mind, the PES does teach some fantastic fitness assessments that are sport-specific.
These assessments can help you with clients that have performance-based goals.
You will learn a ton about explosiveness/power, agility, and speed.
If you play any sport on the side from personal training, these will help your training significantly.
My favorite chapters were the plyometrics chapter as well as the Olympic weightlifting chapter.
Here is a link to my full PES review.
Make sure to check out the epic PES study materials over at Trainer Academy that will cut your study time in half.
I have my own free NASM PES study guide and other study materials that you can check out here.
How much does the NASM PES cost?
Currently, there are three separate packages available for the PES.
The self-study option is $559.
The premium self-study is $679, and the all-inclusive package is $799.
Check out the current price and more info for the NASM PES here.
Trainer Academy also makes some excellent study materials, like the NASM PES here.
Corrective exercise specialist certification (CES)
Is corrective exercise your passion?
Then check out the CES specialization in this section.
The NASM CES certification is probably the most popular as well as the most useful specialization certification from NASM.
The general NASM CPT certification leads right into the CES certification with its strong emphasis on stabilization and corrective exercise.
The CES is a very common second step for advanced certification.
In short, the CES is to help clients that have pain.
How many clients have pain? Well basically all of them! This is what makes CES such a valuable and helpful certification for personal trainers.
The information you learn applies to nearly every single one of your clients.
In the CES, you learn how to identify the sources of pain/imbalances through various assessments.
Based on these assessments, you can then deploy a corrective exercise routine to fix these imbalances.
One of the most significant troubles personal trainers have is with progressing their clients through a strength routine without them getting injured.
The truth is that if your client has various muscular imbalances, and injury is lurking in the future.
That is why it’s essential to assess these muscular imbalances before moving on to more difficult strength-building for athletic tasks.
You will become an expert on mobility, flexibility, muscular imbalances, and how to recognize and fix them.
For this reason, it’s one of the most respected certifications in the field.
Don’t think this will be an easy one though; the test is by far the hardest of all of these specialization certifications. Here is a link to my full CES review.
Make sure to check out the epic CES study materials over at Trainer Academy that will cut your study time in half.
The CES certification can help you get exercise training jobs or exercise physiologist jobs
I have my own free NASM corrective exercise specialist study guide that you should check out here.
How much does the NASM CES cost?
Similar to the PES certification, the CES also has three separate packages that can be purchased.
The self-study package costs $559.
The premium self-study cost $679 worth the all-inclusive package cost $799.
The pricing scale is the same.
Check out the current price and more info for the NASM CES here.
Also, for premium study materials, check Trainer Academy’s MVP study package here.
Certified Nutrition Coach (CNS)
Nutrition coaches are a vital part of the fitness world today.
This section will tell you more about the specialization.
The NASM CNC certification is the third most popular advanced certification from the National Academy of sports medicine.
If you want to create a specialized nutrition program for your client, this is a fantastic option.
Who is the CNC meant for?
Similar to the CES, the CNC can be used by practically every single personal trainer.
It might be more useful than the CES because every client has nutritional needs that should be met.
Although it’s widely known that personal trainers already give nutritional advice to their clients, this nutrition advice might not be spot on or be the best option for a particular client.
If you ask two separate personal trainers on what type of diet they think is best, you will most likely get entirely different answers.
The NASM CNC standardizes what you should know and be telling clients.
If you thought you knew a lot about protein, fats, and carbohydrates before, get ready to have your mind blown.
Being an expert in nutrition also gives you the ability to upsell your nutrition services to your already existing personal training clients.
This is a fantastic way to earn a few extra dollars in addition to your training sessions.
Check out my CNC complete review.
Also, if you’d like to check out our free study guide, here it is.
How much does the CNC cost?
Unlike the PES and CES, there is only one purchase option for this nutrition specialization.
Aside from any specials or promos that happen regularly, NASM CNC costs a standard $899 one-time payment.
Check out current info and pricing for the NASM CNC right here.
Trainer Academy also offers premium study materials for the NASM CNC here.
Weight loss specialist certification (WLS)
Interesting so far; right? Let’s see a few more of these specialized certifications.
The weight-loss specialist certification is a popular option for a NASM specialization.
This is especially true if you are working with lots of overweight and obese clients.
And since approximately 70% of our clients have a goal of losing weight, it makes sense to become a specialist right? Well yes, and no.
We already learned a lot about thermodynamics and body composition.
Although some additional chapters have information on weight loss, they may not be worth how much the certification costs.
I would say only go for the certification if you are working with obese clients and you want that extra edge when it comes to helping them with their body composition.
If this is not you, your money would be better spent on something like the CES or CNC.
Here’s a link to my WLS review.
How much does the WLS cost?
Currently, the NASM weight loss specialist certification costs $499.
Check out more info on the NASM WLS here.
Youth exercise specialist certification (YES)
YES; a certification focused at the young and agile is exactly what we will be looking at in this section.
The rate of childhood obesity has been rising over the past couple of decades.
Children don’t typically play during recess anymore, and physical education has gone down the trash chute.
Teaching physical education to kids is extremely important in installing good fitness habits and stopping obesity, diabetes, and dozens of other health problems before they can gain traction.
Who is the YES meant for?
I recommend the NASM YES for anyone that is purely working with youth clients.
Overall this is a tiny market for personal trainers.
Similar to the PES certification, it best if you are in a unique niche for your clients, your money would be better spent on another accreditation.
You also probably learned a lot of the same information in your general CPT certification.
The general NASM CPT has a dedicated section towards youth training in Chapter 16 of their manual.
A lot of the same information can be found in this section.
How much does the NASM YES cost?
Currently, the YES certification will cost you $199.
Check out the NASM YES here.
Women’s fitness specialist certification (WFS)
The fitness needs of women and men are not exactly the same, so what is different?
Find out in this section.
Overall, women have slightly different fitness needs than men do.
Who is the NASM WFS certification meant for?
I would only recommend the WFS if you only work with female client’s.
Similar to the other specializations from NASM, a lot of the same information is found in the general CPT certification textbook.
On the other hand, if you purely work with women and want to market yourself to that specific market, the WFS is not a bad option.
This is especially true if you are trying to work with pre-or postnatal women as they do have a more in-depth chapter on this topic in particular.
How much does the NASM WFS cost?
Currently, the WFS costs $299.
Check out the NASM WFS here.
Mixed martial arts specialist certification (MMAS)
This section is about becoming an MMA Personal trainer.
It is tough, so muscle-up!
Similar to the NASM PES certification, this is a very niche certification.
Although it is pretty badass to be able to teach ninja training.
You will learn how to condition individuals for MMA fighting specifically.
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Who is the MMAS certification meant for?
If you have clients that mainly want to get started in mixed martial arts, then the certification is for you.
Once again, this is a very very small market overall.
This could be for you if you want to market yourself as an MMA trainer or if you are working in a boxing gymnasium.
How much does the MMAS certification cost?
The current price of the MMAS is $299.
Check out the NASM MMAS here.
Golf fitness specialist certification (GFS)
Looking to help the next “Tiger Woods” get back to fitness?
You absolutely can; check out this segment below!
Are your clients trying to become the next Tiger Woods? With this GFS you will learn a ton about how to trained explicitly for this prestigious sport.
Who is the GFS meant for?
You guessed it, this certification is meant for people that train a lot of golf players.
There is a similar theme going on in this article.
If you are not in a market that has a lot of golf players, this is probably not where you should be shelling out your cash.
Although you can learn some specific golf training principles, I would suggest the PES over the certification because there is much more information in it that can help you trained a wide variety of athletes, not just golfers.
If on the other hand you only intend to train golfers, check the certification out.
You can check out my full GFS review here.
How much does the GFS cost?
The golf fitness specialization certification currently costs $199.
Check out more info and the current price for the NASM GFS.
Senior fitness specialist certification (SFS)
If you intend to work with senior citizens, then pay attention to this section.
The senior fitness specialist is a decent certification if you’re purely working with elderly individuals.
Who is the SFS meant for?
Since the baby boomer generation is all entering they the senior stage of life, this certification is useful.
Overall this is a huge market for personal trainers.
Not only do senior citizens need training more than younger individuals, but they also have the capital to pay for training.
I cannot recommend this certification over the CES certification though.
Just like every other client of personal training, corrective exercise needs to be addressed before anything.
That is what you should specialize in instead of before the SFS.
After the CES is completed, you can consider going this route to further specialize.
How much does the SFS cost?
The senior fitness specialist currently costs $199.
Check out the NASM SFS here.
What Is Kinesiology?
In this bonus section, I will address Kinesiology.
Do you really require the degree to find a job in the fitness world?
Kinesiology is the study of information about the state of health of all body systems and organs.
Kinesiology addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological dynamic principles and mechanisms of movement.
Kinesiology jobs, exercise science jobs, exercise physiologist jobs and health coach certification are all careers in sports medicine.
Kinesiology careers include:
- Registered Kinesiologist jobs
- Physical trainer jobs
- Health club director jobs
- Fitness consultant jobs
- Strength & conditioning jobs
- Athletic injury prevention & rehabilitation jobs
A personal trainer salary or kinesiology salary range depends on the area of specialization and years of experience.
You asked for it, and there you have it!
All you need to know about NASM certifications is now at arm’s length.
I’ve detailed some very important info in this concluding section that you can’t afford to miss.
The pleasure is mine!
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s about it for my NASM specialization certifications article.
I hope you guys got some good value out of it and can now make an educated decision on which certification is right for you.
You should check out my article on how to become a personal trainer if you are just starting off.
If you are looking to go into the personal training business, I advise you to take a personal trainer program and attend live workshops so as to leverage the experience of others who have been in the business for much longer.
The certifications that I recommend the most are the CES and CNC certifications because the information you will learn will apply to practically every client that you train.
If you are looking for premium study materials for the CES, PES, and the CNC, Make sure to check out Trainer Academy for great study materials
The honorable mention is the NASM PES certification because it has a ton of valuable information and will help you be a super badass athletic trainer.
It only does not have as large of a market as the CNC and CES certifications do.
The other certifications should only be pursued if that is your primary market for clients.
If you only work with women, the WFS is a decent option.
If you just are working with overweight individuals, the weight loss specialist certification is something I recommend.
The OPT model or Optimum Performance Training model is NASM’s way of helping students stay in shape as they progress in their NASM personal training.
Now let’s turn this conversation over to you guys.
Which specialization certifications from NASM do you guys like the most?
What did you find to be the most valuable for your advancing personal training career?
If you have any other questions, please leave me a comment down below, and I will get back to you ASAP with a response
Until next time everyone, keep up with the solid training!