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:
- CPT and much more…
I aim 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 how 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.
What NASM certification is right for you?
We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.
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 creates epic study materials for training, dramatically reducing your overall study time and boasting a 99% exam pass rate.
The NASM CPT is at the top of the fitness industry regarding 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 divided 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 other companies’ offerings, is established as the gold standard when it comes to personal training, and it is a big reason 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 really help make the NASM shine.
What are the NASM Specializations?
NASM specialization certifications are meant for personal trainers already certified through a general CPT certification and looking to specialize in one area or another.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine(NASM) certifications vary in many ways. At the same time, some are focused on senior fitness professionals, while others, like the group fitness certification, are focused on group personal training.
I will compare 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)
The NASM PES certification is a fantastic option if you want to increase your knowledge of sports performance or plan 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 plan 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 who have performance-based goals.
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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 and the Olympic weightlifting chapter.
Here is a link to my full PES review.
Check out the epic PES study materials 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)
The NASM CES certification is probably the most popular and 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.
Who is the NASM CES for?
In short, the CES is to help clients who 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 progressing their clients through a strength routine without getting injured.
The truth is that if your client has various muscular imbalances and injury is lurking in the future.
That is why assessing these muscular imbalances is essential 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.
Check out the epic CES study materials at Trainer Academy that will cut your study time in half.
The CES certification can help you get exercise training or physiologist jobs.
I have my free NASM corrective exercise specialist study guide, which you should check out here.
How much does the NASM CES cost?
Like the PES certification, the CES also has three separate packages to purchase.
The self-study package costs $559.
The premium self-study costs $679, worth the all-inclusive package costs $799.
The pricing scale is the same.
Check out the current price and more info for the NASM CES here.
Certified Nutrition Coach (CNS)
The NASM CNC certification is the third most popular advanced certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
This is a fantastic option if you want to create a specialized nutrition program for your client.
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 about 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 much about protein, fats, and carbohydrates before, get ready to have your mind blown.
Being a nutrition expert also allows you to upsell your nutrition services to your existing personal training clients.
This is a fantastic way to earn a few extra dollars in addition to your training sessions.
Check out my complete CNC review.
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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 regular specials or promos, 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)
A weight-loss specialist certification is a popular option for a NASM specialization.
This is especially true if you work with many overweight and obese clients.
And since approximately 70% of our clients aim to lose weight, it makes sense to become a specialist, right? Well, yes, and no.
We have 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)
The rate of childhood obesity has been rising over the past couple of decades.
Children no longer play during recess, and physical education has gone down the trash chute.
Teaching physical education to kids is extremely important in instilling 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 who is purely working with youth clients.
Overall this is a tiny market for personal trainers.
Similar to the PES certification, it is best if you are in a unique niche for your clients; your money would be better spent on another accreditation.
You also probably learned much 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)
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 clients.
Similar to the other specializations from NASM, much 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 have a more in-depth chapter on this topic.
How much does the NASM WFS cost?
Currently, the WFS costs $299.
Check out the NASM WFS here.
Mixed Martial Arts Specialist Certification (MMAS)
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.
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)
Are your clients trying to become the next Tiger Woods? With this GFS, you will learn a ton about how to train explicitly for this prestigious sport.
Who is the GFS meant for?
You guessed it, this certification is meant for people that train many golf players.
There is a similar theme going on in this article.
If you are not in a market with many 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 train 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)
The senior fitness specialist is a decent certification if you work with elderly individuals.
Who is the SFS meant for?
Since the baby boomer generation is entering 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.
Like every other personal training client, corrective exercise must be addressed before anything.
That is what you should specialize in instead of before the SFS.
After completing the CES, you can consider going this route to specialize further.
How much does the SFS cost?
The senior fitness specialist currently costs $199.
Check out the NASM SFS here.
What Is Kinesiology?
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 certifications 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’s salary or kinesiology salary range depends on the area of specialization and years of experience.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s about it for my NASM specialization certifications article.
I hope you got some good value out of it and can now decide which certification is right for you.
You should check out my article on how to become a personal trainer if you are starting off.
Suppose you are looking to go into the personal training business. In that case, I advise you to take a personal trainer program and attend live workshops 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 CNC, Make sure to check out Trainer Academy for great study materials
- Check out the NASM PES right here
- Check out the NASM CES right here
- Check out the NASM CNC right here
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 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 comment below, and I will get back to you ASAP with a response.
Until next time everyone, keep up with the solid training!