NASM PES review. Tyler Read holds the NASM performance enhancement specialist textbook and reviews the NASM performance enhancement specialist

Welcome to my review of the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist program based on taking and passing the NASM PES exam, along with my knowledge as a fitness professional for over a decade.

Our PTPioneer team includes several trainers certified through NASM, ACE, NSCA, ISSA, and the other main organizations and we have combed through the data on the NASM PES to give you the ultimate review of this specialization.

To help us on this mission, I touch on the following:

  • Organization info: pricing, packages, prerequisites
  • Program and textbook quality
  • How does the NASM PES compare to other performance specializations?

For additional insight and advice on the best personal training certifications, I suggest you take the quiz to figure out the best cert for you.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

Alright, let’s dive in to the article!

What is the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist?

Board with letters spelling out "what is the nasm pes" next to the nasm textbook for performance enhancement

The NASM Performance Enhancement Specialization from NASM, is geared towards teaching exercise professionals how to train athletic performance in both general population clients and athletes alike.

In this program you learn how to improve speed, strength, agility and quickness in clients at a high level. Bonus content includes weight room maintenance and management, and football, baseball, and basketball in various lectures. 

This is the NASM equivalent to the NSCA CSCS and it emphasizes strength and conditioning principles. 

NASM PES General Information

  • Exam cost: $699.00 before discounts
  • Study material cost: INCLUDED
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Average completion time: 3 to 9 months

NASM credibility and reputation

The National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM, is a certifying agency in the health and fitness field.

Established in 1987, it has become one of the foremost authorities and educational institutions in fitness, offering what some consider the best personal trainer certification.

NASM’s popularity is prominent and far-reaching, often cited as the most popular certifying agency based on numerous relevant metrics and Google trends.


It is, without a doubt, a gold standard certification with a global reputation.

NASM also acquired AFAA, the Athletics and Fitness Association of America.

This brings a major certifying agency under the umbrella of NASM and, in the process, consolidates a wealth of resources and influence for better educational products.

NASM occupies a niche in the corrective exercise specialist field; that is to say, their training methodologies, as indicated in the curriculum, are geared towards exercise principles that assist in correcting imbalance and deviation.

This is exemplified in the OPT model, short for Optimum Performance Training.

This model permeates through all of NASM’s certification programs, including the NASM specialty certifications.

As a specialization in performance enhancement would entail, we can safely assume that the principles and ethos ingrained in the OPT model are fully displayed.

But enough speculation and assumption, let’s actually find out what this performance enhancement program brings to the table for a student.

Is the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist worth it?

is the nasm pes certification worth it. Tyler holds up NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist Textbook and decides if the NASM CES makes sense for his personal training career

Yes, the NASM PES is worth it for those trainers looking to learn more of the details behind sports performance training.

If you want to earn more as a trainer and learn more comprehensive strength and conditioning tools than you would learn from the NASM CPT, this is the specialization for you.

This is a very thorough course which also comes in at a reasonable price compared to some of the other strength and conditioning certifications out there. 

  • Certified for life, no recertification required
  • Well priced for a NASM program
  • Great entry point for athletic trainers or conditioning specialists
  • Not as well recognized as NSCA CSCS
  • Not a NCCA accredited certification
  • Very little focus on other population groups outside high-performance athletes

NASM vs. other top strength and conditioning certifications

The main competitors to the NASM PES are the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Certification (NSCA CSCS) and the ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification (ISSA SCC).

The NSCA CSCS is the big dog in the game of strength and conditioning and is recognized as the most complete certification. NSCA is, after all, a premiere athletics research institute. 

Price-wise, it’s similar to the NASM PES, but it is a full NCCA accredited certificate, so it comes out on top in that aspect.

However, the CSCS is also a grueling exam with a 56% pass rate, much lower than NASM’s 70% and the re-test fees can cost almost as much as the entire exam.

The ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification is a full cert with NCCA approval, but it costs a bit more than NASM and isn’t quite as thorough from a content standpoint. For example, NASM includes more technique guidance for certain exercises like the Olympic lifts. 

I like ISSA’s program, but I think overall NASM gives you a bit more from an exercise science perspective.  

Who is the specialization meant for?

NASM’s PES is meant to teach trainers the skills and techniques of a strength and conditioning coach. This is not a personal training certification geared to teaching the general population, nor is it a full certification on its own. It’s much better when paired with a CPT. 

For this reason, I’d definitely recommend looking at NASM’s Strength and Conditioning Bundle, which gives you a personal training certification, along with nutrition and the PES at a reduced cost.

Normally, getting these three programs separately would be a lot more expensive, but this way you get the benefits of all of these at a fraction of what you’d normally pay in stages. 

Certainly, as a fitness professional, you are going to be asked about nutrition as well as training, so having a nutrition certification will aid in your knowledge, giving you more authority on the subject so you can earn more.That’s the rationale for paying a bit more at the beginning of your career, so you can gain a lot more in the long term. 

Great for
  • Personal trainers wanting to learn about strength and conditioning
  • Fitness professionals looking for a great way to re-certify
Not great for
  • People who want to be a strength and conditioning coach at the highest level
  • Anyone looking for a personal training certification

NASM PES course costs and options

NASM pes cost and course options - NASM textbook laid out on table with gold coins and mystery boxes - how much does NASM PES cost?

The NASM PES costs $699.00 for self-study, $849 for premium self-study, and $999.00 for all-inclusive. This changes a lot due to the frequent deals and special offers typically given by NASM on their website.

Compare NASM PES packages image

Compared to many NASM programs and courses, this is pretty well priced, in contrast to the certified personal trainer cert, which can cost well into the thousands of dollars depending on which study package you pick.

Each package contains the fundamentals, such as practice exams, the textbook, and the study guide for your exam prep.

This is what each study package offers:

The Self-Study Package

The Premium Self-Study package option contains all that in addition to the following:

  • Bonus Content 
  • Programming Toolkit

And finally, the All-Inclusive study kit has everything I’ve just listed in addition to:

  • NASM-PES Hardcopy textbook
  • Live Workshop

Don’t forget to check the NASM site for the official pricing, as they tend to run specials and discounts from time to time.

NASM PES Review [year]- NASM PES Cost vs Value 3
NASM PES Review [year]- NASM PES Cost vs Value 4

NASM PES course layout

NASM CES course layout - NASM textbook open to table of contents to display NASM CES certification curriculum

To understand what NASM PES has to offer, we must take a look at the curriculum.

I generally rate certifications and courses based on the quality and relevance of what they teach everyone first and second, by how they administer those teachings.

I’ll be doing this by taking on the NASM PES book.

Save 30% on the NASM CES (Corrective Exercise Specialist) Certification
See the NASM CES Sale Here
Save 30% on the NASM PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist) Certification
See the NASM PES Sale Here
Save Big on the NASM CNC (Certified Nutrition Coach) Certification
See the NASM FNS Sale Here

Let’s take a look at this source of knowledge.

Exercise Science Foundations Coverage

Exercise science is the first and most fundamental knowledge concept when it comes to workouts and fitness training.

NASM PES chapter 2 cover image - science of human movement

You are entering the business of exercise instruction, so learning the key aspects of how exercise works is crucial.

This couldn’t be more true regarding coaching for performance enhancement.

NASM PES touches on exercise science principles throughout the course curriculum to varying extents, but it is in chapter 2 where the concept takes center stage.

Chapter 2, Science of Human Movement, breaks down the subjects of biomechanics, kinesiology, and the physiology of the musculoskeletal system as they relate to enhancing athletic performance.

NASM PES image - anatomic planes of movement in chapter 2, science of human movement

That’s an important thing to remember. Exercise science would normally touch on the fundamentals of exercise for the average person.

This time we’re dealing with exercise principles for those in the business of consistently pushing their physical limits.

For that reason, the subjects and topics discussed go pretty in-depth.

For instance, while the expected topics, such as the types of muscular contractions and the force curve, are introduced, they are also accompanied by the different tactics and methodologies you can use to manipulate and optimize them.

Functional anatomy (body parts concerned with movement and force production), an integral part of exercise science, is peered at through the lens of sporting discipline instead of general function.

This allows you to engage with the material in a way that encourages a performance enhancement approach.

This is also evident in how the cert presents exercise programming, prep, and technique.

In my opinion, NASM PES does an overall excellent job of bringing exercise science principles to the fore.

Nutrition Coaching Coverage

Many would argue that nutrition is the most important component of a health and fitness program, and I’m inclined to agree.

Nutrition Coaching Coverage - image of chapter 14 cover page, performance nutrition

Regarding performance enhancement, a pristine nutritional approach is a key to success.

Nutrition not only provides the raw materials for an improved and adapted machine, but it also provides fuel and energy for continued activity.

This is a general requirement for healthy living, but more so for enhanced physical output.

So what’s NASM’s take on this topic?

Chapter 14: Performance Nutrition is where you’ll find all you need to know about performance-enhancing dietary coaching.

This chapter does a great job of explaining the science behind nutrition but is not in-depth enough regarding results-driven coaching practices.

Behavioral Coaching Coverage

Managing and changing behavior is tantamount to success in any exercise training scenario.

This concept becomes the maker or breaker of success when it comes to performance enhancement and athletic training.

The importance of behavioral coaching plays an unavoidable role in the careers of professional athletes. NASM goes in-depth with behavioral coaching in the final chapter.

Cover image from NASM PES - Psychology in Sports Performance, Chapter 16

This is chapter 16: Psychology in sports performance.

This chapter details behavioral change from the perspective of adopting beneficial habits while relinquishing those that aren’t. It also looks into the mental conditioning required for a “big game” and “gracious loser” approach.

Professional sports place a heavy amount of pressure on athletes, firstly to earn their place professionally, and secondly to maintain that place and bring desired results in line with expectations.

NASM PES touches on behavioral coaching in the following categories:

  • Concentration and focus
  • Motivation and discipline
  • Dealing with stress and pressure
  • Mental health
  • Leadership skills

While it is a short chapter in the curriculum relative to the others, it does a very good job of helping someone grasp things that are often overlooked in other courses of a similar reputability.

Mental fitness is the precursor to physical fitness, so it’s good that NASM has an entire section of its PES syllabus dedicated to this aspect of training.

And when it comes to performance enhancement, an enhanced, toughened mind is the key to true athletic progress.

I would state that just by looking at the greatest athletes of any given sport, a key indicator of their success is the power, mentally, they carry.

Good examples include:

  • Michael Jordan
  • Michael Schumacher
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilding career)
  • David Goggins
  • Mohammed Ali

The list could go on, but the point I’m making is to be the best, you have to think the best, and that’s where behavioral coaching from a performance enhancement perspective comes in. Achieving your fitness goals starts with the mind. 

Client Health and Movement Assessment Coverage

Before you begin training any client physically, one essential aspect to cover is their medical history and current medical condition.

For this, you would implement a client health screening.

Besides understanding the medical history and the presence of any chronic conditions, you also want to paint a picture of general health.

Important health and risk features to assess include:

  • Blood pressure
  • Body composition
  • Cardiac output
  • Breathing and lung capacity

All these are covered in Chapter 3: Testing in Sports Performance.

Image from NASM PES textbook - cover from chapter 3, Testing in Sports Performance

Of course, as already mentioned, you are assessing and testing for the sake of performance enhancement in an athletic direction.

Unlike client health screening for personal training clients, where you’re just checking if they’re medically suited to exercise, you are screening to find areas that can be improved upon or enhanced.

That means that, in response to this data, your testing methods and resources will be more sophisticated and precise.

A blend of objective and subjective data will allow you to assess your client’s health.

Objective data comes in the form of information you gather from your client through testing protocols such as 

  • Body fat assessments
  • Body fat assessments
  • Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

    Tyler Read

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    22 thoughts on “NASM PES Review 2024– NASM PES Cost vs Value”

    1. Will I struggle to pass the NASM PES course if I haven’t taken the NASM CPT course? I’m a basketball coach with the intent of starting my own training business to help kids get to the next level for basketball. In my own opinion, I feel like the PES certificate fits more for that if I’m not training them in the weight room but more on the court and places for body workouts. Am I fine taking the PES course only?

      • No you do not have to have the NASM certification, but I highly recommend that you do. You should check the prerequisites, they might require a general personal training certification.

      • You will be able to access a digital copy of your performance enhancement specialist certification from your portal online. Also, you should have received the physical certification a couple weeks later.

    2. thank you for the post, a couple of questions..

      why do you recommend the CSCS if already having a degree? i have a BSc for sport coaching science.

      when i was looking at the pes.. the premium self study mentions the programming toolkit but doesnt offer much information about it. do you have any further information on that?

      • I would say that the gold standard in the industry for strength and conditioning certifications is the NSCA CSCS. Both certifications are good, but employers definitely look at that as the gold standard in both highly respected certification in the industry. Good luck with your strength and conditioning career.

    3. I work with high school level athletes. I want to choose a certification that allows me to best prepare these athletes for play, as well as setting a good foundation for lifting and conditioning habits they take to the next level.

      • Hey Mark,
        If you already have a four-year degree, I suggest getting the CSCS certification from NSCA. , if you do not have this though, the performance enhancement specialist by the National Academy of sports medicine is definitely a good option as well.

    4. Hello Tyler,
      Thanks for the info. This page is very helpfull!

      Could you give me some information on how the procedure works for PES? I enroll, study the material at my own pace, and once Im ready I make the exam (online)?

      And for the CSCS: I first study the material and when ready I sign up for the exam (at a CSCS affiliatie?)

      Thanks for the help!

      • Yes, you have it correct. You can study the information for the performance enhancement specialist and then when you are ready you can take the exam online. Or the certified strength and conditioning specialist certification, you will need to go to a third party testing facility that accepts the CSCS. You can find a list of these locations on the NSCA website.

    5. Hi, I am a doctor of physical therapy and would like to get a CPT cert that would help me with strength, conditioning, and mobility for athletes to seniors. Ive been told the NASM certs would be good, but I am not sure which one to go for. Do you have any suggestions? I would like to increase my knowledge of nutrition as well as strength, conditioning, and mobility.

      Do I need a base CPT to get any of the specialized certs as a DPT? I do not have any personal training certifications.

      • Hello Christina,
        The personal training certification from NASM is definitely a fantastic certification. If you already have a bachelors degree which you obviously do, I would suggest the CSCS from NSCA as it is the gold standard in regards to strength and conditioning certifications. You will be able to use all of this knowledge even while working with seniors. In terms of mobility though, I do feel like the National Academy of sports medicine has the upper hand in this area. You can always do both certifications.

    6. Hi – my goal is to do youth fitness/nutrition coaching. would the ISSA nutrition fitness certification plus the nasm pes certification be a good combo?

      • The biggest question is if you already have a general personal training certification such as the general NASM or ISSA CPT. The performance enhancement specialist certification is for training athletes. I think a better combination would be the general NASM/ISSA with either the NASM CNC or the nutritionist certification. I hope this helps.

    7. Hi,

      I am a DPT and am interested in learning more about personal training to work with teen athletes to geriatrics. My baseline knowledge on strength and conditioning and corrective exercise is good from school and personal fitness, but I would really like to understand personal training better. I am not confident that what I know is strong enough to train athletes beyond rehabilitation and I would like to understand strength and conditioning for geriatrics better.

      I have a bachealors and a doctorate. Am I able to get the CSCS or NASM PES without previous personal training certifications? And which one is considered the most “prestigious” or would you say is the best for a PT to have?
      I know this may sound silly, but do both add letters to your name? I am only asking this because it helps with landing certain jobs without having to explain a long list of my educational background.

      • Hey Christina, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. In terms of the most prestigious personal training certification for strength and conditioning specific training, the certified strength and conditioning specialist by the NSCA is definitely the golden standard. This is the one I would suggest going for If you have a bachelor’s degree. And no, you do not need any previous personal training certification to get either one of these two. I am not quite sure what you mean by adding letters to your name. Good luck with all the studying.

    8. Hello and thanks for offering all of this information. I am a massage therapist who will always benefit from learning more about the human body and human performance. I also think it would be beneficial for my practice to be able to offer simple exercise plans to help my clients stay injury free and integrate the benefits of their massage sessions into their daily lives. Furthermore, I am interested in working at a fitness center/offering mostly body weight exercise & mobility classes. It seems to me that the NASM-PES would allow me the ability and the certification to safely and effectively do all of the above, but I just wanted to reach out and get your thoughts on the matter. Thank you!

      • Hello Meredith,
        The performance enhancement specialist by the American Academy of sports medicine is actually a certification that’s geared towards athletes for performance aspects. Just from the look of it, it looks like you want to implement training so that people stay injury free and mobile. For this, I would definitely recommend the corrective exercise specialist certification from NASM instead of the PES. That is, unless you plan on working with a ton of athletes. I would check out my article on the top corrective exercise specialist certifications to see which one, if any is up your alley.

    9. Hello! Could you please elaborate why you think the PES is a better certification than the CSCS? You say that the techniques are modern and curriculum more up-to-date. Would it be possible to give an example?

      • No problem. I really like the PES training model because it follows along the lines of NASM’s OPT training model. This model is relatively recent to the personal training industry and has really become the standard for progressing along any sort of exercise program in a safe and very effective manner. For the these reasons I think that PES is better than the CSCS. Just my two cents.


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