Hey Everyone, welcome to the ultimate NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist cert and how good it is for you.
To help us on this mission, I will be touching on:
For additional insight and advice, I suggest you take the quiz to figure out the best cert for you.
Alright, let’s dive in!
Quick Breakdown: NASM PES Certification
- NCCA Certified
- One of the most recognized and respected certification
- Certified for life, no recertification required
- Well priced for a NASM cert
- Great entry point for athletic trainers or conditioning specialists
- Not as well recognized as NSCA CSCS
- Prerequisites can be intimidating, although not required
- Very little focus on other population groups outside of high-performance athletes
NASM PES General Information
- Exam cost: $699.00 – $999.00
- Study material cost: INCLUDED
- Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma, government ID, Recommended (NASM-CPT certification, Sports Nutrition Certification, Certified Massage Therapist, NCCA, NBFE or DETC Accredited Health/Fitness Certification, 4-Year College Degree)
- Exam passing score: 70%
- Average completion time: 3 to 9 months
Introduction: What is NASM?
The National Academy of Sports Medicine, also known as NASM is a certifying agency in the health and fitness field.
It was established in 1987 and 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.
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 with the PES cert, we can safely assume that the principles and ethos ingrained in the OPT model are in full display.
But enough speculation and assumption, let’s actually find out what this performance enhancement program brings to the table.
NASM PES Content Coverage: the Good and the Bad
In order to understand what NASM PES has on 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 you first, and second by how they administer those teachings.
I’ll be doing this by taking on the NASM PES book.
Let’s take a look.
Exercise Science Foundations Coverage
The first and most fundamental knowledge concept when it comes to workouts and fitness training of any sort is exercise science.
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 when it comes to 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.
That’s an important thing to remember. Exercise science in general would touch on the fundamentals of exercise for the average person.
This time we’re dealing with exercise principles for those who are in the business of pushing their physical limits on a consistent basis.
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), which is an integral part of exercise science is peered at through the lens of sporting discipline as opposed to general function.
This allows you to engage with the material in a way that encourages a performance enhancement approach.
This is also evident in the way the cert presents exercise programming, exercise prep, and exercise 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.
When it comes to performance enhancement, a pristine nutritional approach is a key to success.
Nutrition not only provides the raw materials for an improved and adapted machine, 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 not in-depth enough when it comes to results-driven coaching practices.
Behavioral Coaching Coverage
Managing and changing behavior is tantamount to success in any exercise training scenario.
When it comes to performance enhancement and athletic training, this concept becomes the maker or breaker of success.
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.
This is chapter 16: Psychology in sports performance.
This chapter details not only behavioral change from the perspective of adopting beneficial habits while relinquishing those that aren’t, but 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 in order to earn their place professionally, and secondly in order to maintain that place and bring desired results.
NASM PES homes in n 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 you grasp concepts 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.
Just by looking at the greatest athletes of any given sport, a key indicator of their success is the mentality 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
Client Health and Movement Assessment Coverage
Before you begin training any sort of 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 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.
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 in order to find areas that can be improved upon or enhanced.
That means your testing methods and resources will be more sophisticated and precise.
A blend of objective and subjective data will allow you to assess the health of your client.
Objective data comes in the form of information you gather from your client through testing protocols such as
- Blood pressure test
- Body fat assessments
Subjective data includes information your client presents to you such as:
- History of surgery
- Chronic conditions
- Current medication
NASM PES covers this depth of health screening well enough, but they go further to impart candidates with the skills to modify their assessments.
Modifications based on the physical and metabolic demands of different sports and different positions in those sports are indicated as essential.
The quality of a medical assessment determines the quality of a performance program, and the quality of a performance program determines the quality of an athlete.
The quality of an athlete indicates the quality of their coach.
Just as with health screening, movement screening is crucial, especially with athletic performance.
Your clients are movement specialists, and in many cases, this is how they earn a living.
Assessing their movement potential is therefore essential, and this is covered in Chapter 3: Testing in Sports Performance.
As you can already tell, it’s lumped in with the health screening that you’ll conduct on clients.
Both medical and biomechanical assessments are often placed in the same category as there is a great degree of overlap as one can imagine.
With that being the case, NASM PES also indicates the two-factor data gathering approach when it comes to movement screening for athletes.
That is to say, as a coach, you should gather both subjective and objective data.
For performance enhancement movement screening, subjective data comes in the form of:
- Current or previous injuries
- Personal records and performance statistics (eg. one rep max, personal best times)
- Perceived areas of weakness (pain or discomfort during certain movements, lack of mobility/flexibility)
Objective data, which you would asses would include:
- Balance and proprioception
- Biomechanical integrity (squat assessments, push assessments, step assessments)
- Compensation assessments
All these key points are highlighted in the PES curriculum in chapter 3.
My only gripe is that I would have preferred Medical assessments to be in a separate chapter from movement assessments.
Normally, this wouldn’t matter, but since we’re dealing with the high-octane world of athletic performance, separation of key concepts would make this easier to digest.
Resistance Training Coverage
Resistance training is given its own complete chapter in the NASM PES Essentials textbook and course curriculum.
As a major component of your essential skills as a fitness professional, and especially a performance enhancement specialist, NASM does a great job of spotlighting this topic.
Chapter 10: Resistance Training Concepts is where you’ll find the meat and potatoes of this topic.
This chapter is huge and plays into the OPT model NASM promotes quite prominently so pay attention
NASM’s curriculum in this regard starts off with the reason why resistance training is important for high-level athletes.
For the average person, resistance training is healthy and can bring about some cosmetic benefits, but as a performance enhancement pro, understanding why and when to apply resistance training is important.
Next, you’ll be guided through the basic principles of resistance training such as:
This chapter also tackles the concept of resistance training for rehab and injury recovery which exemplifies NASM’s approach to corrective exercise principles.
In the same way, you will also learn about injury prevention or prehab.
Understanding how to correctly administer resistance training principles, as well as aerobic or cardio training principles, are unavoidable weapons in your arsenal.
This brings us to the next topic, aerobic fitness
Aerobic Fitness Training Coverage
Just as with resistance training, aerobic training or cardio is an essential component of fitness and a crucial component of performance enhancement.
As an athlete, there are few sports that are lenient on your cardiac output capacity, so in a sense, nailing your aerobic training skills is more important than the resistance training aspect.
Also, consider the fact that there are more sports that are cardio dominant than there are strength dominant sports.
Bodybuilding and lifting are probably the only sports that are resistance training reliant with little emphasis on aerobic principles.
Even so, aerobic training is as much a health maintenance protocol as it is a performance enhancer.
So regardless of the sport, a good chunk of your programming will be dedicated to aerobic training.
For instance, let’s look at bodybuilding. The cardiac output required to deal with supplying extreme amounts of muscle tissue with adequate nutrition means a strong heart is crucial.
So how does NASM handle this topic?
Chapter 5: Metabolic Energy System Training highlights this topic in the PES curriculum.
As you can assume from the name, they aren’t just talking about aerobic fitness, although it does play a huge role.
The chapter also touches on anaerobic fitness and the difference between it and aerobic fitness.
You’ll also gain insight into the metabolic energy system as a whole and how it responds to the different training stimuli.
Special Populations Training Coverage
Special populations are groups or categories of fitness training prospects who face challenges or have goals that fall outside the general realm of personal training.
The general realm is that of your average person, the constraints they face, and the goals they wish to achieve.
Members of a special population group would include:
- .handicapped and people with disabilities
- Youth training
- Senior training
- People with chronic, limiting conditions
- High-performance athletes.
With that in mind, we can safely conclude that the NASM PES in its entirety is a special population training program aimed at high-performance athletes.
As far as coverage of that group, NASM PES does a perfect job.
However, high-performance population members are the only ones with a focus in this course.
It is after all, based on that category of clients.
Regardless, I still feel other sensitive population groups could have been included in more detail.
For instance, when it comes to athletic development, the key is to start them young.
This would conclude that a good amount of focus on training kids from a high school to a college level would have been beneficial.
It is also true that athletes with disabilities are a prominent fixture in professional sports.
There is an entire Olympics dedicated to showcasing handicapped athletes at the highest level.
Being able to provide the right coaching and performance enhancement for disabled athletes would have been an excellent addition to the curriculum.
One of the chapters does touch on youth training in moderate detail as indicated in Chapter 8: Plyometric Training Concepts.
I think more emphasis is needed when it comes to these two population groups, even to the point of warranting their own chapters in the curriculum.
Summary: NASM PES Content
The NASM PES covers these concepts well:
- Exercise science
- Health and movement screening
- Aerobic training
- Behavioral coaching
The NASM PES is disadvantaged in the following areas:
- Special populations training
NASM PES Certification Requirements
Speaking of prerequisites, this NASM certification lists a hefty set of recommendations in order for you to enroll.
The first one of these is the successful completion of either the NASM Personal Trainer certification, NASM Massage Therapy, or NASM Nutrition course, which I would consider the tentpoles of the institute.
You could also earn any equivalent cert from an equally reputable provider such as ACE, ACSM, ISSA, or NSCA, I’m not entirely sure.
Other prerequisites that stand out include having a 4-year college or university degree in an exercise or sports science-related field.
It’s not entirely clear what the mandatory requirements are, but I can assume your standard entry prerequisites apply such as being at least 18, having your first responder certifications (First Aid, CPR, AED), and having a government-issued ID.
Study Materials: Quality and Price
The NASM PES costs $699.00 for self-study, $849 for premium self-study, and $999.00 for all-inclusive. This of course changes a lot owing to the frequent deals and special offers typically given by NASM on their website.
Compared to a lot of NASM’s 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
- NASM PES Essentials of Sports Performance Training (course text)
- Online Exam Access
- Online Practice Tests
- Syllabus and Study Guide
- Application Videos
- Lecture Videos
- Exercise Libraries
- Module Quizzes
The Premium Self-Study package contains all that in addition to:
- 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 Exam Structure and Difficulty
While I don’t have any data on the pass rate, the exam is considerably challenging if we’re to take anecdotal evidence to heart.
After scouring several forums including Reddit, where former candidates express their experience with the exam, it seems to be challenging, but a welcome challenge at that.
This is possibly due to the fact that the prerequisites required to even qualify for the PES, create a barrier to entry that only allows highly qualified, astute, and dedicated trainers to take the course.
The exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions to be completed in 90 minutes
NASM Recertification and CEUs
The NASM PES is a lifetime certification.
That means once you’ve earned it, you’ve got your sports performance certification for good.
This is in contrast to many certs which require renewal every two years in most cases.
Renewal comes at the cost of some continuing education credits and a nominal fee.
But in this case, you can rest assured that you won’t be bothered by a biennial renewal.
I conducted this review by looking at the NASM PES textbook as the foundation of my analysis.
I also used my knowledge and understanding of sports training and experience with sports performance training certifications.
Added to that, past exam papers, as well as the trove of online forums discussing experiences with the cert, helped me flesh out my opinions and understanding of this certification.
NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist FAQ
NASM PES is a great certification for those looking to get into the sports performance enhancement field.
Beyond that, its content is very applicable to the general PT as it allows you to hone your skills and knowledge of the fundamentals a personal training cert would have imparted.
Having said that, one area it does fall short is the variety of special populations it teaches about.
While it is a very specialized and specific scope of practice, within that scope are a couple of special population considerations that have been overlooked.
Those are youth and disabled athletes, both prominent subcategories within the performance enhancement field.
If you’re thinking of combining skill sets, the PES goes hand in hand with the NASM CES and nutrition certs, with their CPT cert as a good foundation.
Overall, NASM PES comes from one of the most celebrated and consistent education providers in health and fitness globally, and although not as recognized as the NSCA CSCS, it is still considered as strong an offering by many alumni.
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