NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You?

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    Welcome to the most comprehensive NASM vs ISSA comparison of the year!

    My article on NASM vs ISSA is based on the following criteria:

    NASM vs ISSA topical information: pricing, packages, and prerequisites
    NASM vs ISSA content deep dive
    NASM vs ISSA exam difficulties, preparation timelines, and study material review
    Explanation of my expert review process

    By the time you finish reading up on NASM vs ISSA, there’s no doubt you’ll be more confident in choosing the best personal trainer certification for you!

    Let’s get movin’!

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      Quick Breakdown: NASM vs ISSA

      CPTACSM vs ACE Quick BreakdownFeaturesPrice
      • NCCA accredited program
      • The most popular and recognized certification providers in the world
      • Specializes in corrective exercise technique methodology
      • Great for newcomers and seasoned professionals
      • More expensive
      • Difficult exam
      • Vaguely covers special populations
      View on NASM Website
      • Great customer experience and support
      • Outstanding coverage of the business aspect of personal training
      • Tests you on a variety of skills
      • You can take the test anywhere in the world
      • Possibly the most international certification
      • Relaxed testing and retesting criteria
      • In-depth, robust main text and study guide
      • No live instruction
      • Black and white textbook
      View on ISSA Website
      Exam cost
      Exam cost
      Study Material Cost
      Study Material Cost
      High School Diploma/GED, CPR/AED Certified
      18 years of age, High School Diploma/GED, CPR/AED Certified
      Exam Passing Score
      Exam Passing Score
      Exam Pass Rate
      Exam Pass Rate
      Average Completion Time
      Average Completion Time
      3 to 6 months
      2-4 months

      NASM vs ISSA: Comparing the Organizations

      Let me introduce and compare two of my favorite personal trainer certifications on the market, ISSA vs NASM.

      The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a fitness professional certifying agency established in 1987.

      NASM has grown to become one of the best personal training certifications in the fitness industry.

      Besides their prestigious Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification, NASM offers many other specializations, such as:

      • NASM-CES (Corrective Exercise Specialist)
      • NASM-PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist)
      • Group Fitness Instructor (GFI)
      • Senior Fitness (SFS)

      Without a doubt, the NASM-CPT belongs in the “corrective exercise” category.

      According to a recent survey, this certification is best for working with sedentary individuals and post-rehab clients.

      The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is a non-profit fitness certifying agency founded in 1988.

      Known as a great certification for new trainers, ISSA has been successfully certifying fitness professionals for many decades.

      While ISSA is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), NASM is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

      But now you can choose to take an NCCA-accredited exam with ISSA through their NCCPT-CPT Certification Program.

      Both accrediting bodies, DEAC and NCCA, are well recognized overall as gold standards for quality fitness education.

      Without further ado, let’s compare NASM vs ISSA, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

      Skills and Knowledge Covered in NASM vs ISSA

      Exercise Science

      NASM covers exercise science throughout the second section of the NASM-CPT book very clearly and concisely.

      The wide use of terminology along with its respective definitions definitely helps for exam preparation.

      While still rich with detail, the pictures in the book are colored and easy to understand.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 4

      It really helps that NASM includes corresponding charts and infographics, especially for visual learners such as myself.

      Although the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer (ISSA-CPT) certification is dubbed as a basic certification, it is not easily obtainable.

      For those just entering the personal training industry, the ISSA-CPT might be the perfect fit.

      ISSA provides its fitness trainers with a solid base of knowledge to expand on as they go on throughout their careers.

      While their heavy focus is on general populations and weight loss, there is minimal emphasis on corrective exercise.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 5

      Overall, ISSA focuses on both scientific as well as practical principles of health and fitness.

      It’s one thing to know something, but once you can apply it, the world is your oyster!

      ISSA does a phenomenal job with this in its exercise science section.

      NASM vs ISSA on content coverage remains neck-and-neck, as neither certification fails to extensively cover exercise science.

      But NASM vs ISSA on quality and pictures from the textbook?

      NASM it is!

      Behavior Change Coaching Skills

      Successful personal trainers are those who are cognizant of client behaviors and apply behavior change coaching skills.

      NASM highlights the Stages of Change Model in an exceptional manner.

      This is certainly very helpful for you as a trainer to help your clients and how to appropriately progress them.

      What I like best from NASM is its mention of SMART goals.

      SMART is an acronym, and is broken down below:

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 6

      Clients need to have realistic, measurable goals that they can achieve and feel confident about.

      Having such goals not only benefits clients’ short-term success but even more, their life-long adherence to a health and fitness regime!

      In all of its course materials, ISSA covers behavior surrounding lifestyle, fitness, and nutrition very much in-depth.

      Teaching clients behaviors, such as prioritizing exercise and avoiding processed junk foods, make their life outside the gym very much in their control.

      Clients need to know what to do when you aren’t around.

      ISSA’s strong emphasis on behavior and how it impacts clients’ overall health is crucial for trainers to know and apply.

      Lifestyle modification and behavioral coaching are definitely key in helping clients transform into better selves.

      NASM vs ISSA on behavior coaching skills remains a tie, as they both cover this topic exceptionally and pretty similarly.

      Both certifications recognize and reinforce the importance of behavior psychology surrounding health and fitness.

      But ISSA does a much better job at exemplifying these skills as they are used in real life.

      Consulting and screening clients to reduce risks of injury

      Prior to training your clients, you need to understand their strengths and limitations so you can accurately devise a fitness program.

      You also want to know if there will need to be any modifications so that you can prevent aggravation of any medical conditions.

      NASM exceeds expectations with its coverage on consulting and screening clients in Section 2 of the textbook: Assessments, Training Concepts, and Program Design.

      Next, in ISSA’s Basic Assessment of Fitness Participants section, ISSA covers the Graded Exercise Test (GXT).

      This is a treadmill or cycle ergometer test that delivers heart rate, ECG, and other data, and does require medical supervision.

      The workload is gradually increased until an increase in workload is not followed by an increase in VO2 max.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 7

      Results of the GXT test help trainers develop an accurate aerobic training program for their clients.

      In my eyes, this is so much better than just “winging it” and guessing, and makes training much safer and more effective.

      Their comprehensive section on consulting and screening, Assessments, Training Concepts, and Program Design, is much more engaging than ACE’s personal trainer textbook.

      Although ISSA’s GXT test stood out to me, ISSA vs NASM on content coverage is a tie overall.

      Program design and resistance exercise technique

      The very best on resistance training techniques is NASM’s famous Optimum Training Model (OPT Model).

      The OPT Model was developed by NASM based on scientific evidence and principles.

      Personal trainers use the five OPT Model phases to progress clients safely, effectively, and appropriately.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 8

      In the Stabilization Endurance phase, trainers aim to help the client’s breathing and heart rate function properly.

      Exercises included in this phase include walking, jogging, swimming, and/or biking.

      Second is the Strength Endurance phase, which ordinarily involves weight lifting and other functional resistance exercises.

      Once clients prove they can handle stabilization and endurance exercises without hesitation, they are ready for this phase.

      The third phase is Hypertrophy and is generally used for muscle building. 

      Overhead squats, back squats, and fronts squats are strength-building exercises that work for reducing unhealthy body weight.

      According to a recent study, the majority of clients hire personal trainers for this type of exercise alone.

      It’s dangerous to attempt these exercises without a trainer especially if you don’t know the proper forms and techniques.

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      Fourthly, the Maximal Strength phase tests the client’s overall strength.

      Typically, during the initial session, trainers conduct an overhead squat assessment to give the client feedback on where they’re at.

      This brings us to the final phase, Power, which combines both bodybuilding and powerlifting exercises.

      I’ve spoken with many trainers, all of whom know that the NASM OPT Model is something to be very grateful for!

      ISSA highlights programming and effective administration of programming very heavily and very well.

      Their strong focus on programming and the practicality of being an amazing trainer make ISSA stand out from other fitness certifications.

      Also, one of my favorite sections was its stretching section, ad how ISSA exemplifies proper stretching techniques.

      NASM vs ISSA on resistance training techniques?

      NASM, because there’s just no defeating its OPT Model!

      Aerobic training program design and technique

      In very rich detail, NASM covers basic components of cardiorespiratory training, along with ways various physiologic systems respond and adapt.

      While both certifications cover aerobic training program design, NASM does a much better job at covering this.

      NASM is better able to describe implementing aerobic training into a variety of clients’ fitness programs, using an individualized approach.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 9

      You learn many aerobic training techniques in the ISSA-CPT curriculum, and I’d say they didn’t skip a (heart) beat here!

      NASM vs ISSA on discussing the health-related benefits associated with aerobic training, as well as current guidelines and recommendations for aerobic activities, is a tie.

      But NASM vs ISSA on this topic overall is a no-brainer – NASM wins!

      Helping Special Populations with Fitness

      Given NASM’s MO as one of the best corrective exercise certifications, they provide a wealth of information on working with special populations.

      Table 16.20 in the NASM-CPT textbook is a great example of training considerations for women who are pregnant.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 10

      As seen above, their textbook includes many detailed pictures, infographics, and templates on special population exercise routines.

      Like most fitness textbooks, ISSA has its own section on training clients in the following special categories:

      • Youth
      • Seniors
      • Pregnant women
      • Lifestyle-induced and genetic diseases

      Compared to NASM and most other fitness certification programs, ISSA exceeds expectations with its in-depth coverage of special populations.

      For instance, section 6, Fitness for All, is one of the most extensive special populations sections I have seen.

      ISSA has nine total chapters regarding different special populations.

      Inside each chapter, there are guideline changes for fitness programs along with very insightful descriptions of the issues people in that special category face.

      They also have online study portal information for these topics.

      You will be able to build programs for nearly every client you run into with the information provided in this text.

      ISSA is very descriptive and provides great examples of what a typical fitness routine would be based on the client’s condition.

      So although NASM vs ISSA on content coverage is a tie, NASM vs ISSA on quality of coverage, and it’s ISSA without a doubt!

      Thinking Long-Term: Business Skills for Personal Trainers

      NASM exceeds expectations with its strong emphasis on the personal training business and how to cultivate a successful fitness career.

      You’ll find everything you need to know on places trainers work, types of employment, Marketing 101, how to set prices if independent, and much more!

      With having this information so easily accessible, you can gauge the pros and cons of ideal workplaces before you even start.

      NASM also covers gym membership, sales, and other fitness-related marketing techniques, which is the key knowledge to apply to kickstart a bangin’ fitness business!

      I think NASM’s strong emphasis on developing a niche makes sense because the most successful personal trainers will always have and know their niche.

      For sure, NASM teaches you solid fundamentals of the personal training business very well!

      In fact, much better than most other fitness certifications, like NFPT or ACE, but in line with ISSA and their Fiscal Fitness book.

      Something ISSA definitely got right is its emphasis on business and entrepreneurial strategies in ISSA’s very own business guide, Fiscal Fitness.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 11

      ISSA is smart with its desire to help accelerate the careers of its qualifying personal trainers.

      One drawback is that the marketing strategies are somewhat dated and exclude online fitness and social media protocols.

      Regardless, Fiscal Fitness is still a great foundational tool for business basics and can help tremendously with starting a personal training business.

      NASM vs ISSA on business strategies remains a tie.

      Both certifications cover this very important topic in the best ways possible.


      It’s fair to say that both ISSA and NASM are neck-and-neck with content coverage for the most part.

      But because they are both highly respected certifications in the industry, comparing NASM vs ISSA is tough!

      However, there are certain things that make NASM stand out much more, such as their OPT Model.

      Although the quality of both certifications is superb, there’s just no topping NASM.

      NASM vs ISSA Certification Requirements

      I’m sure you notice that most fitness certifying agencies have similar certification requirements.

      Here’s what both ISSA and NASM require of you:

      • High school diploma or the equivalent (GED)
      • CPR and AED certified

      While the ISSA-CPT exam requires you to be at least 18 years of age, NASM does not.

      Although you are not required to be at least 18 years of age to take the NASM-CPT test, most employers require personal trainers to possess liability insurance.

      And here’s the kicker.

      Most insurance companies require the insured to be at least 18 years of age.

      Study Materials: Quality and Price

      Stay tuned as I compare NASM vs ISSA on study materials and price.

      NASM offers four distinct CPT certification packages:

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 12

      First, the NASM Self-Study costs $899 and provides the following:

      • NCCA accredited exam
      • NASM-CPT textbook
      • Lecture videos
      • NASM Exercise library
      • NASM-CPT practice exams
      • NASM online practice tests
      • Comprehensive NASM study guide

      This is the best option for those who just want to study and sit for the exam, without any additional resources, like flashcards.

      Secondly, NASM’s Premium Self-Study includes exactly what the Self-Study does, with the addition of the following features:

      • Anatomy Memorization Activity
      • Correcting form videos
      • Learning Activities
      • Flashcard bundles

      This package is the most ideal visual, hands-on learner.

      Then, the NASM Guided Study costs $1599.

      According to a recent survey, this is the most popular package among trainers and includes:

      • Reading materials
      • Exam readiness webinars
      • Access to coaches and mentors
      • Nine discussion questions
      • NASM Live workshop
      • NASM exam prep guarantee
      • NASM-CPT hardcopy textbook

      This package is perfect for those who crave the hands-on aspect of studying.

      And finally, the fourth and juiciest one of all – the NASM All-Inclusive!

      It costs you a whopping $2,699, but the benefits far outweigh the high price:

      • NASM job guarantee after completing your NASM Gymternship
      • Real-life experience
      • All the benefits from the NASM Guided Study

      You’ll even get the ultimate level of assurance with the “Job Guarantee.”

      If you do not get a job within 90 days, you get your money back!

      The job guarantee is an excellent addition because sometimes even if you are certified, it’s hard to get hired as a trainer.

      Also, while most personal training organizations neglect the sales, marketing, and business aspect of the profession, NASM does the exact opposite.

      NASM provides guidance on the personal training business with their “NASM Business Accelerator Program.”

      You’ll learn actionable techniques to help you maximize your profits, use of time, and value that you provide.

      If you want in on the fast track to becoming a successful, industry-leading personal trainer, then this is definitely the package I’d recommend for you.

      But what if you don’t want a package, and would rather test only?

      There is a CPT Exam Only option, which costs $599 and does not include study materials or any other perks of the full packages.

      As long as you are willing to put in the time, this bundle practically assures you that you will successfully pass the exam.

      I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a strong exercise science or kinesiology background, or a Bachelor’s Degree in either discipline.

      Make sure to check their website for any updates and/or price changes, as these are always subject to occur!

      The same goes for ISSA and other fitness certifications.

      According to their website, right now you can save 30% on all certification packages, so here are the current prices:

      • Self-Study – $629
      • Premium Self-Study – $839
      • Guided Study – $1,119
      • All-Inclusive – $1,889

      Thankfully, ISSA provides a free physical book with your purchase of its online personal trainer certification course.

      Some people, such as myself, love the idea of a hardcopy book because it is much easier for note-taking purposes.

      NASM vs ISSA 2022 - Which Certification Better Suits You? 13

      Its conversational tone makes the information accessible while still expanding on technicality and terminology.

      I’d strongly advise you to read the ISSA-CPT book thoroughly, but if ever you’re stuck, the ISSA support team is on hand.

      The general price for ISSA personal trainer certifications is $699, and comes with:

      • ISSA-CPT textbook
      • Entrance to the ISSA certification test
      • ISSA-CPT course
      • Extra online study materials
      • Practice tests

      If you wish to test only, ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer NCCPT Exam Only option costs $599.

      It does not come with the textbook, so if you do want it, it’ll cost $40.

      This test-only option is not ideal unless you are definitely confident in your ability to pass your exam, and/or already have background knowledge and/or related experience.

      To conclude, NASM’s online course, study materials, and prices are incomparable to any other fitness certification.

      Their high-quality and reasonable prices for what you get can’t be beaten!

      So comparing NASM vs ISSA here, NASM definitely takes the lead.

      The NASM-CPT cost far outweighs the ISSA-CPT cost.

      You get more bang for your buck!

      Also, having more than one option and NASM-CPT exam cost, makes you freer to choose between study packages, and therefore, the amount you shell out.

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      Which Exam is Harder, NASM or ISSA?

      NASM vs ISSA on exam difficulty – what do you think?

      NASM falls in line with other top-notch fitness certifications, like NSCA, with its exam difficulty.

      The NASM exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions, which you’re given two hours to attempt.

      Here’s a comprehensive NASM-CPT exam outline:

      • Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts (15%)
      • Assessment (16%)
      • Program Design (20%)
      • Exercise Technique and Training Instruction (24%)
      • Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching (15%)
      • Professional Development and Responsibility (10%)

      You must achieve 70% or higher to pass.

      As of 2021, the NASM-CPT pass rate is 60% for first-time test-takers, making it slightly harder than ACE and ACSM, both at 65%.

      Personally, I found the NASM-CPT practice tests to be most helpful when preparing for the exam.

      Should you fail, you may retake this exam as many times as you need to pass it.

      There is a $199 retest fee, but if you choose the Premium Self-Study Package, you will be allowed to retake the exam entirely for free.

      The ISSA certification test is open book, which makes the ISSA-CPT the easiest to obtain.

      There is a 90% pass rate, where a vast majority of test-takers pass their first attempt.

      The ISSA exam is a non-proctored test, which means no one or nothing monitors the integrity or activity of a candidate during an exam.

      Also, because it’s an entirely open book, you can refer to all your study materials as you do the exam.

      And, your ISSA-CPT certification exam is self-paced, which means there isn’t a time constraint.

      But there’s just one caveat.

      Although it is easier to pass than, say, ACSM or NASM, there are sections of this exam that are relatively difficult.

      The passing score is at least 75% in each area and overall.

      And while most other CPT exams are exclusively multiple-choice, the ISSA exam also includes case studies.

      According to almost all ISSA-CPT test-takers, the hardest section is the case studies.

      You will receive two random fictional clients with different challenges and goals and will be required to provide an appropriate 12-week individualized program for both clients.

      You must know how to transition different clients through a routine in order to pass.

      My only advice to you would be to study the special populations and program design sections extensively.

      And if you fail?

      Unlike most other personal trainer certifications, ISSA has a very lenient approach to retakes.

      Immediately following the failure, you are permitted to retake the exam for free!

      This is a one-time deal, so if you fail your free retake, you must pay a fee of $50 to be allowed another shot at it.

      This retake fee is still pretty decent considering what other certifications charge, which can sometimes be as high as $200!

      While this makes things very convenient, others might argue that it’s a little too convenient.

      Having a retake fee with a stringent policy equals quality control.

      Comparing NASM vs ISSA on exam difficulty, NASM is much harder and certainly requires more prep time.

      NASM vs ISSA Continuing Education

      The NASM-CPT certification is valid for two years after passing your CPT exam.

      During that two-year period, you will be required to obtain 2.0 continuing education credits (CECs).

      The recertification fee will cost you $99, plus your continuing education costs.

      Unlike most other personal trainer certifications, there is a NASM-CPT Recertify For Life option.

      With this, you pay $399 once and will never have to pay a recertification fee.

      This is a great deal if you know you’ll be personal training for over six years and/or as your career.

      Note that you can use a completed college degree related to the field (i.e. exercise science or kinesiology) toward your CECs.

      Just submit your college transcript with your recertification application.

      Taking courses for the purpose of certification renewal from other organizations not yet recognized by NASM requires you to pay a $25 fee for the NASM certification board to verify them.

      Similarly, ISSA requires all their health and fitness professionals to renew every two years.

      And in that two-year period, you must obtain 20 hours of CECs.

      If all your CECs come from ISSA, then your recertification will be free, but CECs from other organizations will cost $99.

      NASM vs ISSA on CECs is very close, but as usual, NASM certainly provides you with more for your money.

      Review Methodology

      For my NASM vs ISSA review, I critically looked at the key areas covered in each fitness certification.

      I focused on the overall skillset needs for personal trainers and how each CPT curriculum covers each skill.

      I also used my knowledge of the fitness industry, personal training, and individual certifications to analyze each certification for strengths and weaknesses.

      NASM vs ISSA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


      So that’s a wrap on my NASM vs ISSA article!

      While I recommend ISSA for entry-level trainers, NASM is the better certification to broaden your horizons.

      With NASM, you will be able to train a wide range of individuals, such as post-rehab clients and athletes.

      If you’re still caught between a rock and a hard place, consider taking the online quiz to find out which may suit you better.

      Overall, both ISSA and NASM are fantastic certifications and provide quality fitness education.

      But when you compare NASM vs ISSA as a whole, it really depends on where you see yourself as a professional.

      Who do you want to train?

      While there are many personal trainer certification programs, I hope that my NASM vs ISSA article helps you on your quest.

      Perhaps now, you’re one step closer toward your official personal trainer certification.

      Whichever one you choose will be right for you!

      Thank you for reading!

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      41 thoughts on “NASM vs ISSA 2022 – Which Certification Better Suits You?”

      1. Hello, I am Dr. Rashmi Shah.

        I have done specialization in fitness Nutrition from ISSA.
        Now want to enhance my knowledge in Exercise science.
        After completing my certicfications, i will be working in India in the fitness industry.

        Could you please guide me , which certification will be better for a beginner like me? NASM/ACE/ISSA?

        Is NASM worth investing $1300 ?

        Looking forward for the positive feedback from you.

        Thank you for taking time to read my mail.

        1. Thanks for commenting on the blog. To be honest I think that ACE and NASM are pretty even in terms of a beginning PT certification. And since ACE is so much cheaper I have been recommending it over NASM lately especially for people trying to save money. And since they just made there most expensive package $100 off, this is a something I would definitely take advantage of because they provide great study materials for their advanced package. Hope my input was helpful and good luck studying for to become a PT! Here is a link to the special that is going on right now: ACE premium plus $100 off

      2. francis Raymores


        I decided to make a career change, but does not have a health background, I live in the Dominican Republic and need to decide which beginners certification is better for me. I am planing to work with people my age 40 +

      3. Hi, I’m Nga from Viet Nam. Could you please recommend the most suitable course for me to be become a internationally certified PT? Thanks

        1. ISSA is a good internationally recognized certification. For the other ones you should get in contact with a local gymnasium and ask which certifications they accept.

        1. I am not quite sure you will have to talk to the local gymnasiums in your country to see if they accept NASM.

      4. This breakdown of both certifications definitely gave me clarity and helped me decided which certification to persue. This article was extremely insightful, thanks again!

      5. I currently went with ISSA after completing the program, what college classes should I take to further extend my career as a personal trainer?

        1. Hey Gabriel,
          Are you planning on going through a kinesiology program? I think that the best additional classes in the personal trainer could take our a nutrition class, a biomechanics class and an anatomy class. I hope this helps and good luck with becoming a personal trainer!

      6. For someone living WAY outside of the US (Russia namely) but still aiming to have a PT certification that is going to be recognised globally, which one should I go with? So to say, I’ve been trying to get in touch with NASM, but they simply don’t answer my mails or my feedback requests from their site. So I’m thinking about alternatives.

        1. Hey Alex,
          In terms of taking the exam, the ISSA exam is taken online so you can be wherever while taking the exam. In terms of a certification being internationally recognized, that really depends on the country you’re in and even the specific gym that you want to apply to work for. I would go around asking local employers what certifications they accept and which ones they recommend before jumping into studying and purchasing a certification. I hope this helps.

      7. This is great Tyler thank so much! Above you mention that NASM goes more indepth into corrective training but ISSA also offers two specialized courses on corrective exercise and exercise therapy. Do you know if these are any good and give you in-depth knowledge to work with corrective training?

        1. Hey Shaini,
          Yes, when I mentioned that it goes more into corrective exercise, I mean it talks more about it in the general personal training certification. However, if you do get a specialized certification such as the corrective exercise or exercise therapy certifications from the international sports science Association that will be much more in-depth than any general personal training certification will be on the topic. I hope this helps answer your question.

      8. Hey, just wanted to say thanks for all the info… i think I’ve narrowed my choices down to NASM and ISSA. Ive recently left behind strength building to pursue bodybuilding and want to turn my focus on independent training for strength and/or bodybuilding. I want to also drop programs online. I was hoping you could help me come to a conclusion. I’m not extremely concerned with what gyms prefer. Im more concerned with my clietns and the knowledge these programs will provide me with.

        1. Hey Morghan,
          In this instance I would go for the international sports sciences Association over NASM. NASM Focuses more on muscular imbalances and fixing those as opposed to bodybuilding focused training. The great thing about ISSA is that they actually have a specific bodybuilding certification specialization that you can get either after the general CPT, or you can study for it at the same time. They also have a fantastic deal where you can get three certifications, there general training certification, their nutritionist certification and one other of your choice. You could actually pick the bodybuilding specialization to be your third choice which would be an excellent route to take. Here is a link to the special elite trainer deal

      9. Hey,
        I am 28 years old (female ) and i had just started my journey into fitness field. I had completed a basic certification in fitness . But now i wanted to pursue a certification which is good and recognized. As being a fresher i am very much confused which certification should i go for.
        Mainly on Fitness & Nutrition.
        Because i want to invest once in any best course.
        Please help me with my confusion.

        1. Hello, I suggest you check out my article on the top five personal training certifications. That will help you get a better understanding about what each of these certifying agencies is all about. In terms of price, they all have a very similar price to one another. All of them are nationally recognized in the United States as legitimate certifications. So on that front, you are clear. Here is the link.

      10. Good evening and thank you for your time.
        I read through your articles and it gave me a good amount of info, but I’m still left wondering which Cert would be right for me. I’m a seasoned PTA of 6yrs and have had the honor of working with a variety of patients/ clients from seniors to professional athletes. I have no interest in working in any mainstream gyms. My goal is to be able to provide training from post rehab to peak performance for my previous patients and future clients. Cost is obviously a huge factor in my decision making ,but as an independent entity recognition and accreditation are very important as well I’m guessing. What are your thoughts?

        1. Hey Nat,
          if you are working with high-end athletes and you are looking to perfect that craft. The best certification in the industry for strength and conditioning/athletes is the certified strength and conditioning specialist certification from the NSCA. The only thing is that you do need a bachelors degree in order to be eligible to take this exam. Besides that I would deftly recommend the performance enhancement specialist from NASM. I hope this helps answer your question.

      11. Hi Tyler , Thank you for all the informations , I’m physiotherapist and wondering which type of Certification do you recommended for a physiotherapist want to be a trainer at the same time I want to get benefit from the certification as a physio, and how can physiotherapy affect my career as a trainer in a positive way.
        Thank you so much .

        1. I think that any of the top General personal training certifications would work for your needs whether it be the National Academy of sports medicine, the international sports Sciences Association for the American Council on exercise are all fantastic options. None of them at the beginning level will Tailor exactly to your knees as a physiotherapist. But they all provide fantastic Base information that will help you on your way towards becoming a great personal trainer.

      12. Hi, I see that you talk about the performance training specialization of NASM. Although ISSA seems to have a strength and conditioning specialization too. How would you compare these two? If they are comparable. Thank you!

        1. Hey Anthony, this strength and conditioning certification from the international sports Sciences Association is also a viable option. If you can though, I recommend getting the CSCS certification as it is the most recognized strength and conditioning certification. But, you do need a four-year degree in order to get it.

      13. Hi Tyler,

        Thank you for all this wonderful information! I am currently receiving my Master’s Degree in Health Psychology. I have also taught group fitness classes for 3 years. My goal is to incorporate nutrition and psychology to offer services for disease prevention, provide information for overall physical/mental health, and be able to develop nutrition plans/workouts. I am looking at both AFPA and NASM but not sure which one would be better for me. I have seen different information about NASM being accredited and not-accredited. Does accreditation matter if you want to start your own business?



        1. Hey Hayley,
          Meditation can matter in some situations such as if you are being hired as an employee. Although, the National Academy of Sports medicine is very recognized as an organization and most people accept it even though the nutrition certification is not yet accredited. In terms of clients, they will not know the difference between any certification weather is accredited or is not accredited.

      14. Mikhaela Clavio

        Hello Tyler,

        I’ve been doing a lot of research here trying to figure out if ISSA is the way to go or if i should choose a different CPT course. This is completely new to me and I don’t want to be surprised with having problem with my certification in the long run. My goal is to become a very knowledgeable CPT. I’m planning on becoming certified in nutrition and specializing in Strength and Conditioning. Both things I talked to another CPT at ISSA about. CPT’s from ISSA said I could get could get CPT certification, Nutrition certification, and a strength and conditioning certification. Is that 100% correct? I saw you previously stated that you needed a 2 year degree to get that kind of certification. Also, if I choose to go with ISSA will that hold me back from building clientele compared to getting certified through NASM? I want to eventually be on my own and have my own business after getting certified and getting my feet wet working through a gym for the first couple months or until I build up my clientele and business. Therefore, will my ISSA CPT Certification hold me back at all from becoming the well known CPT that I am working towards?

        1. The most important thing about becoming a well-known and successful personal trainer is the knowledge and dedication you put in year after year. The certification is just to get your foot in the door. That being said, the three for one deal is definitely a good one because you can get multiple certifications for a very low price.

      15. David Bajramovic

        Hey Tyler,

        now that NASM offers online course for the first time, would you say that it has a clear advantage over ISSA in almost all aspects? I am looking to get PT certification and will be looking for a job mainly in Middle East, Asia and possibly Europe, but definitely not US. So would you say that NASM is as respected outside the US as it is there? Thank you in advance

        1. These are some excellent questions. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Academy of sports medicine has for a limited time the ability to take the exam online. And since they are so well recognized this is definitely an opportunity I would jump on if I were you.

      16. Ana Carolina Morrone

        I live in Orlando, Florida and I want to become a personal trainer, I want to focus on bodybuilding/ weight training, which program would be the best one for me? I have zero knowledge but I love to work out and really want to have a certificate to work with it.

        1. I would go with ISSA as they do have a fantastic transformation specialist certification that helps with body building that you can get alongside the general personal training certification. This seems like the route that would best suit you.

      17. Hi Tyler,

        Im looking for more nutrition based knowledge with PTC as a bonus.. My focus would primarily be online clients and friends and family at first. Im having a hard time deciding between NASM and ISSA because NASMs nutrition program is not accredited. Any Help would be awesome.

        THANK YOU!

        1. Both nutrition certifications are great. The National Academy of sports medicine is still really well recognized. If you decide to work with friends and families that want to focus on sports-related goals, I would go with the international sports Sciences Association.

      18. Is the Nasm material more difficult to learn than the ISSA material? I’m wondering if I should start with Issa and do Nasm later.
        I live in Canada, can I write the Nasm exam in Canada? I see something in their site that says they have something called Uproctor, but I am unsure if this is only during covid?

        Thanks for all your insight!

        1. The NASM Is definitely harder than the ISSA exam. About one out of every three people do not pass the National Academy of sports medicine. Approximately 90% of people pass the ISSA exam.

      19. Hi,
        Good news.
        Just last month ISSA declared that ISSA is now NCCA accredited.
        Now ISSA is great choice for certification. Isn’t it?

        Amit Patil

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