Hello and welcome to PTPioneer and my ultimate review of the CPT certification from NCSF.
Once you have read through this comprehensive NCSF review, you will be able to know if this certification is the best option for you and your career!
On this page, I will be covering all of the basics that come along with personal training certifications, like these topics:
By the time you finish reading, you will have the inside scoop on the NCSF CPT certification.
If you are completely stumped on where to begin your fitness career, then I recommend you take my quiz to see which CPT certification is the best fit.
Let’s get to it!
Quick Breakdown: NCSF CPT Certification
- NCCA accredited program
- Lower cost than most other CPT certs
- Solid textbook packed with all essential training knowledge
- Outstanding e-learning portal for study materials
- Lesser known brand
- Lacking in behavioral coaching and business components of personal training
- Package options are all too similar
NCSF CPT General Information
- Exam cost: $299
- Study material cost: $419 – $540
- Prerequisites: 18 years of age
- Exam passing score: 70%
- Exam pass rate: ~75% (2019 data)
- Average completion time: 3 – 6 months
- Complete curriculum study preparation
- Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
- 800+ practice questions
- Highest exam pass rate
- Exam pass refund guarantee
- Cheaper pricing than NCSF materials
- Curriculum study preparation
- Video and written curriculum included
- Textbook purchased separately
- 200+ practice questions
- No exam pass refund guarantee
- $419.00 for starter package
- Curriculum material overview
- Complete chapter breakdowns
- 60 practice questions
- 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
- Free from PTPioneer
NCSF CPT Review Video
About four years ago I did a video review on the NCSF CPT program.
You can check it out here. Overall, the video is a little different as this program has changed a lot over the last four years, but you can still get some standard information from the video.
What is NCSF?
NCSF is an acronym that stands for the National Council on Strength and Fitness.
This organization has been around for over 25 years in the fitness industry.
The NCSF sports nutrition certification is among the best nutrition certs in the industry for those trainers looking to become a nutrition coach.
For a deeper look at the top organizations in the fitness industry, check out my article breaking down the best personal trainer certifications.
The NCSF is found in over 160 countries and used by 280,000 educated professionals. Its mission is to inspire people to become their best.
When it comes to personal training, it is their bread and butter, with the other offerings of sport nutrition and certified strength coach being a bit less utilized.
The NCSF programs are also NCCA accredited certifications, which is the gold standard for certifications in the fitness industry.
For more help choosing from the best NCCA accredited certifications, I highly recommend you take my quiz below to find out which CPT is right for you.
The certifications exams are all taken online or in testing centers found in the united states and other countries.
The organization also offers a great online digital learning portal to help with making studying easier for future fitness professionals.
Next, let’s look more closely at the NCSF CPT, which is one of the many online personal trainer certifications that are offered in the fitness realm.
Let’s specifically look at the CPT certification from NCSF next.
NCSF CPT General Information
This personal training certification is not among the top organizations that people think of first, but it is still a quality certification that stands up there with them, even if the name isn’t as respected.
To become a personal trainer, you need to pass a CPT exam and become certified in personal training.
You do not need a degree in exercise science, although it never hurts to pursue that option.
The study programs and packages that include study materials and certification exam registration all come in at around half the price of the top-name organizations.
This means that you are getting nearly the same level of education and certification that is offered by the top brands but at a much lower price.
The company also offers one of the greatest master trainer programs in the fitness industry, including all three of their primary certification. But, I will expand on this in the next section on packages and costs.
If you’ve been wondering how to become a personal trainer, there has never been a better time to get into the industry.
Let’s take a look at some of the prerequisites for NCSF CPT certification:
- You will need to be at least 18 years old
That is actually all that they really require to get the certification, but in general, it is a good idea to go for your CPR and AED certification through an outside resource, as pretty much all jobs will require that to get hired as a trainer.
For the pricing of the NCSF CPT certification, you can see that NCSF has some of the lowest prices compared to top organizations such as NASM or ACE.
In general, their pricing with deals usually has a package price that includes an exam and study materials for the same price as bigger organizations offering only an exam. So, if we were to talk about value, then this would be a greater value than the bigger organizations, just lacking the popular brand name.
I will go into more details regarding the pricing of packages later on in the article, but expect to pay 400-500 for a study package for the NCSF CPT.
All parts of the CPT program are provided through an e-learning portal that stands up to the best. It stands out compared to programs offered by organizations like NSCA, where they do not offer online personal trainer learning options.
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NCSF also offers some great workshops for future trainers to attend and get some hands-on experience to further their career in personal training. It is an excellent option for extra study help.
In case you wonder how long it takes to become a personal trainer, it varies, and in the case of NCSF, students took approximately 2 – 6 months.
Let’s dive into the packages and associated costs in the next section!
NCSF CPT Packages/Costs
There are many study packages available through NCSF, and some of them will even include other certifications for specialization in areas like nutrition and strength coaching.
Let’s break down the materials included in each package, and then after this section, we will look at how well the materials cover the main PTPioneer CPT review variables.
NCSF Home Study Package
This is the first and most basic package offered through NCSF. There is quite a bit offered in this $419 package.
You will, of course, get access to a certification exam, as well as access to the digital textbook, instructional videos, lesson notes, questions and answers, review quizzes, instructor support, a one-year membership to NCSF, and the option for a payment plan.
The base price is $700, but it is regularly on sale for $419, which again is half the price of most top organizations and their exam plus study material options.
NCSF Home Study + Package
This second option from NCSF is primarily for someone who prefers a physical study option and textbook that they can actually use without the internet portal.
The package is normally a base price of $800, but it is regularly on sale for $479.
Included in this package is everything from the previous package, but with the inclusion of a physical textbook. This is for someone who would prefer this physical option, but it still includes an easy-to-access digital textbook.
Some people prefer to study with a textbook they can write and highlight in, and this would be for them.
NCSF Workshop Package
The third option from NCSF is the workshop option, which includes everything from the home study option, but includes access to the 2-day workshop instruction and a workshop reference guide.
The only thing really missing is the physical textbook, which is included in the fourth and final option.
The base price of the workshop package is $800 and goes for $479 on a regular sale price.
NCSF Workshop + Package
This fourth option is the workshop+ option, and it includes everything that has been mentioned in all of the other packages.
So, the main inclusions that differentiate it are the workshop hours and the physical textbook.
The Workshop + package comes at a base price of $900 or a regular sale price of $539.
And that wraps up the final options for the CPT certification alone.
NCSF Master Trainer Package
This package option is not just for the CPT certification, as it includes a total of their three fitness certifications for access to an amazing bundle for fitness professionals.
Included here will be the CPT, Strength Coach, and Sport Nutrition certifications. It is known as the master trainer bundle, as it includes the three main fitness certifications that are achieved by personal trainers and strength coaches.
The base price of this bundle is $2,197, but it is sold on a regular deal for $1000. This is beyond an amazing value for someone going to become a title higher than a personal trainer in the future.
There is a lot of experience and knowledge wrapped up within the programs, and you may often pay the $1000 alone for a study package and exam from the top organizations in the industry.
So, is NCSF worth the money?
When it comes to value, look no further than NCSF, and for the best value, look at their master trainer package.
It does not carry the same reputation as top brands like ACE, NSCA, or NASM, but it does carry a quality NCCA accredited study program and certification exam that ensures a personal trainer is ready for the job.
I believe that it is a great certification for first-time entries into the fitness industry and should be looked at as such.
You can kickstart your NCSF CPT studying today by checking out my free NCSF study guide and practice test, which will give you a better feel for what to expect from the NCSF.
If you are stressed about spending money and potentially failing the NCSF exam, I recommend purchasing a third-party study package with an exam pass guarantee such as the Trainer Academy NCSF CPT MVP Study Bundle. Check out our review on Trainer Academy, so you can get an idea of how valuable this is.
NCSF also ups the value by offering bundles for their certifications, if you desire to go for more than one.
The most popular bundle is the NCSF Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutrition Specialist package.
For the latest deals on the NCSF CPT certification, check pricing directly through the main website.
NCSF CPT Study Materials and Content Coverage
The main textbook is titled the Advanced Concepts of Personal Training 2nd Edition, and again this can be purchased in both digital and physical editions for studying.
The NCSF Textbook features 17 chapters, which are:
- Chapter 1 – Introduction to Personal Training
- Chapter 2 – Functional Anatomy and Training Instruction
- Chapter 3 – Kinetic Chain Function and Corrective Exercises
- Chapter 4 – Human Physiology
- Chapter 5 – Evaluating Health and Physical Fitness
- Chapter 6 – Physical Activity And Risk for Disease
- Chapter 7 – Resting and Active Fitness Assessments
- Chapter 8 – Understanding Nutrition
- Chapter 9 – Exploring Dietary Supplements
- Chapter 10 – Body Composition
- Chapter 11 – Weight Management
- Chapter 12 – Exercise Program Components
- Chapter 13 – Anaerobic Resistance Training
- Chapter 14 – Cardiorespiratory Fitness
- Chapter 15 – Flexibility
- Chapter 16 – Introduction to Exercise Programming
- Chapter 17 – Working with Special Populations
As you can see from this layout, there are all the main topics discussed in personal training certifications, but I would like to point out the lack of a Business strategy chapter, or similar content.
That is a surprisingly lacking part of the personal training experience that NCSF does not touch on.
Taking that out of the considerations, there is a solid covering of the other main topics for certifications for personal training. Let’s look at each of these main categories in detail.
Exercise Science Foundations
The foundations of exercise are well done in this certification.
Essentially, this information is going to be found throughout chapters 2 – 4, and this is going to be the basic information that is found throughout all parts of the other top organizations.
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It is pretty much standard practice here and does not do anything outside of the norm to set itself apart.
When it comes to exercise prescription, there is a great amount of information to be found, and even to the point of corrective exercise prescription receiving a great amount of focus.
You will also find all of the material you need to be a good coach when it comes to explaining the anatomy and physiology of movement to clients. It really is detailed to the perfect and expected level.
Let’s look at behavioral coaching next.
This is a section of coaching and personal training that is lacking a bit within this NCSF certification. There is not that much available in the textbook in regard to behavioral coaching.
This is similar to the lack of business section being missing from the book on a significant enough scale.
Behavioral coaching should preferably have some mention of goal setting and other important interactions dealing with psychology and changing the mindset of clients to improve their health.
This domain of knowledge has a lot to help with motivation for clients and adherence to programs. It isn’t highly focused on in this certification.
The little they do teach in the realm of behavioral coaching is found in the screening sections regarding lifestyle, behaviors, and history and how these influence clients. But, again, this is slim in regard to comparisons with other certifying organizations.
Next, let’s look into the screening sections, which I did mention a bit here.
Client Health Screening and Movement Screening
This can somewhat make up for and cover for the significant lack of information in behavioral coaching. This information will primarily exist within chapters 5 – 7.
They do a good job of listing all of the factors that affect someone’s fitness levels and enhance one’s own quality of life. They also do a good job of teaching the screening process as it needs to be done when beginning with a client.
They have many sections involved with the finding of specific past injuries and how that may affect someone’s future being trained by a certified personal trainer.
The required documents such as informed consent, PAR-Q, and medical history questionnaires are all detailed and discussed.
One part that gets its own chapter would be the physical activity and risk for disease, which is an important piece of information that NCSF really goes into detail with. This is a major plus in this area.
And then for the actual assessment of cardiorespiratory and muscular testing, as well as resting assessments, we see a whole chapter getting devoted. In my opinion, it would have been a bit more beneficial to have them split into two chapters and the detail be even greater, but it is still a solid section that they have in the text.
Next, we will look into the Resistance and Aerobic styles of training and how well the NCSF does with them.
Resistance training is a prime area for a personal trainer to be well informed in, as the trainer will need to know how and when to use the proper exercises. This needs to be taught well to be a worthwhile certification.
Thankfully, NCSF has not dropped the ball here, and has a big singular chapter dedicated to this style of training, while also having it detailed throughout other chapters when it comes to variables of training and lifestyle factors affecting resistance training.
In terms of resistance training, you can expect all of the adaptation and benefits of training knowledge to be provided, which oftentimes is what you need to help convince clients to actually start resistance training.
They also help a bit with what training goals should look like when someone is looking to work in a specific way, like working on general fitness, aerobic endurance, hypertrophy, and strength training phases of programming.
They differentiate and use the typical teaching points to nail these different subjects. The training guidelines are presented in an easy-to-learn way, and this allows trainers to start utilizing and understanding this before they even finish their entire study materials.
They also emphasize the importance and use of more advanced techniques that people train, like plyometrics and ballistic exercise.
All in all, resistance training receives the proper amount of care in the crafting of the resistance training aspects of the study materials.
Next, let’s look into the Aerobic Fitness training information covered through NCSF.
Aerobic Fitness Training
Aerobic Fitness also receives the perfect amount of information so that a personal trainer may succeed in their job.
The chapter dedicated to cardiorespiratory fitness will go over all of the essential information that is needed in the fitness industry.
As was discussed in the screening section, you will be able to accurately screen clients to find their current level of cardiovascular health and fitness.
You are also going to be able to use scales like the RPE scale or the talk test, among other options, to find the proper gauging of intensities during cardiovascular training. There is a solid focus on the importance of heart rate, too.
The differences and many uses of both low and high-intensity work will be stressed to a great degree, and you can relate that information to the sections on energy expenditure. It even has a scientific approach with the importance of METs and other energy expenditure methods.
Then, this may all be related to the age, sex, and genetics sections that wrap up the chapter to determine how a trainer can adapt the programs they design to suit different populations.
This section on aerobic fitness stands up to what is required for a trainer to know, and that gives it a good score.
Last, let’s look into how NCSF cares for their section on special populations.
Special Population Training
This section may be a little more lacking than some other sections. They do have a chapter dedicated to it, but they do not excel in the amount of information within.
They allow you to know just enough to deal with many different special population groups, but not any more than that.
I do like how they have a concise table built to reach every one of the population groups, but I think this section should be longer and include more about each of the special populations.
With that said, the main special populations are still touched upon, and the concise tables do make it easy to find exactly the information you need if you were searching fast for it.
They do have a saving grace of sample programming that they provide, and this can help many trainers once they get their certification and make their own programs. This is a great addition to this section.
NCSF handles nutrition with a thorough chapter describing all of the primary foundations for nutritional science.
Each macronutrient and micronutrient is covered in great detail. The recommended intake levels are detailed with each of these sections.
Included in this domain is information on hydration and electrolytes, which can be skimmed over in other certifications.
There will be everything you need, in terms of basic introduction, if you are looking to know how to become a nutrition coach. A nutrition coach earns quite a bit, and the field is growing similar to personal training.
The personal trainer’s scope of practice is touched on well enough, and this assists trainers with knowing what they can and cannot mention as far as nutrition.
The certification is not lacking in this minor domain, and it helps people that may go into the NCSF sport nutrition certification later in their career. There are many future options for personal trainers to pursue like this.
It also is similar in its offerings as health coach certifications in the fitness industry.
Even something as simple as resume advice for trainers would be a good start outside of the base knowledge. Many programs do offer these as an add-on of sorts.
NCSF CPT Certification Exam
The NCSF certification exam is a 3-hour multiple-choice test that contains 150 questions in total.
Here are the exam sections:
- Functional Anatomy – 12%
- Exercise Physiology – 8%
- Health and Physical Fitness – 11%
- Screening and Evaluation – 13%
- Nutrition – 7%
- Weight Management – 9%
- Exercise Programming – 19%
- Training Instruction – 15%
- Considerations for Special Populations – 3%
- Professionalism and Risk Management – 3%
These are all of the main sections which they quiz for within the exam. So, if you see one with more weight, it could be a good idea to put more focus on that category.
The NCSF is not one of the most challenging certification exams that exist for personal training, but it is not a guaranteed pass, either.
It is a good idea to go in well-prepared and have studied for the appropriate amount of time, which is around 3 – 6 months.
The other study options like the workshops and flashcards that they offer in their portal will ensure that you have as much information as possible down.
NCSF CPT Recertification
CEUs are continuing education units, which are credits for recertification.
NCSF requires that certified individuals get 10 CEUs for recertification, and this must be done every two years for which the person is a member. These 10 CEUs end up equaling the same as most other organizations, which is 20 hours of education every two years.
These will essentially make sure that the personal trainer is continuing to educate themself and keeping up with aspects of the industry. They hold the personal trainers accountable for staying current.
They also give CEUs for some things that other organizations do not, such as for certifying in CPR, or some ethics and professional practice CEUs.
Make sure you know some quick and easy CEUs, for the easiest time recertifying.
It is important to look through all of the supported organizations that NCSF allows you to get CEUs through, as they are more than just their own organization.
The number of required continuing education units also does not change if the person has more than one certification. This is because recertification will always require 10 CEUs with NCSF, but you will need to pay a little more for each additional certification you renew.
The recertification fee for personal trainers will be $75, which is lower than the average for the industry when it comes to recertification fees.
PTPioneer Review Methodology
This PTpioneer NCSF certification review is based on the expert opinion and these criteria:
- Gathered opinions of successful personal trainers within the fitness industry
- Comparisons between other top personal training certifications to verify quality and pricing
- The usual information coming from new trainers that have passed the NCSF CPT exam
- Many other CPT certs and entry-level fitness programs
Frequently Asked Questions
The NCSF CPT certification is a solid certification in the fitness industry that does most of the required things right while skimping on the behavioral coaching aspects.
If you are looking to have all of the knowledge needed for the proper design of exercise programs and screening of clients, and all for an affordable price, then look no further than NCSF.
If you consider the value of the master trainer bundle from NCSF, then you will find that NCSF provides a lot of value for less money than the top organizations. I would rate this NCSF CPT cert a 7.4 out of 10. It is good but not the best out there.
I hope that this review helps you to make a great decision in your future personal training career.
Ready to kickoff your NCSF CPT journey?