ncsf csc review - Tyler Read holding the NCSF Advanced Concepts of Strength and Conditioning textbook

This NCSF strength coach review is based on my experience studying the NCSF Certified Strength Coach curriculum, taking the CSC exam, and working in the industry as an NCSF certified strength coach.

I have over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry and hold numerous certifications, including the NCSF-CSC certification.

I also have a team of incredible trainers here at PTPioneer who hold over a dozen different fitness certifications, so we have a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of the fitness industry, including strength and conditioning.

This article reviews the NCSF-CSC certification along the following aspects:

  • Credibility of the NCSF organization
  • Cost and value of the NCSF strength coach program
  • Curriculum content in the CSC course
  • Exam difficulty and continuing education requirements

By the time you finish reading, you’ll know every aspect of the NCSF CSC certification and be ready to decide if it is the right certification for your goals.

Note that you will need a personal trainer certification before being eligible to take the NCSF CSC certification.

If you are unsure about which certification makes the most sense for your career, you can take the quiz that determines with CPT is best for you.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

Now let’s deep dive into the NCSF-CSC certification!

What is the NCSF Certified Strength Coach?

what is the ncsf csc - NCSF Strength coach textbook displayed on table next to board with lettering

The National Council on Strength and Fitness Certified Strength Coach (NCSF-CSC) certification is a highly regarded credential in the fitness industry, specifically designed by industry experts for professionals who want to specialize in strength and conditioning.

The CSC program focuses its training instruction on the foundations of science and application of strength training, athletic performance, and injury prevention, providing comprehensive knowledge and practical skills necessary for professionals to effectively work with athletes and individuals looking to improve their physical performance.

I typically see the NCSF as a competitor with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, although the latter is far more well-known, and is also a non-profit organization that publishes tons of information on strength and conditioning, so it is stiff competition.

That being said, the CSC does include a lot of practical skills that make it incredibly competitive against the CSCS.

NCSF-CSC General Information

NCSF-CSC General Information


  • Exam cost: $299+
  • Study Material Cost: $479+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED certification, high school diploma/GED
  • Exam Passing Score70%
  • Exam Pass Rate: 62%
  • Average Completion Time: 2-4 months

NCSF Credibility and Reputation

For over 25 years, the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) has been certifying fitness professionals worldwide.

NCSF is an international, member-driven organization headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, but is a name known across the world.

The NCSF was founded on the belief that strength training and physical fitness are crucial components of a healthy lifestyle for adults of any age.

The organization is grounded in scientific research, which is reflected in the content and methodology of its three certification programs, all aimed at increasing the levels of science-backed programming available to fitness professionals.

Alongside the NCSF Certified Strength Coach certificate, the NCSF offers their flagship NCSF Certified Personal Trainer certification as well as the Sport Nutrition Program. The NCSF CPT has NCCA accreditation, making is a gold-standard fitness certification.

Based on our team’s experience, the NCSF CPT is among the top fitness training certifications in the industry.

The NCSF’s certification programs are designed to equip fitness professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to create effective, evidence-based exercise programs for their clients. 

Is the NCSF Strength Coach Certification Worth It?

is the ncsf strength and conditioning certification worth it - Tyler Read deciding if the NCSF strength coach certification makes sense for his career

If you want to become a strength and conditioning coach with a deep knowledge of exercise science as well as the exercise technique and program design skills needed to deliver real results for your athletes, then the NCSF CSC certification is definitely worth it.

The only caveat is that if you do want to coach in the university setting, it’s important to ensure you do not need an NSCA CSCS, so be sure to check the job board and general job market info for where you plan to work. Colleges and universities often require a CSCS certification as a prerequisite for employment position or role in the strength and conditioning department.

If you plan to work at health clubs or a similar place, completion of the NCSF CSC should be more than sufficient for that purpose. Any given company will also have individual requirements for the qualifications of the type of person and certification they are looking to hire.

  • Cutting-edge training techniques
  • Outstanding online portal and study materials
  • NCCA accredited
  • Less popular
  • Valuable workshop instruction not included in all packages

NASM CPT vs Other Top Personal Trainer Certifications

The biggest competitor to the NCSF CSC is the NSCA CSCS. Both certifications have very similar levels of depth. The CSCS does have a harder exam, and is more well-known in the field of strength and conditioning. Additionally, the CSCS is typically required for collegiate strength and conditioning.

Other competitors would be the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist and ISSA Strength Coach.

Who is the NCSF Certified Strength Coach Certification meant for?

The NCSF Certified Strength Coach is best for coaches who need the knowledge and rigorous education required to deliver athletic performance results for their clients, but do not need the CSCS credential for a specific job. If you do plan to coach collegiate athletes, you usually need a CSCS for the credential itself, even though the curricula are similar.

Great for
  • Self-employed performance coachea
  • Athletic performance corrective exercise
Not great for
  • Collegiate strength and conditioning (due to CSCS requirement)

NCSF Certification Cost and Packages

ncsf strength and conditioning certification cost. NCSF textbook laid on table with gold coins

The NCSF-CSC certification exam costs $299 when bought alone, which is standard pricing for all certification organizations.

It is also included in the packages above the simple exam-only plan.

This is the same if you are taking this for CEUs or certification to become a Strength Coach with NCSF.

The price is standard for the industry and matches the other certification exams offered through NCSF.

NCSF CSC price options chart with various package options

NCSF Home Study

The home study course is the intro study package offered through the NCSF website. It is the cheapest study program and costs $399.

The package includes the textbook’s digital edition, instructional video access, lesson notes, questions, answers, review quizzes, 8 NCSF CEUS, a payment plan option, a one-year membership, and access to set up the NCSF certified strength coach exam.

The highlight of this study plan is that it has everything you need to become a strength and conditioning coach, especially with the very useful digital textbook and an online portal.

NCSF Home Study Plus

This study plan is the second-tier option that the NCSF offers.

This plan has everything in the previous one, with the difference being that it includes a physical textbook. This package costs $449.00.

The digital textbook, in PDF versions supplied through the online portal, is superior to the typical flipping through a physical book.

NCSF Workshop

This is the introductory version of the study plan when considering the ones that include the 2-day workshop.

This is the equivalent of 16 hours spread across the two days.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

NCSF live workshops are taken by people going for either their certification for a strength coach or 7 CEU credits from the course for recertification.

The workshop is great for hands-on experience with a qualified strength and conditioning coach.

There is a lot of great insight into the future of your strength and conditioning coach career in this added program.

The base price is $899, just like the previous package’s price, but it does not have a physical textbook.

For the second-tier packages, which are $100 more than the Home Study package, we find it a much better value to purchase this over the Home Study +.The benefits of the Workshop far outweigh the benefits of the physical textbook for most people.

The last thing to mention in this plan is the Certified Strength Coach Reference Guide.

NCSF Workshop Plus

This is the final package for the Certified Strength Coach.

This package includes everything mentioned in the previous package, and it also includes the physical textbook.

The base price for this is $999.

An important thing to mention for those getting into the fitness industry is the bundles for multiple certifications bought together.

NCSF has three great options when it comes to these bundles.

NCSF Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Strength Coach

This is a popular Certification bundle for those that want to be a personal trainer and strength coach, which work perfectly together.

It is also important to consider the certification requirements, which the last one is an NCCA accredited fitness certification like the CPT from NCSF.

This is one major reason for this package being so popular.

Often, we see personal trainers wanting to expand their knowledge by adding specific strength and conditioning knowledge that is seen to focus more on athletic populations.

Both of these certifications are NCCA accredited, and that means you have two very valuable certifications done in one bundle.

This bundle does leave out the focused nutrition aspect that you can get with their third certification, the NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist (NCSF-SNS).

The base price for this bundle is put at $1,299, and it regularly has sales for around half of that price.

This is a solid option for anyone looking to enter the realm of fitness with all the knowledge they can while skimping a tad on the nutrition side of things.

NCSF Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutrition Specialist

This bundle is also a popular choice offered on the NCSF site, costing $699.00.

Here we have a bundle of the certified personal training certification, which is NCCA accredited, and the sports nutrition specialist.

If you are on this page, the chances are that you are not interested in a program that excludes the certified strength coach.

The CPT certification will always match well with a nutrition certification, so it is always a solid choice for those looking for that combination.

The base price of this bundle is $1,199, and it is often going to be found on sale for around half of that price.

NCSF Master Trainer Program

This is the ultimate bundle of education programs available through NCSF, and it can’t be more highly recommended.

This option combines the Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Nutrition Specialist, and Certified Strength Coach certifications.

This is hands down the best option for anyone looking to learn all they can in the realm of fitness and training.

These three certifications together show the commitment that a trainer has and shows future clients a complete grasp of all things fitness.

The clients and employers know that anyone who has these three certifications will be a valuable asset and great value for them to use.

Enrollment into this program will maximize knowledge in the categories of human performance, athletic performance, and nutrition.

NCSF Certification Review – Personal Trainer Content Coverage

ncsf strength and conditioning certification table of contents - NCSF textbook open to the table of contents

The textbook comprises 18 chapters and over 650 pages covering all topics within strength and conditioning.

The e-learning portal NCSF uses for the strength coach is easy to use and offers many prep quizzes and questions so that the exam is well-prepared.

There is a significant focus on the videos in this online portal, as this help show the learned materials and, specifically, the advanced lifts in amazing detail.

There is an entire focused chapter for the Exercise Video Library.

The online study portal is broken down into seven different learning sections:

  1. Performance Assessment and Evaluation
  2. Biomechanics
  3. Sport Metabolism
  4. Nutrition and Ergogenic Aids
  5. Training Techniques for Athletic Performance
  6. Advanced Programming for Sport
  7. Injury Prevention and Return to Competition

It also includes an Exercise Video Library, which is a huge asset when it comes to teaching exercise technique.

The Study Units are broken up into chapters.

The chapters include the learning goals, lesson notes, questions and answers, a quiz, and a recommended textbook review (the PDF is available to download).

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You
NCSF Strength Coach Review ([year]) 4
NCSF Strength Coach Review ([year]) 5

Exercise Science

ncsf csc metabolic overview chart - metabolic overview for various intensities

Being a certification for those wanting to be elite strength coaches, it makes sense that the exercise science section is solid. This area of knowledge is a must to deliver real results with high standards.

While there lacks an anatomy and physiology section, their sports biomechanics section is very in-depth. It does cover key concepts like understanding energy systems as they apply to fitness goals, movements in the human body, and similar topics.

Most information in this realm goes straight to how biomechanics and movement apply to sports instead of introducing human anatomy and basic kinesiology.

This could be because most people in this program are already certified personal trainers and/or have some educational background in a related field.

Corrective Exercise

NCSF CSC corrective exercise chart - common errors during major movements and corrective approaches

The NCSF covers corrective exercise as it applies to athletes. Interestingly, most strength certifications do not cover this aspect of resistance training, despite the fact that it has major implications for athletes who have injury histories or various muscular imbalances.

I really appreciate this section because it definitely improves the safety of athletes under your purview.

Chapter 5 of the NCSF-CSC textbook covers a wealth of information on corrective exercise.

Behavior Change Coaching Skills

Since this is not a general personal trainer certification, there is little emphasis on behavior coaching skills. As a strength coaching student, you will already have a CPT certification that probably covered this in more detail.

Most people in this program aren’t aiming to encourage physical activity to be unmotivated or undisciplined clients but are aiming to prepare athletes to be their best.

In other words, in the NCSF-CSC program, the only behavior coaching would refer to strength coaches’ ability to mentally and physically prepare athletes to compete.

You will learn the skills to provide feedback on form as well as increase motivation during training sessions. However, behavior change itself is generally less of a focus.

Most athletes have performance in mind, which means as a coach you can focus on accountability support rather than trying to get people to change behaviors to get in shape such as when coaching general fitness clients.

Consulting and Screening Clients to Reduce Risks of Injury

Chapter 2 of the NCSF-CSC textbook teaches you how to conduct a sports analysis, which helps you develop the best program for your client.

The next chapter describes top-of-the-line performance assessments to conduct and interpret when conditioning elite athletes.

And finally, there is a whole chapter on injury prevention and return to competition, which is essential knowledge to apply in strength and conditioning.

Undoubtedly, strength coaches for all types of athletes benefit from this knowledge and application.

Overall, the NCSF-CSC program does very well in covering client screening.

Program Design and Exercise Technique

NCSF CSC review olympic lifting technique - man demonstrates the overhead squat

I’d say that program design and exercise technique is probably the NCSF-CSC program’s strongest section. The exercise prescription and number of exercises covered is staggering, especially compared to other certifications.

For instance, the book exceeds the expectations of most strength coach programs by covering the following:

  • Olympic lifting techniques
  • Change of direction drills
  • Theories and techniques for speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ programs)
  • Considerations for programming
  • Programming for sports performance
  • Periodization methods
  • Intermittent sports conditioning
  • Designing endurance sports training programs

Within the section, there is discussion on plyometrics, functional training, powerlifting, weight training equipment tools like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, bodybuilding and muscle hypertrophy training, and other vital topics.


Chapters 6 through 8 cover basic sport metabolism, sports nutrition, and ergogenic aids.

This information is helpful for strength coaches to guide athletes to make the most nutritional choices that benefit their performance and health. This is also important for weight management strategies, which are vital for athletes in sports with weight classes.

Helping Special Populations with Fitness

While this textbook does not emphasize special populations, the NCSF personal trainer textbook curriculum covers this, which most CSC students have already completed.

Since the CSC program is designed for learning how to coach athletes, there’s no focus on senior fitness or pre, peri, and postnatal fitness or coaching children.

Thinking Long-Term: Business Skills

Unfortunately, this textbook fails to cover any strength and conditioning business aspects.

Sure, having this quality knowledge is great, but if you ever want to have your own strength and conditioning business, you’d have to dig deeper into other resources to learn the ropes of staying afloat in this career.


In my opinion, the NCSF CSC is one of the most comprehensive strength and conditioning certifications on the market. In some ways, it covers more content than the NSCA CSCS, in particular with regards to Olympic weightlifting, which is often glossed over in other strength and conditioning curricula, or at the very least, insufficiently covered.

The NCSF Advanced Concepts of Strength & Conditioning textbook is the main text for up-to-date, evidence-based information in the field of strength & fitness.

However, the online portal conveniently lays out everything you need.

Its 18 chapters cover relevant topics in developing high-level competency in human performance.

The book includes key elements of strength and conditioning, including athlete-needs analysis, corrective exercise methods, speed, and power development, all of which constitute advanced program design.

The only downside is its failure to include strength and conditioning business tips.

Also, remember that there isn’t much emphasis on special populations.

NCSF Exam Prep and Study Materials

ncsf strength and conditioning exam prep study materials - NCSF textbook open with notes for studying

This course is all online, with the option for a physical textbook and other options for on-site instruction to be purchased. You can access all of this through your NCSF account.

Extra resources are valuable include flashcards and additional practice tests, which can definitely boost your exam preparation. Including as many resources as you can is one of the best strategies for passing the exam on your first try.

If needed, you can also seek workshop instruction.

NCSF Certification Requirements

The NCSF-CSC certification program does require that you have one of these three things:

  • Associate’s degree
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Another NCCA-accredited fitness certification (i.e., NCSF-CPT)
  • Enrollment in the CPT/CSC dual credentialing program or the Master Trainer program

The NCSF-CSC course is available to all candidates interested in learning more about strength and conditioning.

To be eligible to write the NCSF-CSC exam, you must have obtained the NCSF-CPT certification or any other NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification.

Candidates with an exercise science bachelor’s degree or college degree in a related field can take the exam without having the base NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification.


It’s hard to peg a specific salary for the NCSF-CSC. This is because there is simply not enough data on the specific certification as it functions in the real world.

According to, the average strength coach starting salary ranges from $40,000 to $50,000, although this will vary heavily based on where you work, your experience, and the general cost of living in your area.

Taking the Final NCSF Exam

ncsf csc exam - the NCSF test laid out on table with questions and answer sheet

The CSC test has over 200 multiple choice questions that go into the content areas covered within the actual exam.

Below is a comprehensive outline of the NCSF-CSC certification exam:

This exam is administered through appointments in over 1,000 testing centers available in 83 countries and is available online.

There are 150 multiple choice questions, and to pass, you must score 70 or higher.

You will be given three hours to complete your exam.

According to the most recent statistics, the pass rate for the NCSF-CSC certification exam is roughly 62%.

Really, this is only slightly harder than most other strength and conditioning certification exams, ranging between 63% and 70%.

Finally, upon completing the exam, you can earn 8 NCSF continued education credits (CECs) or 1 unit of the Ethics requirement that all NCSF certified professionals need to fulfill.

If you fail, it costs $99 to retake – if you live in the US.

If you live outside of the US, it’ll cost you $299 to retake, which is pretty drastic.

NCSF Continuing Education and Recertification

Similar to other fitness certifying agencies, all NCSF professionals are required to submit the NCSF Recertification Application detailing completed continuing education units (CEUs) every two years.

NCSF CSC certification renewal requirements

This two-year period of certification begins on the day you pass your NCSF certification exam and ends on the last day of the month in which the certification began, 2 years later.

The NCSF Board for Certification (NCSFBC) requires 10 CEUs to be completed during your two-year certification period.

But what if you hold more than one credential?

The number of required CEUs still remains 10.

Although NCSF provides numerous top-notch CEU opportunities, you can earn your CEUs through a variety of educational outlets.

I read in the latest version of the NCSF Recertification Handbook a full list of the approved categories in which you may earn CEUs and the maximum attainable value for each category.

Below is the NCSF CEU categorical requirement breakdown:

There, you’ll find which education and training courses are pre-approved by the NCSF for CEUs toward recertification.

Your NCSF-CSC Recertification Application must be complete in order for it to be processed, and you’ll need to pay a $75 recertification fee and provide all supporting CEU documentation.

For two or more credentials, the recertification fee is $100.

Not bad, when comparing the recertification prices to NASM or ISSA.

Other NCSF Offerings

The NCSF only offers two additional certifications: the NCSF Certified Personal Trainer Certification, and the NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist Certification. Although this is somewhat limited set of offerings, each certification offers an incredibly in-depth approach to its respective topic, unlike some other CEU options which have a bit more ‘fluff.’

NCSF CSC Overall Rating

ncsf csc certification overall rating. Textbook for NCSF CSC displayed on table for overall rating
NCSF Certified Strength Coach
NCSF Strength Coach Review ([year]) 6

I can guarantee that after reading this article, you’ll know whether the NCSF-CSC certification is a smart move for your fitness career!

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: $399

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:


  • Cutting-edge training techniques
  • Outstanding online portal and study materials
  • NCCA accredited


  • Less well-known
  • Valuable workshop instruction not included in all packages

NCSF-CSC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

ncsf strength and conditioning faqs - NCSF textbook on table with FAQ board

Is NCSF a good certification?

With its laser-sharp focus on sport-specific conditioning, reactive strength, drill instruction, and ballistic training instructions, the NCSF-CSC certification isn’t just a good certification but one of the best ones for working with all athletes, including professional athletes.

How long does it take to become NCSF-CSC certified?

Typical NCSF-CSC program duration lasts 2-4 months to complete and be ready for the exam. Once purchased, you have 6 months to complete the program and schedule your exam, slightly shorter than the year other popular organizations offer.

Can I take the NCSF-CSC certification exam remotely?

Yes! The NCSF-CSC course is an online strength and conditioning certification allowing you to take the exam remotely.

What does COES stand for?

COES stands for the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences. The COES uses the NCSF standards to assess college strength and conditioning education programs.

What is NATA-BOC?

NATA-BOC stands for the National Athletic Trainers Association Board of Certification. This is the professional membership association for Certified Athletic Trainers and others who support the athletic training profession.

What is the job outlook for certified strength coaches?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for all strength and conditioning specialists and other fitness professionals should grow by 12 percent through 2029. This growth rate is much faster than average.

Does NCSF provide a military discount?

NCSF certifications are US Department of Veterans Affairs approved for post-9/11 GI Bill reimbursement. If you are eligible for the NCSF military support plan, you’ll receive a $299 reimbursement for each program. This applies to the NCSF Personal Trainer Certification, Sports Nutrition Specialist, and Certified Strength Coach programs. Also, the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Scholarship provides up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to eligible military spouses.

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

All Posts

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

Ask me a question and I will reply ASAP

Find the best Cert for you


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the ACE CPT


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the NASM CPT