My Experience With NASM


As you may have heard on one of my social media channels, I am officially an NASM certified personal trainer!! I passed my test this past Thursday, and I'm so dang proud of myself.

Several people asked me questions about the process, so I thought I'd share my experience.


Over the course of the past 3 years (yeah, I've been thinking about this for a while) I did quite a bit of research and asked a number of trusted trainers for their advice on which program is the most reputable. Hands down, NASM got the best reviews. It is very science-heavy and comprehensive. Almost any gym will happily accept a trainer with an NASM certification. 

Which package did you purchase?

I purchased the self-study package that sells for $599 normally, but I actually reached out to PBfingers' contact to get a nice discount. It came with the book, online flashcards, a practice test, the online learning center, and a voucher to actually take the test. I felt like that was plenty.

How long did you spend studying and what study tips do you have?

Geez. I spent a lot of time studying. NASM gives you 180 from the day you register to take the exam, so you can't dilly dally. I started studying in March and took the test at the end of July. I read the entire book twice, made a ton of flashcards, made a study guide, and read as many blogs about the test as I could to prepare for the test. 

I would definitely recommend reading every word of the book and watching all of the videos in the eLearning center. The NASM actually created a study guide that will help you to divvy up your time so that you don't end up cramming at the end. This content is too heavy to procrastinate studying and becoming really familiar with the material.

I would read during my lunch break, on the train, when I got home from work -- basically all of my spare time. I also used 2 of the NASM mobile apps to quiz myself on the train.

Could you hit at some focus areas to study?

  • Anatomy!! You need to know every muscle listed in the back of the book + its functions. You need to know this at a very detailed level -- each muscle in the hamstring complex, each muscle stabilizing core muscle, etc. 
  • Fitness Assessment - memorize the charts. Which muscles are over/underactive in each compensation. 
  • Muscles as Movers - memorize the charts that talk about the different functions of muscles in different movements. For example, in a squat, which muscles are the agonist, synergist, stabilizer, and the antagonist?
  • Science vocab - Ch 2
  • Cardiovascular system - understand the path that blood moves through + vocab terms
  • OPT Model - This is a really simple concept, but don't gloss over it because they ask a lot of questions like, "If a client is in X stage, which would be a good superset for them?"
  • SMART goals - what does the acronym stand for, what are examples of SMART goals?
  • Program design - this kind of goes along with the OPT model, but you should feel really comfortable with designing programs
  • Exercise progressions/regressions
  • Daily requirements of water, carbs, protein, fats
  • Vitamin surplus

What was the test like? 

The test was difficult, I'm not going to lie. It was 120 questions (multiple choice) in a proctored computer room. Based on my performance in the practice test, I knew that I needed to read the questions very closely in the real test, as the wording can be tricky. I took my time, but finished with plenty of time to spare. 

I was expecting a lot more questions about the special populations chapter, but honestly don't remember very many questions about those topics. 

When I finished the test, I was fully expecting to see my results appear on the screen. I sat in my chair for a moment waiting and then my screen went black. I walked over to the proctor and told him I was finished. I don't think he could have cared less. Without altering the bored look on his face at all, he printed a sheet of paper and handed it to me. Discouraged by his apathy, I had to read the "Congratulations" note several times before I was assured that I had passed. I walked out feeling like a champion.

Did you guys have any other questions that you would like me to expand upon?