Category: Fitness

The National Strength and Conditioning Association

National Strength and Conditioning AssociationThe National Strength and Conditioning Association, or NSCA, is one of THE largest organizations you’ll find. It has over 30,000 members in 52 countries! From the numbers alone, you can see why they consider themselves to be the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning. The organization offers the CPT and CSCS credentials. In my opinion, the NSCA has one of the better membership platforms. Members receive a monthly journal, access to a career board, discounts on conferences, and much more. You will find their certification-landing page HERE.


NSCA-CPT – The CPT (certified personal trainer) was developed for people who work one-on-one with their clients in a variety of environments, including health/fitness clubs, wellness centers, schools and clients’ homes. Those that hold this certification have been thoroughly tested on the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully train both active and sedentary people, as well as those with special needs.

NSCA-CSCS – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes with the goal of improving athletic performance. They conduct sport-specific testing sessions, design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs and are able to provide guidance regarding nutrition and injury prevention. You will see many coaches that have this credential as well as allied health professionals, and chiropractic physicians. This credential has a semi stringent application process. All candidates have to hold a relevant 4-year degree and submit an original transcript of course work.

NSCA-CSPS – The Certified Special Populations Specialist utilizes an individualized approach to assess, motivate, educate, and train special populations of all ages that present with or without chronic or temporary health conditions. They are able to do this individually, or in collaboration with other healthcare professionals.

NSCA-TSAC-F – The Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator brings unique, scientific knowledge to the table that allows the training of military, fire and rescue, law enforcement, protective services, and other emergency personnel. Facilitators are able to provide focused needs assessments as well as physical testing, and then, design and implement safe and effective strength and conditioning programming.

The American College of Sports Medicine

American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine also touts being one of the largest fitness organizations in the world with over 45,000 certified professionals. This organization established the protocols for fitness testing that others use to this day. They offer many (9) different health related certifications and specializations. Most of these are applicable to fitness professionals. ACSM also offers additional study materials, webinars, and workshops along with its courses. Exams are computer based at a proctored facility. Their certification landing page can be found by clicking HERE.


ACSM-CPT – This is the American College of Sports Medicine’s certified personal trainer credential. Those holding this credential are proficient in applying the fundamental principles of exercise science and providing safe and effective methods of exercise through writing personalized recommendations and motivating individuals to lead a healthy lifestyle.

ACSM – HFS – This is an advanced certification, so as a minimum, those that hold this certification have an Associate’s Degree in a related field. The Health Fitness Specialist is skilled in conducting physical fitness assessments and interpreting results. The major factor that separates this from their CPT is the ability to cater to those that have medically controlled diseases and conditions.

ACSM-GEI – Of the major certifying organizations, ACSM is one of the few that offers a group exercise certification. This credential is intended for professionals that want to teach otherwise healthy clients in a large group setting. Think of choreographed classes, spinning, “cardio-kickboxing”, “Bodypump,” etc.

ACSM-CES – The Clinical Exercise Specialist credential is for healthcare professionals that are interested in practicing in cardiovascular or pulmonary rehabilitation programs, as well as physicians’ offices or medical fitness centers. This specialist conducts pre-participation health screening, maximal and submaximal graded exercise tests, and other regular baseline testing. They are able to develop programs for patients with cardiovascular, pulmonary and metabolic diseases. To be eligible, a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and 400+ hours of practical clinical experience are required.

ACSM-RCEP – The Registered Clinical Exercise Phsyiologist is similar to the CES in that it requires a degree, and is tailored to healthcare professionals. In order to take this course, a master’s degree in Exercise Science, Physiology, or Kinesiology is required. The RCEP works with many varied special populations.


Exercise is Medicine ® Credential – This credential provides a way for health and fitness professionals to have a standardized way of networking with clinical health professionals. With research to show that exercise is medicine, and the hopes of insurance companies eventually reimbursing health and fitness professionals for their services, ACSM has proven to be a step ahead of everyone else. Other companies see this vast opportunity, but have just never been able to figure out and implement something worthwhile. Mostly, a case of analysis paralysis. Of course, this is also a way of getting more professionals to attain an ACSM credential. This credential is actually very cheap to attain if you already have various credentials ($25). I wonder how popular this is in the medical community, and if doctors would readily understand what I meant if I informed them I have this credential. Anyone who has this, please comment below and let us know!

ACSM /ACS – Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer – The American College of Sports Medicine has partnered with the American Cancer Society to provide a specialization tailored to professionals working with cancer stricken patients cleared for exercise by their physicians. These professionals have the ability to design programs based on one’s cancer diagnosis, treatment and current recovery status.

ACSM/NCHPAD – Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer – This credential empowers professionals to provide adaptive programming, and an understanding of ADA policies specific to recreation facilities. Professionals with this credential are able to give their clients the knowledge and support to lead a healthy and comfortable lifestyle.

ACSM/NPAS – Certified Physical Activity in Public Health SpecialistThis specialization is excellent in that it provides a bridge for health and fitness professionals to make a difference on a large scale in the public health setting. It was developed in collaboration with the National Physical Activity Society. According to ACSM, a professional with this credential “conducts needs assessments, plans, develops and coordinates physical activity interventions provided at local, state and federal levels.” These professionals are also “called upon to provide leadership, develop partnerships and advise local, state and federal health departments on all physical activity-related initiatives.” One thing that often frustrates me is the box we find ourselves in as “fitness professionals.” To others, it means “personal trainer.” Perhaps this credential also changes the perceptions of others towards us professionals.

Resistance Training

Resistance Training is a very important component to someone’s overall fitness. For the best results, diet and exercise should be combined. Often, you’ll see people doing one, or the other, and hear them complaining about not seeing good results. When performed properly, it raises metabolism, encourages strength gains, and aids in preventing injury. The thought of “training properly,” may sound like a difficult venture to many, but really, it is not that hard. Health and Fitness Professionals call it periodization. There are three levels you’ll go through. These are Stabilization, Strength, and Power. Each is focused on preparing your body for the rigors of the next level.


If you’re brand new to resistance training, the best place to start is the Stabilization Level (or even Corrective if you have alot of underlying injuries). Stabilization training takes place in an unstable environment, promotes local muscle endurance, and teaches muscles to work together properly to stabilize the joints they are involved in moving.

Stabilization exercises are typically progressed by removing (you guessed it), stability. For instance, performing an exercise on one leg, versus two, or on a stability ball instead of a bench. Since one of the main goals of this training is to build muscle endurance, the repetition range is high, with a low to moderate volume. Usually 12-20 repetitions, and several sets. This all just depends on how conditioned the person is.


The Strength Level in Resistance Training builds on the adaptations made in the Stabilization Phase. Mainly, this phase encourages increases in muscle strength and growth. Training takes place in a stable environment with emphasis on successfully moving weight through a full range of motion. This training level uses moderate repetitions (8-12 reps) and moderate to high volume (3-6 sets).


In Resistance Training, the Power Level is the most rigorous. At this level, intensity is at its highest, with exercises performed as fast as possible. This level brings together the adaptations of the Stabilization and Strength Levels, and pushes the body to its maximum potential. Exercises are fast, explosive, and fun. Typically, you’ll see these exercises performed with low repetitions (1-6), and low volume (1-3 sets).


Once you’ve spent several weeks in all three levels, you can start combining them throughout the week to maintain your fitness. For instance, on a Monday, you can do a Stabilization Level workout, Wednesday Strength, and Friday Power. Staying creative within each level is key to maintaining the fun in any fitness program.

Functional Movement Assessments

Here, you’ll find various movement assessments Health and Fitness Professionals use when initially screening, and re-evaluating clients. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but simply the most common I’ve seen throughout my years of experience. To build a comprehensive list, we’d have to write an entire book. No joke, books have been written on this subject alone!

Human Movement

The human body is built for efficient movement. This is seen in toddlers performing bodyweight squats through their full range of motion with ease. Fast forward through school, puberty, and young adulthood, and the accumulation of wear and tear becomes apparent when watching movement. We simply lose our efficiency because of our postural habits (work/home) and injuries incurred through living life and playing sports. When you start a fitness program, it’s important to have someone assess how well you hold yourself up and move. These assessments are called Functional Movement Assessments. Below, you’ll get a brief run down on what each assessment is, and why it is performed.

Static Postural Assessment

This is usually the first thing a professional looks at. It’s how well you hold our body when standing up. Does your head protrude forward? Do your shoulders round? Is your pelvis tucked under you, or do you look like you have a little more curve? What are the knees and ankles doing?

Your fitness professional will look at several checkpoints, assess what is seen, and take note of it. Don’t get freaked out if you see or hear a lot of writing. This is important, and everyone has his or her fair share of postural inefficiencies! What is noted here sets a precedent for what may be seen in the Dynamic and Performance Assessments.

Dynamic Postural Assessments

Dynamic Postural Assessments put you through a certain movement to see how well (efficiently) you’re able to do it. My two favorites are the Overhead Squat, and Single Leg Squat. With these assessments, your fitness professional will get a good indication of where your muscles are working too much, and way too tight, versus weak, and not working hard enough. This is important, because often, a larger muscle will take over the duties of a smaller, weaker muscle – even though that movement is not its primary duty. This is called synergistic dominance, and can lead to overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or shin splints.

Overhead Squat Assessment

The Overhead Squat Assessment is almost an all-in-one, in the sense that it assesses your flexibility, core strength, balance, and muscle control with one movement. You’ll be asked to remove your shoes and face away first, standing with your feet shoulder width apart, arms fully extended, and hands raised towards the ceiling.

Next, you’ll be asked to perform 10 -15 squats with your professional watching you from all four sides. Again, you may hear a lot of writing. Do either of your arms drop? Head fall to the side? Butt tuck under? Knees cave in? Feet flatten? Most likely, you’ll experience one or more of these.

Single Leg Squat Assessment

Not everyone can perform this assessment (ie. elderly, injured), but for those that can, this test is a good validator of what was seen during the Overhead Squat Assessment. For this test, you’ll be asked to remove your shoes, face away, and balance on one foot, keeping your hands on your hips. You’ll then be instructed to perform 8-10 Single-leg squats. Once again, your fitness professional will scribble notes, and you’ll be freakin’ out. It really isn’t so bad. Everything noted during these assessments goes into building you a comprehensive, personalized fitness program!