NASM Personal Training Study Guide

I’ve been trying to plan out my career goals for our move to San Diego. Last night, I was able to pick the Pilot’s brain about a few things while we put up our Christmas lights after Livi was asleep. It was kind of a fun date night, since it was uninterrupted time to talk and hang out, and he always has great insights. One thing I’ve known for awhile: I wanted to beef up my certifications by taking the NASM personal training exam.

Me and bell decorating

(Bell was a very valuable helper)

Pilot striking a pose while hanging lights

I recently renewed my AFAA group fitness certification (which I love), and Zumba is a constant licensure if I pay the monthly fee, but when it came to personal training, I was ready for the next step. I regularly receive emails asking for certification advice, and my number one tip is to call the gyms where you would like to teach/train and see what certifications they accept. It’s important to get a certification you can use at your desired place of employment. I knew that NASM would be a good choice for me, since it was the certification accepted at the resort where I was teaching. 

I’m not entirely sure yet what I’m going to do on the job front once we’re in San Diego, but while we’re still in Tucson, I have a couple of interviews to teach Zumba. I’m fortunate that (next to being a wife and mama) this little blog has been my main “job,” but I always like to do a little something extra to stay on my “‘A” game for teaching. The blog travels well, and I’m especially fortunate that it allows me to stay home with Livi. In San Diego, I plan to teach a few fitness classes each week and potentially continue distance-based personal training. Beefing up my certifications starting with becoming a NASM certified personal trainer is in line with these goals. 




NASM Certified Personal Trainer Study Tips

To study for the NASM personal training exam, here’s what I did:

-Read the entire text, underlining and taking notes in the margins. As I finished each chapter, I took the quiz in the study guide (purchased through Amazon)

-Went through the online course reviews and took the sample quizzes for each chapter

-After noting which topics were difficult for me, I went back through the text and made notecards

NASM personal fitness training

-Downloaded two apps: NASM and NASM Prep (icons are red with a clock and blue with a barbell, respectively), and took quizzes from each app throughout the day (maybe one quiz while Livi was napping and another before bed). These were crucial to my success with the test, and even if the questions weren’t identical, they helped to thoroughly understand the concepts and definitions

-Took the practice exam on the NASM website

-Read these Bodybuilding forums

-Used my body to understand the movement assessment and compensation portions of the text. I turned my knees inward and tried to identify which muscles felt tense and which ones felt weak. I practiced saying the plane of motion as I did my own strength routines and mimicked upper crossed syndrome and lower crossed syndrome to see if I could feel which muscles felt shortened or lengthened. If you’re going through a part of the text and having trouble identifying the muscle groups (especially for force couples and compensations), get up and practice doing them. It helps a ton!

At first, the text was extremely daunting, even though it’s a topic I’m passionate about and have been working in the fitness environment. A large portion was repeats of things I’ve already studied and utilized while training clients (movement assessments, progressions, regressions) and some of it was entirely new information. It was a lot of memorization, which was tricky for me, since it had been a thousand years since my last big exam of any type (the GMAT, quite a few years ago).

Some of the things I emphasized while studying that I found to be helpful:

-The OPT model: EVERYTHING about it. Know what types of stretches, strength, cardio exercises you would use for each component of the OPT model. Be able to look at the name of the exercise and know if it’s power, stabilization, etc.

-Stages of change

-Effective communication (open-ended questions, active listening)

-Cardiovascular system (know anatomy and functions of all parts of the heart and cardiovascular system)

-Muscles that assist the breathing process

-Calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins

-Amino acids

-Types of carbohydrates

-Carbohydrate and protein recommendations for endurance athlete

-Function of lipids

-How much water you need each day and how much to drink after exercise

-Planes of motion and exercises in each plane

-Posture and movement assessments (know which muscles assist and hinder each type of movement). 

-Motor functions

-Overactive/underactive muscles for different compensations (knees turning in, low back arches, head protrudes, etc)

-Davies’ test, Rockport walk test

-Upper body strength test

-Lower body strength test

-Heart rate zones for different stages of training (Zone 1, 2 and 3)

-Core stabilization, strength and power exercises (examples)

-Balance training exercises for stabilization, strength and power

-How to progress and regress exercises

-Progression of balance challenge (both legs stable, both legs unstable, single leg stable, single leg unstable, etc) and proprioceptive challenge progression (floor, balance beam, half foam roll, Airex pad, Dyna disk)

-SAQ drills (types and when to use each method)

-How many reps, sets and HR %  for stabilization, hypertrophy, strength endurance, and power

-How to calculate BMI and max heart rate

-Average heart rate for male and female

-Difference between osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and osteopenia

-Rheumatoid arthritis

-Considerations for special populations (pregnancy, youth, hypertension, PAD)

-Arthrokinematics, synergistic dominance and reciprocal inhibition

Hope this helps a little for anyone who’s studying for their NASM!

Next up: NASM Weight Loss Specialist Exam!

NASM personal training study guide - the tools and tips that helped me as I studying for the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam. | #studyguide #NASMpersonaltrainingstudyguide #nasm

Any certified personal trainers in the house? What certification do you have?

If you could switch jobs/careers and do something entirely different, what would you do? I would love to be a nurse or midwife…if I wasn’t totally squeamish about blood. I’d also love to open a cafe one day.

As always, I can’t wait to read your comments!
Stay tuned for a new giveaway later today for #10daysofgiveaways.



New post on the Fashion page! 

If you’re interested in becoming NASM certified, here is my contact’s info: Mike Golembewski ( or call 602-383-1263). Let him know that you found him through my blog, and he will help you get set up! He will also be offering a special discount for readers.

[Head’s up: NASM reached out to me about getting certified, and I was stoked because I’d been planning on their PT certification anyway. They gave me a small discount for the course for writing about the PT experience, and are waiving my fee for my WLS certification. Of course, all opinions are my own. I was just excited to add more certifications to my belt and was not compensated to write this post.] 

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  1. Clelia on January 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you for this post, very useful ! I am currently living in Paris and working as a Social Media Consultant in a big advertising agency, but my passion for fitness, running and nutrition is so strong that I would like to take on the challenge to try the NASM certification. Indeed, I would like to leave France pretty soon to become a personal trainer in the USA. Do you think I can take the NASM certification from home (France) or is it too complicated? Thank you all for your help, my head is full of questions by nom and your answers would help so much!

  2. KK on March 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I am in the process of researching Nationally recognized certification programs and NASM is number one on my list. It will be my first one so I am excited and nervous at the same time. Being that it is my first cert, do you think I can pass the test or is it too hard? I love working out but I do not know any of the book terms or proper stuff-I just go and lift!! Please let me know or email me – thank you so much and I am glad I found your blog post.

  3. Laura on May 7, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Hello! I know this was an older post for you but I wanted to thank you for the information. My test is May 19th. I am a veterinarian during the day but have a passion for fitness. I was able to find the NASM app with the red clock icon but am having trouble finding the blue one with the dumbbell. Do you know if this is still available?
    Thanks for all you post:) You always inspire me!

    • Fitnessista on May 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      best of luck to you with the test!! i deleted the apps from my phone :/ i looked online but couldn’t find the blue one. just study study and take as many questions from the app as you can!

      • Laura on May 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

        Thank you!!

  4. Emilie on March 25, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Im glad I found your blog…I have been wanting to get certified just couldnt afford to take the test until now….thanks for all the helpful information!

  5. Cassie on July 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Hi!! I am starting to study and interested in the apps. You said they were crucial….was it work the $5.99 and $9.99? Thanks!! =)

    • Fitnessista on July 30, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      yes!! some of the test questions were on the apps, and really helped me get into that mindset

      • Cassie on July 30, 2015 at 12:17 pm

        Thank you!!

  6. Cassie on January 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    How long do you think you spent studying?

    • Fitnessista on January 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      it’s really hard to say because i was on again off again with the studying. when i finally decided i was committed, maybe 3 months

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