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NCSF Certification Review – National Council on Strength and Fitness Personal Trainer Certification

NCSF Certification comes from the National Council on Strength and Fitness organization and is one of the leading groups in the business. They offer one of the best personal trainer certifications (in fact, I think they may be the best…) called “NCSF CPT” (Certified Personal Trainer).

The NCSF Certification is a bit different, in a good way, than the other certifications. Get this…they really want you to take hands-on classes to learn the material! I know, what a surprise! When you compare it to the textbook nature of most other exams, NCSF already marks itself out as a more prestigious certification.

Does that mean it’s going to be more difficult, cost more, and take longer to get NCSF certified? Yes, it does…so if you’re only interested in being a small time trainer, the NCSF may be too much for you. However, if you are a Personal Trainer career person, I highly recommend that you give the NCSF CPT certification a good review.

According to the NCSF certification site, to earn the “industry-leading” NCSF-CPT credential, candidates must take and pass the NCSF-CPT certification exam. The exam is a 150-question, multiple-choice format assessment tool that comprehensively tests the knowledge and skills that are necessary to work effectively with a wide range of clients.

Although you don’t have to take any workshops beforehand, due to the difficulty of the exam, I recommend that you take one so you know what you’re getting into beforehand.

Plus, you don’t even have to take a workshop offered by the NCSF certifying organization. (!) Although they have excellent workshops, training schools, and home study courses, you can also take classes at their school or study at NPTI.

Almost everyone I’ve met with the CPT certification says that you really, really need to know what you’re doing for this exam. That’s why I urge you to check out NCSF workshops and classes or take a program like NPTI. Again, it may seem like a lot of work, but that’s why you’re taking this test, because when you go anywhere and tell them you’re an NCSF CPT, everyone knows you know what you’re doing!

Exam Study Options
To continue the educational line a bit, NCSF offers workshops and courses for anyone interested in taking the certification exam. They state that the workshop program is one of their ‘most popular’ ways of studying for the exam. (Although I’m sure that’s influenced by how much they’d like you to pay for the workshop versus home study materials!)

The workshops start with a preliminary review of the material… and then a two-day seminar where a professional trainer tries to teach you everything you need to know to be a good personal trainer.

Unfortunately, you can’t pack everything you need to know into a two-day review, so expect that even by paying for the seminar, you’ll still have to do some work on your own to learn the material for the exam.

Workshops cost around $299 and are spread across major metropolitan areas in the US Classes start almost every week somewhere in the country. Check the calendar on the website to see if it’s near you in the future.

To extend the challenge a bit, they also offer a “Training School Course” option. This is an 8-week training course (30-40 hours total) that helps you slowly absorb more information while learning from certified instructors.

Unfortunately, the NCSF Certification Training Schools option is only offered in South Florida…so unless you can transfer to Miami-Dade College or Broward Community College, you may be out of luck! Add around $495 for these courses, and make it convenient only for people who are local and have the time to attend. Which totally sucks for the rest of us… Hopefully the show will expand outside of South Florida one day!

If both options are too much for you, you always have the home study option. Again, my recommendation is to do an NPTI workshop, training course, or something like an NPTI training school, but I’ve probably drilled it into your brain enough already!

Putting exercise theory into practice is the hardest part to get through when you’re just learning in the comfort of your own home, beer in hand, and 10 distractions begging for your attention. NCSF tries to help with this problem by showing exercises on a DVD training video. Although I haven’t seen it, it shows that you will at least learn something about how the exercises work.

Now for my other favorite reason for home study guides (that would be mispronouncing muscles and such), I’m not sure if a home study course is going to pull off good pronunciation for a new student very well. . So if you do the home study, find a way to learn how to pronounce Supraspinatus.

If you ask me, I would do a workshop, training class, other personal training course, or similar before giving up and doing a home study course. I can guarantee you that the highest percentage of NCSF Certification exam failures are from home study students.

In order not to waste hundreds of dollars and many hours, it is best to try to attend some type of in-person training. The recovery fee is almost as much as the registration fee for a workshop, just to put it in perspective…


Here are the costs broken down:

NCSF Certification Exam: $199 (retake is $135)

Study materials: $299

Workshop: $295

Training Classes: $495

Shipping: $10 (for materials)

ECC and Validity

Good old CECs! My favorite way for certification organizations to get more money out of us! Well, NCSF isn’t really that bad.

Your NCSF CPT certification is valid for two years after you take the exam. You must accumulate during those two years 10 CEC credits before renewal. They even have ‘products’ that you can buy to study at home for the exams that CEC will give you. Also, there are online CEC tests you can take to earn .5 CEC for your credit. In addition, you can take college credit or other CEC courses.

NCSF makes it a bit more…let’s just say ‘manageable’…to get credits that actually make you a better coach, rather than just having you give them money year after year without teaching you anything. For that, I give them a much higher rating as it shows that they really care that their CPTs are experts and continuously growing in their field.


The NCSF certification is one of the best, if not the best, certifications a new (or existing) personal trainer can get. Recognized everywhere as a leader in the field, he shows that he has a very solid foundation of knowledge and skills that are desperately needed in this field.

If you are not afraid of a difficult exam, then you should seriously consider the NCSF CPT exam. If you think you want to be a personal trainer because it’s easy and you can get away with it with minimal effort, then you should get a different certification. However, for the rest of us, this is the type of exam that is very rewarding to pass and pays many dividends throughout your personal training career.

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