National Council on Strength & Fitness
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Setting Standards, Developing Professionals, and Serving the Public through Education and Certification
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Certification Courses

Certified Personal Trainer Program


The demand for highly qualified fitness professionals is on the rise and NCSF College Courses and Board Certifications help provide the training and credentialing for career success. The NCSF Certified Personal Trainer (NCSF-CPT) course takes the most relevant collegiate exercise science curriculum and integrates it in an applied manner along with the specific tangible skills required of a competent exercise professional.

The NCSF offers colleges and universities two distinct educational course models for its Personal Trainer Program. Schools can choose the format that best fits the needs of the institution, its faculty members, and most importantly the student body. Both course models offer a complete turn-key solution for teaching students the necessary competencies to successfully pass the NCSF Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Board Exam. This NCCA accredited Exam and credential is a recognized capstone for programmatic accreditation.
Course Comparisons at a Glance
Upper Division Model
Intended Audience: This particular program is ideal for a college or university that offers either a two- or four-year degree in a movement science or related field of study. Schools that do not offer a specific qualifying major may still choose to offer this course option as a stand alone elective. It is recommended that students have defined pre- or co-requisite coursework that will allow for more in depth coverage of the materials. The Upper Division Model assumes a minimum aptitude in certain life sciences such as Anatomy, Physiology, and Nutrition. This established “requisite aptitude” allows for greater topic detail and expanded content coverage. This program is designed as an upper division course.
Lower Division Model
Intended Audience: This course option can be implemented in two- or four-year institutions that do not have a defined field of study for the program or prefer to offer the course as an elective without required pre-requisite coursework. This educational model allows students more time on the essential, and often more challenging, components of the program while still covering all of the necessary content areas for success on the NCSF-CPT Exam. This program is often better suited for community colleges or lower division course offerings.
Instructor Course Materials
Once you have spoken with an NCSF educational advisor, the organization will forward a complimentary set of Instructor Course Materials for curriculum review and use during the course. This FREE set of course materials includes:
Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Textbook
The Advanced Concepts of Personal Training textbook contains all theoretical concepts, guidelines, and relevant information necessary to pass the NCSF-CPT Exam. Divided into nine (9) units mirroring the certification exam, the textbook progresses from an introduction of Anatomy and Biomechanics through Nutrition, Weight Management, Exercise Prescription, and Training Instruction, and culminates with Exercise Programming for Special Populations. The textbook features learner-friendly highlights throughout each chapter which practically apply chapter concepts to personal training.
Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Study Guide
A key foundation to the NCSF Personal Trainer Course is the comprehensive Study Guide. It is designed to enhance information retention from the textbook readings and help students focus their preparation efforts on the key content areas of the NCSF-CPT Exam. Different activities within the Study Guide are designed to help students better understand the information, including key term identification, matching and fill-ins, as well as case studies reflecting the practice of personal training. The format systematically and logically develops the knowledge base of the content, which can be quickly evaluated with the lesson quiz questions.
Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Lab Manual
The NCSF Lab Manual is comprised of integrated practical activities found throughout the NCSF study materials, consisting of topics and situations often experienced and required in the field of personal training. The 180 page manual contains ten (10) labs, each with several activities that students can use to further their understanding of the field.
Study Guide & Lab Manual Answer Keys
The answer keys contain all of the questions and answers to the Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Study Guide and the answers to the activities found in the Lab Manual. The documents are identical except the answer keys allow you to quickly reference all of the answers to the competency questions and exercises as well as the non-subject specific lab activities. These manuals are used in conjunction with the Advanced Concepts of Personal Training textbook. Answers are referenced directly to the corresponding page number in the textbook whenever applicable.
Lesson Plan
The time consuming process of creating detailed lesson plans for a full semester course has been eliminated. The NCSF provides each instructor with a full semester of lesson plans. Conveniently segmented into 26 lessons, the plan dictates individual class lecture and discussion topics, reading assignments, weekly lab activities, and recommended homework assignments. Reference pages are included for efficient teacher referral and effective lesson management.
Advanced Multimedia Presentations
The NCSF provides each instructor with a complete set of PowerPoint slides pre-formatted for each class lesson. Learning objectives are contained within the PowerPoint of each slide.
Practice Exam Questions
The instructor course materials include practice exam questions that can be used to create topic specific exams and quizzes. Created in simple Word format, the questions can be easily manipulated to create various styles of exams (essay, true or false, and multiple choice). All answers are also provided for easy grading.
Course Syllabus
A course syllabus is ready for handout on the first day of class. Simply add your name, phone number, and office hours. It covers each and every class activity as illustrated by the course lesson plan. It can be manipulated as necessary to serve your individual needs.
Theoretical Topics:
Components of Health and Physical Fitness
Health Screening and Evaluation
Techniques in Lifestyle Management
Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics
Exercise Physiology
Weight Management
Body Composition Analysis
Cardiorespiratory Testing
Cardiorespiratory Training
Flexibility Assessment and Training
Resistance Training Techniques
Resistance Training Systems
Exercise Programming
Practical Components:
Administration of Screening forms
Resting Assessments
Submax CRF Tests
Movement Screen Evaluation
Corrective Exercise Techniques
Analysis of Correct Movement Biomechanics
Trunk Training
Performance of a Dietary Analysis
Calculations of Energy Expenditure
Calculation of Resting Metabolic Rate
Calculation of Desired Body Fat
Estimation Techniques of Body Fat
Cardiovascular Training Intensities and Programming
Flexibility Training Techniques
Proper Weight Training Techniques
Free Weight Resistance Training
Functional Training Techniques
Exercise Starting Points & Progressions
Exercise Programming
Two Convenient Testing Options:
NCSF Testing Centers
The NCSF provides its Certification exams at approximately 400 testing centers throughout North America offering convenient locations, on-demand scheduling, and the highest quality administration of computer-based examinations. Students can schedule an exam appointment for the date, time, and location of their choice. Results are provided immediately upon completion of the exam.
On-Campus Testing
Qualifying schools can add marketability to the program and convenience for the students by offering the exam on-campus. The NCSF will provide each school the necessary exam hosting and qualifying criteria and work with them every step along the way to successfully deliver this exam option.
While the educational course is available to all individuals, students must already be certified with an NCCA accredited personal trainer credential in good standing or hold a degree in exercise science or related field, or hold a REPs credential, level 3 or higher in order to be exam eligible for the NCSF-SNS Exam.
The Personal Trainer Certification Exam:
Functional Anatomy15%
Exercise Physiology10%
Physical Activity and Health Promotion6%
Screening, Evaluation and Professional Practice11%
Weight Management7%
Exercise Prescription and Programming Considerations19%
Training Instruction16%
Considerations for Special Populations5%
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