The Best Personal Training Certifications (ISSA, NESTA, NSCA CSCS…)

Personal trainer working with pleased client using best personal training certifications.

If you want to be a personal trainer, you must first complete a personal training certification. Having one of the best personal training certifications will equip you with essential knowledge and skills for your profession. It will also make you more marketable as a personal trainer. That is important if you want to achieve financial freedom through your personal training career. If you have a good personal training certification, then clubs and businesses will be more likely to hire you.

But, with literally thousands of different personal training certifications out there, how can you know which one is the best for you? Well, keep reading to find out. In this article, you will find comprehensive research and reviews on the best personal training certifications. These certification programs will offer you the knowledge and training you need to build a successful and lucrative career as a personal trainer.

8 Best Personal Training Certifications

1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Personal Training Certification

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) personal training certification is widely recognized and respected. Tens of thousands of personal trainers worldwide hold ISSA certifications for personal training. You can rest assured that it’s a good program because the ISSA personal training certification is coveted by:

  • fitness trainers
  • athletic trainers
  • aerobic instructors
  • coaches
  • physicians
  • chiropractors
  • physical therapists
  • medical and fitness professionals in many other fields

The ISSA personal training certification also sets the standards for other certifications in the fields of exercise assessment, nutritional planning, fitness instruction, sports medicine practice, and post-rehabilitation training. You will even find that certain aspects of the ISSA certifications for personal training are taught in many colleges and universities around the world.

How You Can Benefit from an ISSA Certification

An ISSA personal training certification might be best for you because:

  • You don’t have to pay any hidden fees after you enroll. These fees are common in many other personal training certification programs.
  • Even after you complete your certification course, you will receive unlimited technical support. You will find this invaluable if you have any questions or problems related to any aspects of personal training.
  • Along with your ISSA personal trainer certifications course, you also get training and information on how to open and run your own personal training business. This is a very important and valuable extra benefit because it can help you greatly increase your salary. Some gyms will only pay you $10 an hour. However, if you have your own personal training business, you can charge anywhere from $75 to $500 per session.
  • Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the ISSA personal trainer certification is that Charles Staley, B.Sc., MSS is the Vice President of Program Development. If you don’t know who Charles Staley is, then you need to find out. Staley is one of the foremost authorities in the health and fitness business and his personal training programs are among the best and most successful.

What You Should Know About Charles Staley

Here is a little bit of information about Staley so you can better understand why the ISSA certifications for personal training are at the top:

  • Besides his involvement with the ISSA, Charles Staley is also a sports conditioning specialist, Olympic weightlifting coach, and master’s level track and field competitor.
  • Staley has coached elite athletes from many sports, including martial arts, boxing, track and field, football, Olympic weightlifting, and bodybuilding.
  • He has written over 150 published articles and has lectured extensively on the topics of human performance and sport training.
  • Staley has recently authored a book on conditioning for martial arts, and has several other books in the works. Staley’s award-winning site is ranked among the top 50 in the world in the health and fitness category.

Video Submission For ISSA Certification

Here Chanel Collette, an ISSA strength and conditioning personal trainer posted here final video exam for ISSA on youtube.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Final Exam | Focus Athlete Bodybuilding

2. National Endurance & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) Personal Training Certification

The National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) certification for personal training has been around since 1992 and is growing rapidly. NESTA has certified over 8,000 top personal trainers in more than 20 countries.

3 Benefits of NESTA’s Certifications

NESTA’s personal training certification program might be best for you because: 

  • NESTA’s certifications for personal training courses tend to be less expensive than a lot of others. You will find that most of the personal training certifications that NESTA offers are inexpensive compared to others.
  • You can choose from an extremely large number of diverse personal training certifications through NESTA. Chances are that if you are looking for a very specific personal training certification, you’ll find it with NESTA.
  • NESTA follows a code of ethics and has high standards. This is very valuable because some personal training certifications will just send you on your way after you pay a large certification fee.

How You can Qualify for NESTA’s Certification Programs

Before you can enroll in NESTA’s personal training certification program, you do have to meet some requirements. You must:

  • be at least 16 years old and possess good reading skills
  • have some basic experience with resistance training, aerobics, martial arts, or yoga
  • be familiar with resistance equipment and exercise machines

Once you receive your certification, you must also follow NESTA’s requirements for re-certification. You will have to complete 4.0 continuing education units (CEUs), or 40 contact hours every 4 years to maintain your personal fitness trainer certification.

3. American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) Personal Training Certification

The American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) personal training certification is a practical course based on current exercise science, sports medicine, and nutrition guidelines. 

What the AFPA Can Offer You

At the AFPA, you can choose from 17 different personal training certifications in the main fields of personal training. This variety of programs allows you to find the one that best matches your needs and goals.

The AFPA personal training certification will also provide you with many opportunities to complete continuing education credits. These credits will help you maintain your personal training knowledge and skills. You will also need to regularly submit these credits to keep your personal training certification up to date. 

How You can Qualify for an AFPA Certification

You don’t have to meet any requirements to enroll in the most basic AFPA personal training certification course. They do suggest, though, that you would benefit from having some education in the field of human anatomy. Also, some of their more specialized personal trainer certifications require you to have a minimum of 400 documented hours of one-on-one personal training experience.

Like all top personal training certifications, the AFPA also requires you to complete continuing education credits. For most courses, your initial personal training certification will be valid for approximately one or two years. You need to obtain and submit extra credits during this period to prove that you are up to date in the personal training industry. The AFPA makes this process easy, though, regardless of which personal trainer certification you hold.

4. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Training Certification

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers many certifications for you to choose from. Their Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program is one of the most popular and respected personal trainer certifications in the world today.

Additionally, as a NASM CPT, you have access to a vast amount of resources for your continued education.

NASM 5 Steps to Choosing a Career Path as a Personal Trainer

5 Steps to Choosing a Career Path as a Personal Trainer

5. The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) Personal Training Certification

You can choose between two different certification programs at the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Those programs are the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) programs. You should be aware, though, that their CPT certification is reputed to have one of the most challenging exams of all certifications. In order to qualify for an NSCA certification, you must have a 4-year college degree.

Breakdown of NSCA Strength and Conditioning vs Personal Training Certification

NSCA Strength and Conditioning | Personal Trainer | Certification

6. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Personal Training Certification

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is highly respected. However, their certification programs aren’t practical if you want to work in a gym, since the course material is more clinically focused. Also, you need to have a college degree to qualify for some of the ACSM personal training certifications.

7. Professional Personal Trainers Association (PROPTA) Personal Training Certification

The Professional Personal Trainers Association (PROPTA) was established in 1980 and offers a number of different certification programs. These programs are worth considering because you can complete PROPTA’s courses anywhere in the world at their many physical locations or online. You should also know that PROPTA is supported by more International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro bodybuilders than any other association.

The Benefits of the PPTA

If you choose to get your personal training certification through the PROPTA, you will enjoy a number of different benefits. Here are a few:

  • You can attend an internship program and observe any PROPTA director or examiner at their work site. You can watch them train clients and learn about proper movement, application, spotting, program application, business, and communication. While attending the internship program, you will earn 2 credit units for every 4 hours spent with the director or examiner.
  • You can learn from IFBB professionals, business managers, nutritionists, lawyers, and doctors affiliated with the PROPTA.
  • If you’ve already started or completed a certification program elsewhere, you don’t have to worry. The PROPTA accepts credits from other organizations such the ISSA, NSCM, AFAA. 
  • PROPTA is accredited and approved by the Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE).

PROPTA’s Certification Programs

Before you choose PROPTA, you should know about all the different certification programs they offer. 

Personal Trainer Certification

The PROPTA has four different levels of personal training certification programs. To qualify for PROPTA’s most basic personal trainer certification program, you must be at least 18 years old. You also need to have an adult CPR and AED certificate. 

This first-level personal trainer certification course will prepare you for hands-on experience in the personal training field. In this course, you will study a wide variety of topics, including:

  • kenisiology and exercise physiology
  • resistance and free weight training
  • anaerobic and aerobic training
  • flexibility and stretching
  • business application and legal issues
  • body fat testing and measurement

After you complete this first course, you can continue through the three more advanced personal trainer certification courses. Each of these programs will provide you with even greater knowledge and experience in the field of personal training.

Nutrition Consultant Certification

The PROPTA also offers a nutrition consultant certification program. But, it is only available through their online study program. To obtain this certification, you must already be a certified private trainer. You will also need to complete 40 hours of volunteering time in a vitamin store, hospital, clinic, nutrition department, or other similar environment. After you pass all the requirements for this certification, you will be a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Then you can use “CNS” after your name. 

Online Personal Trainer Certification

You can also get your personal trainer certification online through PROPTA. These online courses will provide you with instructional videos and virtual mentors to help you through the program. You will also take all exams online. So, with PROPTA’s online certification programs, you’ll be able to study at your own pace and in your own home.

Other PROPTA Certifications

There a few more helpful certifications that you can get through the PROPTA:

  • Supplementist Certification
  • Proper Food Safety Certification
  • Kickboxing Instructor Certification.

How You Can Qualify for a PROPTA Certification

To qualify for a PROPTA certification, you must hold a high school diploma or an Associate or Bachelors degree. Alternatively, you can also qualify if you are a professional competitive athlete. You must simply provide proof that you belong to a professional athletic organization, such as the IFBB, AAU, NBA, or WABBA.

As with other programs, the PROPTA requires you to submit continuing education credits. Once you complete your personal training certification, you must obtain 10 CEUs every year. PROPTA makes this process very easy though, since you can get your credits online. (1)

8. National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) Personal Training Certification

The last certification that you should consider is the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) personal training certification. The NFPT was founded in 1988 and now offers more certifications for personal training than almost any other organization worldwide. (2)

How You Can Benefit from an NFPT Certification

If you choose to pursue your personal training certification through the NFPT, you will enjoy:

  • access to over 100 professional testing sites in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere
  • an affordable, convenient, comprehensive, and applicable personal trainer education
  • credentials that consumers will recognize and respect
  • free CEUs as long as you are certified through NFPT
  • a strong network of ongoing support

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