Pass The NASM CPT Exam: A Study Guide

Pass The NASM CPT Exam: A Study Guide

Yes, I said how to pass the NASM CPT exam!

So random, yet relevant fact about my flight the other day;  I sat next to a young guy with a NASM textbook, I know,  it’s a perfect time to study, right? Of course! So upon seeing this, I instantly had to be nosy and ask if he was studying or brushing up on information, and as it turned out, he told me he would be taking his exam in October.  I always like to meet people preparing for the exam, because it was so stressful and nerve-racking for me, I feel like I can totally relate. Without my asking him first, he asked me questions about what to expect regarding the exam based on my experience. While I obviously couldn’t cover this information in great detail, I told him to check my blog out in a few days for a more in-depth review of what to expect!  Instant blog post idea! If you’ve taken the exam or are currently preparing for it, you know you also want to pick an alumni members brain for the information.

Does the exam really cover everything?

In the general sense, yes. In the literal sense, no. I think learning the key concepts of each chapter is important, but no, you will not have to know “everything” for testing purposes.  However, really understanding the information is what will make you an excellent trainer and professional – so don’t just learn it for the test, it’s going to be your way to greatness!

There’s SO much anatomy in the text. What should I focus on in that respect?

There is a LOT of anatomy in the textbook and it does seem really overwhelming.   I would definitely say paying close attention to the vocabulary and concepts of chapters 2, 3, 5 and 7 will be in your best interest.

Other areas to pay attention to:

Muscles as movers (agonist , synergistic, stabilizers, antagonists) as well as the Isolated function of muscles – check the appendix section, they are broken down there.

Planes of motion and which exercises involve which plane (sagittal, frontal, and transverse)

Flexibility continuum

Concentric Acceleration and Eccentric Deceleration movements (muscles used/planes of motion)

Reciprocal Inhibition, Altered Reciprocal Inhibition, Synergistic Dominance – Golgi Tendon, FITTE 

Support mechanisms of blood (Chapter 3)

Blood Pressure

BIG ONE:  Overhead squat assessment chart! This includes information on postural distortions (pronation distortion, upper cross syndrome, lower cross syndrome, and altered joint mechanics.) There’s a HUGE number of questions pertaining to this chart. Spend the time learning it. Try it on yourself. Try it on a friend. To quote Judge Reinhold in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, “learn it, know it, live it.”


"Learn it. Know it. Live it."

“Learn it. Know it. Live it.”

What types of program design questions were asked?

I would say if you understand the OPT Model (chapter 14) well enough, you will have a very good foundation for designing programs for various components (core, balance,  plyometrics, speed, agility and quickness, and resistance training) It’s a formula, my friends, and NASM developed it to make program design safe and effective.  For assessment information – view chapter 6

Exercise progression and regression. – listed in the appendix!

Training zones – heart rate, reps, sets.


Straight percentage

Progression Continuum (easy to difficult; stable to unstable)

Various fitness assessment types and how to perform them; YMCA, Rockport Walk Test, etc.

Static Postural Assessment (Anterior View, Lateral View, and Posterior View)

Performance assessments; (Davies, Shark Skills, Upper Extremity, Lower Extremity, Overhead squat assessment, Push-pull assessment- again, see chart in previous section and KNOW it.)

Circuit training

SAID:  Specific Adaptions to Imposed Demands (Principle of Specificity)

Warm-ups, stretching types (following OPT.)

Training with special populations; Hypertensive, Pregnant, Elderly, Cancer, and Obese clients (chapter 16)

Which topics about energy and metabolism do you need to know?

Definitely be familiar with chapters 4, 17, and 18 regarding metabolism, energy, and nutrition. Definitely have a good understanding about the three metabolic pathways; ATP-PC, Glycolosis, and Oxidative. Also, these will be essential for your career and particularly when working with special populations.

EPOC – ( I LOVE this stuff)

Daily requirements for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Calories in Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates – (which specific consideration to athletes)

Hydration and dehydration.

Basic nutrition needs and information about calcium.

Amino Acids (Essential/Non-Essential)

Vitamins (Fat-Soluble, Water-Soluble)

Which information about communication is most important to remember?

Chapters  19 & 20 explain in great detail the components of communication and skills that are important for every personal trainer to know.

READ (Rapport, Empathy, Assessment, Developing)

Stages of Change – very important to know (Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance)

Effective Communication Skills (Verbal/Non-Verbal Communication, Active Listening, Reflecting, Summarizing, Affirmations)

SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)

Exercise Imagery & Positive Self-Talk

Okay, yeah, it’s a lot.  I am not going to lie to you, the exam is not easy, but if you read the book, apply the principles and concepts to real life workouts, and really buckle down and study several hours a day in the months beforehand, you will pass. It’s more than passing though, it’s a desire to want to learn this information.  If you want to be a fitness professional or have a die-hard interest in fitness then this textbook is your bible.

greatest fitness story ever told.

greatest fitness story ever told.

Hopefully this helped you, Ryan (my friendly neighbor in row 23) – please let me know how things are going!

If you have any questions about the information in this post, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.  Remember, the main objective is to prepare for this and really learn it all.  There are some resources online that I used as well to help me prepare, including NASM’S study guide (which is highly recommended and available through your eLearning center – as well as another excellent guide here.) Additional noteworthy sources of information I utilized were:

Bodybuilding Forums

The Healthy Gamer

Some fun quiz sites to help test you (in addition to the NASM practice test, which I highly recommend utilizing as well) for NASM for NASM

Good luck studying – and let me know if you have any questions!


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  1. Shirley
    July 9, 2017 / 5:44 am


    I was wondering when you took your exam? I need to schedule mine in the next weeks…I’m freaking out.

  2. Erin
    July 9, 2017 / 8:49 am

    Hi, Shirley. I took the exam in 2013. I don’t think much will have changed regarding what is on the exam. My biggest piece of advice is to know that chart on the overhead squat assessments like it’s your job lol. Many questions refer to muscle compensations, etc. Don’t freak out. I have total exam anxiety and remember driving to my exam crying that I was wasting my time and was going to fail. I finished the exam in 41 minutes and passed. You’ve likely got this already! Good luck!

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