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NASM Education Advisor, Michael Miller.
I started 2016 off with a bang: a shiny new certification (NASM Certified Personal Trainer) to add to my collection (RRCA, CFL1). There are MANY helpful and free study tools online. I used a few of them (I’ll share the ones I liked) but in the end, I realized that I absorb information a little differently. So, I created some study aids and am sharing them with you, free of charge, in case you find it helpful.
NASM CPT Things To Know:
Your Textbook/Exam Version:
There have been several versions of the NASM Certified Personal Trainer textbook and exam. As of this post, the 4th Edition is current and that is what my study aids are based on.
Your Study Package:
You can register for the exam only OR for several different types of study packages (which include the exam) via NASM’s website. I chose the CPT Self-Study option because I was confident.
Once you sign-up, you have to take the test within 180 days. That being said, you are able to purchase the textbook (Amazon Affiliate Link Below) and could theoretically start perusing the material on your own before signing up through NASM. I don’t think this is necessary at all but, just saying. It’s an option.
PLEASE NOTE: I created these tools for myself. Only use if helpful. Typos may exist.
My study tools are simplified content based on the NASM textbook but do not replace it.
I have 4 Study Tool downloads described in detail below. Read on for further study TIPS.
Click here to download all my study tools in one PDF.
Learning About Muscles
This simplified list of the 61 major muscles from Appendix D and common muscle groups (e.g. “abdominal complex”) helped me remember WHERE they were located in the body and what muscle groups they belonged too. The Fill In The Blank sheet is useful for testing yourself.
TIP: Look up muscles online to find 3D animations showing how they move/work. While I didn’t have questions on specific muscle origins/insertions or functions, muscles are referred to in context and can be key to narrowing down the right answer. You can’t have a working knowledge of the material without knowing this.
Below is the simplified table of Appendix D on 6 quick pages. Basically I cut the origin and insertion descriptions back to general musculoskeletal landmarks and trimmed wording on the Isolated Functions with my own abbreviations. This is less accurate than Appendix D, but it was a crucial starting point for me.
For Example: It’s easier to grasp that the Semitendinosus goes from “Pelvis to Tibia” starting out than it is to remember [origin] “Ischial tuberosity of the pelvis and part of the sacrotuberous ligament” to the [insertion] “Proximal aspect of the medial tibial condyle of the tibia”.
TIP: Function is more important than origin/insertion. Try moving the muscle on your own body as you learn or look up a video online that shows the muscle’s movement.
Learning NASM Exercises
Quite a few questions on my test referred to exercises.
For example: “What is an appropriate core-stability exercise for a new client?”
This got tricky as NASM lists example exercises all over the textbook and more are shown on the online eLearning tools exercise library videos. Certain exercises confused me because they sounded similar.
For Example: A Multiplanar Jump with Stabilization is considered a Plyometric-Stability exercise but a Multiplanar Hop with Stabilization is a Balance-Power exercise.
To keep them straight, I listed the exercises by training phase (Stability, Strength, Power) for each training concept (Flexibility, Core, Balance, Plyometric, SAQ, and Resistance).
NOTE: A Single-Leg Squat Touchdown could be a Dynamic Flexibility warm up OR a Balance-Strength exercise. Also, a “Power Step-Up” is a Plyometric-Strength exercise, not a Power exercise…and the name of the exercise should not fool you!
TIP: Stability exercises tend to be single leg or use a ball. Strength exercises tend to be seated or can be done moving one body part at a time. Power exercises tend to involve a fast action word (throw, snatch, jump).
NASM Mnemonics for THE CHART
“The Chart” aka Page 196. It is a table of muscle imbalances commonly found during the movement assessments. People, I can’t stress enough how important it is to know this because many questions on the test come from it.
To learn “The Chart” more fluidly…
- I listed each muscle involved in groups like “Abdominal Complex” in small letters.
- I simplified the Stretches (e.g. “calves” = gastrocnemius & soleus) for quicker recall.
- I added mnemonics for the overactive/underactive muscles to help initial recall.
- I used the blank sheet to test myself.
TIP: You can physically do the movement (e.g. Overhead Squat) and feel which muscles stretch and shorten when you turn your feet out, lean forward, etc. However, in order to make sense of some of these (why the VMO is underactive when the knees cave in), I had to do additional research (google) because I couldn’t “feel it”.
Click here to download the complete PDF (from Dropbox) of everything above:
- 61 Major Muscles List + Fill In The Blank Sheet
- Muscle Functions – Simplified Chart
- Compensations & Corrections (Page 196) with Mnemonics
- Example Exercises Tables
My NASM Study & Test Experience
Reading other people’s study and test experiences was helpful for me so I will share some of my perspective with you, including the resources I used.
I signed up for the NASM CPT in July 2015, making my test deadline January 14th. I took the FULL 180 days and passed my test on January 13th. I did NOT need to take that long to study. However, I got pregnant and for a few months my brain was not working. I waited until my second trimester in order to resume my studies.
I can’t claim to have learned everything from scratch and have to give credit to my former mentors and teachers. I was glad to find what NASM taught affirmed that what I’d learned was sound…and then took it all to whole new level of depth and application! So yes, this was worth the time and money for my coaching business and being able to better serve my clients.
FREE RESOURCES I USED:
This downloadable Study Guide from Fittin Pretty was helpful to skim as I watched the videos online. It highlights main concepts/ideas/vocabulary by chapter and is useful for reviewing.
This online discussion forum at BodyBuilding.com was helpful in terms of seeing what topics others saw on their test. But be forewarned – some advice is dated (stick with the last 7 or so pages of the thread) and I found the “warnings” about weirdly worded and tricky test questions to be completely unwarranted. Read it with a grain of salt.
I also read Katy Widrick’s blog post about passing the test a few times to normalize the experience for me and give me a good sense of what I was in for on test day.
LOW COST RESOURCES I USED:
The apps below are all on iTunes and are good for sneaking in study time on the go. I used these after I had read through the textbook once to help me find where the biggest gaps were in my knowledge.
NASM Exam Prep App by Double Bottom Line Partners is $5.99. I would go through all the questions for one area (e.g. Assessment) in their Study Mode. After you answer a questions it tells you a bit more info as to why that was the answer. There were one or two questions that were flat out wrong and some of the wording was…unnecessarily clumsy.
NASM Personal Trainer for CPT App by ATI is $6.99. This “official” app puts multiple choice questions into a “gameshow” format. The question pool isn’t as big as the previous app but you can always spend more $ to get more questions added. I purchased the in-app upgrade for more Program Design questions and found it helpful.
Learn Muscles App by Real Bodywork costs $2.99. Helpful for the animated muscle actions and 3D models, which gave me a better sense of how certain key muscle groups worked. Plus, it has the pronunciation of muscles. Hearing it and knowing how to say it helps me learn.
TEST TAKING EXPERIENCE:
There is nothing quite like a testing center. Dry proctors, nervous people, cubicles, lots of rules (can’t wear a watch or hat or bring in anything to the test room – no talking). Good news is you go through a tutorial on how to use the keyboard to mark questions for later and see how many questions you’ve answered and how long you have left. Disposable earplugs were available at my test desk, but no pens or scratch paper allowed for me.
I finished all 120 questions in under an hour and marked 15 to review for later.
I found the questions to be really straightforward – not tricky at all – and several questions only had one right answer in my opinion.
My strategy was to read the entire question and…BEFORE looking at the choices available…determine what my best answer would be in my head. Then, if I saw my answer in the multiple choice list…confirmed. If I didn’t…I’d reread the question, eliminate anything obviously wrong, and narrow down the best option.
Ready to sign up for the NASM Certified Personal Trainer Exam?
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