There are lots of gym trainer courses that boasts of being the best. However, to ensure you get adequate value for your money, you’d want to opt for programs that are internationally recognized, and have high standings.
This is because these personal trainer certification programs prepare fitness trainer to work with diverse of clients in improving their health and fitness.
More so, personal trainers are a source of hope and motivation to their clients. And they educate the clients on proper nutrition and good health habits.
Although it is legal to work as a personal trainer without a certification, you can’t gain employment in big health clubs if you don’t have a certificate.
In fact, it is required that you pass a personal trainer exam, preferably one that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
And this is what makes this article handy. As it highlights the best gym trainer courses you can take to move you to the next level in your career.
So, without further ado, below are the best gym trainer certification courses you can take;
#1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Beginning my list of the best gym trainer certification course you can take is one from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
The ISSA is an internationally recognized body accredited with Distance Education Accrediting Commission, DEAC. However, it is not accredited by the NCCA.
If you need the NCCA accreditation for work, then you have to complete the NCCA-accredited exam at a Prometric testing site. It is included with their study packages or can be purchased on its own for $599.
The ISSA certification program is particularly ideal for students who require distance education. It calls itself “the trainer’s trainer,” as it offers a huge variety of self-paced distance courses in many different fitness and health-related topics.
This online personal trainer certificate delivers a solid base of information to start as a personal trainer without diving into one area specifically. Its certification is well accepted in the industry.
Also, 100% of its certification courses are online, so you can learn at your own pace. It is an entry-level certification with an extra emphasis on performance/body composition training.
In addition, they have an Associate’s Degree program in Exercise Science, for those interested in improving their knowledge.
The ISSA has two study programs to choose from. Their basic program is $799 and includes an online textbook and course materials, a 10-week study guide, audio lectures, practice exams, job guarantee, and online support.
This basic program, also known as the Self-Guided option is designed to prepare you for the ISSA-CPT in 10 weeks.
Their fast-track program which costs $1,188, is only four weeks long and includes unlimited retests so you can keep taking the exam until you pass.
If you’re wondering why this is more expensive, it’s because it’s an accelerated program and has access to tutoring from an ISSA expert.
The ISSA exam is open book and completed in the comfort of your home, which is great for those who are not comfortable taking exams.
The average personal trainer salary for an ISSA-certified personal trainer is $46,000. All the packages come with a job guarantee or your money back.
#2. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
The National Academy of Sports Medicine is a respected organization of sports and fitness professionals.
With over 30 years of operation, the academy has been offering training and resources for those involved in the fitness training, with the goal of offering an elite, science-based approach to personal training.
NASM is regarded as a corrective exercise focused certification. And is well known for their Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model.
This training model lets personal trainers advance their clients in a safe, yet, effective manner that is not dependent on the level of fitness of the client. This is one of the reasons NASM is very popular.
For this certification, you can choose from self-study, premium self-study, guided study, or all-inclusive.
But the guided study option is the most popular for good reason. It includes a 10-week instructor-led course and is great for learners who need extra support and access to a mentor.
If you already have experience in the fitness industry or have taken other courses, the self-study option is a great choice. It includes their online course, exam fee, digital textbook, learning videos, and practice exams and quizzes for $699.
The other options range from $1,099-$2,199 and include things like additional study materials, guided study courses, a 90-day job guarantee, and the option to retest for free. The last package, “all-inclusive”
It costs $99 to recertify every two years and you will need to accumulate 2.0 continuing education units (CEUs) to be eligible. The average salary for a NASM-certified personal trainer is $41,000.
#3. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a well-respected professional organization among fitness professionals across the globe.
The institution boasts of an impressive membership of over 50,000 fitness professionals, with chapters in 90 different countries.
ACSM is ideal for anyone who wants an NCCA-accredited certification on their resume or are planning to specialize and build on their skills in the future.
Additionally, ACSM holds itself and its candidates to what it calls its “gold standard,” which the organization describes as “setting the bar a little bit higher” than other professional organizations/certifications.
ACSM offers a personal training certification that covers four essential areas of being a fitness professional: client consultation and fitness assessment; exercise programming and implementation; exercise leadership and education; and legal and professional responsibilities.
You’ll learn a lot about anatomy, physiology, adaptations to exercise, and other important need-to-knows about the human body and fitness training.
ACSM has the latest editions of their 3 textbooks as an ‘ACSM Personal Trainer Book Kit’ package for $155.89.
Those looking to build upon their practical and applied knowledge in the exercise sciences can opt for the in-person 2-day workshop (around $200-$300).
Web-based seminars (webinars) are also available for around $200. The CPT exam itself, which is not included with purchase of ACSM study materials or textbook bundles is priced at $279 for ACSM members and $349 for ACSM non-members.
Online reviews state that it is one of the most challenging exams to pass and it is designed for those working with special populations or in a healthcare setting.
#4. American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Another gym trainer course you can consider taking is this certification program from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
The ACE empowers fitness experts with a single notion “get people moving.” Hence, all its study materials are built on this notion, as they offer teachings that meet clients at their level.
In addition to personal training certificate from ACE, you can opt to get specialized credentials including group fitness instructor, medical exercise specialist, senior fitness specialist, function first and pain-free movement specialist, behavior change specialist, and more.
Each of these special certifications can build your portfolio as a certified personal trainer and prepare you to confidently train a certain population of your choosing.
The ACE program is similar to NASM in many ways and has multiple study option guides.
Their basic package is $509 and includes access to their online study materials, cost of the exam, one practice test, and a digital textbook and study companion.
Their other options include additional study materials and support and range from $599-$899. If you fail the test the first time you can retake it for $249.
The program is comprehensive and gives you a total knowledge of everything you need to know to start training your clients.
In addition, you must recertify every two years and accumulate 2.0 CEUs to qualify.
Conversely, their recertification is more expensive than other institutions, costing $139. However, their variety of additional certifications and CEU courses is great to help you improve your skills.
#5. Action Personal Trainer Certification (APTC)
Another one of the best gym trainer courses for fitness experts is the certification course from APTC.
APTC offers the best low-certification programs because it gives you access to an NCCA-accredited exam at a very reasonable price.
APTC was accredited in 2014, making it one of the new certifications around. And it is a good choice if you are a self-employed personal trainer, already have other fitness certifications, or prefer to study at your own pace.
APTC learning resources are available through an app, and you can purchase your own hardcover textbook to supplement your learning.
Learning materials range from $99-$249 and you don’t have to purchase the materials to take the exam.
If you have a background in fitness or have a related college degree, you may not need the exam preparation materials, but they are recommended.
Their platinum plan costs $249 and includes free recertification for life, online CPR training, and free advanced nutrition certification.
You must take your exam at a Prometric testing site and the registration fee for the exam is $99. Their basic option does not include an NCCA-accredited exam and is therefore not recognized by major gyms.
#6. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is best known for its certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) credential, as well as other NCCA-accredited personal training certifications.
Due to its emphasis on performance-based training, the NSCA personal training certification is ideal for people who know they want to work with athletes or performance-oriented fitness enthusiasts.
The NSCA has a good selection of study products published through Human Kinetics in subjects relating to exercise science.
The source for the NSCA-CPT exam is a textbook, National Strength & Conditioning Association’s Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd ed…, which comes in about 700 pages. It also serves as a good reference book for every personal trainer.
If you want guidance studying for the NSCA-CPT, there’s an option to attend a live-in person exam prep clinic that helps you get the most out of the essentials book.
NSCA-CPT exam prep packages are available (3 total), however they do not include the exam – which costs $300 for members or $435 for non-members.
These packages combine some of their study materials (all of which can be purchased individually) into a discounted bundle.
Pricing is determined by a non-member or member status as follows:
- NSCA-CPT Essential – $240 for members/$290 for non-members
- Essential Plus- NSCA-CPT- $455 for members/$511 for non-members
- NSCA-CPT Digital – $144 for members/$193 for non-members
If you really want to be an NSCA certified personal trainer, then it’s ideal for you to choose from any of their membership plan and register.
The benefits accrued to this is endless.
#7. National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF)
The NCSF is a globally recognized organization for exercise and fitness experts.
The certification program is accredited in the United States (NCCA) and Europe (EA) offering certification at over 1000 testing sites in 83 countries worldwide.
Through its certification programs, exercise professionals can specialize in personal training, strength & conditioning, as well as sports and fitness nutrition.
The best part is, you can take the accredited programs online using the NCSF easy-learning and remote testing system.
The Personal Trainer program utilizes self-guided (online) or guided instruction (workshops, training schools, and colleges) to teach its curriculum.
The curriculum includes physical evaluations and testing, result-based training methodologies, programming models for varied population segments, nutrition and weight management, and advanced instruction in resistance training, corrective exercise, flexibility, and aerobic fitness.
For continued education, the NCSF offers workshops, online courses, and study programs.
Additionally, trainers can move on to specialize in becoming a Certified Strength and conditioning coach, and/or a Nutrition Specialist.
#8. National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
Another gym trainer certification program is the National Federation of Professional trainers certification program.
NFPT offers free and easy access to continuing education, with a reasonably prices primary certification.
The NFPT program covers all the basics of personal training including anatomy and physiology, fitness testing, stretching techniques, nutrition, and legal and professional practices.
The cost of the weekend course and certification is $728. This includes exam fees, study materials, and more.
You also have the option to complete the program at home, and packages start at $199 for the exam only or $349 for the exam, study materials, practice tests, and other resources.
With the study programs, NFPT allows you to take the exam at home with a remote proctor, and if you cannot attend the workshops, you can watch the videos online.
You must renew your certification every year to obtain 2.0 CEUs. One of the outstanding benefits of this program is that CEUs are free and can be obtained in many different ways.
NFPT offers financing options and discounts for military, civil servants, and club staff.
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#9. National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
The NESTA program is a 100% online program that will teach you all the basics about personal training.
The program covers a handful of areas which includes; exercise physiology, kinesiology and anatomy, biomechanics, nutrition, client assessments, exercise programming, injuries and safety, psychology and behavior, and professional responsibilities.
The NESTA personal training certification stays valid for four years instead of the normal two years. But, you’d need to complete CECs within the four years to maintain your credential.
One of the unique features about the NESTA personal training certificate program is that it has integrated technology into its curriculum, with sections like heart rate tracking and digital exercise logging.
This program is ideal for self-starters and entrepreneurs because of its post-exam kit that includes a business and career system to implement once you’re certified.
#10. Fitness Mentors – Personal Training and Online Personal Training Certifications
Rounding up my list of best gym trainer courses for personal trainers is the certification program from Fitness Mentors.
FitnessMentors is one of the fitness industries that prepare trainers for the future and new-aged fitness landscape.
With all courses being 100% online, this option is unique for those that want to train clients privately, in the gym, and online, providing education that helps set up all forms of fitness businesses.
The curriculum focuses on the exercise science principles that lead to effective fitness programming to help clients achieve a variety of health goals.
These goals include fat loss, muscle gain/hypertrophy, strength improvement for athletes, and endurance for the general population and endurance athletes.
The trainer certification is taken online and in your home with a 120 minute time limit to completer the 100 question exam.
The Fitness Mentors exam prides itself in having one of the highest pass rates in the industry with around 85% success for first time takers.
Do well to choose which gym trainer curse suits you, and go ahead to pursue your dream of becoming a certified personal trainer.