Personal Trainers
April 13, 2021

How do I really know what the Best Personal Training Certification is?

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Personal Trainers
How do I really know what the Best Personal Training Certification is?
Cory McKane
Blog Post Summary:

Are you looking for the best personal training certification? Read on to find out more about the world's top personal training certifications!

There are a lot of different personal training certifications and we always have personal trainers asking us about each one. Most trainers that join WeStrive already have a cert, but a handful of our interested trainers are still looking to find the next best cert to get started on their training career.

There are times when it is difficult to find out which certification is the best for a trainer. This is why it's essential to research when choosing a suitable personal training certificate.

One big thing to remember about certifications is that not all gyms accept every cert. If you want to work at a specific gym, find out what certification they require before applying.

Here are the personal training certifications that we'll be covering below:

  1. ISSA
  2. NASM
  3. NCSF
  4. ACE
  5. ACSM
  6. NSCA

Now, let's get started and hopefully we can help you solve the question - How do I really know what the Best Personal Training Certification is?

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) started in 1988. As of right now, there are actually over 400,000 trainers in 174 countries that have ISSA - that's a lot.

The ISSA Personal Trainer Certification is widely accepted within the fitness industry. They also offer 20+ specializations for a variety of different types of fitness professionals. And, they offer 5 NCCA accredited exams:

Certified Personal Trainer 

Certified Group Exercise Instructor 

Certified Yoga Instructor 

Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor 

Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach

ISSA’s certification program is well-rounded with an emphasis in the anatomy of human movement, exercise technique, program design, nutrition, and the basics of running a fitness business. 

In addition, ISSA’s courses are online and self-paced so students all around the world can take them from anywhere! 

The ISSA CPT exam is an open-book test. The passing rate is around 85% and it's one of the most accessible Personal Trainer Certifications. An examinee needs to get at least 75% to pass the ISSA test.

Sign-up for ISSA through WeStrive

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) was formed in 1987. It is one of the well-respected certifications located in North America and a lot of WeStrive trainers currently have it. The National Commission also accredits it for Certifying Agencies.

The NASM focuses on corrective exercises and they also touch on some aspects of performance exercises. Among all, they are known for their Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model.

The OPT model shows how their personal trainers teach their clients safely and effectively - while still providing amazing results.

The exam is not an open-book test, and it has 120 multiple-choice questions. The passing rate for the exam is 64%. The examinee needs to have 70% to pass the test.

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) started in 1996. Their community-driven health and fitness initiative aims to enhance public education about health and fitness around the world.

The NCSF gained international recognition as an active advocate of the fitness industry in society. They also provide high-quality service and a platform for fitness professionals. They're long-term goal is to put the personal trainers in the bracket of doctors and exercise therapists.

The NCSF exam includes 150 questions. An examinee needs to score at least 70%. The exam can be taken in testing centers or online with a live remote proctor.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE)

American Council on Exercise (ACE) is the most popular organization on our list. The group that represents the popularity is mostly made up of trainers in North America and parts of Europe. Called ACE, in short, their team focuses on general personal training certification. They use their Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) model.

The IFT model emphasizes the progress of their clients with the use of a workout program. They prioritize safety and injury prevention. Furthermore, the model touches on corrective exercises and performance training.

They also emphasize functional training and cardiorespiratory training. According to ACE, it is an essential certificate for weight loss.

The ACE certification exam is composed of 150-item multiple-choice questions. The passing rate is 65%. An examinee needs to get at least 85% to pass the exam.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) was established in 1954 - making them one of the oldest certifications. Just like prior certifications we've mentioned, they are also accredited by the NCCA.

Similarly to NASM, The ACSM CPT is a corrective exercise certification with a focus on (you guessed it) corrective exercise.

The exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. As expected, it is not an open-book type of test. Because of its relative difficulty, the ACSM has the lowest passing rate with 54%.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) was formed in 1987. They were the first organization to get an NCCA accreditation. Since then, they have become recognized as an agency with a very solid reputation.

The NSCA is known for its performance-focused personal training certification. And with that certification, they are known to be the leader in terms of performance-based training.

The NSCA exam comprises 140-item multiple-choice questions. Also, it is not an open-book test. The passing rate of NSCA is 58%. Based on a scaled rating, the examinee needs at least 70% to pass the exam.


A certification is essentially a license to train people. If you want to be a Personal Trainer, you need to have a certification - and hopefully a certification that suits your needs! Do you like functional training? Then choose the best cert for that criteria.

In order to get certified, you'll need to undergo training, reviews, and exams... but it will all be worth it!

In the United States and various countries, it is illegal to work as a personal trainer without a certificate. It is dangerous for the clients to work with a non-certified trainer because they don’t have the proper training and education.

This is why it's important to get a personal training certification. Maybe it's a little expensive and a long process, but you will gain critical information you'll need to help train future clients.

Which certification will you choose?

Make sure you're setup for online training with these articles:

About the Author:

Cory McKane is the CEO/Founder of WeStrive - a platform for personal trainers to manage & grow their personal training business. He enjoys working out and spending time working with trainers on WeStrive on how to manage/grow their business.

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Written by
Cory McKane
CEO | WeStrive
Huge fan of fitness - Even bigger fan of helping you with your fitness. I've been building up the WeStrive platform for over 5 years and I'm excited to keep building out the greatest Health & Wellness platform on Earth.

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How do I really know what the Best Personal Training Certification is?