We created this blog to include ALL of the relevant information involved in becoming a certified personal trainer. A lot of the information discussed in the leading personal training manuals (ACE, ACSM, NASM, NSCA) is better understood when the learning styles are combined (auditory, visual, kinesthetic). For most people, it's not enough to just read through a textbook. The descriptions and links that follow include the best tools, videos, blogs, pictures, and other resources that we have found helpful to fully absorb and understand each topic.
If you have any questions or would like something else covered in more detail please send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate you checking us out and are here to support along your journey to becoming certified. We hope you find these tools helpful & wish you all the best with your future endeavors as a fitness professional!
Quick Note: Aspiring trainers interested in becoming certified can check out CPT Prep Study Guides on Amazon and Audio Prep on Audible for additional information related to the exams along with practice questions similar to the actual tests!
Anatomy Websites (Nervous, Skeletal, & Muscular Systems)
Zygote Body – 3D image of the human body that you can rotate and peel away layers to see muscle locations and what they are connected to.
Get Body Smart – Muscles of the human body including actions, attachments, locations, and nerve supply.
Inner Body – Detailed description of the muscular system with illustrations of muscle locations.
Muscles & Motion – Great illustrated videos and descriptions of muscular mechanics involved in any movement of the human body. Also shows the difference between proper vs improper form of various movements.
Poke a Muscle – Game to help memorize muscle locations.
Another helpful tool is The Anatomy Coloring Book on Amazon
Biomechanics (The Human Movement System)
Fitness assessments are used to get a baseline of your clients current heath and fitness level before starting a training program. The information gathered during assessments is used to create a safe and effective program that meets the clients goals, needs, and abilities.
Subjective assessments are used to gather information on health history which can include past injuries or surgeries, previous exercise history, occupation, lifestyle, and any medical conditions or symptoms they may currently have.
Objective assessments are performed to observe and measure things such as a client’s heart rate, blood pressure, height, and weight. It’s also used to assess their posture and movement patterns to note any muscular imbalances or joint dysfunction that needs to be addressed.
Static Posture Assessments should check for proper alignment of the 5 Kinetic Chain Checkpoints, symmetry, and specific Postural Distortion Patterns. Always start from the ground up when assessing clients. Fix the foundation first (foot / ankle) before moving up the kinetic chain to correct other compensations.
Head (Cervical Spine)
Foot & Ankle
Postural Distortion Patterns
Pronation Distortion Syndrome: A postural distortion characterized by foot pronation (flat feet) along with adducted and internally rotated knees.
Lower Crossed Syndrome: A postural distortion characterized by an anterior tilt to the pelvis (arched lower back).
Upper Crossed Syndrome: A postural distortion characterized by a forward head and rounded shoulders
Movement Observations & Assessments should relate to basic functional movements such as squatting, pushing, pulling, and balancing. Video descriptions are linked below for the following (4) major movement assessments:
Overhead Squat Assessment: A transitional movement assessment designed to assess dynamic flexibility, core strength, balance, and overall neuromuscular control.
Single-Leg Squat Assessment: A transitional assessment performed on one leg to assess dynamic flexibility, core strength, balance, and overall neuromuscular control.
Pushing Assessment: Evaluates movement efficiency and potential muscle imbalance during pushing movements.
Pulling Assessment: Evaluates movement efficiency and potential muscle imbalance during pulling movements.
Cardiorespiratory Assessments help to identify safe and effective starting exercise intensities based on client’s current fitness level. The best measurement of cardiorespiratory fitness is V02Max. However, it is not always practical to directly measure V02Max. Therefore, the submaximal tests listed below can be used to predict ones V02Max.
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) describes how our body responds and adapts to stress. GAS is broken down into the following (3) phases:
Alarm reaction: The initial response to the imposed demands or stressor. Increased oxygen and blood supply to the necessary areas of the body. This phase last approximately 2-3 weeks. Neuromuscular adaptation is primarily taking place in this phase which can cause fatigue, weakness and soreness as the body adapts. Initial increases in strength are mainly from neuromuscular adaptation not necessarily structural, muscular changes. DOMS (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness) is common in this phase where pain or discomfort is felt 24 – 72 hours after intense exercise or unaccustomed physical activity. Starting slow and progressively overloading your clients system will help to mitigate some of the soreness that comes along when first beginning a training program.
Resistance Development (Adaptation): The body adapts to the imposed stress of exercise by changing structures in the body and increasing its function capacity. This phase last approximately 4-12 weeks. During this phase muscle fibers increase in thickness and intramuscular coordination is improved which increases strength and the body’s ability to perform the exercise movements.
Exhaustion phase: The body can no longer adapt to the imposed demands of the applied training stimulus. Further adaptations may halt and the potential for breakdown or injury increases. The risk of overtraining syndrome (OTS) also increases. Correctly using the OPT Model will help keep clients out of this phase.
The Principle of Specificity states that the body will adapt to the demands that are placed upon it.*Only the muscles that are trained will adapt and change in response. It's also referred to as the SAID principle: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands
Mechanical specificity refers to the weights and movements placed on the body. To increase endurance higher reps of less weight would be used. To increase strength heavier weight with fewer reps and longer rest periods would be used.
Neuromuscular specificity refers to the speed of muscular contraction and exercise selection. Different speeds and patterns are used to increase neuromuscular efficiency.
Stability exercise are performed at slow speeds in controlled but unstable environments.
Strength exercises are done in stable environments with heavier weight to focus on the prime movers.
Power exercises are performed as fast as possible as seen in plyometric training.
Metabolic specificity refers to the energy demand placed on the body.
Endurance training primarily uses aerobic pathways (Aerobic Oxidation & The Oxidative System
Strength & Power training primarily use anaerobic pathways (ATP-PC & Anaerobic Glycolysis)
Acute Variables are the components that specify how each exercise is to be performed. They determine the amount of stress placed on the body and what adaptations will occur in response to those stresses. Acute variables include the following:
Math Formulas & Helpful Calculations
Tools and Calculators to help determine everything from body mass index (BMI), target heart rate zone, blood pressure, body fat composition, and daily caloric needs.
Fat = 9 calories per gram 1 Kg = 2.2 pounds (pounds ÷ 2.2 = Kg)
Protein = 4 calories per gram 1 Inch = 2.54 cm (inches x 2.54 = cm)
Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram 1 Meter = 100 cm (cm ÷ 100 = Meters)
Alcohol = 7 calories per gram 1 MET = 3.5 ml (V02 ÷ 3.5 = MET)
3500 kcal (calories) = 1 pound fat
Methods of Estimating Exercise Intensity
Max Heart Rate (MHR): 220 – Age = MHR or 208 – (0.7 x Age) = MHR
* 30 year old would have Max HR of 190 BPM | 220 – 30 = 190 BPM
Heart Rate Reserve (HRR): Max HR – Resting HR = HRR
* 30 year old with resting HR of 60 BPM | 190 - 60 = 130 BPM
Target Heart Rate (THR) = HRR x % Intensity + Resting HR (Karvonen Formula)
* 30 year old mentioned above to train at 80% intensity | 130 x 0.80 + 60 = 164 BPM (THR)
V02 Reserve = V02 Max - 3.5
Target V02 = V02Max - V02Rest x % of Intensity + V02Rest (3.5)
* The recommended intensity ranges from 0.40 to 0.89
Body Composition Calculations
Body Mass Index (BMI) = Weight (Kg) ÷ Height (m2)
* Calculate the BMI of a man who is 6ft tall & weighs 180 pounds
180 ÷ 2.2 = 81.81 Kg | 6ft x 12 = 72 inches |72 x 2.54 = 182.88 cm | 182.88 ÷ 100 = 1.83 m |1.83m2 = 3.35 | 81.81 ÷ 3.35 = 24.42 BMI
Fat weight (FW) = Body weight (BW) x Body fat (BF) %
* Calculate based on 180 pound body weight & 20% body fat | 180 x 0.20 = 36 lbs of fat
Lean body weight (LBW) = Body weight (BW) – Fat weight (FW)
* Calculate based on information above | 180 – 36 = 144 lbs LBW
Desired Body Weight (DBW) = Lean body weight ÷ (100% - Desired body fat %)
* Calculate DBW if the person above wanted to be at 10% body fat | 144 ÷ 0.90 = 160 lbs
Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) = Waist circumference ÷ Hip circumference
* Calculate based on an individual with a 32-inch waist and 36-inch hip | 32 ÷ 36 = 0.89
1 Repetition Max (1RM) = Pounds lifted ÷ % of 1RM (See 1RM Table for % 1RM)
* Calculate based on 180 pounds lifted for 10 repetitions | 180 ÷ 0.75 = 240 pound 1RM
Daily Macronutrient Recommendations
Carbohydrates: (45% - 65% of total calories)
It is recommended that an individual consumes 6 – 10 grams of carbs per Kg of bodyweight. This equates to 2.7 to 4.5 grams per pound lb. *The majority of all of carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbohydrates (veggies, sweet potatoes, whole grains)
A 180 person would fall in the range of 486 – 810 grams of carbohydrates per day. 1 gram of carbohydrates yields 4 calories. 1944 – 3240 calories per day.
Protein: (10% - 35% of total calories)
0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended for the general population. Adult athletes can range from 1.2 up to 1.7 g per kg of body weight depending on their amount of training and recovery needs.
A 180 person would fall in the range of 65 grams for the general population or 98 - 139 grams per day for an athlete. 1 gram of protein yields 4 calories so this would be 260 calories per day for the general population or 392 – 556 calories per day for an athlete.
Fats: (20% to 35% of total calories)
A 180 person would fall in the range of 80 grams per day for an athlete. 1 gram of fat yields 9 calories so this would be around 720 calories for this individual.
Total calories from fat (FAT CAL) = Fat grams per serving x 9 kcal x # of servings per container
Percent of calories from fat (%FAT) = (Fat grams per serving x 9 kcal) ÷ Calories per serving
Calculation for daily caloric deficit to achieve desired weight loss in a set time frame.
Weekly caloric deficit = (Desired weight loss in lbs x 3500) ÷ # of weeks Daily caloric deficit = Weekly caloric deficit ÷ 7
Make sure you understand how to calculate macronutrient requirements based on your client’s current weight and activity level. You need to be able to calculate based on calories per gram and percentage of total recommended calories for each macronutrient. A good way to practice this is to track the food that you consume for one day and then calculate the percentages and grams of macronutrients based on your total intake. There is a great app for tracking food called MyFitnessPal. It allows you to scan bar codes on most food labels using your smart phone camera and it will automatically input the nutritional data.
Health & Fitness Accounts to Follow
@achievefitnessboston The best account we have found for correct exercise technique. They include great pictures along with step-by-step instructions and video.
@brookbushinstitute Excellent descriptive instruction on everything involved with human movement science.
@moveu Learn to heal, fix, and strengthen your body. They cover various muscular imbalances, injuries, and alignment issues and then show ways to correct them.
@thereadystate Relieve pain, prevent injury, improve physical performance.
@foundmyfitness Dr. Rhonda Patrick provides informative science backed information on nutrition, vitamins, sauna use, cold exposure, and sleep.
@yogatuneup Breathing and core routines for down-regulation & recovery.
@gymnasticbodies Proprioception (body awareness) & functional strength, great for core exercises.
@docjenfit Great content to increase mobility and flexibility, improve athletic performance, and optimize breathing and recovery. She is also the creator of @themobilitymethod page with additional mobility info.