Strength and conditioning certifications are like any other certification, diploma, or professional achievement: some are badges of honor, some don’t mean much, and some are downright fraudulent. Which certifications matter when you are evaluating a strength and conditioning coach?
The Right Kind Of Coach
The first thing to look for is the type of certification the the coach holds. Is the coach certified as a Personal Trainer or a Strength and Conditioning Coach? These are different certifications and skills. For example, a personal trainer is likely to be more experienced with one-on-one sessions, while a strength and conditioning coach is adept at training large groups to meet team goals.
Some strength and conditioning coaches amass an alphabet of credentials after their name, as if it builds credibility. It is more likely to mean the opposite. Be wary of trainers with countless certifications; it probably means they chase every new fad in the fitness industry. It could mean they are more interested in how they look than the results they generate for their clients. Three or four certifications are usually enough, and make sure they are specializing in your specific needs and goals. It’s all about you, not the coach.
Are they Certified? What are they certified as; a Personal Trainer or a Strength and Conditioning Specialist? This list can go on and many amass an alphabet of credentials after their name. Like many things more is not always better. Be cautious of trainers with countless certification, which looks like they are chasing every new fad in the fitness industry to look more educated. Three or four certifications are usually enough, and make sure they are specializing in what you need. Performance enhancement!
The Final Four That Matter
We only recommend four strength and conditioning certifications from organizations that have demanding requirements.
NASM-CPT: This governing body always pushes their people to keep up with changes in the training community and furthering education.
ACSM-CPT: ACSM certifications are considered the “Gold Standard” in the health and fitness field. The ACSM also specializes in cardiac rehabilitation and research. Requirements are high and the certification tests are some of the hardest in the industry. The ACSM also generates much of the research produced in the field, and many other certifications mirror their requirements.
NSCA-CSCS: This is one of the hardest and most comprehensive strength and conditioning certification tests out there, and most aspiring coaches will not pass it. This certification is required in the college ranks, and it has one of the largest organizations standing behind it (NSCA: the National Strength and Conditioning Association). The NSCA has a dedicated education and research department that publishes some of the best research in the field of performance enhancement. Certification also requires a coach to have a Bachelors degree with course work specific to performance enhancement. The NSCA also provides a registry for CSCS certificatin holders (RSCC: Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach). There is an even higher bar for work and experience to become an RSCC.
CSCCa: The CSCCa is only held by active college strength coaches. It is a very demanding certification, but you are unlikely to find CSCCa holders in regular gyms. If you find a former holder who is now working in the private sector, you can trust that the coach is very skilled. This certification is similar to the CSCS in its requirements, but it is relatively new and worth paying attention to.
Remember, gyms will not always place the first priority on your training goals and safety. They may not hire the best people to keep costs down. Always do your research and make sure you check the certifications and education of the strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer will be working with you. Just as you don’t hire an accountant without checking to see if they have a CPA, why would hire a trainer without checking to see if they have a proper certification? Your safety is important and having someone with a wealth of knowledge behind your training you will put your mind at ease.
Need help finding a trainer or strength and conditioning coach? Read our guide here.
Are you a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer? Have an opinion about any of the certifications? Sound off in the comments!