Don't bother with NASM!
(Vagina Beach, VA)
I have a friend who failed the NASM exam three times...he insists it is very difficult and I told him it was all in his head. To inspire him I said I would pay for it and pass it. So, after 3 evenings of study, I took it today.
I have no knowledge of the fitness industry (I am an unemployed IT professional/day trader/real estate entrepreneur) and I am a forty year old male, if that makes any difference. Passed the exam very comfortably first time. First, I will tell you what I did to pass. Then I will tell you why you shouldn't bother with this useless exam/organization.
I bought the NASM student package. Still a ripoff, in my opinion. Their dvd, mp3, online lessons, and ipod format are all the SAME thing. Essentially, all you get is a $50 book and study guide, and the dvd lessons, which I will place a value of $10-20 on. Lynda.com gives you unlimited lessons on really difficult stuff like programming for a month for $15! So, it's a ripoff. Microsoft certification exams, given at the same testing centers, cost $150. The online practice exams, which are nothing but a question bank with a crappy interface, should cost another $5 at most. So, I think the whole thing is worth $220. Another $20 in "NASM dues" would be reasonable. The whole thing should cost $250. It costs twice that! Ok, griping about the price is not part of the deal, but I am a big believer in value, and I found very little of that with NASM. More about that in the second part of my essay.
I started by trying to read the incredibly boring text, cover to cover. I couldn't. It's painful how boring it is. So, I did the online lessons. They were a bit easier to get through and I made it through all of them over two days. Then I purchased the guide to passing your exam that is sold on this side, and I looked at all the tables and definitions they tell you to mug up on. Finally, I took the practice exam five times, reading up on everything I got wrong before moving on. I ended up with 19 pages of notes from the practice exams, the study tips this site gives, and from the online lessons. Don't bother with the web-based seminars at the end of the NASM online lessons, btw, they are completely useless. I listed to the first one and a bit of the second one before shutting it down.
The exam itself took me 40 minutes. It was stupid. Half the things they told you to study were not on it at all. There was ONE question on special populations. There were a few things asked that were not covered in the course material, or were asked confusingly. For instance, the text says resting heart rate is between 70 and 80. On the exam, one of the questions asked what it was for women, and the choices were 65, 70, 75, and 80. Three of these could be right. And because I passed the exam, I don't know if I got this one right or not, as they don't give you any more info besides the fact that you passed. Stupid.
Within the text, the information is presented in a very wordy, confusing, convoluted manner, and sometimes it makes no sense. For instance, if you add up the percentages of carbs, proteins and fats that they recommend you eat, you end up with more than 100. And if they give two things in percentages, the third will be in grams/kg of body weight. Retarded.
Finally, they told you in the text to take in 96 oz of water. But the exam asked the question in quarts. Now, I grew up abroad, and I learned the metric system. I don't give a fcuk about ounces or quarts, and I don't know what 96 ounces is in quarts, nor should I have to. Are they testing your unit conversion skills or whether you know the stuff or not? Stupid! I don't know if I got this right or not, and I could check easily, but I don't care.
All of this is minor. The really big thing I have a problem with is the excessive amount of science detail they fill your head up with. As fitness trainers/athletes, you already know or do all of this stuff, whether you call it balancing or stability or plyometrics or whatever. Sure, it's good to have a solid foundation, but I found a lot of the phrases (neuromuscular this or functional efficiency that) to be useless nonsense. We don't use it in daily life, and certainly a fitness professional would not use it with clients. So why can't they teach it in simple English and leave this jargon crap out of it. It does not make you smarter or more knowledgeable to learn obscure words and phrases you will never use. Stupid!
Why should we memorize all the muscle names and what to do to stretch or strengthen them when in real life we would be looking it up in a table or online anyways. I believe the exam should allow us to reference the same tables that we would use in real life. Very silly of NASM to test one's ability to memorize, rather than analyze.
The exam allows you to mark questions so you know which ones you would like to revisit. When I was done, I saw that I had 19 marked questions. That means I was sure I had already answered 101 questions correctly already. That was 81 without the test questions that are in there, and I knew I would pass even if I got a few more wrong.
I then got my exam graded. I have no use for this certification but it was nice to pass, I guess. There was a guy who looked very buff next to me, also taking the test. It was his second time, he failed again, and he admitted he had not studied either time. I don't understand people like this.
Buy the exam passing package from this site.
Take the practice exam.
Take notes on what you don't know and learn it.
Relax. You will pass.
Another thing--when I called NASM, they said they were the most highly regarded certification. I don't believe this is true, but I do believe they are highly regarded. Also, they give you an 800 number to call for help with the exam. I left three messages there. Still waiting for a call-back. Interestingly, they pick up very promptly on their sales lines. Hmmmm.
Having taken the test, and having observed my roommate/buddy go through the depression of failing repeatedly, I would say that you should not do this to yourself. You don't need to be certified to be in this business. Learn all this stuff online, and go get clients. Most won't ask about your certifications and as long as you know more than them, they will be happy enough. And if you do this for 8 months or more, you will acquire the basic knowledge/fundamentals that you need.
I have already forgotten the tables and figures, muscle names, acronyms, exercise classifications and progressions and regressions and development methodologies and bio lessons on muscle structure and terminology and macronutrient recommended daily dosages that are in the text. Yet I am still certified. This will tell you how little the certification really means.
Can I get clients if I wanted to? I have been asked before, so I think that I can, but I don't know. Certainly the stuff in the book and certification won't help. Do I know enough about exercising and nutrition to help people? Sure, but again, the course and certification didn't help in this. In fact, the course confused the hell out of me with all the exercises for each of the phases and other groupings. Perhaps if they had called me back, I could understand what they are going on about. If I ever do become a trainer and get a client, you can be sure I won't be using the NASM methodology, which I don't fully understand.
Skip the certification, go to fitness classes for martial arts, TRX, cross-fit, aerobics and yoga, learn the routines, learn basic cardio principles, get clients, research the issues that any of them have, and get going. Don't waste your time/confidence/energy on this.
Best of luck!