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Make flashcards and study overactive/underactive muscles!

by Megan

I just passed the NASM exam on my first attempt and was TOTALLY overwhelmed and stressed when I first started studying the material. I was able to find good studying methods that really helped me calm down, retain the info and nail the exam. Hope these tips help :)

First of all, don't panic when you read the first few chapters- everything comes together as you read on. Things that don't quite make sense when you first start studying come together later on in the text when you start learning about program design.

MAKE FLASHCARDS! Anything that is in bold, has a definition on the sides of the pages or seems like an important concept. I found that by making flashcards, it took the pressure off of myself to immediately memorize things- I was better able to read on instead of getting stuck. I also put the chapter #s in the top corner of the flashcards in case I needed to go back to something for reference. Keep reviewing the cards of previous chapters- for me, since there is SO much to commit to memory, repeatedly going over my flashcards was key.

Print out NASMs study tips. It doesn't cost extra- you can find them on the NASM website. Those really helped.

The DVDs were good too. I first read the chapter, made flashcards then watched the corresponding chapter on the DVD. I found that things that didn't make sense when I read them were explained on the video.

I found that there was emphasis on the overactive/underactive muscles pertaining to the assessments (squat assessement and the pushing/pulling assessment). There is a chart on page 169 of the text. There is a lot to memorize (I made flashcards with "Feet Turn Out" on the front and then on the back I listed the "overactive muscles", "underactive muscles", stretches and strengthening exercises). *the tight muscles or "overactive" muscles are the ones that need to be stretched and the weak or "underactive muscles" are the ones that need to be strengthened. To learn which muscles are overactive and underactive, I would actually preform the action with my feet turned out (for example). You will see that when you turn your feet out, certain muscles are activated and those are the muscles that are overactive in someone who turns their feet out. Same as when your bring your knees together when you do a squat, you feel it in your adductors (inner thighs)- those are the tight "overactive" muscles in a person who brings their knees together when they perform that assessment. That was just a way that I could learn the info in a way that made sense instead of just memorizing it.

DEFINITELY take the NASM practice exam on the NASM website after you read all 18 chapters. Even though most of the test questions on the actual exam are different, it will give you a really good idea of the type of questions asked and which material is really emphasized.

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by: Anonymous

Thank you for sharing, your article really helped me focus more and develop a strategy for not feeling so defeated trying to remember everything!
Thanks again!

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by JAY
(Los Angeles)

I just finished taking my NASM Exam, and I passed on the first try. I completed the entire test in less than an hour, and yes, the test is fairly easy. I was so nervous after reading all of the posts on this site about how the test was so difficult. The bottom line, if you study, you will pass. This site helped me a great deal so I wanted to pay it forward. TIPS: USE THE SCRATCH PAPER TO WRITE DOWN INFO BEFORE YOU START!!!

Here are some things to LOOK at:

Intermuscular coordination
number of reps. for stability
How many quarts of water daily
percent of carbs
Plane of motion of a squat
What is the innermost layer of muscle tissue
Gluteus Maximus is an agonist during
Part of the heart that PUMPS blood to the entire body
cardiac output
What would be a starting point for the senior population (seated, standing, lying down..)
Which is a respiratory muscle
essential amino acids
which is an amino acid
subjective information
objective information
Which is a direct question
Which is a non-direct question
Average heart rate for a female
Bench press warm up you should increase the weight by how much
Pulling assessment has a tempo of
Define Rapport
FITTE stands for
Circumference measurements can be used to calculate
Law of Thermodynamics
How many minutes of cardio BEFORE a workout
When is the best time to take heart rate (morning, before bed, etc)
How long of a rest interval replenishes ATP/CP
Most important thing to consider for a youth client
Which is a monosaccharide?
What is a DISadvantage to a low carb/high protein diet
1 gram of fat equals how many calories
1 gram of carb equals how many calories
Main purpose of a business
Define assessment
What part of communication is based on tone of voice
What part of communication is based on physiological
NASM re-certification requires
trainers primary responsibility public or employer
First thing in a scene of an emergency
Obesity related problems begin when a BMI reaches what percent
All are NASM guidelines EXCEPT
What stretches to fix muscle imbalances (p. 169)
number of reps. for Hypertrophy
If a client performs a 2 arm bench press well what would be the next progression
Name the leg progressions (ie. 2 leg stable, 1 leg stable, etc.)
Same side of the body
Frontal Plane
Protein recommendations for endurance athlete
Recommended percentage of FAT
percentage for zone 1 cardio
What energy source in zone 2 cardio
SMR picture to identify


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What i learned about the NASM exam!

by Ashley

I read a few posts on here that were really helpful, and so now that I have passed the exam myself I thought I would offer the things I wish I had seen on here.

First off, don't panic! Contrary to what some people are saying, I really disagree that NASM is trying to make a confusing/overly difficult exam. If you know the information, the right answer will stick out. There are "research questions" that do not contribute to your score- Again, if you know your stuff, you will recognize a question is not asking things outlined in the textbook and are probably not going to count toward your score. Do not panic!

Secondly, the practice exam is a GREAT indicator of the TYPE of questions that will be on the exam. It is not however, the same questions. If the practice exam asked about agonists, make sure you know what antagonists, stabalizers, and synergists are. If your practice test asks about how to take systolic blood pressure, make sure you know how to measure diastolic, etc. My advice would be to take the practice test, and when you look back at your incorrect answers, go back to the pages in the textbook and make sure you know what the other options are. You cannot simply take and retake the practice exam until you get a 100% and expect to pass the exam- I would say less than 5 questions on my exam were from the practice test. Know similar terms and all the other options for the questions on the exam.

This is not a test (at least not for me) where you can read the textbook a few times and be prepared for the exam. You need to memorize all the acute variables for every stage. If it is in a chart (ex. respritory muscles, muscles as movers, essential amino acids) pay particular attention and try to memorize as much as possible. The questions will ask for specific numbers/variables. Be able to identify which exercizes are part of which level of the OPT model-- both by word and by picture. Be familiar with how to regress and progress the exercises and which muscles are working as agonists, etc, for the major exercises.

In summary, don't panic! Study, memorize, and be confident you know your stuff and you should be fine. Don't let people who did not pass the first time freak you out!

Hope this helps, good luck everyone!

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my take
by: Anonymous

Took and passed the first time. Had the material for about 30 days prior. Studied as much/often as I could, but I have a 16 month old son at home, so it's not as if I have lots of spare time. Definitely attainable. However, I think some of the questions on the test could be rewritten for clarity. There were at least a handful of questions which stood out to me because they were very vague-- like one which made reference to both agonists and synergists and then asked "which of these..." and I was thinking, well which of WHICH? Can you be more specific?!? That being said, they obviously think it's important to know the material on page 169 of the test (at this writing, 3rd ed. is most current-- 7/2010), so study that. If you have taken college-level physiology or nutrition, or read any type of health journals regularly (no, Muscle and Fitness mag doesn't count), then the rest of the test will be cake.

Other tips include: Don't miss silly questions like those dealing with the "selling" aspects-- know which percentage of communication is based on body language/posture, how much on tone of voice, and how much on what is actually said, etc... Know what the READ acronym stands for.

a little NASM help
by: Anonymous

I'm jumping on the pay it forward bandwagon. I took my test yesterday and passed, thanks for some studying(materials)on this site. I also read the book, voice recorded important material, and worked with the practice test many times. The information giving on this site was ABSOLUTELY on the test. What I remembered on the test:

- what does the cell body contain?

- Gluteus maximus agonist with hip extension

- Left ventricle pumps blood to the entire body

-What is not a support mechanism of blood, page 43.

- gentle pressure with reading radial pulse, page 109

- Anatomic location? I had where is superior? page 53

-What is the plane for overhead squat? Sagittal

-Copy of questions what plans for certain exercises

-Position of the back leg of cable rotation, triple extension or triple flexion?

- no Functional Anatomy 68-86

- going down on an overhead squat, the quad is concentric/eccentric/iso.

- Average heart heart... 70-80

- Health & fitness Professionals should not prescribe treatment
page 101

- what question is a Subjective/Objective information page 101

- Beta blockers - used as anti hypertensive page 107

- Normal diastolic pressure ranges 80-85 mm HG

- Circumference measurements can also be used to calculate body fat %

- page 169 chart

- F.I.T.T.E page 179

- Cardiorespiratory 5-10 mins

- Law of Thermodynamics

- Beta Blockers decrease heart rate

- If a person’s belt rides higher in the back and lower in the front what might this be indicative of = ANTERIOR PELVIC TILT

- Exercise Progressions & Regressions

- Proper Spring Mechanics page 260

- Program design continuum table page 328

- Pulling tempo 2/0/2

- 20 amino acids

- non essential & essential amino acids

- Which one is not a Essential amino acids? page 421

- Protein Recommendations chart page 426

- Which one is a Disaccharides? page 429

- Dehydration, decrease performance levels page 441

- 3 quarts of water daily

- Recommended carbohydrate intake, 50-70%

- Dietary Supplement definition

- Root cause analysis definition

- Guidelines for Uncompromising customer service, page 478

- Purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer p. 478

- what SCAMPI stands for

- example Nondirective and directive questions page 485

- Relative flexibility
- Stabilization and Movement systems
- synergistic dominance
- Intermuscular coordination

Just Passed Oct. 2010
by: Houston, TX

Just finishing taking the NASM exam and passed on the first try. After spending over 3 months of preparing and reading the different reviews on this website. Anyone that's preparing to take this exam I would encourage you to read the book, and watch all the videos. From there you can go back and break the book down into the different sections that will be on the exam. Take a look at the notes that someone has posted on here already and review those, because more then likely you will have 20%-30% of those questions on your exam. Finally, read, read, and read some more.

Good luck!!

Failed first time
by: Krista

I studied for 4 months before I took the test. I failed it last week with a 63. The qestions were tricky, a lot of them were like, all of the following belong in a group, Except: and they would mix some definitions around so it didn't sound exactly like the definition in the book. I would get ahold of Mike Fantigrassi. I wish I would have before the test. He sent me a page on study tips and whats on the test. The test is never the same, but close. It draws from a bank of questions. I was devistated when I didn't pass. But I'm studying hard again and taking it 2 weeks after my fail date so I can still remember whats on the test.

Just the passed the exam today 1st try
by: Anonymous

Hello, I took the exam today and passed first time. It took a little over an hour. I studied for about 60 days and for at least an hour a day and I did not miss a day. Although there is not much more I can add to many excellent posts on this site, I can say that I read the text twice and took many, many notes and wrote and rewrote many key terms from the glossary. I also made my own flashcards of the muscle groups (starting on p. 68). This was helpful but maybe a little overkill.
I found the DVDs helpful, as well as the study guide questions. Know page 169. Know the exercises within each phase and when appropriate to use them, progress, regress etc.
The exam is challenging but very doable and many questions are similar to practice exam. Some are even the same. A few nitpicky questions thrown in and like 'pelvo-ocular reflex', (p. 201).
The study guide tips on line are also helpful. Good luck!

by: KODI


NASM exam
by: Anonymous

I just passed the exam the fist time through and frankly I'm amazed I passed. Because of multiple distractions over the course of 6 months I did a relatively poor job studying. Matter of fact, four days before the exam I had only read/studied through 8 of the 18 chapters. So like a fool I crammed by just watching the videos and taking the practice exams from the NASM Learning Center over and over again in hopes the questions would be the same or at least very similar. Unfortunately they weren't. I suppose researching the NASM Learning Center practice exam questions to understand their concepts help me out significantly, but I wasn't ready and it was luck that I pulled it off.

Study every aspect of assessment and work-out techniques as best you can. Know the chart on pg. 169 to a T. Understand overactive and underactive muscles and corrective exercises/stretches. Be prepared to visually assess weak/strong muscles and what is necessary to re-balance these muscles. Chapter 4 is intimidating, but just accept that you won't know all the muscles and their agonist, antagonist, and synergistic functions in one week. Over the course of the 3-4 months that you study for the exam you'll learn and remember their significance.

The flash cards on NASM Learning Center are great and if it appears to be important, then study it because it probably is.

Bottom line, its much about repetitive studying and understanding their concepts. If you study consistently for 3-4 months, you'll do fine. If you pull a bone headed stunt like i did, chances are, you'll fail. There is no easy way to be successful with this test, unless you're as lucky as I am. But if you remain committed, you'll do fine. Good luck.



The test is actually very easy. Read the book, use the review someone posted on this site, remember 169 and take the practice test 5x or so and your golden.

People are making a big deal of this test. I studied
a total of maybe 10 hours and passed easily.

by: BD

I just passed the Nasm exam an hour ago, and it was my first try. As a member of a gym I never planned on becoming a personal trainer, but i am always reinventing myself, so here i am.

The exam? ... it was really easy because i over studied, and no, they do not try and trick you up. You either know it or you don't. You do have to study and understand the concepts. Don't study to pass the exam, study like you are going to teach what you are learning, which is exactly what you are going to do anyway.

The questions were random and that is why it's hard to say whether or not it will be a hard exam for the average person.

The first 80 questions i got them correct and i thought " Wow, I already passed this exam"?
The others were pretty much questions that i wasn't sure of, but i took the best guess that i could. i made the best guess possible.

I finished in 40 minutes and it was surreal. i studied for 3 months on and off.

I suggest you read the textbook and follow along with the dvd. what doesn't stick out to you just start making flash cards, or little notes.

The book is not going to make much sense when you first read it, but it really does come together after a while. Really! It does!

All i can say is i passed the exam and i found it so easy.
Read textbook a few times, follow along with the dvd's, keep notes, and you will pass the exam.

Acute variables
by: Anonymous

Everyone keeps mentioning know the chart with acute variables? I know i am brian dead from studying, but the only acute variables I know are from the Core Training Chapter. Is that what everyone is referring to?

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Passed the NASM exam with these study tips 04/11

by Rick Elliot
(Altamonte, FL)

Ok guys here is what I did...I did the 45 day study outline that the study guide gives you. I did that to a T. Didn't skip ahead or pile up some on certain days. But there were some days like 3 that I was not able to get to studying. So I did watch the videos but don't bother with those audios or mp3s from the website I also didn't pay a bit of mind to the special populations until the very end when I studied the special considerations (that is all you need to know for the special populations). Then I spent three hard days of studying.

The first two days I spent about 7 hours studying. Then the last day I spent 12 hours. Here is what I did for the three days of studying.

I meditated 20 minutes before each study session. I also took a multi vitamin with 3 capsules of fish oil each day. I ate healthy foods like nuts, whey protein shakes, and whole wheat shrimp scampi. This provided me with the mental stability that I needed to pull through these long bouts of mental concentration. I also took a short break every 3.5 hours and had to turn off my phone because I was getting too distracted talking on it and texting. I tried taking a 200mg of caffeine when I woke up groggy on the second day but it did not have much effect on me. Do not study past your normal sleep time. Studies show extreme diminishing returns when your mind is fatigued. Stay isolated away from people and no TV or phone.

I split the book into 18 chapters. I omitted 3 of them that didn't require much because I knew there was not going to be much on the test. These three were the SAQ chapter (only 1 q about landing mechanics on test), Supplements (0 questions on test), and special populations (I had 3 questions...just pay attention to the special considerations). Then I went over two outlines that people had provided on this website and just made flash cards for each concept in the first outline and memorized it. I also memorized every exercise and in what phase they are in and what type like Core-Stabilization = marching. You get a lot of questions on these and they are not as obvious as you would like them to be because they may throw some in that have some overlap from stability and reactive.

Don't even bother memorizing the Acute variables for Core, Stability, Reactive, and SAQ...they're not on there. But know the other acute variables for resistance. Know the Heart rates and the different blood pressures. Know what factors effect the amount of rest between each exercise.

I also believe the people who failed the test relied too much on the practice exam. It was a good litmus test and I got scores of 74, 87, and 93.7% (that score was the night before the test). But they do word the questions in a way that is a little synonymous.

Example Q:

during the DESCENT of the squat what is blah blah. So instead of letting you know it is eccentric. But this was just one Q like that.

I also did the NASM exam study guide PDF they give from their website that highlights certain things to lookover. Look at the bolded stuff and the red stuff that says "very important"

Obviously if you don't know by now to memorize page 169 then you are cooked.

Just follow the two outlines I got from this website (I do not take credit for them) and you should do fine. Here they are

The 3 blocks in the OPT Model.

-Parts of the neuron
-Muscle Spindles/GTO
-Muscle Fibers and Their Contractile Elements Pages 31-35

-Blood Page 43
-Functions of the Heart Table 3.1 Page 43
-Structure of the Respiratory Pump Table 3.3 Page 47
-Aerobic VS Anaerobic Page 51

-Planes, Motions and Axes Table 4.1 Page 61
-Muscle Action Spectrum Table 4.2 Page 68
-Know which muscles accelerate and decelerate plantar flexion and dorsiflexion

-Subjective VS Objective
-Beta Blockers
-Circumference measurements can also be used to calculate body fat. Page 114
-The 3 Heart Rate Zones
-Shark Skill Test Page 130
-Upper and Lower Body Strength Assessment Pages 131-132

-Neuromuscular Efficiency Page 141
-Relative Flexibility Page 142
-Altered Reciprocal Inhibition Page 144
-Synergistic Dominance Page 144
-Arthrokinematics Page 144
-Know each of the Static, Active, Dynamic Stretching
-***MEMORIZE AND UNDERSTAND PAGE 169***I had 6-8 questions

-FITTE Pages 179-180
-EPOC Page 183
-Law of Thermo Page 182
-RER and HR Zones Table 7.9 Page 184
-Circuit Training Page 189

-Muscles of the Core Table 8.1 Page 199
-Know each of the core exercises for Stability, Strength, and Power

-Integrated Performance Paradigm Page 220
-How to progress and regress balance training
- Know each of the balance exercises for Stability, Strength, and Power

***Probable research question. KNOW THE DEFINITION OF PLYOMETRICS in glossary. I wouldn’t have gotten this answer correctly without the knowledge from my current training with my CPT.
-Rate of Force Production
- Know each of the reactive exercises for Stability, Strength, and Power

-Frontside and Backside Mechanics Pages 260-261
- Know each of the SAQ exercises for Stability, Strength, and Power

-Adaptation Pages 272-276
-Strength Page 277
-The 3 strength phases
-Resistance-Training Systems Table 12.3 Page 281
-Strength Endurance uses SUPER SET. STABLE followed by UNSTABLE.
- Know each of the strength exercises for Stability, Strength, and Power ( Progress and Regress)

-MEMORIZE the acute variables Table 13.1 Page 328!! This is the only focus you will need for the exam in terms of the number of sets, reps, intensity. Ignore the acute variables in the study guide that focuses on balance, core, and SAQ if you are short on time. But they are good to know, I memorized them anyway…
-Volume VS Intensity
-Bullet points for REST INTERVALS page 332
-Bullet points for TRAINING VOLUME Page 333
-And of course applying the OPT Model…

-Don’t get too absorbed with the acute variables for each special population. Focus on SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

-Page 421 Protein. 8 Essential came up. 4 calories per gram.
-Protein Recommendations Table 15.2Page 426 MEMORIZE!
-Mono VS Disaccharides Page 429 KNOW EACH OF THEM!
-Carbs 50-70% of diet
-Fat 9 calories per gram. 10-15% of diet.
-Water 96 ounces/3 quarts

Don’t recall getting any questions in this chapter.

It seemed like I got many questions in these 2 chapters for some reason.
-Vision, Strategy (SCAMPI), Belief, Persistence, and Learning
-Root cause
-Networks of excellence
-55% Physiology 7% Words 38% Tone of Voice
-Direct VS NON-Direct questions
-Features VS Benefits Page 486


-Skim over the CPR section, although you should be CPR certified already.
-Know the Program Design chapter in and out (lots of acute variables)
-Know the Nutrition chapter in and out
-Know the Assessment chapter in and out
-Know as many exercises that you can and make sure you know what phase of training they belong in and what category (reactive, etc.); sounds easy but there is a million exercises in the text
-Know your cardio phases and stages
-There weren't as many muscle identifications as I thought, but if you have the study guide, study the charts that they provide as answers

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I appreciate this.
by: Griff

Don't know if you will ever see this but thank you for your help. I am bookmarking this for my studies.

Grateful, but
by: Anonymous

I am incredibly grateful for the information on the exam, but several times I have seen people refer to page 169. Didn't anyone stop to think that the page number might change with the edition? So, name the information, not the page. I don't know if what you are referring to is now page 183 , or not, but it is a full page entitled Compensations, Muscle Imbalances, etc...

by: Anonymous

so happy i came across this. The book makes it imposibble to try and understand what they are saying. I will be using this for sure! Thank you so much!!!

Thank you so much for this, OP!
by: Anonymous

when you're talking about the chart to commit to memory, it is indeed the one on page 183 for the 4th edition text.
Compensations, Muscle Imbalances.

Updated information on NASM exam
by: Anonymous

[editor's note: link removed]

The exam is so badly written that I don't know where to begin to tell you how to study for it. When you walk out, you may say "WTF?" And wonder if you passed or not. I really knew my stuff (in my humble opinion), having been to nursing school, taken lots of courses in nutrition, anatomy, etc., and yet I worked my butt off for this exam. Seriously look at other certifications before committing to NASM. Some of us don't even plan to recertify with NASM and will instead go for one of the other certs, unless NASM gets its act together more than it is today.

Another detail on NASM exam
by: Anonymous

To add to what has been said recently, do be sure to ignore most of the advice and sample tests on-line. Anything before 2013 will not help, and may make things worse in that you may look for things no longer even mentioned in the new edition.

[editor's note: you make a good point. I want to make it clear that our exam prep course has been updated for the latest NASM content]

Also, NASM sent me a six page print-out of what to study for the exam that proved to be inaccurate, and it also seemed dishonest. For example, one thing was to learn all of the essential amino acids. I found this to be asinine, especially when it followed their statement that you did not need to memorize a lot of material. Really? If I want to know what they are (which there is no earthly reason to know), I can look them up, can't I? So why learn the essential amino acids, or the concentric actions of the 63 muscles in the book (another thing they said to do).

But I studied like crazy to learn those things but didn't see any of it on the exam. The only question on proteins that I remember was where does digestion begin, in the mouth or small intestine? That's another worthless bit of trivia, so I am not one bit impressed with the decisions or philosophy of whoever is runnning the NASM ship. I think it's off course.

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