Best Certification for Personal Training: How to choose your cert

Empower Your Career: The Best Certification for Personal Training

Best Certification for Personal Training
David Bohmiller

by David Bohmiller
Co-founder of Epicenter Training

The Best Certification for Personal Training?

As an aspiring independent personal trainer, you're stepping into a dynamic and rewarding career. Your journey starts with the critical decision of choosing the best certification for personal training, a choice that will shape your future success and the impact you'll have on your clients. In this guide, we'll explore the process of selecting the perfect certification, tailored specifically for those looking to build their own personal training businesses.

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NCCA Accreditation: The Gold Standard

Firstly, emphasizing the importance of NCCA accreditation is critical. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) sets the industry standard for certifying organizations. Opting for an NCCA-accredited certification ensures that your education and training meet the highest quality and ethical standards. Each of the 5 certifying organizations listed below hold this accreditation.

Let's dive into the 5 most reputable certifications for independent personal trainers:

1. NASM - National Academy of Sports Medicine

NASM is a name you'll often hear in the fitness industry. Their Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification is renowned for its evidence-based approach, focusing on corrective exercise strategies. This certification equips you with the knowledge and skills to help clients achieve their fitness goals and overcome any hurdles they may face.

Their Optimum Performance Training® Model is well-organized, helping to categorize your programming focus, reduce the complexity of design, and improve understanding and execution for your clients.

2. ACE - American Council on Exercise

ACE's Personal Trainer Certification is another of the NCCA-accredited certifications. It's known for its well-rounded curriculum, covering exercise science, program design, and behavior change. ACE's focus on behavioral psychology is particularly valuable for independent trainers seeking to motivate and support clients effectively.

3. ISSA - International Sports Sciences Association

ISSA offers a comprehensive Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program. What sets ISSA apart is its emphasis on customization and client-centered training. Independent trainers will appreciate the flexibility to tailor programs to individual client needs, helping build a loyal client base.

Choosing a Personal Trainer Certification

4. ACSM - American College of Sports Medicine

ACSM's Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification is renowned for its in-depth coverage of exercise physiology, making it an excellent choice for trainers who want to work with clients facing unique health challenges. If you're looking to specialize in corrective exercise and rehabilitation, ACSM is a top pick.

Co-founder perspective:

  • "When I'd been nearing completion of my undergraduate degree in Physical Education, and considering roles as an Exercise Physiologist, working in hospitals performing cardiac rehab and stress testing, the ACSM certifications came highly-recommended for application in that particular environment." - David Bohmiller

5. NSCA - National Strength and Conditioning Association

If you have a passion for strength and conditioning, NSCA's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification is an excellent choice. While it's slightly more advanced, it's worth pursuing if you aspire to work with athletes and individuals seeking to maximize their athletic performance.

Co-founder perspective:

  • "The NSCA has been my preferred organizing body, having earned my CSCS in 2002 and my TSAC-F in 2015. The 1st set the foundation for my work with all clients, even those of general population, as I found great success in helping my trainees to move more athletically, opening doors to their greater enjoyment of exercise and consistent effort." - David Bohmiller

Special Considerations for Independent Personal Trainers

While the certifications listed above are suitable for all trainers, you'll face some unique challenges and opportunities when running your own business. In light of this, consider whether, and to what extent, the following areas are present in the course curriculum. Where not as intensive as desired, it can be helpful to seek additional support, as in the Epicenter Training Online Academy.

  • Business and Marketing Skills - As an independent trainer, you're not just a fitness expert; you're also an entrepreneur. Consider taking courses or workshops to enhance your business and marketing acumen.

  • Client Acquisition - Building a client base from scratch can be challenging. Networking, creating an online presence, and offering innovative training options can help you stand out.

  • Continued Education - The fitness industry evolves, and staying current is vital. Invest in ongoing education to provide your clients with the latest knowledge and techniques.

  • Legal and Liability Considerations - Independent trainers should also invest in liability insurance to protect themselves from potential legal issues.

remember your scope of practice


It's crucial to mention that while personal trainers can provide valuable nutrition advice, it's essential to stay within your scope of practice. Nutrition prescription and in-depth dietary plans should be left to registered dietitians or nutritionists.

key takeaways of the best certification for personal training

Your journey as an independent personal trainer begins with selecting the right certification. Prioritize NCCA-accredited certifications like NASM, ACE, ISSA, ACSM, and NSCA to ensure you receive top-tier education in acquiring the best certification for personal training.

Tailor your approach to your unique needs as an independent trainer, keeping in mind the specialized challenges and opportunities that come with running your own business. Stay true to your interests and your scope of practice, and you'll set a strong foundation for a successful career in personal training.


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