The Only NASM CPT Exam Study Resource You’ll Ever Need (infographic)

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Bonus: 4 week and 8 Week Timeline for Studying for your NASM CPT Exam

The NASM CPT Exam can be considered one of the most difficult Fitness Certification Exams in the industry.

Completing 120 questions in 120 minutes, with only your memory, not even a piece of scratch paper, can be a truly daunting task.

When you sign up, depending on the package you get, you’re given a text book and some basic online materials and let loose without much direction. It is no wonder almost a third of people fail this exam.

As a college professor, I have had the opportunity to assist over 1,000 students in their pursuit of the NASM CPT Certification. With some trial and error I have been able to determine the best study materials that will lead to your success.

Like any major career-changing certifications the right study tools and a plan of action can be a godsend. For this reason Fitness Mentors brings a list of the best study tools with an 8 and 4 week study timeline for you to plan accordingly.

But first, here is an infographic you can use to help you determine the study materials you want to use:

NASM CPT Exam Study Resource

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Here’s our take on the study resources tips from the infographic:

NASM CPT Textbook:


The NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th Edition Revised, is obviously going to be your best tool, as all information that makes it onto the NASM CPT Exam can be found inside.

It is composed of the Code of Professional Conduct (page vii), 20 chapters, and Appendices A-D. All of these sections need to be read to ensure you have covered all potential information that makes it onto the test.

This includes about 650 total pages of information. Because of the vast array of topics covered, and the shear density of that information, it is not recommended that the book be your only tool for studying, unless you have a photographic memory.

The Code of Professional Conduct section in the preface of the book is important to read as NASM does ask a question or two regarding its contents. There is no need to memorize it, but have a general idea of what each code means and how to apply it in the real world of personal training.

Regarding the chapters, some are more important than others, for the real world and then for the test. When it comes to the total package of testing and understanding the real world application of the content, every chapter is important to read. Although questions come from all chapters, if you were to focus on chapters that were most important to the test I would recommend the following be read thoroughly or even twice:

Chapter 6: Fitness Assessment

Chapter 7: Flexibility Training Concepts

Chapter 9: Core Training Concepts

Chapter 13: Resistance Training Concepts

Chapter 14: Integrated Program Design and the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model

Chapter 17: Nutrition

Chapter 19: Lifestyle Modification and Behavioral Coaching

Chapter 20: Developing a Successful Personal Training Business

As far as the Appendices go, understanding the muscles from Appendix D: Muscular System is most important. My suggestion would be to focus on the large muscles of the major joints and understand their joint motions during eccentric and concentric muscle actions (Integrated Function). Also the stabilizer muscles of the core and shoulder do come into play in the real world and on the exam.

Reading can be a grueling process and isn’t the best way to learn for some, but is necessary. Along with reading be sure to highlight important topics and make flash cards for terms that are tough to memorize. The NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training textbook should be used as the primary source of studying, but there are other great tools to make studying easier and also more fun.


Jones & Bartlett Learning (


With your book comes some great online tools, offered by the publisher Jones & Bartlett Learning. Although these are not the greatest tools you can use, they do come free with your textbook, located on the inside of the front cover.

Visit their site listed above and activate your account using your access code (found inside the front cover of the text under the scratchable silver lining) and email. Inside you will find a plethora of unique study programs, most of which make you feel like you’re back in the first grade, although some are great. For example, the practice quizzes and lab activities.

The Practice Quizzes located on JB Learning are great questions, but they tend to leave people feeling overconfident. In saying this, I am referring to the simplicity of the topics and wording of the questions. The actual NASM CPT Exam will throw you for a loop if you go in expecting those type of questions. Use these practice quizzes after completing your reading for each chapter as a way to ensure proper comprehension of the basic topics and ideas.

Lab Activities from this site are going to give you an opportunity to express your knowledge and show your understanding on given topics. Open your book and locate the information being requested, then do your best to put it in your own words.

Unfortunately there is no one to tell you how accurate you are being in your explanation. In my opinion these feel like busy work a teacher would give you in class so they can browse Facebook and see how much fun their friends are having on vacation. But, (don’t start your sentences with a conjunction [another thing your teacher would tell you]) putting the knowledge you gain on paper can be a way that some of you might learn best, although not too many of these specific subjects make the actual exam, hence the busy work comment.


Interactive CPT Online

Most often when purchasing the NASM CPT Exam, NASM is going to recommend study materials along with it. The cheapest package with study materials is $699 and it includes the Exam, Textbook, Interactive CPT Online, and Online Flashcards. Assuming you purchased this package, the Interactive CPT Online can be found in your NASM account under My Courses. Note: most people do not purchase the exam alone, even though it may be a cheaper/better option (blog post on that coming soon). NASM eTeach, priced at $999, is also a commonly purchased package. Most who purchase this seem frustrated at the fact that they do have much for human interaction and no human lecturing.

The Interactive CPT Online utilizes Power Point style slides with voice-overs to deliver the information (summarized) from most the topics present in the textbook. The voice over is done by a man in a pretty monotone voice, making it quite boring, but it gets the information across decently. Within this Interactive CPT Online you also get pages that have interactive puzzles for you to solve to encourage retention. All of the voice-overs and slides lead to a 100 question practice exam. The unfortunate thing is that they prepare you decently well for the practice exam, which provides a little too much false confidence towards testing for the actual exam.

This is a great tool and works very well in conjunction with the textbook. When I originally took the NASM CPT Exam over 8 years ago I utilized the textbook and this as my only source of information, which I thought prepared me well. NASM has since changed the test over 5 times, but hasn’t done much to improve upon the Interactive CPT Online content, leading to their recent increase in failed official exams.


NASM’s CPT Study Guide, Version 4

This Study Guide was created by NASM for use in conjunction with their textbook, to allow students to target specific sections of the text that will help them in passing the actual exam. Like I mentioned in the previous section, NASM regularly changes the questions on the actual exam and fails to update their suggested study materials.

Yes, a certain amount of the information listed in this guide will make it onto the test and it will allow you to build your knowledge base, but it might not be worth the time. (NASM might say that all information is covered in those recommended sections, but since they are so broad you don’t really know what exactly they are referring to. This will lead to uber frustration on test day.)

Fitness Mentors has done the work for you and grants you free access to a completed version of this study guide right here. Utilizing this tool allows you to study exactly what NASM recommends without taking too much study time away, increasing the efficiency of your study process. I do agree that taking the time to complete this guide on your own would give you a better understanding of the material, but is the expended time worth receiving only a tidbit of the required knowledge? That will be for you to decide.

A version of the incomplete study guide is available to print and download here. Complete this study guide as you get to each suggested topic during your reading.


Fitness Mentors Free Book Notes:

Like one instrument cannot create an orchestra, it is important to realize that one form of instruction cannot educate as well as many. Different perspectives and inputs may be necessary to fully comprehend this information. Offered for free at, is notes from all 20 chapters of the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th Edition.

The Chapter Notes are going to give you the perspective of what one individual thought was most important from each chapter. Totaling 144 pages, this will give you great overview of all topics in different wording, which may trigger better understanding. This was created xenical generic name before the actual exam was taken and can be seen as a summary of the book including a broad inclusion of all topics.

I suggest using these notes as a summary of each chapter to follow the reading of the text. It can be a great refresher when time has passed from breaks due to life occurrences.


Apps from the App Store

When looking through the App Store, whether Android or Apple, there are a total of 11 apps that aim to assist students in passing their NASM CPT Exam. Most of these are just test questions and/or flashcards created from or taken from older versions of the material. The subjects don’t change a whole lot as far as the information, but the questions from the actual exam change significantly. That being said, utilizing these tools to improve your test taking ability and question comprehension can be useful to someone who struggles at test taking in general.

A simple search of “NASM” brings up apps that range from $0.99 to $6.99, so the investment is minimal. The only thing that separates the apps is the number of questions they offer. Some say 400 questions, some say 600; some say 250 questions with 250 flashcards. Keep in mind that these questions were released by NASM to the general public after they updated their materials and exams, so the questions will be similar no matter what app you choose (they just put them together and are selling them to you as a matter of convenience). In purchasing a few of them in research for this review, I feel as if every test question from my original exam almost 9 years ago was included. That being said, like the practice questions in the Interactive CPT Online and JB Learning, if you are extremely successful at these practice apps and their questions or flashcards, don’t let that build too much confidence, as NASM knows these questions are out there and will make damn sure they don’t repeat them on the actual exam.

When using any practice questions to study, be sure to quiz yourself after having a decent understanding of the material; chapter by chapter or at the end of the book. The bad thing about most these apps is that none of them break the questions down in a chapter by chapter standpoint, but by subject (this how they get away with using older versions). Some tell you a page number, but since they pulled it from older versions of the text, it is not on the given page in the updated version. From a learning/teacher perspective, if you quiz yourself before you truly understand the material, the words sound like gibberish and you may lack efficiency and waste study time, so use these apps accordingly.


Fitness Mentors Study Guide for the NASM CPT

Now you may be thinking I am now going to boast about how amazing our products are just so you go and buy them, but I am only going to be honest about how they can help you, as they have helped hundreds before you.

NASM CPT Study GuideIn the game of studying, it is the exam creators’ job to attempt to test your knowledge of the information in a way that applies to how you would use it in the field. Therefore the studier must attempt to understand all topics in an applicable way.

In reality, reading one book for 6 months straight in an attempt to understand all the information thoroughly is a dead end street. After 5 years of teaching this information in a college setting, I truly feel that I have only recently mastered all the information, as its detail makes comprehension very difficult.

The student needs the information to be presented in a way that challenges the thought process and encourages understanding; this is exactly what Fitness Mentors provides. FM’s Study Guide brings the most important topics to the forefront of your studying, and promotes optimal comprehension by asking you questions about the information that get you to think about the material differently.

The Study Guide is a tool that can be used in multiple ways. Using the study guide during your initial reading can enhance the focus of each chapter helping you to focus your retention on the most important topics (recommended 2 months of studying). It can also be used towards the end of your studying as a way to go back over the information to revisit the most important topics and lock them in your memory for the test (recommended 1 week to 1 month of studying).

The Guide does not give away any information, as memorization fails to optimize full comprehension. Instead, the study guide allows the student to create their own idea of what the information means in their own words, garnered by specific questions. A sample can be found here: Study Guide for the NASM CPT Exam.


Fitness Mentors Audio Lectures for the NASM CPT

NASM CPT audio lectures

Why NASM does not have this sort of educational tool boggles my mind. People learn best when a real human explains the information to them in a simple way that they can understand and learn to apply. Students need teachers, not more information in writing, or spoken to them from Mr. Monotone.

When initially reading the text you might come across something like Altered Reciprocal Inhibition.

The book will explain this in a scientific way and define it as “the concept of muscle inhibition, caused by a tight agonist, which inhibits its functional antagonist”.

Blah, blah, blah most of you will scratch your head and wonder what that even means; or if you do get the definition, applying it may be difficult.

In the Audio Lectures you can have an extremely good looking professor explain how what they are referring to is as simple as if one muscle is tight or shortened due to overuse or injury, you can bet that the muscle on the opposite side (antagonist) is going to be “inhibited” or weakened.

In example, in your typical want-to-look-good-to-get-chicks, beach muscle, frat bro that works out chest 3 times/week and back and legs only once maybe (only if they ran out of beer money), their Pec Major and Anterior Deltoid are tight/overactive pulling their shoulders forward into a rounded position. This will guarantee a lengthening/weakening position for the muscles on the opposite side of the body being the middle/lower traps and rhomboids, leading to shoulder pain, elbow pain and other issues. This is what Altered Reciprocal Inhibition actually is. Then as a bonus the lecturer will even tell you how to fix Altered Reciprocal Inhibition for different muscle groups, which tends to be absent in the textbook.

The Audio Lectures can be used similarly to the Study Guide, as you study for the first time chapter by chapter (recommended 2 months of studying), or after you have read you go back and review the material in a different light (recommended 2 weeks to 1 month of studying).

When you combine the explanation of the over 40 hours of Audio Lectures with the further comprehension of the Study Guide, you get a study package set up for true understanding and success. As a teacher and continuous student of all things fitness, it is easy to stand by the 99% pass rate as a measure of effectiveness. (Shameless plug) Click here to learn more about the Audio Lectures of the NASM CPT.


Fitness Mentors Practice Tests of the NASM CPT

Where would we be if we gave you all the proper education without testing your understanding of the topics we recommend focusing on? Like any good educator, it is important to test the effectiveness of your teachings with exams and quizzes to ensure comprehension. Now there are plenty of cheap and/or free practice questions for you to dive into, which were mentioned above, none of them will test you from the newest edition of the book with the most relevant, test specific information in mind.

NASM Practice Tests

The Practice Tests should be used after completing your reading and other study materials on a chapter by chapter basis or at the finish of all studying. Once again, if you test yourself before you know anything it might not do much good. The Practice Tests for the NASM CPT should be used anywhere from 1-3 days before the exam, to 2 months prior if you choose to test yourself after each chapter you complete.


8 Week and 4 Week Study Timeline

As NASM Gives you at least 6 months of study time before you test, there are a lot of options for you to choose. A thorough read with just the book can be totally acceptable as a way to pass the test, but for most of you, life will get in the way.

Since life gets in the way more often then we might like when studying, below we have developed an 8 and 4 Week Study Timeline for those of you that either want to dive in to complete the certification ASAP, or struggled and have limited time left. Studying within these limited time-frames is enough for success, but don’t fall behind or you might end up in super cram mode, in which you better be using our practice tests and study guide or your probably screwed. You can also call us anytime if you have a special scenario so we can point you in the right direction and tailor a specific study program that fits your needs (424) 675-0476. Complete the form below to access the 8 and 4 Week Study Timelines for the NASM CPT Exam.

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Eddie Lester is a personal trainer from Los Angeles and the Founder and CEO of Fitness Mentors. With over 10 years experience and 8 different certifications and specializations, as well as multiple years teaching training at a vocational college, Lester loves sharing his knowledge of practical training experience as well as how to study for PT exams. Lester is the author of Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.


  1. […] Begin Your Studies Using the Fitness Mentors’ 4 & 8-week Study Timeline […]

  2. Jillian Erickson says:

    Thanks all the above information was very helpful!!!

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