Find the Best Strength and Conditioning Certification 2023

If you’re ready to take your knowledge of the fitness industry to the next level, then certified strength and conditioning certification might be exactly what you’re looking for. Becoming certified means you possess the qualifications, credentials, and knowledge to help athletes and others improve their strength, conditioning, and overall fitness. With a growing number of certifications to choose from, it’s essential to find the strength and conditioning certification that best fits your individual goals and career ambitions.

From NSCA to NASM, it can be overwhelming to choose the best certification for you. Nevertheless, by understanding the nuances of each certification and assessing if the program matches your needs, you’ll be able to select the most fitting strength and conditioning certification with greater confidence. The following post will set the stage for your journey by detailing how to find the best strength and conditioning certification – and why doing so is worth earned investment!

Quick Overview

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification is widely considered the gold standard of strength training certifications. However, there are other certifications available, such as the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist certification and the ISSA Strength and Conditioning certification, which may be more suitable depending on your individual needs and goals.

Strength and conditioning certifications are all going to require some level of education, whether it be a high school diploma for the majority or a bachelor’s degree in the case of the gold standard certification. A bachelor’s degree would have been earned at a school for exercise science. Also required will be up-to-date CPR and AED certifications as this demonstrates everything needed to help a client in the chance something bad happens.

Let’s dive into the NSCA CSCS and see the company at the top of this side of the business. 

NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (NSCA-CSCS)

An NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, or CSCS, are individuals who have studied and been trained to work specifically at the top of the field of strength and conditioning. The CSCS certification is granted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Those who possess this certification have demonstrated their knowledge of human anatomy, as well as their abilities to develop comprehensive strength training and conditioning programs for clients. This can be an invaluable asset to any athlete or fitness enthusiast, as it allows them to get the most out of their workouts, while reducing the risk of injury. The NSCA CSCS is also accompanied by slightly higher requirements for professionals to access the certification.

The argument can be made that having a CSCS certification demonstrates a higher level of knowledge and competency when compared to traditional personal trainers who lack the same credentials. It is still somewhat similar to the job description of personal trainers. Those working with a CSCS-certified coach can rest assured that the recommended program is based on science, rather than anecdotal evidence. Additionally, research has shown that those working with a CSCS-certified coach are more likely to stick with their program and hence realize greater gains.

The NSCA CSCS has a strong focus on the areas of training like: resistance training, body mechanics, sport science, and exercise principles, but along with that it is much more complicated than anything you see in the average personal trainer textbooks. It is a step above the foundational teachings of a personal training certification and more along the lines of a performance enhancement specialist (like the NASM PES later in the article) that evolves and expands on CPT aspects.

Many employers throughout the fitness industry prefer to see this NSCA-CSCS certification. It garners instant respect and puts you in a specialist position among employers. You will find the majority of athletic coaches in colleges and similar fields all have this tremendous gold-standard certification, as well as a bachelor’s degree and even more. But, this can still be a beneficial course for the general trainer to take on, as it provides more than sufficient information and experience. 

Despite differing opinions on the importance of CSCS certifications, there is no denying that having credentials from the NSCA demonstrates a commitment to staying ahead in the ever-evolving field of strength and conditioning. With proper guidance from a certified coach, athletes can benefit both physically and emotionally as they strive for success in their respective endeavors. 

The salary potential of a certified strength and conditioning specialist has the ability to be significantly higher than the average we see for personal training salaries. And personal trainers are already in a great spot with their average salaries, with significant growth on the horizon.

This level of commitment that comes with the top strength and conditioning certification also carries with it a very difficult exam process, as there is much more content in this program’s materials, and textbook are significantly more deep. The skills and techniques taught throughout an NSCA CSCS certification. It is also important to note the NCCA accreditation of this strength and conditioning program. It is one of the only strength and conditioning courses to implement that. 

Next, let’s look at another option in strength and conditioning with ISSA.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification (ISSA-SCC)

Moving to the next strength and conditioning certification, we have the International Sports Sciences Association. Neither the ISSA nor NASM are up to par with the study materials and overall level of expertise brought to learners with the NSCA CSCS certificate. 

The ISSA Strength and Conditioning certification is geared more toward ISSA CPT certified individuals so that they can learn more in-depth teachings for training the athletic population. Within the ISSA SCC book, you will learn anatomy, body composition, and how movements affect energy and performance. You learn how to help the clients you have to work with their abilities and build incredible endurance, strength, power, and speed. 

ISSA is better known in the fitness industry for covering the best value for purchasing multiple certifications to help with any career path that candidates would choose to pursue. This ISSA Strength Coach program does not quite have the same recognition as the NSCA CSCS, but the opposite is true if I compared the personal trainer certifications of the two organizations. If you purchase bundles, this typically will also cover the CEUs and recertification needs, as long as you 

Fitness professionals should seek out this certification if they want the best value packages and they are aiming to use this training certification primarily as a specialization to accompany their PT program. The material offered within the text is sufficient to teach the specifics of strength and conditioning. ISSA also offers a lot of help for their certified people and have a set team within their company to provide guidance with life after completion of their training courses. 

The ISSA Strength and Conditioning certification test is similar to the other tests from the institution, and they are tough but still passable. They hover around a consistent 70% pass rate, and this particular course allows for multiple attempts, and few people are likely to fail after multiple attempts with the required testing pass score. 

Next, let’s look into the offering from NASM and their great resources for learning. 

NASM Performance Enhancement Specialization (NASM-PES)

NASM is well-renowned as a fantastic organization with its own way of teaching exercise programming options with its OPT model. NASM offers many choices in sport science certification and is more similar to ISSA than NSCA, in the type of learner it targets with this Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification, sometimes shortened to SCCC. 

The NASM PES package focuses on helping everyone master the art of performance enhancement, with a focus being the professional athlete population and all the way to weekend warriors who want to improve their performance. This means it can be meant for just about anyone that you would find in the general population that has trained somewhat. 

Like ISSA, the focus is similarly on certified personal trainers, and since NASM has a strong focus on the OPT model of exercise technique and programming, this means that it is best to be familiar with that through previous certification in NASM, most people will have the CPT certification.

The NASM PES certification will teach learners to provide cutting-edge strength and conditioning, and it gives knowledge, insight, and skills required to reach peak performance. The way NASM teaches and the way it is worded, it is almost a natural extension of the teachings already laid for the foundations of personal training. 

The NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist Coach exam is not as challenging as the gold-standard NSCA CSCS, but a candidate will still need to come in prepared and well-studied since the NASM PES exam requires more details than the ISSA SCC. The ideal learner that would go for this third certification is someone already certified with NASM or someone looking to certify with them or learn about their unique training model. 

Resources for Becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach

For individuals interested in becoming a certified strength and conditioning coach, there are numerous resources available to support their learning and development. Those looking to become certified should consider engaging in continuing education opportunities such as webinars, workshops, seminars, and conferences that are designed to further develop their knowledge of strength and conditioning topics. In addition, they should take advantage of the various educational materials such as books, articles, podcasts, and videos that can provide useful insight into this area.

In addition to formal education opportunities, prospective coaches should consider connecting with experienced professionals in the field through mentorships or internships – where they can learn from experienced coaches in an applied setting and then apply their knowledge in practice. It is also important to seek out practical experience through real-world experiences such as coaching or working with athletes or teams. This provides valuable on-the-ground experience that can be a great way for potential coaches to build confidence and demonstrate their competency.

Networking is also an essential resource for those interested in becoming a certified strength and conditioning coach. Networking allows individuals to make contacts within the industry and gain access to jobs, conferences, memberships, referrals and other resources. There are numerous networking opportunities available online as well as through local groups such as professional organizations or clubs.

Finally, pursuing accreditation through an organization such as The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) can be an invaluable resource. As one of the leading professional organizations for strength & conditioning coaches and personal trainers in the United States; this organization offers a comprehensive certification program .Earning certification from any accredited body not only elevates credibility but also allows coaches have access to many services including: liability insurance; continuing education opportunities; job postings; professional development & research; career advancement; content marketing/PR kits; research library/resource center; networking & events; and support services. 

Make sure to check out the NSCA CSCS, ISSA SCC, and the NASM PES, as these are my top choices for certification in the field of strength and conditioning, and I would put them in that order for ranking them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are there any differences between certifications offered by different organizations?

Yes, there are differences between certifications offered by different organizations. For example, some certifications may be better suited for a particular situation or level of expertise than others. Additionally, some certifications may offer more comprehensive training on specific topics, while others may be limited in scope. Furthermore, cost, availability and duration of the certification are also likely to be different from one organization to another. All these may make a difference when choosing a certification program.

What are some of the benefits of pursuing a strength and conditioning certification?

One of the biggest benefits of pursuing a strength and conditioning certification is developing the knowledge and expertise to design effective and safe workouts for individuals of all fitness levels, but also a focus on highly trained individuals. With the right certification, you can learn how to set realistic, achievable goals for clients, create personalized workout plans based on individual needs and abilities, and recognize potential red flags that can signal medical issues or injury risks. Additionally, certifications help to provide a basis of professional development that is recognized and respected by employers. This allows those with the appropriate certification to advance their careers in the field and work in increasingly complex positions. Beyond that, having a strength and conditioning certification can also open up additional job opportunities both in the sports world and beyond.

What should potential students consider when looking for a strength and conditioning certification?

When looking for a strength and conditioning certification, potential students should consider qualifications related to the practice of exercise science and evidence based coaching. An accredited program should adhere to the standards set forth by organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or one of its global affiliates. The NSCA certification for strength coaches certifies coaches in the highest standards of practice and covers anatomy, physiology, program design, injury prevention, nutrition, special populations, and more. A certified coach should be able to demonstrate an understanding of scientific literature and apply best practices to each individual athlete they serve. Furthermore they should be committed to continuing education in order to stay up-to-date on the most current research and best practices so that they can confidently provide services to their athletes.

What other certifications are good for certified strength coaches?

Being certified in strength and conditioning is a great certification option, but there are many fitnes certifications to pursue that can accompany this area. In order to be a better strength coach, it could be worth pursuing a top fitness certification for specialization in areas like functional training, health coach / wellness coach, corrective exercise, group fitness instructor, or just a typical fitness trainer certification. Really any fitness certification that comes from a good certifying company will benefit your strength coach certifications.

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