CPT spotlight OPT Model

The Making of NASM's Most Revolutionary Personal Trainer Certification Ever

Laura Quaglio
Laura Quaglio
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Insider Tips from the NEW NASM-CPT—from the Experts who Authored It

NASM didn’t just tread water in 2020. We dove into cutting-edge research on fitness (and education), floated new ideas for graphics and digital content, and immersed ourselves in the creation of a NASM-CPT course designed for the fitness professional of today—and the future.

Last summer, Eric Sorenson, Ph.D., ATC, NASM-CES, PES, got a sneak peek at the digital course materials being produced by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He couldn't wait to use them to teach his classes at Azusa Pacific University in California.

“I thought, Wow! This is the future of online fitness education,” says the kinesiology professor, who was updating the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialization at the time. “I’ve never seen such high-quality content that’s produced and organized so well. It’s just amazing.”

So, when the professor was asked to help create the same elite-level coursework for the 7th Edition of the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (2022), he said “yes” in a heartbeat.

Now, with the program officially launched, everyone can see the valuable “adaptations” that NASM has made to their pioneering program—one that has put NASM at the forefront of the fitness industry since the 1980s.

The Seventh Edition of the NASM-CPT course includes scientific research as recent as 2020 (competitors’ programs are 3 to 6 years older ) and more practical, real-world tips that add value to the curriculum and the fitness professional who subscribes to it.

“This is a rapidly evolving field, and it’s important that the CPT is current and well-versed in the best science,” says Antoinette Schoenthaler, EdD, an associate professor in population health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, who worked on the text’s new Behavioral Coaching and Psychology of Exercise chapters.

What’s more, the course is based on feedback from customers and their clients, experts and researchers in health and fitness, and health-and-fitness education, so it is more intuitive, memorable, and practical than ever before.

Read on for some of the highlights that personally and professionally impressed Schoenthaler, Sorenson, and other contributing authors of the textbook.

Intuitive and interactive digital materials

The newest NASM-CPT course materials are 100% online and accessible via an easy-to-use portal. As such, the content is interactive, easily searchable, and accessible at any time from any digital device.

Sorenson adds that NASM didn't retrofit this course to be accessible digitally—it was designed for digital distribution, making the experience high-quality overall. For example, the design team created the videos of lectures and exercise demos with an elite Los Angeles production company, so they’re as entertaining as they are informative.

What’s more, all materials are still available for downloading and printing—including the whole book, if desired. Templates for assessments or program design are in easy-to-print pdf form, and a physical textbook is available for those who find that to be the most conducive way to learn.

Materials for diverse learning styles

“Not only has NASM included the newest information and research from the most well-respected professionals in the health and fitness industry, but they have also tapped into the latest findings in the field of education to present the material in ways that are more accessible to a wider array of people,” says Morey Kolber, Ph.D., P.T., OCS, professor of physical therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, who updated 4 of the 23 chapters .

Extra illustrations, infographics, anatomical images, and photos help clarify complex concepts for visual learners. Videos and audio lectures appeal to auditory learners. And an expanded array of real-world scenarios and activities allow kinesthetic learners to apply concepts before they encounter them on the fitness floor. The information is broken into “bite-size” sections that are easier to understand and implement.

More focus on hands-on and real-world scenarios

Each chapter includes new text boxes that highlight training tips, individual activities, technical knowledge, critical research, essential formulas, key terms, and more.

Some examples: The Training Tip boxes in Chapter 21: The Optimum Performance Training Model list some exercises used in each of the model’s five phases. And new illustrations in Chapter 7: Human Movement Science help clarify descriptors of anatomic locations, planes of motion, and joint axes and motions—which are foundational concepts that can trip up new learners.

Also unique is the level of language used, says Sarah Everman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the kinesiology master's program at A.T. Still University, where she teaches nutrition and exercise science. “I revised Chapter 8: Exercise Metabolism and Bioenergetics, and it is unique in giving a detailed explanation of exercise metabolism without excessive jargon or technical biochemistry,” she says.

This reflects the overall text's focus, which is on providing fitness professionals with the tools and terms they need to find real-world solutions for their clients. In short, everything on these pages is important and relevant to today’s trainers.

Ultra-current research for a newly evolved industry

Chris Camacho, MS, NSCA, CSCS, who has created numerous fitness education materials over the past 30 years, was impressed with how much he learned while revising Chapter 22: Introduction to Exercise Modalities.

“There’s always new information that can be used to help our clients. Staying in the know of, say, sports performance, technology, active aging, or cardiovascular health, only makes a fitness professional better at their job,” he says. “With the current global condition, a good trainer is going to look for unique opportunities in the industry, and the broadened understanding provided in this course will help them do that.”

To that end, the NASM-CPT curriculum now includes information on virtual coaching, small-group training, modern business and marketing tools, and recent advancements in equipment and training modalities, as well as current research on nutrition. (And that’s just for starters.)

For example, Everman’s chapter dives into the hot topic of ketogenic diets and how the metabolism of different fuel sources can impact exercise performance. “Clients often ask about nutrition, so this will be useful for trainers looking to stay up-to-date with the latest trends,” she says.

Innovative options for the trainer’s toolbox

Camacho’s Introduction to Exercise Modalities chapter includes trends, tools, and tech that have been tested by the industry’s best trainers and coaches (including Camacho, who helped develop products for Power Plate, TRX, Go Fit, CrossCore, and StrongBoard Balance ).

In addition to adding info on selectorized and cable machines, he has significantly expanded the sections on proprioceptive and altered-resistance training, including use of resistance bands, kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, battle ropes, and suspended bodyweight training, as well as brand-name products including ViPR, the TRX® Rip Trainer, and the Terra-Core. Also, perhaps not surprisingly, there are new sections on fitness trackers, apps, and heart rate monitors to help improve accountability, motivation, and monitoring for clients.

“All of these tools and modalities fit extremely well into all phases of the OPT model,” he says. “This gives the fitness professional many additional options for their training toolbox.”

Extra info on assessments and corrective exercise

The evidence-based NASM Optimum Performance Training® model was designed in 2000 with client safety and program efficacy in mind. That’s why it begins with client assessments and progresses them through five distinct training phases, based upon their individual needs and abilities.

It’s also why NASM-CPTs have consistently made more than other trainers—and why the NASM-CPT credential is the first choice of health club hiring managers. “When clients realize their trainer is committed to their health and safety, they trust them more and tend to stick with them longer,” says Sorensen.

Today, the OPT model remains the foundation of the NASM-CPT curriculum, which has been expanded to include more insights on assessment and muscle imbalances correction.

“For this edition, all of the tables for assessment of posture, movement, and performance have been greatly streamlined,” says Sorenson, who also worked on the 2020 Corrective Exercise Specialization release. While previous editions listed “all” muscles involved in each type of imbalance, this revision focuses only on the ones that the trainer would target with corrective exercises. This is just one example of how the program best prepares trainers to create routines that will help clients be both successful and safe.

Psych-based approaches to attract, inspire and retain clients.

“What I like most about the NASM-CPT credential program is the practical and relatable content,” says Schoenthaler, who authored Chapter 3: The Psychology of Exercise. “The chapters are written so that a CPT can understand and immediately apply cutting-edge science to assist their clients in making real behavior changes.”

Justin Kompf, CPT, CSCS, whose Ph.D. research focuses on behavioral strategies to promote resistance training, agrees.

“I would say that this is probably THE most important thing that a personal trainer or coach needs to know,” says Kompf, who worked on Chapter 4: Behavioral Coaching. “Examining health benefits, working around injuries, designing a program—none of that works if the client won’t D.O. the program."

Schoenthaler’s chapter focuses specifically on the psychology of a very vulnerable and common population: people with overweight or obesity. “Overall, Chapter 3 aims to help CPTs move away from a ‘blame the victim’ approach by understanding the complexity of weight loss,” she says. “This is of utmost importance because much of weight loss and maintenance is psychological in nature. Providing CPTs with accurate and evidence-based information about how a client’s mindset can impact their progress is essential to their effectiveness.”

For his chapter, Kompf also focused largely on what trainers can do to enhance any population's adherence. For example, a new section on the Stages of Change explains how to identify whether a client is in the pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance stage of change—and what to say and do based on that information.

“For example, a person in the contemplation phase isn’t looking for a personal trainer, but if you can connect with them at that point and help them get to the next stage, you probably just got a new client,” he says. “And when you get results, you also get referrals.”

A risk-free chance to change the world

You don’t have to take our word for it—or theirs. NASM offers a 28-day return period, so you can take a look at all this course has to offer. As a bonus, the Premium Self-Study, Guided Study, and All-Inclusive Programs include a guarantee that you’ll find a job within 90 days of your CPT certification—or your money back.

Bottom line: The NASM Mission is simple. To produce world-class personal fitness professionals with the tools to transform lives. We achieve success and well-being for fitness trainers, their clients, and the population at large.

“With [the NASM-OPT model], you will successfully train any client toward any goal,” says Brian Sutton, MS, MA, NASM-CNC, CES, PES, CSCS, and the Managing Editor of the new NASM CPT textbook. “We look forward to working with you to help shape the future of fitness.”

Meet the Experts

To show you the high caliber of contributing authors tapped for the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (7th Ed.), we’ve included short bios of those interviewed for this article.

Chris Camacho, MS, NSCA, CSCS, has served in numerous roles throughout his 30-year career in sports and fitness, working on both the business and the fitness industry's performance side, including as a strength and conditioning coach. He has been involved in creating numerous new products, including TRX, and has written and lectured on numerous sports performance and fitness topics both domestically and abroad.

Sarah Everman, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the kinesiology master’s program at A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri, where she teaches nutrition and exercise science. She earned her Ph.D. in Kinesiology at Arizona State University with a focus on insulin signaling mechanisms. Her research interests include the protein metabolism and changes in cardiovascular fitness that occur with aging .

Morey Kolber, Ph.D., P.T., OCS, CSCS, Cert. MDT is a professor of physical therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he is the course leader in the Musculoskeletal Systems Curriculum in the professional DPT program. His research is focused on orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, and regenerative medicine, and he has provided numerous educational materials on these and other topics for NASM.

Justin Kompf, CPT, CSCS, served as the head strength coach at the State University of New York at Cortland from 2012 to 2017. Justin has been published in journals including the Strength and Conditioning Journal, Sports Medicine, and the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in exercise and health sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Antoinette Schoenthaler, EdD, is Associate Professor of population health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine and Director of the Psychosocial Unit in the Center for Healthful Behavior Change. Her research employs methodologies from the behavioral and learning sciences to examine and address the fundamental barriers to adherence to self-management behaviors in patients with chronic diseases, with a focus on vulnerable populations.

Eric Sorenson, Ph.D., ATC, CES, PES, is the department chair and an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at Azusa Pacific University in California. His research includes utilizing movement screens to identify athletes who are at risk of becoming injured and identifying movement faults related to the current injury. This provides a timely connection with advances in injury prevention and management within the sports medicine and fitness fields.

Brian Sutton, MS, MA, NASM-CNC, CES, PES, CSCS, is NASM’s Content and Production Manager and the Managing Editor of the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (7th Ed.). He has worked as a personal trainer, author, and content manager during his 20-plus years in the health and fitness industry. He has also served as an adjunct faculty member for the California University of Pennsylvania, teaching graduate courses in corrective exercise, performance enhancement, and health and fitness .

Additional contributors, reviewers, instructional designers, and editors are included in the Acknowledgements section of the new textbook, starting on page xi.

Tags: CPT Tags: spotlight Tags: OPT Model

The Author

Laura Quaglio

Laura Quaglio

Laura Quaglio has more than 18 years' experience as a writer and editor for magazines, books, and websites, frequently on health, fitness, and nutrition topics. She enjoys researching a wide range of topics to bring readers surprising insights and expert advice. Laura is also a second degree black belt and spends her spare time costuming for high school theatre and attending her two kids' concerts and performances.