T Nation

Ditching CSCS Certification


I've been certified by NSCA as a CSCS for 3 years now and I think I am done with it. Let me explain why. While I do think CSCS trainers are in general, the best on average I have seen, there just doesnt seem to be enough quality control to make it essential for me anymore.

I work in a gym where most trainers are certified CSCS. You should see some of the form with their clients. I mean it is atrocious. People will do exercises such as a bent over row with a client that has no hamstring flexibility and thus is barely bent over at all. Doing pulldowns with shoulders rolling forward (i.e. hyperextending) the list just goes on and on.

I think ok if this is what CSCS trainers can look like, why do I need one? Sure you could say to get my next training job when I move, but I think I could show my knowledge with an ACE or god forbid and ISSA certification. I other words just get the cheapest crappiest cert I can so Im certified by something, then just do stuff on my own.

I do alot of my own research which is much more valuable than CSCS continuing education IMO. Also, how can you care about tactical training if you dont understand the basics such as flexibility needed for compound leg exercises!

It sounds good to have CSCS after my name, but what does it really mean anymore?


Mark Rippetoe resigned his last year I think. He wrote Starting Strength and Practical Programming, which are pretty good books.


Can I have it? I'm NSCA CPT right now, pesky 4 year degree has held me back from a CSCS.

Keep it, you worked hard for it no reason to piss it away now.


The problem is that alot of employers have no idea how much better a CSCS license is to an ACE license, so why go through the extra work. Ultimately, it will be YOU the individual who defines the quality of training. It is not the organization who makes trainer lazy, it is the trainer who is lazy.

I saw a CSCS trainer who had her client do plyometric jumps onto boxes at the end of her leg day. Guess what happened, the client (after doing squats, lunges, leg curls, and leg extensions) tried to jump onto a box and missed, and literally did a face plant onto the ground. She hit the ground face first and had blood running from her nose.

I called the trainer an idiot, where she replied to me, "Well, I see other trainers doing this exercise and it looked cool to me." Jesus man, be your own trainer regardless of who you go with.


To your peers, it means you've invested time in developing your skills as a professional.

To the average gym member, it means you're allowed to wear the shirt that says "TRAINER."

Really though, it all depends on what you want to do, career-wise. If you're happy training in a commercial gym, then whatever certification your management will accept is fine. (I'm reminded of one or two stories of people having their pets get certified through online courses, to prove what a joke they can be.)

If you plan on opening your own gym, or even just developing your own training business, the CSCS is still an impressive credential to have. Don't let a few knuckleheads that happen to share the CSCS title bum you out. If anything, use it as motivation to out-perform them and have your clients results speak for you.


I understand what you are saying here about CSCS being respected by other trainers. Usually what hear is something like "Well she is a CSCS" as if those 4 letter somehow impart an invulnerable reputation to the person. I guess it does say that the trainer had to do a certain amount of work to have such as certification.

I think that is my problem with it, that it is an example of what people can accomplish if given years to do it and told exactly what to study. I just wish CSCS was even harder I guess...


A CSCS designation or any other designation for that matter including a degree or diploma is really only as good as the individual it's assigned to. An undergrad or even a graduate degree doesn't automatically infer competence to the holder. All it really stipulates is the holder was willing to listen to a series of lectures and/or fulfill the requirements as outlined by this particular organization via an exam.

True qualification comes not from a designation or certification but rather from the individuals desire to continue his/her studies beyond the scope of the course(s) (which frankly should be considered a BARE minimum) and truly delve into the 'guts' of it all by espousing effective principles and ideas.

Just because some bonehead meatstick with a degree and a CSCS designation likes to do one armed supinated transverse, adducted wrist curls whilst balancing a dumbbell on a broomstick off his nose doesn't make the exercise correct. Frankly it doesn't make it wrong either! (see it all depends on whether or not you were planning on becoming really good at performing one armed supinated, transverse, adducted wrist curls whilst balancing a dumbell on a broomstick)

The real tests comes from having said trainer provide an effective justification and rationalization for said activity. "Because my professor told me" is the lowest possible form of justification and essentially is a banner for this particular trainers incompetence, degree or not!

That said, if you already have the designation (and by all accounts the CSCS is a decent one) why get rid of it? Just make certain you justify your pay by being the best 'Trainer' you can be not just a CSCS trainer.

Does that make sense?


The majority of people that work with a trainer could care less what certification they have. The CSCS is probably as close to a gold standard as we have in the industry but only other people in the industry really care. This is important because in a case like mine, the person that did care was my boss. It got my foot in the door and allowed me the opportunity to show him that I was capable enough to work for him. That being said, he has also fired people with advanced degrees and a CSCS because they did a very poor job of taking the knowledge they had and applying it. There are many sources of information that a good trainer will consistantly search to make his game a better one. This site is a good example. I don't agree with everything that is written here, but it helps to be exposed to different methods / training styles. I listen to what other trainers have to say about how they train and I know that if I am talking to another CSCS, we generally have the same base of knowledge to draw from.

I have thought about dropping it in the past because of the CEU requirements. I think this has become a money making scam. I understand the concept and like the idea. I don't like the way it is administered. The liability insurance is also a plus. The rate is pretty reasonable for the coverage you get. I suggest you keep it.