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The NASM Exam: Why Peloton Hires CPTs

The NASM Exam: Why Peloton Hires CPTs

The NASM exam (and other key certifications) create the foundation for Peloton Instructors' expertise.

By Lindsay BerraUpdated February 19, 2020


What does it take to be a Peloton instructor? Step 1, in most cases, is becoming a NASM CPT. Peloton requires each of its instructors to be a certified personal trainer, and the majority of Peloton instructors certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM. For 30 years, NASM has been world-renowned for the scientific rigor of its program. Certified personal trainers are trained to teach others to exercise; while many athletes and other fit people are well-versed on what works for their bodies, they are not knowledgeable when it comes to helping others reach their fitness goals. Certified personal trainers are able to provide workouts that benefit all body types, and are able to educate individuals on not only how to properly perform certain exercise, but on why they do them. “The NASM certification is a great starting place for everyone in the fitness industry,” says Peloton Tread Master Instructor Rebecca Kennedy. “It ensures that you understand the concepts you will immediately be using in your training, whether as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, physical therapist, or in any other job in the fitness industry.”

We spoke with Kennedy, along with bike instructor Jess King, about their fitness backgrounds, the rigors of the NASM course and how they apply what they learned on a daily basis.

Where did you grow up and what is your athletic background?

Rebecca: I grew up in Bridgewater, MA. I was a gymnast since age 3 and competed in USA gymnastics through my senior year of high school. I was on the gymnastics team for my high school as well and was captain for three years. I also ran track & field, competing in the triple jump and 100 meters, and was a cheerleader my senior year as well. When I was younger, I also danced full time, but in 7th grade, I had to stop so I could put my entire focus on gymnastics. I picked dance back up in college as my major.

Jess: I grew up in Myrtle Beach, SC. I started dance and gymnastics when I was 3, then at age 12 dropped gymnastics and chose to pursue dance competitively. I danced all through school and college, and professionally. I have never stopped dancing.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the fitness industry?

Rebecca: Movement is part of my DNA. It makes me happy and has added tremendous value to my life, and I know how much it can bring to others. I wanted to help share that. I was told by a mentor early on, “Look for what you’re good at, get in that lane, stay in that lane, and step on the gas pedal.” When you’re meant to be doing something, all roads will lead you there, and you have to embrace that.

Jess: My mother was a tremendous influence on me growing up. She was a bodybuilder. She owned gyms and I watched her teaching group fitness and personal training classes my whole life.

How did the NASM certification add to your fitness knowledge?

Rebecca: NASM truly taught me how to build programs and understand how to develop effective programming for group fitness in a larger picture than just one class at a time. It helped me become a stronger personal trainer and be competent structuring programs for varying goals goals of each client. NASM is such an in-depth certification.

Jess: NASM provides a fundamental vocabulary for trainers, so they are able to articulate which part of the body is being focused on and can safely and smartly progress clients through movement. NASM gave me a way of thinking about bigger-picture programing and how to modify and progress clients through exercises over a longer period of time.

What were the most difficult parts of both the NASM certification and the NASM exam?

Rebecca: I’m a creative, so test taking in general is difficult, and multiple choice is the toughest thing for me! I took the entire time NASM allows for study in order to take my time and go at my own pace. I read each chapter, took the online quiz, and made flash cards to help myself study. I also used a few study guides, which were incredibly helpful to help me streamline my focus so it didn’t feel so overwhelming!

Jess: For me, the most difficult part was finding the time to sit down and study. It’s a very comprehensive test, so you must dedicate time to fully understand the material, not just memorize it. I have always studied the same way: Read, take notes, re-read the notes, take the practice exam, implement learnings into immediate action, whether with clients or with your own body, read notes again, then take the test.

"NASM truly taught me how to build programs and understand how to develop effective programming for group fitness in a larger picture than just one class at a time."

img-1-The NASM Exam: Why Peloton Hires CPTs

What did NASM teach you about exercise science and kinesiology that you did not know before?

Rebecca: While I had learned before about energy systems and how cells are regenerated and repaired, it has a different context and application when you learn it attached to something you are passionate about. I was able to re-learn things I had formerly memorized and actually understand them.

Jess: The NASM course taught me how to think about and strength train bodies other than my own. And while I've always had a good eye for dysfunctional movement patterns, NASM provided me with the vocabulary to better communicate with my clients so they can improve those patterns.

What are some things the NASM certification taught you that you incorporate into the classes you teach?

Rebecca: NASM taught me about the phases of strength training and how to cycle them properly. 

Jess: Off the bike, I use the NASM model and basic principles to build my strength programming and lean into my learnings mostly around modifications and progressions, so that workouts are smart and accessible for different fitness levels.

What required continuing education units or elective additional certification have you taken following your NASM certification?

Rebecca: I’ve taken classes in Kettlebells, Pilates, Functional Training, Anatomy and Running. You should learn at least one new thing in every class, and apply it.

Jess: I took NASM’s Corrective Exercise Specialist exam, which I found much more challenging than the initial certification, but it’s so important if you want to work with anyone who has had injuries or who has movement dysfunction, which is basically everyone. I also went for Women's Health to further understand the role of exercise and how it impacts men and women differently, and to learn about pre- and post-natal and pre- and post-menopausal women because they have very different needs. And one day, I'll be one of them!

The NASM certification also requires you to be certified in CPR/AED. What did you find most challenging about that course?

Rebecca: Practicing to be able to remain calm and collected when a serious moment occurs!

Jess: I didn't find it challenging. I was very moved at the thought of being able to save someone's life.

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