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Personal Trainer vs Strength & Conditioning Specialist


In this article we have four Strength & Conditioning Specialists shared what are the differences between Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist versus Certified Personal Trainer, what did they learn from strength & conditioning courses and the reasons behind obtaining the prestige certification in the industry.

Simran Latif  

CSCS, ACE CPT and BASc (Human Movement), EBFA Master Instructor
Fitness Educator (Fitness Innovations Malaysia – FITM), International Programme Director for Original Bootcamp Malaysia, Co-Founder of Viper Challenge Malaysia

Simran latif

Why did you want to pursue NSCA – CSCS? 

I’ve always been a science geek, ever since I did my exercise science degree in Australia. Going though the NSCA – CSCS process was great as it has given me access to world class research material and program templates.

What are the differences between Strength & Conditioning Specialist vs PT?

A CSCS gives you the theoretical advantage to help athletes or advanced performance-based clients to improve their performance markers, be it agility or speed.

A PT caters more towards the popular goals out there – fat loss and aesthetic hypertrophy.


What do you learn from CSCS?

The best thing I learnt from CSCS was the cool testing procedures, like the IFT 40-20, a soccer specific field test. We used it to test players in Hong Kong. Worked a charm.

Why do you want to renew your CSCS certification?

Because I would like to have access to up-to-date strength and conditioning research. New research comes out so often, it’s important to stay on touch with what’s happening out there.

Eiji Low

CSCS, ACE CPT, Crossfit Level 1 Trainer
Co-owner and head coach at Jesselton CrossFit, Sabah. Crossfit Coach and Personal Trainer

Eiji Low CSCS

Why did you want to pursue NSCA – CSCS? 

It was because I wanted to develop my coaching skills and NSCA-CSCS is one of the prestigious certification that can help me to do that. I also wanted to thank Ben Yeoh from Xcelerate Fit Camp who advised me to go into it and Ann Gee who was my employer supported me. I took the course in 2010 while I was a personal trainer.

What are the differences between Strength & Conditioning Specialist vs PT?

CSCS primary goal is to improve athletes performance (e.g.. track and field, soccer, badminton and etc) and PT goal is to design an individualized program and train client based on their health and fitness goals.

Eiji Low team

Coach Eiji and his Crossfit athletes at Beast of the South East, Brunei. His team won the team category among other countries: Brunei, Indonesia, Guam and Vietnam.  

What do you learn from CSCS?

I can list down a lot of things but for me personally it was the athletes evaluation, sport specific testing, design a safe and effective program and injury prevention which benefited me the most up until today.

Why do you want to renew your CSCS certification?

To keep myself updated with the latest research, fitness industry trend and laws/regulations up to date. I also want to take this opportunity to advise current fitness professionals in Malaysia to continue their fitness education. This is because scientific knowledge, equipments and training techniques continuously evolving in fitness industry. If you want to be a world class coach, learn from world class coaches.

Manny Alexander Avila


Manny Alexander Avila CSCS

Why did you want to pursue NSCA – CSCS? 

I decided to puruse the NSCA-CSCS to better my knowledge of fitness in health. Since I work in the field of education and am often surrounded by young athletes, I thought this certification could support my work with sport coaches. I wrote my CSCS exams at the end of 2013 and was certified in 2014.

Did you do CSCS while you were a PT?

Completing the CSCS was my first fitness certification. Following receiving my CSCS I have completed continuing education credits in nutrition, weight loss management, and special populations (youth, women and seniors).

What are the differences between Strength & Conditioning Specialist vs PT?

A PT certification is geared more towards helping the general population improve their physical fitness, health and well-being. The CSCS certification is geared more towards helping athletes enhance their sports performances.

Manny CSCS cert

What do you learn from CSCS?

In preparing to become a CSCS, I learned many things including: human biology, assessment and evaluation techniques, periodization, exercise techniques, and programe design to enhance athletic qualities like: speed, agility, quickness, strength, explosive power, flexibility, etc. The knowledge and skills from the certification have permitted me the ability to make sense of ‘the noise’ regarding fitness and health that we are exposed to in the media regularly. I am now better able to match exercise to nutrition, and exercise to desired performance outcomes.

Why do you want to renew your CSCS certification?

As one of the most respected certifications in the industry, I wished to improve my existing knowledge to better support the athletes that I work with.

Sean Lee

NSCA – CSCS, IMU – Bachelor of Science (Hons) Chiropractic, ACE – CPT, Poliquin Group – Poliquin Performance Specialist Level 2

Chiropractor, Personal Trainer

Sean Lee CSCS

 Why did you want to pursue NSCA – CSCS? 

I did my CSCS on year 2010. At that time, I was looking for advanced training methodologies and technique to improve my own training. To make sure that I get information that is reliable, I thought I’d better undergo formal training from a recognized and leading fitness organization (i.e. NSCA). I took CSCS course after I have earned my PT certification. I believe that the CSCS credential should be building on the foundation of PT and expand on some of its components.

What are the differences between Strength & Conditioning Specialist vs PT?

The target populations of clients for both certifications are different. A PT would have sufficient knowledge and tools to work with general population while a CSCS will have in depth knowledge on how to work with athletes or clients who has been training for years and are looking for someone who would able to push them close to their limits and bring out their potential.

The materials and guidelines covering both of the courses are also different. I took the CSCS courses five years ago and I am not sure how much changes have been made in the syllabus. An example in the difference on guideline was ACE was advice against behind the neck barbell press but it was fine to do it in the CSCS guideline. This is because the general population has higher risk of hurting themselves on behind the neck press as they might lack the shoulder mobility and muscle strength to perform such exercise. A seasoned athlete for instance might be expected to perform this exercise to achieve optimal shoulder mobility and performance.

The other differences lie in the testing and evaluation procedures. In PT courses, the fitness assessment is relatively simple. Contrary, in the CSCS course, you will be learning more complicated tests to assess your clients. The fundamental needs of these two types of clients are different thus the testing need to reflect that as well.

sean lee client

What do you learn from CSCS?

There are huge overlaps in the materials from both courses. However, there are also “exclusive” materials in the CSCS course. One of it is the Olympic moves (e.g. push press, snatch etc.) which you will not learn from a PT course. These exercises are most suitable to be used on athletes or on clients who have been training for years. The other useful information for me is the periodization model. It enables me to lay down a long term training plan for my clients. They get to focus on different strength quality at different point of time. It would make the whole training more systematic and the clients could tell that I really took time to design their program.  They appreciate that.

Why do you want to renew your CSCS certification?

To renew my CSCS certification, I will need to fulfill strict renewal criteria. One of the methods to fulfill these Continuous Education Units (CEUs) is by attending seminars. This will make sure that my knowledge stay up to date. The CSCS title is also one of the highest credentials in the fitness industry. In addition, there is only handful of them (CSCS) in our country. I would take pride being one of them.

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