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This eBook is dedicated to my son Lincoln and my wife Lisa.
It is impossible to describe in words how much I love you.

The information contained in this guide is for informational purposes only.

I am not an education professional nor am I an official representative of the National

Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Any advice that I give is my opinion
based on my own experiences learning the material for the CSCS exam. This guide
does not guarantee you a passing grade on the exam.

The material in this guide may include information, products, or services by third
parties. Third Party Materials comprise of the products and opinions expressed by
their owners. As such, I do not assume responsibility or liability for any Third Party
material or opinions.

No part of this publication shall be reproduced, transmitted, or sold in whole or in

part in any form, without the prior written consent of the author. All trademarks and
registered trademarks appearing in this guide are the property of their respective

Users of this guide are advised to do their own due diligence when it comes to
assessing their readiness to take the CSCS exam. By reading this guide, you agree
that my company and myself are not responsible for your success or failure on the
CSCS exam.

I didnt write this book because I love writing, or because it was fun (though it was
sometimes, it was mostly hard work).
I wrote it for number of reasons:

1) Strength and Conditioning is fun

2) Much like S&C challenges you and makes you better, this project challenged me and
made me better
3) Readers of my blog were asking for my help. A lot.
4) I couldve used something like this when I was preparing for the exam.

While my website cscsexamguide.com only reflects my studies from the year of 2013, I
actually purchased the Essentials of Strength and Conditioning in February of 2011. It took
me nearly three years to finally get my CSCS. I even purchased an NSCA membership,
held it for an entire year, and let it expire without attempting the exam.

I could make a long list of reasons and excuses why it didnt happen, but I think it really
comes down to one word: uncertainty. I wasnt sure I wanted it. I wasnt sure I needed it.
But most of all after I put in all the time, effort, and money in studying I wasnt sure I would

Make a big deal out of it. Tell your friends, your wife, your dogtell everyone that you are
studying for a test and you need to pass it. You need their support, but perhaps most of all
you need to shame yourself away from not quitting. Believe it or not, thats actually a big
reason why I started cscsexamguide.com it was a public platform for me to commit to
finishing. It wasnt a very efficient way of studying (writing all those posts took a looong
time!) but it was a pretty fail-safe way of making me finish. So commit to it and let your world
know it.

About the Author
Someone told me I needed an about the author page, but I feel weird writing about myself
in the third person.
20 years ago, I got my hands on my first computerand that all started a chain-reaction of
events that led me to pursue a career in Electrical Engineering. It was hard. But it was also
fascinating as hell, challenging, engaging, and extremely useful. Pay wasnt bad either.
A series of events, boredom at the workplace, and a curious mind led me to the world of
fitness & nutrition. I started the blog (www.cscsexamguide.com), quit my job, and started
pursuing a career in fitness and physical rehabilitation / manual therapy.

Materials You Will Need
Disclaimer: If you have a degree that is directly related to the material in the Essentials
of Strength and Conditioning (i.e. Kinesiology), you may not need all these materials.

I used the following items to study for the exam, and recommend you do the same. Some
people have reported needing only the book, but I do not recommend this especially if you
dont have a degree in a related field.

Here is what I used:

Essentials of Strength and Conditioning textbook

Practice Exams 1, 2, & 3 from the NSCA
Internet resources, like my website, Wikipedia, etc.

That being said, some people require more material than this. We all come from varying
backgrounds and expertise. What comes easy for some, comes difficult for others. I
consider the materials I used to be the bare minimum essentials. I would not attempt the
exam without those materials, nor would I recommend it. Doesnt mean you cant get it done
with just the textbook. But if you are dropping several hundred dollars to become a member
of the NSCA, get the textbook, and take the examyou should do everything you can to
make sure you pass. Its EXPENSIVE to fail.

After communicating with lots of my blog readers, people who have passed the exam and
people who have failed, on the next page you will find a checklist of items and resources to
use for the exam.

Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 3rd edition
CSCS Online Practice Exams 1, 2 & 3
Internet Resources (cscsexamguide.com) (wikipedia)
This eBook
CSCS Exam Content Description Booklet
Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training
CSCS Workbook, Audio DVD & Assessments

There were a handful of questions I missed as a result of not having the exam content
description workbook and the Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, however
I still passed with a comfortable margin by knowing the other material very well. The
purchase of the secondary and tertiary items is a decision you must make based on the
knowledge and understanding of your own abilities.

Cost Breakdown

Item Source Member Cost Non-Member

NSCA Membership NSCA $ 120.00 N/A
Essentials of Strength and Conditioning textbook Amazon $ 72.00 $ 72.00
CSCS Online Practice Exams 1, 2 & 3 NSCA $ 86.40 $ 115.20
CSCS Exam Content Description Booklet NSCA $ 20.00 $ 27.00
Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training NSCA $ 70.00 $ 72.00
CSCS EXAM - Paper & Pencil NSCA $ 260.00 $ 395.00
CSCS EXAM - Computer Based NSCA $ 310.00 $ 445.00

Totals $ 938.40 $ 1,126.20

Exam Breakdown
As you get to new sections in this book, you will see graphs like the one below that describe
where you should direct most of your attention. As you can see, most of the exam is
concentrated in the Exercise Sciences approximately 30%. This means you should spend
approximately 30% of your study time on these topics. If you go to the Exercise Science
chapter of this book you will see another graph that further breaks down the material into
chapters of the book.

Exam Section Breakdown by Percentage








Exercise Sciences Nutrition Exercise Technique Program Design Organization and Testing and
Administration Evaluation

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Table of Contents
Disclaimer ............................................................................................................................. ii
Preface ................................................................................................................................. ii

About the Author ................................................................................................................... iii

Materials You Will Need ...................................................................................................... iv
Primary .......................................................................................................................... v

Secondary...................................................................................................................... v

Tertiary .......................................................................................................................... v
Cost Breakdown ............................................................................................................... vi

Exam Breakdown ............................................................................................................. vi

Table of Contents ................................................................................................................. 1
Part 1 - Scientific Foundations .............................................................................................. 3

Exercise Science ............................................................................................................... 4

The Sliding Filament Theory Revisited ........................................................................... 5
Statics of the Human Musculoskeletal System............................................................. 14

More Statics: Levers and Mechanics ........................................................................... 17

Gender Differences ...................................................................................................... 22
Muscle Twitch .............................................................................................................. 23

Humans: A Hybrid Energy System ............................................................................... 28

The Physics of Human Motion ..................................................................................... 39
Key Anatomy Points..................................................................................................... 45

Nutrition ........................................................................................................................... 56

Protein ......................................................................................................................... 57
Carbohydrates ............................................................................................................. 60

Fat ............................................................................................................................... 62
Hydration ..................................................................................................................... 63

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Food Disorders ............................................................................................................ 65

Part 2 Practical & Applied Knowledge.............................................................................. 66
Exercise Technique ......................................................................................................... 67
Fundamental Rules ...................................................................................................... 68
Handgrips .................................................................................................................... 69
Five-Point Body Contact Position ................................................................................. 70
Breathing & the Valsalva Maneuver ............................................................................. 71
The Five Phases of Sprinting ....................................................................................... 72
Program Design .............................................................................................................. 73

The Seven Steps of Program Design ........................................................................... 74

Cycles and Periodization ............................................................................................. 86
Organization and Administration ..................................................................................... 89

Facility Specifications................................................................................................... 90
Testing and Evaluation .................................................................................................... 91
Memorization of the Mean ........................................................................................... 92

Statistics Review .......................................................................................................... 95

Conclusion and Final Thoughts .......................................................................................... 97

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Part 1 - Scientific Foundations

The first part of the CSCS exam is comprised of 90 questions covering all the scientific
foundations of exercise science and sports nutrition. This is very nearly half of the
exam. The questions can be difficult, especially if science isnt your strength.
Visualization, mnemonic devices, memorization, and reliable math skills will be key for
making it through this half of the exam.

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Exercise Science
This is the largest and arguably the most challenging section of the exam. As you can see
from the below graph, questions in this section are derived from chapters throughout the
book but with a big emphasis on chapters 4, 5, and 6. Keep in mind, however, that the
below breakdown is derived from the three practice exams published by the NSCA, and this
may not be exactly representative of the examthough I would say it is similar.

Exercise Science Chapters

Estimated Emphasis on Exam





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Book Chapter

Figure 1 - Estimated chapter contribution to Exercise Science section

There will be a graph like this at the beginning of all chapters, and if you look at the other
graphs you will see that every chapter in the book is covered in some form or another.

For the rest of this section I will be covering scientific foundations that I believe are
important in understanding the basic science of exercise. This requires some basic working
knowledge of physics and energy, and I will cover these topics in my own unique way
instead of reiterating the topics covered in the textbook. Again I would like to reinforce that
this material is meant to supplement the material in textbook; do not consider this guide
in any way a replacement to having Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 3rd edition.

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The Sliding Filament Theory Revisited

Three years before I became a CSCS, I opened the textbook to the first chapter and read
about the sliding filament theory. Im pretty sure I closed the book shortly after, disheartened
and disinterested. Almost every academic textbook Ive encountered starts in a similar
fashion: specific, but fundamentalboring, but essential.

How the hell is this going to help me train people? you might ask, and I wouldnt blame

But you must learn it.

You wont always know why you need to know something, and thats just a fact of
education. There were plenty of times in my education where I saw no practical application
to what I was learning, but in every single case where I thought that it wouldnt contribute to
my skill and practice as an engineer, I guarantee you, it did.

Just because you cant understand how something might be useful doesnt mean it

The same holds true for the sliding filament theory. Just because you dont know wtf an
H-zone or I-band has to do with physical conditioning and athleticism doesnt mean
understanding it wont help you.

On the blog I introduced a mnemonic device to help with the memorization of the
fundamental structure of muscle. I nicknamed this mnemonic HAZIM. Pronounce that word
with an Arabic accent, imagine a character from the Middle East, give him a ridiculous grin
and you have HAZIM:

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Figure 2 - HAZIM a mnemonic device created with the help of a reddit rage face

As you can see from the above picture, each letter of HAZIMs name stands for a structural
zone of the most fundamental component of musclea sarcomere.

Figure 3 - Sarcomere. Source: Creative Commons

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This image was pulled from the Wikipedia page on a sarcomere, but it is missing a key
component. Here it is with the M-line or M-bridge pointed out:

Figure 4 - Microscopic image of sarcomere with M-line called out

If you arent familiar with the structure of a sarcomere from the textbook, these images will
probably look foreign to you. Thats okay; Im going to do my best to give you a complete
rundown of the structure. Spend a few minutes studying the above figure.

Got it? The mnemonic is HAZIM, so lets start with the letter H.

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This zone describes the area where only myosin filaments are present.

Figure 5 - H-Zone location with cross section

This darkened band describes the area where myosin and actin are interleaved. The cross
section shows what it might look like with each myosin band surrounded by six actin.

Figure 6 - A-Band location with cross section

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This is the anchor point for the actin filaments, and also the border between sarcomeres.

Figure 7 - Z-Line location with cross section

This is where only actin is present. As the muscle contracts the I-Band shrinks as does the
H-zone, while the A-band increases in size.

Figure 8 - I-Band location with cross section

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Much like the I-Band is the anchor point for actin filaments, the M-Line is the anchor for
myosin filaments (hence the M in the name).

Figure 9 - M-Line location with cross section

Those are all the zones that the mnemonic HAZIM describes. Visualize these graphical
representations for the different areas of a sarcomere, and come test day write down
HAZIM and label the diagram to help you answer questions. Now I want to use an analogy
to really imprint the structure of muscles onto your brain.

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Actin, Myosin and the Piston

First, lets talk about a very basic mechanical device, the pneumatic cylinder

Figure 10 - Pneumatic Cylinder

Notice the structure of the piston and cylinder. One fits inside the other, an airtight seal is
created, and energy is transferred using compressed gas and stored using a spring.

Compare this to the structure of actin and myosin filaments.

Figure 11 - Myosin between two Actin filaments approximates a cylinder

The actin approximates the cylinder, and the myosin approximates the piston.

Energy is transferred in a different way (through cross bridging).
Energy is stored elastically in the elastic components of muscle.
Also, actin surrounds myosin in a ratio of 6 fibers to 1, whereas a cylinder is
completely continuous.

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Figure 12 - Pneumatic Cylinder, the piston approximates myosin while the cylinder approximates actin

I dont think its that far of a leap to make this comparison, hopefully it helps you remember
how myosin and actin fit together to create movement.

The Piston
Lets take this analogy one step further.

In engineering, a lot of what we do is make approximations. If youve ever taken calculus, a

classic example is a Riemann sum. What does this have to do with muscles? Not much,
except when we take our piston analogy and run with it.

A sarcomere is actually more like a bunch of pistons clumped together in a 3-dimensional

space (see figure 13).

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Figure 13 - Sarcomere-clumped piston analogy

Think of it like thisthe material that creates the cylinder is the metal material that normally
surrounds the piston and creates an airtight seal. Though in a muscle, its not continuous
but represented by individual strands of actin.

It makes little sense (or at least I cant think of a reason) to design a real life engine this way
because you simply take up more space. Furthermore, it complicates how you get gas in
and out of the chamber. You might as well just have one big cylinder.

But in the case of a muscle, it makes a lot of sense because the driving force isnt the rapid
expansion of a gas; its the cross bridging of actin and myosin. The more actin and myosin
cross bridging, the greater the force is.

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Statics of the Human Musculoskeletal System

In Engineering we had a class everyone referred to as statics. As an electrical engineer I
didnt have to take this, but because I heard so much about it and how fundamental it was
to mechanical engineering I chose it as one of my electives. That served me well when it
came to the topics that follow, I will do my best to transfer some of those skills to you.

There are three basic types of muscle action. These actions are distinguished in a manner
so as to separate actions from contractions or shortening. Muscles can do all sorts of
types of work, and sometimes some of the most effective work (for muscle building at least)
is done when muscles are acting against a force but not shortening.

Each muscle action is distinguished by how great a force the muscle exerts relative to the
external load. There are three possibilities:

1. Muscle Force > External Load

2. Muscle Force = External Load
3. Muscle Force < External Load

Most full-body multiple-joint exercises involve muscles transitioning through all these

Can you guess what happens to a muscle that exerts force that is greater than the external
load? It shortens. This is concentric action.

Can you guess what happens to a muscle that exerts force that is equal to the external
load? Its length stays the same. This is isometric action.

Can you guess what happens to a muscle that exerts a force that is less than the external
load? It lengthens. This is eccentric action.

Lets give some examples. The lowering phase of essentially any exercise is eccentric
action; the stabilization of the trunk muscles, abdominals, and erector spinae in the squat
are examples of isometric action; and the upward movement of most exercises
involves concentric action.

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Flexion and Extension

There are a lot of categories for muscles. Primary movers & Secondary movers, Flexors &
Extensors, Skeletal muscles & Smooth muscles, Type I & Type II (). In this article I will
attempt to differentiate between Flexors and Extensors in my own words.

A Flexor is a muscle that actively shortens the angle of a joint when it contracts in
concentric action.
An Extensor is a muscle that actively widens the angle of a joint when it contracts in
concentric action.

The easiest example is made using the elbow joint, and the biceps & triceps. Take every
bros favorite exercise: the curl.

At the start of the movement the angle of your elbow joint is roughly 180 degrees. As your
biceps contract, the angle of your elbow decreases, and thus, by definition, your biceps
are flexors.

Figure 14 - Flexor diagram

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On the other hand, consider the triceps extension exercise. At the bottom of the movement
when your triceps are relaxed, the angle of your elbow is small. Assuming you dont have
massive biceps to get in the way, your elbow joint is probably somewhere around 45
degrees or less. As your triceps contract, the angle of your elbow increases and thus your
triceps are extensors.

Flexor and Extensor?

Some muscles can be both extensors and flexors, though to be both a flexor and extensor
they must cross two joints. For example your hamstrings are a knee flexor and a hip
extensor. Another classic example is the rectus femoris an extensor of the knee and flexor
of the hip. There are many examples of muscles serving multiple functions and I wont
explore all of them here as it isnt important for the exam.

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More Statics: Levers and Mechanics

This is a deceptively challenging topic. In this section there are diagrams to draw out the
different lever classes, a great mnemonic for memorization, and examples that display how
these levers apply to the human body. Despite going over all of this a long time ago, I still
spend a long time arguing with myself over why I thought certain joint muscle actions were
Class IIIs instead of Class Is. In the end, many of you may think Im an idiotand in this
case, I probably was. But after spending a good deal of time arguing with myself and
discovering a strategy that works every time, I never forgot how to solve these types of
problems, and every question was nearly guaranteed to be correct.

To fully understand this section, you may need to review what Torque is, what a Lever is,
and what Mechanical Advantage (or leverage) is.

Class I - A lever in which the load (dumbbell for example), and the applied force (by
muscle in this case) act on the same side of the fulcrum.
Class II - A lever in which the load and the applied force act on the same side of the
fulcrum, with the applied force having greater mechanical advantage (a longer
moment-arm) than the load.
Class III - A lever in which the load and the applied force act on the same side of the
fulcrum, with the applied force having lower mechanical advantage than the load
(and thus a shorter moment arm).

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Figure 15 - The three classes of levers

So lets apply this to the human body, with the most basic example of the biceps curl.

Figure 16 - What class of lever is this?

As you can see, knowing where the biceps inserts is key to being able to identify the
location of the applied force. Figuring that the elbow is obviously the fulcrum, the biceps is
the applied force, and the dumbbell is the load, we can correctly identify this example as a
third class lever.

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Figure 17 - Biceps curl is an example of a third class lever

Know your anatomy, and rest assured that any movement around a joint is fair game.

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Helpful Mnemonic Device

If you have read my blog, you might be familiar with FLE123 and where it comes from. We
have Jackson from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, a kinesiology student, to thank
for it mnemonic device for lever classes.

Without going back to the previous picture, see if you can correctly identify the lever types
for these different levers:

Figure 18 - Which lever class is this?

If you had trouble with this, then you should read this piece from Jackson:

I just graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in kinesiology, and my next step
is taking the CSCS exam which is in just a few hours for me. I started studying for the exam
in May while working part-time as a personal trainer.

Your blog has helped me prepare quite a bit, so I thought I would share one of my tips.

My biomechanics lab TA showed me the mnemonic FLE 123 for remembering lever
classes. F = fulcrum, L = load, and E = effort. The fulcrum is in the middle for 1st class
levers. The load or resistance is in the middle for 2nd class levers. And, the effort force is in
the middle for 3rd class levers.

Hopefully, that helps you.

Pure gold!

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Figure 19 - Brilliant mnemonic device for remembering lever classes

The genius of this mnemonic lies in the symmetry. Identifying the component in the middle
of the lever is the only information necessary to identify the lever as the other two
components can be flipped and the lever still retains its class. Effort-Fulcrum-Load is the
same as Load-Fulcrum-Effort; they are both first class levers.

Prove it to yourself. Pull out a piece of paper, and write down FLE123. Now draw the three
classes of levers and fill in the middle item using the FLE123 mnemonic. Fill in the rest. You
can do this on exam day on your scratch paper and will always have all three levers handy.

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Gender Differences
Men and Women are Both Human. Duh.
Being members of the same race, the theories used to train men and women should be the
same, and they are. Regardless of what magazines say about toning, or that women should
do high reps and low weightall of that is false, same species same training regimen.

That being said, if everything was exactly the same, there would be no need for this
chapter. So lets highlight the differences.

Body Composition
Before puberty there are essentially no differences between boys and girls. Once puberty
hits, everything changes as testosterone shoots up for boys increasing muscle mass, and
for women estrogen increases leading to breast development and increased fat deposition
(a requirement for fertility & pregnancy).

Hormones Drive Muscle Size

Hormones cause the key difference and drive all the changes. Men dont have magical
muscles that are just inherently stronger; they just have more muscle. Peak force output is
directly tied to muscle cross-sectional area. Take careful note of the word choice in that
Peak implies the absolute maximum force output. But just because your muscles have a
larger cross sectional area than someone elses doesnt mean you can produce more force
than them. Your ability to drive those muscles hard comes into play as well.

All muscle sizes being equal, could a woman beat a man?

This is how a trained woman could produce more force than a man who has a similarly
sized muscle.
Its important to remember that despite all our differences, women and men are members of
the same species. Thinking about it from this perspective, it makes perfect sense that
muscles of the same size can produce the same force regardless of gender.

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Muscle Twitch
The following concepts can be difficult to understand. When I encountered this information
in the book, I immediately saw parallels with concepts in electrical engineering, and it was
useful to me to elaborate on those similarities. If these concepts end up sounding like a
foreign language to you, dont stress much over it.

Before we talk about the signaling between the brain and muscles, I want to show you some
basic electrical signals so you can draw the parallels between electronics and brain
muscle signaling.

Figure 20 - Various electrical signals

*The data signal could be represented by any pattern like this, I chose this one at random.

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The Twitch
One thing I encountered while reading the NSCA book that reminded me a lot of an
engineering concept is the idea of a twitch. We learn about fast twitch, slow twitch, and
different muscle fibers, but lets talk about the twitch signal in itself.

When your brain sends a signal to your muscle to fire, what does that signal look like?

Is it just like pressing an on button, or plugging in a battery, or flipping a light switch? I think
the signal is actually represented pretty well by a pulse.

Figure 21 - Representation of the signal sent from a motor neuron

The pulse is your neuron firing, an electrical signal which results in the release of calcium in
your muscle cells. If you wanted to represent this like you would in engineering school, your
muscle could be represented with a block diagram and a transfer function. The transfer
function represents your muscles and would transform the electrical signal of the pulse into
a force output.

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Figure 22 - Muscle represented by transfer function H(s), force by Y(s)

Or represented graphically in the time domain, y(t) (force produced by muscle) is equal to
the electrical signal sent from the brain transformed by the muscle, x(t) * h(t)

The calcium binds to troponin (as we discussed earlier) for a brief period of time during
which the muscle contracts. If the first pulse isnt backed up by another pulse a short time
later, the calcium will unbind and force produced by the muscle will drop.

Figure 23 - A single "on" pulse results in a small amount of force that falls quickly as calcium unbinds from

If, however the pulse is backed up by another pulse, then the force produced by the two
signals will add.

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Figure 24 - Force from two signals sums if sent in quick enough succession

Its in this way that you can recruit a large muscle to produce a range of forces. Remember
that when you recruit a large motor unit, all muscle fibers contract due to the all-or-none
law. However, because the force produced by the muscles is modulated by the period in
which your motor neuron fires, the amount of force you can produce in a given motor unit
isnt all-or-nothing but somewhat continuous.

And finally, this is what happens when your motor neuron fires at a sufficiently high
frequency for a sufficient amount of timemaximal force production.

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Figure 25 - Enough motor neuron impulses fired in quick succession yields maximal force production

Notice how the train of impulses sent by your motor neurons looks similar to the clock signal
we discussed at the beginning of the section?

There are actually quite a few similarities that I could draw between electronics and the
control of muscle output, but they would only be useful to other electrical engineers so I
will spare you for now.

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Humans: A Hybrid Energy System

Your body uses a hybrid energy system. Much like the popular Toyota Prius (and many
others) uses both electricity and gasoline, your body uses multiple forms of energy to get
work done.

This analogy isnt perfect because while the Prius uses two forms of energy, your body
accesses energy through three pathways: the phosphagen system, the oxidative system
and through glycolysis. While the analogy isnt perfect, its still very good because much in
the same way a hybrid car stores waste energy (braking) into very useful high-torque
energy (electricity), your body can convert anaerobic byproducts (lactate) back into a form
of energy thats very useful during high intensity exercise (glucose).

Figure 26 - Human vs. hybrid car analogy

Depending on exactly how the internals of a hybrid car are set up, you could create an even
better analogy by drawing comparisons between phosphagen and capacitance, but thats
far too geeky for this book.

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In the hybrid car, gas is the energy source. Sure you have a battery, but unless you plug it
into the wall, that batterys sole purpose is to buffer the energy flowing to the power train to
allow the gas engine to operate at peak efficiency and store energy from braking.

In the human, fat is the energy source. Sure youve got carbohydrates and protein, but in
terms of actual power produced, fat generates the most. Even assessing it on the basic
level of macronutrient calories, 9 calories per gram is more than double the 4 that protein or
carbohydrates can provide. If we take a look at the actual ATP produced, the difference can
appear even more dramatic.

Net yield of one glucose molecule: 36-38 ATP

Net yield of one 18-carbon triglyceride: 463 ATP

Phosphagen System
The phosphagen system is relatively simple compared to the other energy systems but just
as important. Your body has a certain amount of ATP (cellular energy) on hand at any given
time. Replenishing this supply can take some time, and some methods of replenishing it are
quicker than others. As with most things in life, the method that takes the longest yields the
most ATP, and the quickest method yields the least.

The phosphagen system uses a molecule called creatine phosphate (present in high
quantities in muscle tissue) to rapidly replenish ATP.

Under relatively normal activity, your muscles would rapidly run out of ATP. However,
measuring ATP in muscle cells shows very little fluctuation throughout exercise, and this is
directly attributed to the large amount of creatine phosphate that rapidly replenishes ATP
from ADP. There is a reason why creatine is one of the most widely used, safe and effective
ergogenic aids (see chapter 8)because it is effective.

Finally, one more enzyme provides an important function in the phosphagen system:
adenylate kinase.

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So while creatine phosphate rapidly restores ATP from ADP, if you do it at a rapid enough
rate, adenylate kinase will start creating ATP out of two ADP with an AMP as the byproduct.
This serves two functions:

1. Get more ATP to do work NOW

2. AMP stimulates Glycolysis (we need more ATP, and fast!)

Which leads us perfectly to the next topic: Glycolysis.

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I must say the books coverage of this topic is confusing. I rewrote this entire section
because some of the things I originally wrote were wrong. I went back to Wikipedia, did a lot
of research, and started from scratch.

For the sake of clarity, lets divide Glycolysis into two separate processes. The book will
refer to these two processes in a number of different ways, so lets clarify the different
naming conventions:

1. Fast Glycolysis = Anaerobic Glycolysis

2. Slow Glycolysis = Aerobic Glycolysis

Furthermore, lets distinguish the two by clarifying what the trade offs of each are:

1. Fast Glycolysis Speed = 100x, Net ATP = 2

2. Slow Glycolysis Speed = 1x, Net ATP = 38

And before we go any further, there are two sources of glucose: blood glucose, and
muscle glycogen. Blood glucose requires 1 extra ATP of energy to enter the cell, whereas
glycogen does not. So, depending on the source, net ATP could be as high as 3 or 39 for
fast and slow glycolysis, respectively.

The following figure is a simplified block diagram showing the outcomes of the various

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Figure 27 - Simplified glycolysis block diagram

You may be wondering, if you can produce 2 ATP 100 times as fast as you can produce 38
ATP, thats 200ATP per unit of time versus 38. While true, your body has to deal with the
excess lactate as well as hydrogen ions that change the pH of your blood. Get a significant
enough change in your pH and the whole glycolytic system gets inhibited, your muscles
burn, and you get that overwhelming urge to stop whatever youre doing and rest. Well your
body has yet one more mechanism to continue trying to support fast glycolysis by
reconverting excess lactate back into glucose.

The Cori Cycle

While we are talking about energy systems in this chapter, The Cori Cycle is not an
energy generator. That is to say, it does not perform the same function as the
Phosphagen system, glycolysis, or the oxidative system. The net ATP produced from the
Cori cycle is negative 4, yes, you actually lose ATP by running lactate through the Cori
cycle. Gaining ATP is not its purpose, in fact the sole purpose of the Cori cycle is to
produce glucose to support whatever high intensity activity the body is currently engaging

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Figure 28 - The Cori Cycle

Your bodys ability to move lactate through this system is an important performance marker
in exercise science. There are two main terms referred to in the book that you need to

Lactate Threshold (LT)

Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA)

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There are some specific things you should know regarding the LT and the OBLA for the
exam, but first we need to build a good fundamental understanding of these concepts.

In figure (x) below you can see how blood concentrations of lactate increase as the intensity
of exercise (indicated here by %VO2 max) increases.

Figure 29 - Lactate threshold and OBLA in trained vs. untrained individuals

You should study this graph, and take away a few things:
The LT is when the body starts shifting more towards fast glycolysis, enough so that
lactate levels in the blood increase to a measureable degree
OBLA is the second inflection point, where blood lactate increases even more
rapidly. The theory is this starts when larger muscle groups with lots of Type II fibers
are recruited, further increasing the production rate of lactate.
The lactate system can be trained. Training causes both the LT and the OBLA to shift to
higher levels of exercise intensity, allowing higher levels of intensity for longer periods of
time. Since lactate begins accumulating at higher intensity levels, training this system to be
more efficient requires, well, higher intensity exercise obviously.

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Oxidative System
Finally we get to the combustion engine of the human body.

Figure 30 (Gasoline engine/Fatty acids) are complicated and (low-torque/low-power) compared to the
(electric motor/glycolysis), but rich with energy.

At the heart of that engine is the krebs cycle. Surrounding that are a bunch of mechanisms
that convert and prepare the fuel for burning. The oxidative system is extremely versatile
and accepts proteins, carbohydrates, and fats as fuel sources. However the krebs cycle is
somewhat picky, only accepting Acetyl-CoA and a few amino acid varieties as fuel. Before
the fuels get there, a lot of enzymes cleave, cut, and convert everything into Acetyl-CoA or
amino acids that the krebs cycle accepts.

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Figure 31 - A simplified energy diagram. Refer to pages 29-31 in the book for a more detailed diagram.

Inside the Krebs cycle is a complicated mess. Energy in the form of ATP is harvested from
the Electron Transport Chain (ETC) through a series of complex reactions and exchanging
of electrons. NADH and FADH2 exchange their hydrogen atoms and in the process allow a
Phosphate ion to reattach to ATP (see page 30).

From all of this 40 ATP is produced from one glucose molecule. Depending on exactly
which ions were used in the process, only 38 or 36 net ATP will be produced because 2 are
consumed in the process (Ive come across exam questions that expect you to know this

Fatty acids on the other hand produce a wide range of ATP, depending on how long they
are. The book gives an example of an 18-carbon fatty acid producing 463 ATP, which
illustrates just how much more energy is stored in fat than in blood glucose.

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Key Points Energy Priority and Output

There are a few key points to be made about the control and output of the various energy
systems. None of the points require much explanation, but you should commit them to
memory as they will help you answer a lot of questions on the test.

No energy system is ever the sole provider of energy

Exercise intensity determines the energy system first
Exercise duration determines the energy system second
The faster the energy (e.g. phosphagen) the less total energy there is
The slower the energy (e.g. fat oxidation) the more total energy there is

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The Physics of Human Motion

As Ive mentioned in the blog several times, some parts of my engineering education served
me very well in studying for the CSCS, whereas some topics needed a lot more of my

In this section Im going to attempt to impart some of that advantage to you by doing some
in-depth coverage of a topic that plays to my strengths: physics.

Force seems like such a simple and intuitive concept, and in many ways it is. In other ways
its not. So well start where things are simple, in outer space.

Take a rocket thats just sitting in out space, stationary. The rocket fires its engine, which
produces a force of 100 Newtons (kg * m / s^2). The rocket has a mass of 100kg, so plug
those numbers into the equation:

100 = 100
= 1/ 2
So while the engine burns the rocket accelerates at one meter per second. Figuring out the
velocity of the rocket is then just a matter of how long the engine burns.

= +
Since initial velocity was zero vo = 0, we can simply multiply acceleration by time. After 1
second of engine burn, the rocket travels at 1m/s. After 2 seconds, 2m/s. If the engine burns
for 10 seconds the rocket will be traveling at 10 meters per second, etc.

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Figure 32 - Rocket accelerating through space

On earth things get a little more complicated mathematically speaking, because we are
always dealing with friction and earths gravity.

Your body is constantly subjected to a force, the force of gravity. This force is often referred
to as your weight.

F = ma, Force is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the acceleration. In the case
of your body, the mass is how big or massive you are, and your acceleration is determined
by earths gravity 9.8m/s^2.

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In its pure physics definition work is the application of a force over a distance. Youll notice
in the NSCA book that sometimes another definition of work is used, a definition which is
more practical when dealing with humans moving on earth.

Work is a force applied over a distance, so a prowler is a great example of doing work

Imagine you are pushing a prowler. Since we are on earth, theres gravity, and friction.
Technically theres also air resistance, but well assume thats pretty negligible (it is unless
youre superhuman fast or you're pushing the prowler in a wind storm). You run up to the
prowler and try and push, but at first the prowler doesnt budge. Lets figure out what forces
are involved at that moment:

Figure 33 - A prowler being pushed with all forces labeled

Three of these forces should be straightforward the force you apply, the force of the
prowler against the ground, and the force of friction stopping you from moving the prowler.
The last force (labeled in blue) is called the normal force normal because it is always

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perpendicular to the plane on which the object sits. This can get a little confusing and
involve more math when things are on an incline, but since this prowler is on flat ground its
pretty simple: the prowlers weight pushes against the ground, and the ground pushes back.
If the ground didnt push back with equal force the prowler would sink through the earth until
something stopped it.

Since the prowler is at rest, we know all the forces are equal:

For the rest of this example, since we wont be lifting the prowler off the ground we can
always just assume the normal force and weight of the prowler will be equal.

Lets talk about friction briefly. For this example there are two types static and kinetic
friction. You see before an object begins moving, friction forces are usually higher than they
are once they get moving. This is why whenever you are sliding an object, it always feels
harder to move at first but once it gets moving it feels a little easier. Its also the reason for
anti-lock brakes, because when the wheels arent skidding they actually grip the street with
more force, so you can stop quicker when the tires are rolling than if they lock up.

So before when you couldnt get the prowler moving, you simply hadnt overcome the static
coefficient of friction. Lets say you get a running start, and this time the prowler budges.
You are off and moving working against the kinetic coefficient of friction. Lets say you run
for 50 meters, and now lets figure out how much work you did.

Kinetic friction coefficient = 0.2

Mass of prowler with 4 20kg weights = 125kg
Acceleration of gravity = 9.81m/s^2

= =
= 0.2 125 9.81/ 2 = 245

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= 245 50 = 12250 = 12.25

Hooray you did 12 calories of work! Seems pitiful doesnt it? Fortunately your body burns
more than this due to a number of factors but we wont get into that now.

Next question: what is power? Well, its how quickly you pushed that prowler. Just divide by
time. Lets go over an example.

You remember what the Margaria-Kalamen test is? (Check NSCA textbook page 258).
This is absolutely a test you are expected to know, and it directly uses the little bit of physics
I just explained as the basis for the test.

The genius in this test is its easy setup and readily available materials. For someone with a
familiarity with physics, the test makes perfect sense.

Remember that example we just did with the prowler? Doing something like that is a pain in
the butt, and you have to make assumptions that are probably going to be inaccurate (like
the coefficient of friction). For example what if the prowler is on the grass vs. concrete vs.
artificial turf, all these different surfaces have different coefficients of friction.

Fortunately, you can do work in all kinds of ways, and one we humans are famous for doing
work against is gravity. Gravity is everywhere and almost perfectly uniform, so it has none
of the complications of measuring work like friction-based work does.

The Margaria-Kalamen test is a simple test of working against gravity. The force of gravity is
simply the gravitational constant of earth times mass, and the distance is how far against
gravity you travel.

Run up a flight of stairs 10 meters tall and measure the amount of time that took you, thats
a pretty quick and easy measure of power. Thats essentially the Margaria-Kalamen test,
only they did a few tweaks to make the results of the test more consistent.

Lets say someone large like me runs up a 10m flight of stairs in 10 seconds. Here is how
much work I did and a measure of my power:

= = 100 9.81 2 10 = 9810

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= = = 981
And thats it, fairly simple. The Margaria-Kalamen test just has a few modifications. Height is
only 3 stairs and sensor pads are on the two stairs to measure the time. Plug in the
numbers, and youre done. Below is an example of a 76kg athlete.

Figure 34 - The Margaria-Kalamen test

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Key Anatomy Points

Anatomy, as Ive said on the blog is a topic that isnt covered thoroughly in the book. I was
surprised by the depth of anatomy that some of the practice questions expected you to

That being said, there did seem to be a pattern regarding the questions I encountered on
the exam. By and large, the area in question almost always is centered around the hip,
spine, and core. And almost always involves these muscles:

Rectus Femoris (One of the quads)

Psoas and/or illiacus, often referred to as illipsoas
Rectus Abdominis
Biceps Femoris (One of the hamstrings)

So I want to give these structures an in-depth treatment so that should you encounter a trick
question on these you wont get tripped up.

As the name implies, there are four of these guys. All of them attach to the patella and thus
act across the knee joint, however only one of them crosses the hip the Rectus Femoris.

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Towards the inside of your thigh is the Vastus Medialis, then next to that & underneath the
Rectus Femoris is the Vastus Intermedius, and on the outside underneath the IT band and
covering a very large area is the Vastus Lateralis, the largest of the quad muscles.

Rectus Femoris Tricks

Trick questions will come around the rectus femoris. Since its the only muscle that crosses
two joints (hip & knee), you can change its activation by adjusting the angle of the hip.

Take the leg extension exercise. Keeping the hip angle too wide or too narrow will cause
this muscle to activate less, as the actin and myosin filaments wont line up to allow for
forceful contraction.

Did you know there are actually four hamstring muscles? Why arent they named quads?
I dont think well ever know the answer to that.

The confusion comes from the fact that the biceps femoris has two heads, one long and one
short. The short head crosses the knee joint and helps flex the knee, and the long head
crosses both the hip and the knee. The semitendinosus and semimembranosus cross both
joints and are large, powerful muscles.

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Figure 35 - The Hamstrings

Symmetry of Hamstrings & Quadriceps

As an engineer and perpetual nerd, I appreciate beauty and symmetry in math, physics, and
in this case: biology. The hamstrings and quads also have a symmetry that I find

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fascinating, and it is most certainly not a coincidence...symmetries never are. This helps me
remember the muscles, I hope it helps you too.

Crossing Two Joints Crossing a Single Joint


Each group has four muscles. One group has a 3:1 ratio of two joint vs. one joint muscles,
and the other group has a 1:3 ratio.

Psoas and Illiacus (aka Illiopsoas)

The psoas and illiacus are separate muscles at their origin, but later join and are
indistinguishable where they insert onto the femur. They both function to flex the hip, and
are very active in an exercise like the sit-up. Questions regarding these muscles are often
associated with details regarding hip angle.

Lets consider the difference between the abdomen workouts described in the textbook
(page 333) versus an old school sit up that we all had to do in gym class. The exercises
depicted in the text specifically target the rectus abdominus, I suspect because the old
school exercise has fallen out of favor due to low back issues.but for the purposes of
understanding the biomechanics lets take a look at an image:

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Figure 36 - Psoas and iliacus

Notice how the psoas crosses many joints many spinal segments plus the hip joint. The
iliacus crosses the hip joint (and joins with the iliacus, forming the iliopsoas) where they
both insert into the lesser trochanter of the femur.

The old-school sit up was meant to be an abdominal exercise but heavily recruits the
iliopsoas to flex the hip & sit up. This heavy repetitive contraction of the psoas can add
compressive forces to the spinal segments that it attaches to, and couples with improper
bracing or a weak core can add shearing forces as well. This is a bad combination, and I
suspect one of the reasons this exercise has fallen out of favor.

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Abdominal Muscles
The core is such a hot topic these days, and as a result you can expect some questions
on the CSCS exam relating to the core. First lets cover some of the key players of the core.

External Obliques
Notice the fiber orientation of the external obliques and you can pretty well figure out what
their function is. Also notice how the fibers terminate into the center of the abdomen, and
the right and left fibers, were they to continue past the linea alba (center line of the
abdomen) would run perpendicular to each other.

Figure 37 - External Obliques

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Internal Oblique, Transverse Abdominus, and Rectus Abdominus

Now compare the fiber orientation of the internal oblique to the external obliques on the
previous page. Notice how the internal oblique runs perpendicular to the external oblique of
the same side, but parallel to the external oblique of the opposite side.

Notice the transverse fibers running from the spine to the linear alba, this muscle assists in
rotation and along with all the abdominal muscles assists in stabilizing the spine
especially during the valsalva maneuver.

Figure 38 - TVA, Recuts Abdominus, and Internal Oblique muscles

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Anterior Tibialis
On the practice exams and even the actual exam, I remember this muscle popping up
frequently. Its important in the strike phase of sprinting and walking where it eccentrically
contracts, and also in stability of the ankle joint. Its primary function is dorsiflexion and

Figure 39 - Anterior Tibialis

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Gastrocnemius and Soleus

The main points for these two muscles is recognizing that one crosses the knee joint and
the other does not. Exam questions will test your ability to differentiate an exercise that
targets the soleus vs. one that targets the gastrocnemius. Doing a calf exercise with the
knee bent lessens the contribution of the gastrocnemius and targets the soleus, and vice

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Figure 40 - Gastrocnemius and Soleus

Anatomy is a topic you could spend a whole lot of time studying and still not know
everything. Fortunately for the CSCS Exam you dont need to know a ton, and in my
experience the above muscles are the ones most often used in questions.

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Understand the structure and function of the following muscles:

Quadriceps and hamstrings and their symmetry

Psoas and iliacus and their different attachment points
Abdominal muscles, their function and fiber orientations
Anterior tibialis attachments and function
Gastrocnemius and Soleus attachments and how to target each in exercise

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Nutrition Chapters
Estimated Emphasis on Exam

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Book Chapter

Figure 41 - Nutrition section chapter emphasis

The nice part about this section is its clear ties to just two chapters in the book, mainly
chapter 10. I want to preface the material covered in this section by saying these are the
recommendations of the NSCA, not me. I say this because I took a deep dive into the
science of nutrition a few years ago, and my philosophies do not match with the NSCA.
Thats not important for you to know, but I felt it should be said.

Most of these chapters are pretty easily absorbed and self-explanatory so I wont be
covering these topics extremely thoroughly. I will focus on a few topics and trick questions
that you might encounter on the exam.

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Some of the very basics you need to know are:

Essential vs. non-essential amino acids

High vs. low quality protein sources
Protein requirements for athletes vs. non-athletes

By and large the general recommendation for most athletes will fall between 1.5-2g per kg
of bodyweight.

These basics are easy to memorize and are in the textbook (pages 207-208). Lets go over
an example of how you might be tricked.

The Which is BEST Question

These questions usually involve you doing a few conversion and calculations, followed by a
question that is phrased in a way to make you a little nervous.

A 26 year old male NBA basketball player is 6 ft, 3 in tall (191cm) and weighs 190 lb (86kg).
He wants to increase muscle mass and strength. Which of the following is the MOST
appropriate daily intake of protein?
A 270 kcal
B 330 kcal
C 580 kcal
D 990 kcal

Notice the MOST in the question phrasing. The athlete in question might physically be
able to eat all of these different options, but one might not support his current lean mass,
one might be a little on the hairy edge of too much protein, and one will fit right in the
standard recommendations (1.5g 2g).

First step is figuring out how many grams each of these options are. We know protein is
4kcals per gram, so divide each option by 4. Then we need to determine how many grams
of protein he is getting per kilogram of his own bodyweight, so divide that number by his
bodyweight in kilograms.

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A 270 kcal 67.5g 0.78g/kg

B 330 kcal 82.5g 0.96g/kg
C 580 kcal 145g 1.68g/kg
D 990 kcal 247.5g 2.8g/kg

As you can see, one option falls directly in the standard recommended range for athletes,
and the other is significantly higher than the recommended range but still far from the
dangerous range (4g/kg). The range between 2-4g per kg isnt really discussed in the book,
only that vegans or vegetarians may require more than 2gs per kg due to lower quality
proteins. So this question can seem a bit nebulous. But because option D is nebulous, and
A & B are clearly too low, the MOST appropriate answer is going to be C. Its safe, and falls
in the most commonly recommended range for athletes.

The Lean Mass vs. Fat Mass Trick

Many questions center on an athlete gaining or losing weight. The typical mistake here is
always assuming that weight loss is going to be fat which is assumed to be around
3500kcal per pound. This is how I always approached these problems, and on the practice
tests it took me a good deal of digging to find out why my answer was wrong.

The trick lies in the phrasing of the question, specifically in how you should assume the gain
of fat mass vs. lean mass. Buried in the book is the important detail that the kcal value of
lean mass is 2500kcal per pound. So lets make up a question that puts this concept to

A 250lb college level linebacker needs to gain 30lbs in 12 weeks. He is currently

maintaining his weight by consuming 4100 kcal per day. Assuming he will gain equal parts
fat mass and lean mass, how many extra kcal should he be consuming per day?

First thing we recognize is that half of the mass gained will be fat, the other will be lean
tissue. Since the goal is 30lbs, we divide that in half for 15lbs fat and 15lbs lean tissue. We
calculate the kcal requirements for that amount of tissue and add them back together.
Finally we divide that amount by the number of days he has to gain that weight, and that
determines how many extra calories he needs per day.

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15 * 2500 = 37500; 15 * 3500 = 52500; X+Y = 90000; Z / (days) = calories per day

90000 / (7*12) = 90k / (84) = 1071 calories

And the correct answer will always be the one closest to the number you calculate, so that
would be D (number here).

Those are the two types of trick questions for protein you will encounter, the others should
be fairly straightforward just make sure you know your requirement ranges, essential and
non-essential amino acids, and what constitutes a high or low quality protein.

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Theres a lot of debate about the role of carbohydrates in training and performance. The
NSCA has even hosted debates of pro-carbohydrate trainers vs. low-carbohydrate
advocates. Click this video to see Alan Aragon and Jeff Volek debate this topic. These
types of things are an interesting discussion and can help you form your own opinion, but
the true value is helping you get a deeper understanding for what happens physiologically
with and without carbohydrate consumption.

On page 210 of the book there is table describing the Glycemic Index (GI) of various foods.
The GI can seem counter intuitive often because it is discussed as a metric for how
healthy a food is, the lower the number the better.

What exactly is the Glycemic Index?

GI is a measure of how quickly a food raises your blood sugar, normalized against a slice of
white bread or pure glucose. Its a relative measurement, as opposed to an absolute
measurement so a set of values measured against pure glucose will come out different
than a set of values measured against white bread. The tests also normalize the amount of
carbohydrate in a food, so the same quantity of calories is ingested across all test subjects.
Take a look on page 210 and youll see a grain products hanging out around 100, pure
glucose at 140, legumes in the 50s and so on. From a scientific perspective, this appears to
be useful information.

However in the real world this information is less useful. Take watermelons for example,
with a Glycemic index of 103 it appears to be as detrimental to your blood sugar as a slice
of white bread. But because the study normalized grams of carbohydrate, we have
essentially lost some information about how carb-dense the food is. Lets use an example:

100g of white bread 260 calories 4 slices of bread

100g of watermelon 30 calories less than 1/16th of a watermelon

You would have to eat eight times the amount of watermelon in weight to equal the number
of calories. The book cites a study that found no correlation between GI of foods and
athletic performance, and I dont see that as much of a surprise. The GI doesnt really
provide much practical information about the food we eat. Glycemic Load (GL) on the other
hand is actually much more useful, but isnt required knowledge on the exam.

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The book briefly mentions ketosis in that roughly 50-100g of carbohydrates are needed to
prevent going into that state operating under the assumption that the state of ketosis is
bad. In fact every person when they wake up in the morning is undergoing a mild amount of
ketosis. Ketones are produced primarily by the mitochondria of the liver and provide an
alternate fuel source to glucose. You should just be aware that this state isnt necessarily
bad, and is the focus of many popular diets and can be a useful intervention for some. For
the purposes of the test assume that it should generally be avoided.

Carbohydrate Requirements
When considering the quantity of carbohydrates for an athlete to consume, first consider
their activity. An aerobic endurance athlete will not have the same needs as an Olympic

Its been shown that aerobic endurance athletes consuming 8-10g per kg (2400-
3000 kcal) adequately restore their glycogen levels
Intermittent high intensity like soccer players also benefit from high carbohydrate
5-6g per kilogram of bodyweight is sufficient or strength, sprint, and skill athletes

Carbohydrate loading
Pro: Three days of high carb + exercise tapering (600g/day, 8-10g/kg) increases glycogen
20-40% above normal

Con: potential side effects of extra water weight, weight gain, flatulence, diarrhea

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Theres a lot to be said about fat, because it has been so misrepresented. So much of what
is said about fat is wrong, and its not really the job of the NSCA to say what is right its
more their job to reiterate what is common knowledge or what various organizations of
authority say is correct. Its not my job either - so instead of discussing at length the science
of fats heres a brief bullet list of what I think you should know for the test:

Foods with fat provide important fat soluble vitamins

Saturated, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated what are they and what foods have
Low fat diets are not recommended for athletes
High fat content in athlete diets has not been shown to negatively affect plasma
lipids in athletes
Higher fat content has been shown to increase performance in aerobic athletes and
increase time to exhaustion in female soccer players

The only time it is recommended to consciously decrease fat intake:

To increase carbohydrate intake to support training goals

Need to reduce total caloric intake
Need to decrease elevated blood cholesterol

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Hydration doesnt really require deep understandings of the biology behind dehydration and
performance degradation, so I Im going to spare you any lengthy discussion on the topic
and just list out important things you need to know.

Pre-Training Hydration
Drink half an Oktoberfest beer steinonly swap the beer for water, and do it two hours
before the workout. This gives the body ample time to absorb the hydration and urinate the

During-Training Hydration
Provide cool beverages (50-70F or 10-21C)
Have fluids easy accessible and remind athletes to hydrate.
You may not think youre thirsty, when in fact your body could use more. Thirst
doesnt signal properly when large amounts have been lost.
Drink frequently, approximately 1 cup every 15 minutes

Post-Training Hydration
Consume 0.5L (1 pint) for every pound of weight lost. All weight should be regained
to indicate hydration status has returned to normal.
Water is the most effective hydrater (duh), however flavored beverages can
encourage drinking.
The ideal fluid replacement beverage depends on the athlete, so know your athletes
tastes, know your environment (temperature & humidity), and know the training
regimen (intensity, duration).

Important: Voluntary Dehydration

Most athletes will only replenish 2/3 of lost fluids after exercise. This phenomenon,
called voluntary dehydration is one that strength and conditioning professionals need to be
aware of and encourage athletes to fully replenish their stores after exercise.

When does fluid loss lead to decreased performance?

A 1% loss in body weight of water leads to an increase in core temperature, however
does not have a measurable effect on performance.

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A 3-5% loss of body weight results in cardiovascular strain and impaired ability to
dissipate heat, leading to performance degradation
At 7% loss, collapse is likely.

For example, a 200lb athlete may lose 10lbs while exercising in the heat (5% loss). This is
fairly common, but should be recognized as detrimental to performance.

Monitoring Hydration
A very accurate way to monitor hydration status is by weighing the athlete before and after
exercise. Each pound lost represents 0.5L of fluid loss and must be replaced before the
next training session.

Electrolyte Replacement
Electrolytes lost in sweat are higher in untrained individuals vs. trained athletes. The
average concentration of sodium in sweat is 1.15g/L, with concentrations ranging from 0.46
to 2.3g/L (a big range). Given that the average American salt intake is 4-6 grams per day,
electrolyte loss in some athletes is common and can lead to cramping. Additional salting
may be necessary, as well as potassium rich foods such as bananas, potatoes,
strawberries, meat, and milk.

In my next post, Ill go over the general recommendations for hydration before, during, and
after training sessions.

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Food Disorders
As a CSCS it will not be your job to diagnose disorders. It is your duty to keep an eye out for
the warning signs, and immediately report them to the teams physician. Below is a list of
warning signs.

Secretive eating habits, food wrappers in unexpected places, sneaking food from the
Disappearing multiple times after eating
Being nervous or agitated if unable to be alone after eating
Extreme weight gain or loss
Evidence of vomit
Large amounts of food disappearing

Saying Do you think Im fat, when the person is skinny
Dramatic weight loss for no good medical reason
Getting below the ideal competitive weight, and losing weight during the off-season
Preoccupation with food, calories, and weight

Warning Signs
Constipation or stomach aches
Mood swings and social withdrawal
Excessive exercise and concern about weight
Extremely critical of their own physique
Strong denial that a problem exists

What To Do and Not Do

Do gather information and report all findings to the team physician
Do not attempt to make the diagnosis, that is the physician or therapists job
Do not simply require more frequent weigh-ins, monitor food intake, or offer
encouragement on outward appearance. None of these strategies are effective in
treating bulimia or anorexia. Refer to a physician.

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Part 2 Practical & Applied Knowledge

In this section Ill cover some selected topics that you will see in the second portion of
your exam. Keep in mind this is the section that includes approximately 40 video
questions.Your practical experience will serve you well here. Having experience with
actual clients, or even just a lot of personal experience in the gym will be useful.

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Exercise Technique
Exercise Technique Chapters

Estimated Emphasis on Exam








1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Book Chapter

Figure 42 - Exercise Technique section chapter emphasis

A Few Things Before We Start

A lot of what is covered in the exercise technique section could be classified as common
sense. For the first 26 years of my life, I never trained. Then when I got into it, I read
everything that I could on it. I devoured strength training philosophies, and tried a bunch of
different things, watched videos, you name it. Through this, I learned a good deal.

Notice how a huge portion of questions is derived from chapter 14. Open your book to
chapter 14, and youll notice theres not much traditional text there, just pictures of exercises
and descriptions of how they are performed. This is boring to read, but you should go
through them and make sure none of them are counterintuitive.

If youre like me and have taken a keen personal interest in training you might find this
section easier, but if you havent you may need to spend a good deal of time slogging
through chapter 14 and 17.

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Fundamental Rules
So lets start with a small set of rules that should almost always be followed:

Rule #1 Neutral spine. All of your discs are neatly stacked with as equal pressure applied
to each side of your vertebral discs as possible. This makes a lot of sense your muscular
control stems from this cord, protect it at all costs. Exercises that target the core muscles in
non-isometric muscle action are the exception here (e.g. partial curl-up).

Rule #2 Your head leads and your body follows. Dont do funky shit with your head, keep
it neutral when possible and during movements that require changes in direction your head
should lead the rest of your body.

Rule #3 That which is loaded first, is loaded most. This is a concept from
mobilitywod.com, but in my experience it holds true for the questions on the exam

Rule #4 When spotting, err on the side of safety, and always spot near the weight. There
is no point in spotting on the elbows during dumbbell bench if their grip or pectoral muscles
are the ones that fail.

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There are a number of different ways to grasp the bar, you should know about these
because they can have different effects on muscle activation

Pronated / Overhand - Palms facing down or away from you

Supinated / Underhand Palms facing up or towards you

Neutral Grip - Halfway between the two, palms facing towards each other

Hook Grip - Instead of wrapping your thumb around and over your other fingers, you wrap
your fingers around your thumb. This allows you to pick up more weight than you may have
otherwise been able to.

Open / False Grip - Any grip in which you do not wrap the thumb around the bar, also
known as the suicide grip during the bench press

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Five-Point Body Contact Position

When performing exercises on a bench, with your back on the bench the NSCA book calls
out a specific stable position you should always maintain. Since this takes up the majority of
their section on stability and positioning, you should probably know it for the CSCS exam.

1. Head is placed firmly on the bench

2. Shoulders and upper back are firmly and evenly on the bench
3. Buttocks are evenly and firmly positioned
4. Left foot on the floor
5. Right foot on the floor

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Breathing & the Valsalva Maneuver

Holding your breath during an exercise has a fancy name, called the Valsalva Manuever.
The maneuver greatly increases the stability of your trunk by increasing the pressure in your
abdomen, which stabilizes your entire upper body by creating a rigid, fluid filled ball if you
will of high pressure. Think of it like any normal ball, when its filled to the max its more
stable that is, you could stand on it easier or do anything off it easier with more stability. If
its not full, its less stable.

This doesnt come without drawbacks, as holding your breath through a sticking point in a
heavy exercise will increase your blood pressure. The NSCA recommends only holding
your breath for 1-2 seconds so as to minimize the negative effects.

Weight Belts
Short version: they help make your valsalva maneuver more effective; they get the ball
more rigid. However using the belt also removes the opportunity to train the core
simultaneously during the exercises you use it on.

This section I found a little excessive, but nonetheless it is a necessary one to know. Im
going to try and break this section down into a few salient points:

Always spot closer to the weight on dumbbell exercises

Dont spot power movements
Use more spotters for heavier loads

For complex heavy movements the spotters should be at least as strong and experienced
as the athlete.

Resistance Training Exercises

The NSCA book contains an extensive section going over a variety of exercises. There is a
great online resource for this: exrx.net.

Theres a huge amount of detail, including a muscle map and an exercise and muscle
directory. If you need to know what muscles an exercise uses, or what exercises to use to
grow a certain muscle, exrx.net is a fantastic resource.

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The Five Phases of Sprinting

Figure 43 - The five phases of sprinting, adapted from Schmolinsky

A blog reader asked a great question regarding the five phases of sprinting, so I answered
his question on the blog. Some of the key diagrams are animated, so please visit the post
on my website: Reader Question: Late Support Phase of Sprinting

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Program Design
Program Design Chapter Contribution


Section Contribution







1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Book Chapter

Figure 44 - Program design section chapter emphasis

A Few Things Before We Start

Program design is the culmination and application of all previous knowledge obtained in
your pursuit of the CSCS. To answer these questions reliably, you need to know just about
everything else. To answer a question about designing a program for an athlete, and given
stats about the athlete, you could only answer if you were familiar with the tests used to
evaluate that athlete (chapters 11 & 12). To know which exercises to assign, you need to be
familiar with which exercises strengthen which muscle groups of the body (13, 14, 15).
Finally, to design an effective program you need knowledge of the science of adaptation,
and the cycles that give the appropriate rest, work, intensity, and volume to facilitate those

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The Seven Steps of Program Design

Step1 Needs Analysis
While every step in designing a program is crucial, a thorough needs analysis is arguably
the most important step as it informs all following steps. This step can really be broken into
two parts: evaluation of the sport, and assessment of the athlete. This is a fancy way of
saying who are you, and what are you trying to do?

Lets jump right in and cover step 1, the Needs Analysis. The needs analysis has two
components: evaluation of the sport, and assessment of the athlete. A needs analysis is in
many ways just like asking the athlete who are you, what are you trying to do?

Evaluating the Sport

What is your athlete? An offensive lineman, a cross country runner, a basketball point
guard, a center, a shot putter? All of these have different movement patterns and probably
different priorities in terms of what to train for strength, hypertrophy, or endurance. Its
important that your evaluation of the sport covers these three attributes of the sport:

Movement Analysis (body and limb movement patterns and muscular involvement)
Physiological Analysis (strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance priorities)
Injury Analysis (common injuries and causative factors)

Say your athlete is a basketball center. A movement analysis will reveal a lot of jumping
(power), running, blocking, and rebounding. The primary goal here would be strength &
power. The training program you design for this athlete would be markedly different than if
you designed it for a marathon runner.

Assessment of the Athlete

The CSCS needs to profile the athletes needs and goals by evaluating training and injury
status, conducting a variety of tests, and determining the primary goal for training. To do
this, you want to gather information on their current training status and history, evaluate
their physical fitness through testing and evaluation, and set a goal.

Training Status
An athletes training status is their current level of physical preparedness, and is an
important consideration when designing a new program. You cant figure out what to do
next unless you know where youre at right? Pretty common sense here.

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Some good things to know would be the type of training done previously, whether sprint
training, plyometric, resistance, etc. The level of intensity of the program, and the level of
technique required to perform the exercises, and how regularly such training programs were

Physical Evaluation
Everybody comes from a different background, and in different shapes and sizes, with
different capabilities. Strength, flexibility, power, speed, muscular endurance, body
composition, cardiovascular endurance are a few attributes to consider.

Setting a Primary Resistance Training Goal

Last step to all this is setting a goal for the resistance training. Is the athlete a football
lineman during the off-season or a cross-country runner in the middle of active season?
These two scenarios would benefit from two very different resistance training programs, and
its up to YOU to know the difference.

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Step 2: Exercise Selection

Choosing the correct exercise is critical in designing an effective resistance training routine.
This is due to the SAID principle, or specific adaptation to imposed demands. This principle
states that the more similar a movement or exercise is to the sport, the greater the
likelihood that there will be a positive effect on the sport. Refer to table 15.3 in the NSCA
book to get an idea of which movements transfer to which sport specific activities.

Core and Assistance Exercises

Exercises are prioritized as either core or assistance. Core exercises recruit one or more
large muscle areas (chest, shoulder, back, hip, or thigh), involve two or more primary joints,
and should receive priority over all assistance exercises because they are more applicable
to the sport. Rarely do sport movements involve a single joint movement and the
recruitment of a single muscle, so this makes sense. Assistance exercises can be very
useful for the specific injury and rehabilitation of sport-specific injuries, so keep that in mind.

Structural and Power Exercises

Within core exercises (see above), you can further define exercises as structural and even
further as power exercises. Thus a power exercise is both structural, and core. A structural
exercise is a core exercise, but not necessarily a power exerciseand a core exercise is
not necessarily a structural or power exercise.

Figure 45 - Venn diagram of core, structural, and power exercises

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Muscle Balance
Muscular balance is important for injury prevention, so do not design a program that
focuses too much on a single muscle. Dont be a curl monkey, and dont train athletes to be
curl monkeys. If you train a muscle, train the antagonist muscle as well. Quads/hamstrings,
biceps/triceps are two common examples.

Technique, Equipment, and Time

These concepts are covered in the book but are fairly common sense and can be
condensed into a listor even three words. Supervise, Improvise, and Prioritize.

Make sure your athlete executes an exercise correctly, even if it is a basic

movement. In a word, supervise.
If you dont have the correct equipment or loads, substitute in similar exercises that
have similar muscle group activation or require less load. In a word, improvise.
Some exercises take longer than others, and some athletes have less time available
than others. Take note, and prioritize.

Supervise, Improvise, & Prioritize!

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Step 3: Training Frequency

Deciding how many times an athlete should train is a fairly common sense endeavor. First
consider what their current physical activity is like, how often they practice their sport, and
what their goals are. Consider these factors:

Training Status
Sport Season
Estimated exercise loads
Types of exercise
Other concurrent activities

Most of this is common sense, but the NSCA establishes some general guidelines to work

Training status Beginner Intermediate Advanced

Sessions per week 2-3 3-4 4-7

Also spacing is a consideration, and againmore common sense here. Space training
sessions evenly so that training status never declines. Two sessions should be spaced M-
Th, or T-F, so that never more than 3 days of inactivity occurs.

Split routines are common for highly trained athletes. This allows more training sessions per
week by focusing days on specific muscle groups. For example, M&Th are upper body
days, T&F lower body days, giving two days rest for each muscle group but training a total
of four days.

Sport Season
Some consideration must be made for game day. If you are programming for a football
player you would not incorporate a heavy squat day the day before a game or even the
day after a game. You dont want the training to interfere with game day, nor the game day
activity to interfere with training.

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Here are the NSCAs guidelines for training sessions by sport season:

Sport Season Sessions Per Week

Off-season 4-6
Preseason 3-4
In-season 1-3
Postseason (active rest) 0-3

Other Considerations
Max effort exercises have been shown to take longer to recover from, which is why
competitive power-lifters will only max out squats or deadlifts once per week. There is some
evidence that alternating heavy and light days improves recovery.

And finally, more common sense: If the athlete has other activities, whether training or job
related, these must also be considered and training adjusted appropriately.

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Step 4: Exercise Order

Exercise order refers to both the order during a single workout session, and the order on a
day to day basis. Lets say you want to program the athlete to complete 3 sets of 10 squats.
You would not precede this exercise with multiple sets of leg extensions, leg curls, and calf-
raises. This would fatigue many of the support muscles involved in the squat, and diminish
its effectiveness. Since the squat is a superior exercise in every way from the other
exercises mentioned (muscular recruitment, hormonal response, strength & hypertrophy)
diminishing its effectiveness might not align with the goals of the program. However, there
are some situations where you would intentionally pre-fatigue a muscle group before going
into a full body exercise, but lets ignore those for now. In general, exercise order should go:

1. Power (snatch, hang clean, power clean, push jerk, etc)

2. Core (squat, deadlift, press, bench press, etc)
3. Assistance Exercises (curl, leg extension, etc)

Here are some commonly used methods to segregate training:

Upper / Lower Split

If an athlete finds completing multiple lower body exercises in a single session too
strenuous, training can be arranged so that exercises are alternated between upper and
lower body. This allows for adequate rest for each muscle group.

Push / Pull Alternating

This simply involves alternating pushing exercises (bench press, press, squat) with pulling
exercises (pull up, deadlift, lat pulldown). Typically different muscle groups are used for
either action, so by alternating these you avoid fatiguing an individual muscle too much.

Supersets / Compound Sets

Supersets, i.e. not resting between sets, are commonly performed with two exercises that
use stress-opposing muscle groups, e.g. biceps curl and triceps extension. A compound set
is when the exercises stress the same muscle group.

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Step 5: Training Load and Repetitions

Load is a fancy word for weight and is the most important aspect of program design.
What makes it the most important? Because it drives how many repetitions can be
performed, which drives how many sets can be performed and also drives hormonal

Work as we learned previously in the physics chapter, is a force applied over a distance.
However in the context of weight training this can sometimes be a difficult concept to
measure, so other terms are used to be descriptive about a workout namely load-volume
and repetition-volume.

Load volume
Load volume is essentially a rudimentary calculation of work. Take the weight used, the
distance it was moved, multiplied by the number of repetitions. For example a 100kg
deadlift where the weight is moved 1 meter for 15 reps would be 1500 work units. If the
weight was moved 2 meters it would be 3000 work units, and so on. (100kg x 2m x 15 =

Repetition volume
To simplify things even further, repetition volume removes the distance component. For the
deadlift example above, both would calculate as 1500 work units (100kg x 15reps = 1500
work units). You lose some information about how much was done, but kept in context of
the athlete it can still provide valuable information.

So if you keep track of these statistics, you could quickly glean an idea of how intense a
workout was. How many reps were performed, roughly how much weight, etc

For example, an athlete completes the following:

Back Squat 505, 755, 1003, 1003, 1003, 1003, 1003

Load volume (LV) = 250 + 375 + 300 + 300 + 300 + 300 + 300 = 2125
Rep volume (RV) = 5 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 25
Average load lifted = LV / RV = 2125 / 25 = 85

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Estimating 1RM
In step 5, a good deal of calculation will rely on you knowing the athletes 1RM. Instead of
testing a 1RM, you can estimate it by referring to a table that is included in the NSCA book.
However, on test day you wont have access to that book so it behooves you to memorize
the table. Of course we know memorization is a pain in the ass, so I came up with a good
way of memorizing the table.

Take the following sequence of numbers:


Read those numbers out loud, slowly. Think about them for a minute. The first three
numbers are doubles of the previous.


The first 6 numbers besides the first are all even and increment by two


And 11 just doesnt fit in anywhere. Why does it only jump a single repetition from 10 to 11,
but jumps four for the next? It doesnt make much sense, but part of it does. You can use
the quirky sequence that makes sense for part of it, but no sense for the last part to
memorize it easily.

Now look at them again, then close your eyes and repeat them.


Did you repeat them correctly? If you didnt, write them down and spend some time
memorizing these numbers before you move on to the next exercise.

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Recreating the table

This next exercise is fairly simple, but very important. Take that number sequence you just
learned and fill out the left hand column of the table below with those numbers.

Now that youve done that, fill in the right hand column with the top number starting at 100,
and subtract 5 for each successive column 100, 95, 90, 85, 80, 75, 70, 65. Your table
should look like this:

1 100
2 95
4 90
6 85
8 80
10 75
11 70
15 65

This is how you will recreate the table come exam day. You may be wondering what to do if
you need to be able to calculate 1RM based on a 12RM have no fear, just estimate. A
3RM is somewhere between 95 and 90, just guess 92.5 and you will be really close. Same
goes for all the other numbers. The exam is not going to nitpick you for being off by 0.5
percent so you can rest assured that this method will get you good results come exam day.

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Step 6: Volume
Volume, as we mentioned in Step 5, is simply the number of repetitions performed. A set is
a group of reps performed without rest. If an athlete is instructed to do 2 sets of 10 (often
written as 210) they would perform 10 reps, rest the specified amount of time, and perform
another 10 reps - pretty basic stuff.

Multiple Sets, or a Single Set to Failure?

Much debate has encircled the idea of doing a single set to failure, or multiple sets. Studies
have shown 62, 36, and 310 all increasing strength with no significant difference in
strength gains between repetition schemes. These studies all
involved untrained individuals. Again, context is keyknow the athletes training status.
The lesson here is: For a beginner, anything works

Strength for Trained Athletes

If the goal is strength the repetition scheme should involve sets of 3-6 reps. This maximizes
strength potential and maintains the quality of the movement performed, especially with
power exercises like the clean and snatch.

It is generally accepted that higher volume leads to larger muscle size. No substantial
amount of studies have been done on this topic, however interviews with elite bodybuilders
suggest that performing three or more exercises per muscle group is the most effective
strategy for increasing muscle size.

If you are training a football lineman, both strength and size are important as the athlete
needs both power and size as he will be colliding with other players. Train with sets in the 8-
12 rep range, to simplify go with sets of 10 reps.

If you are training a basketball player, strength is important. Sets of 3-6 on the power
exercises and 10 on assistance.

A cross country runner is training for muscular endurance, 12-15+ reps would be

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Step 7: Rest Periods

Rest period, or as some people awkwardly call it inter-set rest is the amount of time you
rest in-between sets. The NSCA has guidelines that are based on a set of studies
examining the effect of rest periods on three different aspects of strength training:

1. Strength and Power

2. Hypertrophy
3. Muscular Endurance

Rest Periods for Strength and Power

While training status does effect an athletes ability to train with less rest, performing
structural exercises with near maximal load requires long rest periods. Studies have shown
that 3 minutes of rest were better than 30 seconds of rest for strength gains in the back
squat. Guidelines for strength and power: at least 2 minutes, or a range of 2-5min

Rest Periods for Hypertrophy

Although the NSCA book doesnt reference any studies, if you look at any body building
program (aka hypertrophy) the rest periods are short. When the goals are growth, and not
strength (remember strength is both neurological and physiological) shorter rest periods
fatigue the muscle groups more and are generally accepted as being better for growth.
Guidelines for hypertrophy: 30-90 seconds

Rest Periods for Muscular Endurance

Endurance programs are typically designed with light loads lifted for many repetitions. Since
the load is lighter, and the program is designed for endurance, the idea of sport specificity
comes into play here (ie make the strength program mimic the demands of the sport).
Guidelines for endurance: 20-30 seconds

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Cycles and Periodization

The concepts discussed in the next few sections are really just an expansion and
application of what youve already learned in program design. Take what youve learned
there and apply it in the context of the General Adaptation Syndrome.

General Adaptation Syndrome

The GAS is founded on the idea that any sort of training stimulus brings about a brief period
where performance is decreased (due to soreness or fatigue for example) followed by an
increase in performance that exceeds previous performance. This is standard strength
training knowledge and the basis for progressive overload.

However the final piece that makes periodization necessary is fatigue. In reality the GAS is
just a specific description of the general concept of stress in biology. Apply a stressor
(training) in a specific dose and you get a good response. Apply it in too high a dose or for
too long and you get a negative response.

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Figure 46 - General Adaptation Syndrome - Creative Commons

Periodization is essentially the optimization of scheduling, volumes, loads, and recovery to
produce maximum performance during the time it matters most competition. Take what
you just learned about the GAS, plus the athletes schedule, training status, demands of the
sport then design an appropriate program given that knowledge and cycle it to peak at
competition. Thats it.

Macro Meso and Micro cycles

A lot of very skilled coaches realized a long time ago that adaptation occurs on many levels
and many other aspects of individuals mental and physical well-being can come into play.
Thats why periodization involves cycles within cycles. Short cycles of a few weeks or 4-16
workouts to target a specific area of improvement, longer cycles to provide variety and
stress different areas or muscle groups, and finally very long cycles that incorporate

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competition scheduling and time to de-load and de-stress. These three cycles are,
respectively the Microcycle, Mesocycle, and Macrocycle.

Example Cycle
Say that your microcycles were 5 weeks long, mesocycles consisted of 3 microcycles, and
your macrocycle was an entire year leading up to a competition in October. In this case your
schedule might look like this:

Figure 47 - Macro, Meso, and Microcycles as they might relate to a calendar year

Keep in mind that this could look very different depending on the sport and schedule of

Training Phases
There are more details regarding this in the book review this section in the book and
please contact me if you have any questions. I couldnt find any material interesting enough
to cover here.

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Organization and Administration

Organization and Administration Chapters


Axis Title




1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Axis Title

Figure 48 - Organization and Administration section chapter emphasis

Good luck with this chapter. I say that because I have no great advice herethe chapter is
boring and uninteresting. Put your head down, memorize some aspects of facility design
and specs, and move on.

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Facility Specifications
In my experience, people usually fall somewhere on a continuum when it comes to learning.
You either hammer through facts with repetition and memorization, or you are a conceptual
learner. This is an oversimplification, and there are exceptionsbut lets continue anyways.
The conceptual person learns through understanding the fundamental principles of the
topic, and through this understanding can reconstruct details of the topic. The memorizer
commits every possible detail and piece to memory, and with it they construct the
fundamental principles. Think of the topic like a puzzle. One person knows the picture that
the puzzle should be, and the other has memorized where each individual piece should go.
Im a conceptual learner, and as a result I hate it when topics dont have a cohesive
picture. It makes it tough for me to stay focused when a topic like this one comes
around. Facility Organization and Risk Management is A chapter with a lot of details.
The kind of details that, well, that belong in a book. Not in your head. They are the kind of
details that, when the situation arises you go find the book and look the detail up. So
commit these to memory for the test, and when it comes time for you to actually use them in
real life you can look it up. Without further ado, here is a long list of inane details:

Minimum width for doors in a S&C facility is 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs

Hallways and circulation passages must have a width of at least 60inches
All threshold should be flush
Facility should have double doors to allow passage of large equipment
Exits should be clearly visible and provide essential signage to the visually impaired
Emergency exits must remain free of obstruction
Ceilings should have 12-14 feet of clearance
Flooring should be carpet or rubberized flooring. Rubberized is better. Poured rubber
is extremely durable but expensive. Wood is best for olympic platforms.

I cant even bring myself to complete this list, its just too boring. I have nothing more to add,
no trick or different way of thinking about this chapter. Just put your head down, read it, and
hope there arent too many questions about it on the testbecause that will be my strategy.

Its no coincidence that it has been a while since my last post. I really disliked this chapter.

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Testing and Evaluation

Testing and Evaluation


Axis Title





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Axis Title

Figure 49 - Testing and Evaluation section chapter emphasis

This is the last section, but do not underestimate how important it is. Some questions are
multi-faceted, and require you to know practical & applied stuff, Program Design, and
Testing & Evaluation. While these chapters are rather picture and diagram heavy, do not let
that fool you into thinking they are any less important.

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Memorization of the Mean

When you take the practice exams, you may encounter questions that look a lot like this:

A 22 y/o college football running back is currently training for the NFL combine. Before
designing a program for him, you run some tests on his 1RM and speed & power. The
results are:

Bench Press 1RM 205lb

Squat 1RM 365lb
Power Clean 255

Based on these tests, what should the new program emphasize?

A. Speed & Power

B. Upper body maximal strength
C. Lower body maximal strength
D. A & B

There are a ton of these types of questions on the exam. You have to spend time
memorizing typical values for these tests, and these tests are the easy ones to memorize
because most people are familiar with these movements.

What if I told you that the athlete performed these tests?

Margaria-Kalamen power test

Hexagon test

Would you be able to make the correct program recommendations?

The trick with these questions is in identifying the athletes weakness. To be able to do
this, you have to have a good idea of what constitutes a good score on all the tests in the
question. The answer to that question lies in the interpretation of a table in the book,
specifically memorizing the mean value of any particular test for a given population. Here
is my hand-drawn table, a duplicate of the values in the book. I hand-drew it out to help
memorize, but that really isnt necessary you will only need to memorize one number per
population vs. test data set.

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Figure 50 - Percentile values table for high school football players

Looking at these values, you can surmise that our athlete in question is around the 40 th
percentile for bench, 60th percentile for squat, and 90th+ percentile for power clean. So the
recommendation becomes obvious, he needs to train his upper body maximal strength.

But during the test you wont have these tables handy. So lets perform a little thought
experiment, lets say you only memorized three things: Bench-220, Squat-340, Power

And you went into this question remembering these numbers. Compare them to the stats
from the question:

You Memorized: Bench-220, Squat-340, Power Clean-210

Test Question: Bench-205, Squat-365, Power Clean-255

You would notice that only one number from the question was lower than the number you
memorized, the Bench Press. From that you would recommend B. Upper body maximal

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So how did I pick these numbers? (Bench-220, Squat-340, Power Clean-210). If you go
back to the table youll see that these numbers sit right around the 50 th percentile, but are
typically rounded. I round them to make them easy to remember, and because the actual
specific number isnt importantwhats important is that you have an idea of what an
average or good score is on the test, so you can make a recommendation. The NSCA
isnt going to pick a number 1lb above or below the average, they are going to make it pretty
obvious where the weakness is. So dont sweat the details of each table, get a good solid
feel for what constitutes a decent score on a test for a given athlete population.

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Statistics Review
In statistics there is a very important statistical pattern called the Gaussian distribution.
Pretty much everything that is random follows this pattern, and its the same bell curve that
teachers use when determining your grades. A Gaussian distribution can be modified in
shape, centered about different numbers and thus be used to describe a whole bunch of
really cool things.

Take the table from earlier, this is a Gaussian distribution that describes that table.

Figure 51 - Gaussian distribution of figure 50

Think of it as a description of likelihood. If you picked a random 16-18y/o football athlete the
chances are pretty good he will land near a 348lb squatbut a 600lb squat becomes
extremely unlikely.

That funny looking sideways b, or sigma is the standard deviation. This number tells you
how narrow the distribution is about the mean. A good rule of thumb is that 3 standard
deviations from the mean accounts for nearly all possible outcomes (97% or more). You can
illustrate this pretty well be taking a 348lb squat and adding 88 to it three times, and you get
348+88+88+88 = 612. Finding a high school football athlete with a 612lb squat would
definitely be north of the 97th percentile.

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Now, why is this in any way useful to you? Well, because every single test and evaluation
created by the NSCA or described in the book would follow a pattern like this. There will be
an average, and a standard deviation. Thus, memorizing the mean value is a valid
studying strategy for answering these types of questions. You dont have to memorize
the standard deviation either. Looking at it would give you an idea of how closely packed
together scores would be, but you can also just look at scores to get an idea.

Anyways, I dont think theres any more reason to belabor this point: Memorize the Mean.
Also the book briefly discusses statistics on pages 271 & 272, so review those pages.

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Conclusion and Final Thoughts

The most important thing when it comes to completing any task is not giving up, this is
especially true for what can be a long process in preparing for the CSCS exam. Second to
that I would put honesty being honest with yourself on what you actually understand
versus what you are hoping to guess correctly on come exam day. If you dont know what I
mean by this, Ive written more extensively about it on my blog here.

This book was a monumental effort on my part, and I hope it was useful to you. If there are
any and I mean ANY topics that you are having trouble grasping or memorizing please
contact me at julian@cscsexamguide.com. I would love to hear any suggestions you have
for additional topics to be covered, as well as any criticisms you have of my work.

In Strength,

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