Fitness Personal Trainer Certification – which one?

Personal Trainer Certifications

I have one of the best professions in the world – I help others change and improve their lives as a fitness personal trainer, teacher, lecturer and consultant here in Singapore. If you love fitness and want to pursue a job like this – you’d want to first get yourself certified by a reputable academic institution – one that provides you with the education that covers all aspect of fitness and wellness. These courses usually take 3 to 6 months to complete, and there are both theory and practical exams.

Being in the fitness industry here in Singapore since 1998, I’ve been approached by many younger ‘trainers’ asking me how to get more trainers – my answer to them is (1) Education and (2) Results from your current clients.

While having a Basic Exercise Course certificate is good – it is not enough. You’re on the right track, but please continue with the next certification. You’ll need to learn more in order to prescribe exercise to the different populations here. Breadth and depth – learn as many areas that’s related to fitness (general, biomechanics, motor skills, exercise phsysiology, exercise psychology, theories and practice of fitness coaching / instructions, etc)  and learn deep enough. Learning how to do 100 types of crunches is not enough.

First, get yourself CPR and AED certified.

Here are some that you can *start* with, if you’re on a tight budget.


Singapore Sports Council

In addition to the certificate in fitness, I strongly recommend that you take up the NCAP courses – they teach you pedagogy and coaching skills that you can employ when you meet the different types of clients.

Diploma and Degrees

ITEs and polytechnics have sports and fitness related courses. Google it and find the one that you like to pursue.

I personally like the one that is offered by Nanyang Technological University, National Institute of Education. You’ll need to sign a bond of 3 or 4  years with the Ministry of Education as a Physical Education Teacher though. They not also teach you all things fitness, you’ll also learn pedagogy and sports (lots of them).

Nanyang Technological University

Initial Teacher Training Programme (with Bond)

Higher Degree By Coursework with Dissertation OR By Coursework only (part-time) (with

New courses by NTU (No Bond)

Overseas certifications

In order to be an expert, you’ll need to be a specialist – save some money and invest in these certifications overseas. My suggestion is to aim to take one certification every two or three years.

My top choices for US based fitness education providers.

ACSM – American College Of Sports Medicine
(Founded in 1954, ACSM’s members’ diversity and expertise makes it the largest, most respected sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world – their exams are also known to be very difficult)

  • ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
  • ACSM Health and Fitness Instructor (You’ll need a degree to sit for this)
  • ACSM Exercise Specialist
  • ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist

NSCA – National Strength And Conditioning Association

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)

NASM – National Academy Of Sports Medicine

  • Performance Enhancement Specialist

ACE – American Council On Exercise

  • Group Fitness Instructor Certification
  • Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant Certification
  • Clinical Exercise Specialist Certification
  • Specialty Certification – Peer Fitness Trainer Certification Program

Other US fitness education providers

ISSA – International Sports Science Association

  • Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT)

CI – Cooper Institute

NCSF – National Council On Strength And Fitness

NFPT – National Federation Of Personal Trainers

There you have it. So many to choose from – the key is to choose your certifications correctly. Choose one that makes you an expert. There are other degrees offered here in Singapore via distance learning – such as those from ECU and Blackburn Uni – check them out and do some research before committing. Be careful though – there are some other ‘certifications’ online that’s US$49.90 – these certifications require you to do a mini survey and within minutes, you’ll get your certificate! What a joke.

True fitness professionals who serve their clients well spend years upgrading themselves cognitively. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

Join me :)

Yours in health and fitness,



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Sharm (Hisham Musa) is a fitness consultant in Singapore to many high profile clients since 1998. He is equipped with a Master of Science (Exercise and Sports Studies) degree from Nanyang Technological University, (NTU) with 7 distinctions. He also has a Bachelor’s degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Postgraduate in Physical Education and Sports Science from NTU. Armed with international certifications, memberships and affiliations with the American College of Sports Medicine & National Academy of Sports Medicine, he stays current with the latest in the fitness and nutrition industry. He is NCAP 3* certified and is undergoing TRX Master Trainer development. His expertise have been featured in ChannelNewsAsia’s documentary – Vanity the Slim Society, Ch5 & Ch8 Lose To Win Reality TV, The Straits Times, & The Sunday Times. Magazines: Shape, Timeout, Women’s Weekly (Panel of Experts), The Finder, Her World. He is the owner of – the most creative fun group fitness workouts that has more than 500 individual signups in 5 months, with clients losing 10kgs of FAT in 3 months. Sharm shares how you can lose weight and get fit fast at

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