Fitness Articles

KISS: A Beginner’s Guide to Fitness

Gym Beginners
Gym Beginners

KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. When you’re new to lifting, things can seem overwhelming. Here are three basic principles critical to success and without any fluff.

If you’re just getting going in the iron-game, it can be really hard to know where to start, who to trust, and what to do when it comes both exercise and dietary advice.  There are literally 10s of thousands of businesses and self proclaimed “experts” all trying to convince you that their products are the best, or that they’ve uncovered secret exercise methodologies that you NEED in order to get results.   Thankfully, there also some resources out here like Fitness Informant that are actually here to HELP, rather than sell you a bunch of bullshit and hype you don’t really need.   And never mind confuse you in the process.

Yes, there have been advances in supplement design over the years. And yeah, as time passes there are more and more training systems to seemingly to choose from, often with guys who weigh 300lbs and are three-percent body-fat promising you if you just listen to them—you’ll look like them in short order.  Sound too good to be true? Probably is.

But here’s a little secret that won’t make anyone any money but can most definitely help you find results:  what’s always worked—still works and there are a few basic things we all need to account for.   Before you worry too much about having the latest and great pre-workout, or the right colored blood-flow-restriction-training straps to match your new fancy flat-bottomed lifting shoes and tights—here are three things to make sure you’ve got a handle on first.

Make Nutrition a Priority

By definition, a supplement is supplementing something else—that’s why it is in-fact– called a “supplement” and not a “solution.”    They can be fun to buy and talk about, I get it.  But before you worry about whether you should buy the chocolate or vanilla flavored protein powder, the whey or the casein,—have an honest conversation with yourself about your regular food intake first.   Are you eating a diet rich in high quality whole foods?  Quality proteins and starch are critical for putting on any appreciable muscle mass—and getting these things in the right amounts is important as well. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I eat a lot but I don’t gain any weight” I’d be rich. Busllshit.  Newsflash—you’re not defying the first law of thermodynamics.   So, if you are “eating a lot” but not gaining weight—you aren’t eating enough, it IS that simple.   (Same applies incidentally if your goal is weight loss—if that scale isn’t going down, you’re consuming too much relative to what you’re burning—end of story. It’s not because you’re missing some fat burner.)

One thing the gym-going crowd often seems to forget about is vegetables.  While not as sexy as that big cut of red meat—vegetables are critical for too many reasons to list.  They keep you running optimally and provide loads of micro-nutrition that we all need to function at our best.    And that’s before we even look at things like the positive effect of the fiber they provide on gut-health.

Just like workouts, consistent nutrition is important and a fundamental building block of anyone who is going to have success in the gym.   If your diet is inconsistent, or built around fast or convenience foods, or your more worried about your pre-workout consumption than your vegetable consumption—it’s time to get honest with yourself and make some changes.  Supplements can certainly help, but its critical to understand this starts with real food first.

Do The Work Gym

Be Willing to do the Work

There is no supplement or work around for attitude and work ethic.   When it comes to building muscle in the gym, what you’re willing to do and the time you’re willing to put in will trump almost everything else–save perhaps diet.  Look, I like going to the gym most of the time, but I have days where I feel tired, have a work or family thing going on, or something else pops up.  But I go those days to, because you know what? Consistency can NOT be over stated. If you only go the gym when the stars align, and everything is perfect—I hate to be the one to tell you– but you’re not likely to experience much in the way of results.   Don’t tell yourself you’re too busy because you likely aren’t–and the first time you tell yourself that, it’s that much easier to use the same excuse next time.  Priorities get done, don’t over complicate it.

If getting to the gym is step one, step two is doing shit that matters when you get there.  That means doing what needs to be done instead of just doing what you like. Don’t be the idiot doing curls in the squat rack, especially when your best 1RM on a squat is 85lbs.  Are you willing to get under a weight that might make you a little nervous from time to time?  Are you willing to try and bang out one more rep when your legs feel like they’re on fire? Are you willing to push outside your comfort zone?? Because you know grows in the comfort zone?  Body fat, not muscle.

You know what makes me want to slap people?  And guys—this is way more common with us than the ladies… “Well, uh, I don’t really do leg day because my legs get plenty of work through my cycling. “  Or skiing. Or whatever.  Really dude??! Translation:  legs are hard and I don’t like to put that mean heavy bar on my back, cause it hurts me!!  So I make shit up to convince myself this is ok.”    Or leg day is all leg-presses and seated-knee extensions.  Look, if you’ve got an injury, or are further down the road in your training life—there certainly can be a place in a program for both leg-pressing and knee-extensions. The latter is a great quad-isolation move that body builders have used for years.   But—odds are, that isn’t you.  If you’re doing leg-presses and calf-raises for leg day because “squatting is hard” and you don’t like it?  Well– time for a reality check.   Axial loading (like a barbell back squat) will make your whole body stronger, and the hormonal response will benefit your whole body, not just your legs.  Don’t short change yourself.

Show up, show up consistency and work hard.  There is no way around this, and this brings me to my final point.

Squats are Key

Get Really Good at the Basis

In their book, “New Rules for Liftings” Schuler and Cosgrove take the approach that human body is capable of producing six foundational level movements:  pressing, pulling, squatting, hinge, lunge and rotation.  I’ve trained hundreds of people and I really like this way of thinking initially because it keeps things relatively simple conceptually when people are new.

When you are starting out, get really, really good at these basic movements and make progress with them before you worry about more advanced programing and modalities.  It blows my mind when I walk through most gyms at what I see.   Take the bench press, “how much ya bench bro?”   You’ll see guys who have elbows flared at 90 degrees to their shoulder instead of tucked.  Zero upper-back tightness or arch, and when they struggle to press that sucker up?? You get that one leg coming off the floor and flailing around in space like Dido’s white flag of surrender.  If you can push any real weight, you already know total body tightness is key (as it is on every lift) and leg drive can help you press a big weight.   Same is true with a good squat—there is a lot more going on there than simply throwing the bar on your back and releasing the brakes and letting gravity take over.  Understand this stuff—and then work to master it.   Even at 25 years into this stuff, I am constantly trying to set my shoulders tighter and always working on my set up—and I’m still able to make incremental improvements.   It might not seem as exciting as trying that new pump-arm workout you saw on the cover of Suns-Out Guns-Out Magazine, but you’re laying down a foundation for long term success.

If you can’t bench, squat and dead your own body weight (and hopefully then some) don’t spend tons of time on things like direct arm work, worrying about your quad sweep or spend hours trying to bring up your rear delts.  Nothing will build total body strength like heavy compound movements, and the best tools in any gym and those barbells and dumbbells-get to know them.

About The Author

Chris Bremner, NSAM CPT is a Level 1 Resistance Training Specialist (RTS) and a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, while holding numerous certifications from NSAM. Chris has been around gyms since he was 13 years of age. Chris currently runs his own personal training business (Trend Healthy) and is the head trainer at one of the nation’s largest privately owned companies.

Chris is passionate about helping others achieve the best versions of themselves through better health and fitness. To date, Chris has helped trained hundreds of people and have helped them reach their goals over the years.

TUDCA: The Ultimate Liver Health Supplement

TUDCA Liver Supplement
TUDCA Liver Supplement

All too often in this “industry” we focus on external appearance versus the more important aspect of our health, our internal organs. We are willing to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on supplement stacks that target our workouts: pre-workout, protein, amino acids. But when it comes down to our internal organs, we neglect them. Completely. There is a name for people who only care about external appearance: bros. Here’s a tip kids, don’t be a bro. Take care of your internal organs, especially your liver.

The Liver

The liver is the largest solid organ in the human body. It is also the largest gland in the human body. The liver has many major functions, most of them extend from the liver’s main function: bile production. Bile production is responsible for so many things including metabolization of fats and proteins. Failure to produce enough bile is a condition known as Cholestasis.


Cholestasis is the medical diagnosis for a disorder of the liver causing a stoppage or block in bile production. While bile production is stopped, the pigment bilirubin escapes into the bloodstream and accumulates.

In a healthy liver, bilirubin joins with the bile in the liver and moves through the digestive tract. Bilirubin is extracted from the body through the stool or urine.

In an unhealthy liver, suffering from cholestasis, bilirubin leads into the blood stream which can cause jaundice. You may have heard of jaundice in babies…this is exactly that. It can also lead intense itching and dark urine.

Causes of Cholestasis

Being a fitness centric website, we want to focus on two big causes of cholestasis: alcohol and steroid abuse.

First, alcoholics are prone to cholestasis due to alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic liver disease is a result of overconsuming alcohol that damages the liver, leading to a buildup of fats, inflammation, and scarring. If you’ve been to college, I am sure you have consumed your fair share amounts of alcohol. Yes, you may not have been diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease, but you sure as hell didn’t do yourself, or your liver, any favors. If you consume large amounts of alcohol, you should be concerned about your liver health.

Steroid abuse can also lead to cholestasis. What do we mean by abuse? Well really, if you are on any sort of steroid cycle, you should be concerned about your liver health. A liver supplement should always be taken while on a cycle, even if you think you’re not abusing. The fact is, more people do abuse steroids, taking large amounts in a short period of time. Developing cholestasis, and then jaundice from steroid use, can lead to severe pain, discomfort and weight-loss…seems counter intuitive for someone taking steroids.


Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, more commonly referred to as TUDCA, is a bile salt that is found naturally occurring in the body. TUDCA is a water-soluble bile salt, which is in contrast to regular bile salts possessing both water soluble and fat soluble ends and conferring a detergent effect. This is good for the bile salt’s biological purpose (emulsifying fats in the intestines to help with absorption) but when bile acids back up in the liver, a clinical state called cholestasis which occurs when the liver is unhealthy, these bile salts can be damaging to cells by destroying the membranes and signalling for cell death. TUDCA and other water soluble bile salts like UDCA compete with this toxicity and thus indirectly protect cells from death [source:].

Studies on TUDCA have shown it to prevent cholestasis. This is our go-to supplement for liver health. Even if you’re not on steroids, or you don’t consume alcohol, you should still take care of your liver health, and TUDCA is the ultimate source to do that.

On-top-of preventing cholestasis, TUDCA also has been shown to combat elevated liver enzymes. Those on anabolic steroids can suffer from elevated liver enzymes. This is another reason to take TUDCA for your liver health.

TUDCA is FDA-approved for treatment of liver diseases caused by lack of bile flow (cholestasis). A growing body of evidence is also supporting the use of TUDCA for diseases beyond the liver.

TUDCA Dosage

A study on TUDCA tested doses of 500 mg, 1000 mg, and 1,500 mg per day over six months, finding that there was little difference between the doses. It is recommended to consumer 500mg to 1,500mg per day. Use your brain here, if you’re on steroids or consume massive amounts of alcohol, lean towards the 1,500mg per day.

Where to buy TUDCA?

The biggest issue with TUDCA is sourcing. Most companies look to come out with a TUDCA supplement, but cannot source high quality TUDCA consistently (TUDCA can either come from bear bile or synthetically produced.) The highest quality TUDCA is sourced from live, wild bears. This makes it extremely difficult and, to some, taboo.

The one way to know you’re getting a high quality TUDCA supplement is to ask for a third-party test of their TUDCA product. We did just that with a company called Leviathan Nutrition. They had no problem sending us their third-party testing that shows they have high quality TUDCA.

The testing revealed that their TUDCA was 286.88mg our of 300mg TUDCA. That is 95.6% TUDCA. Honestly, this isn’t bad at all considering how tough this stuff is to source. The purity level was 95.99% pure.

Here’s the best part, it’s affordable. May TUDCA’s you find online are really expensive, but they also do not post their test results. Leviathan Nutrition offers affordable, quality TUDCA that you should take, especially if you’re on “gear” or drink a lot of alcohol.

TUDCA Results
TUDCA results

A Quick Guide To Fats – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A Quick Guide To Fats
A Quick Guide To Fats


The old-age opinion on fats are that they are bad, and you should avoid them at all costs. This is the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, fats provide a source of energy and help you build lean muscle. The trick is knowing which fats to consume and which ones to avoid.

Your daily intake of fats vary on your fitness goals and your overall activity levels. It can also depend on the type of foods you like to eat. If you generally like higher fat foods like bacon, your fat intake might be calculated more when determining your macros.

Are you always buying fat-free foods at the store? Think again. Fats are essential to a healthy life. The important part about fats is knowing which ones to consume and which ones to avoid. Fats play a big part in your cholesterol levels and prevention of certain illnesses. Let’s take a closer look at the different classifications of fats. Then we will provide you with a list of healthy sources of fats.

Saturated Fats

Goal: Limit

Foods that contain high amounts of Saturated Fats:

  • Red Meat
  • Seafood
  • Dairy

Saturated fats are to be consumed in moderation. Too many saturated fats can increase your total cholesterol and your LDL (bad cholesterol). This can cause you to develop a variety of illnesses and diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.


Goal: Limit

Foods that contain high amounts of Cholesterol:

  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Cholesterol contains HDL (High-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also known as the “good cholesterol” and LDL (Low-density lipoprotein), also known as the “bad cholesterol.” You want to limit your intake of LDLs, bad cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can cause you to develop high blood pressure and heart disease.



Unsaturated Fats

Goal: Increase

Foods that contain high amounts of Unsaturated Fats:

  • Olive Oil
  • Seafood
  • Nuts

Unsaturated fats contain three variations: Polyunsaturated, Monounsaturated and trans fats. The difference between Polyunsatured and Monounsaturated fats from trans fats are that trans fats are solid at room temperature, while the other two are not. You want to avoid trans fats, which we will talk about, but you want to increase your Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Goal: Increase

Foods that contain high amounts Polyunsaturated Fats:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish

Polyunsaturated fats also contain Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Polyunsaturated fats are healthy for you. Polyunsaturated Fats help lower your total cholesterol levels and reduce the bad cholesterol, LDLs. Omega-3s and Omega-6s will be discussed next in this guide.


Goal: Increase

Foods that contain high amounts of Omega-3s:

  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Walnuts

Omega-3s are extremely important to your overall health. They are an essential fatty acid. This means our body cannot produce them, so we must obtain them from food sources or supplements. Omega-3s help fight inflammation, help control blood clotting and lower blood pressure. A lot of dietary supplement companies sell Omega-3 supplement, most popular is fish oil capsules.

Omega 3 Oil


Goal: Maintain

Foods that contain high amounts Omega-6s:

  • Vegetable Oils

Omega-6s are necessary for our bodies since they are an essential fatty acid, just like Omega-3s. A healthy balance of Omega-6s help with growth and brain functions.

Monounsaturated Fats

Goal: Increase

Foods that contain high amounts Monounsaturated Fats:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Peanut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil

Monounsaturated Fats raise your body’s HDL levels and lower your LDL levels. If you recall from before, HDL is “good cholesterol” and LDL is “bad cholesterol.”

Trans Fats

Goal: Eliminate

Foods that contain high amounts Trans Fats:

  • Processed Foods
  • Fast Food
  • Deep Fried Foods

Trans fats increase total cholesterol and LDL while lowering HDL. Words to look for on labels include hydrogenated, par ally hydrogenated, or shortening.

We are all about a healthy balance, but we cannot say enough bad things about Trans Fats. We want you to avoid these at all costs. There is a common saying when it comes to healthy food consumption: shop the outside of the store. What does this mean? It means that typically the foods on the outsides of the grocery store are fresh and not processed. The foods you find in cans, bags and boxes typically are highly processed foods that contain Trans Fats.

Your best friend when it comes to understanding the fats you are consuming will be the nutritional label on the foods you eat. Take a minute to read over the ingredients. Although the total amount of fat a food item contains is important to your macros, you also want to look at what type of fats are making up that total amount of fat. A better understanding of fats will help improve your overall health.

The following is a list of foods that contain healthy fats that you can include in your macronutrient plan, along with their macronutrient profile.



Weight: 100g
Total Fat: 15g
Saturated: 2.1g
Ployunsaturated: 1.8g
Monounsaturated: 10g

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

1 Tablspoon
Total Fat: 14g
Saturated: 12g
Ployunsaturated: 0.2g
Monounsaturated: 0.8g

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon
Total Fat: 14g
Saturated: 1.9g
Ployunsaturated: 1.4g
Monounsaturated: 10g

Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon

Weight: 3oz
Total Fat: 6g
Saturated: 0.8g
Ployunsaturated: 1.3g
Monounsaturated: 1.2g

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Weight: 100g
Total Fat: 31g
Saturated: 3.3g
Ployunsaturated: 24g
Monounsaturated: 2.3g

Grilled Tuna

Grilled Tuna

Weight: 3oz
Total Fat: 5g
Saturated: 1.4g
Ployunsaturated: 1.6g
Monounsaturated: 1.7g

7 Ways Sleep Can Affect Bodybuilding

7 ways sleep affects bodybuilding
7 ways sleep affects bodybuilding

Packing on muscle is a process that demands consistency and attention-to-detail. Any bodybuilder should know that making those muscles pop is more than just putting in the hours at the gym. After you pump iron, consider achieving optimum sleep on a nightly basis because a lack of it does more damage than you might think.

Sleep Loss Affects Performance

Your body is a machine that functions smoothly when the circumstances are ideal. When you are lacking sleep, you won’t be able to exert maximum effort during your workouts because your body will be unfit for the task at hand. A post from Building Muscle Guide notes that without proper sleep, you become weaker and less efficient during your training. Sure, you can train, but it’s a watered down version of what it ought to be. A common scenario among sleep-deprived athletes is opting for lighter resistance or even cutting down on the number of repetitions and sets for the workout. Moreover, you don’t push your physical threshold and instead allow yourself to plateau.

Sleep Loss Compromises Your Body’s Muscle Building Hormones

Integral hormones that contribute to muscle building are directly affected when you run low on sleep. The same post from Building Muscle Guide explains that one of them is cortisol, which aids in fat storage and muscle tissue breakdown for the purposes of energy use. When this stress hormone increases, getting ripped becomes more of a challenge for your system. Another important chemical is the growth hormone, which plays a key role in repairing muscle tissue and preserving muscle mass. Sleep loss results in low growth hormone production leading to weaker and smaller muscles.

Sleep Loss Jogs Your Memory

Many of us are familiar with that level of fatigue where association and recall become difficult. Apart from losing your mental edge, Leesa emphasizes that being sleep deprived hinders your memory from retaining information. In the study featured in the article, subjects were asked to remember as many words as possible on a list. Those who were sleep deprived performed 40 percent worse at recalling them. The very same principle applies to your workouts. Building muscle requires a lot of learning, from adopting new workouts and techniques to adjusting to nutrition plans. When you find yourself tired most of the time due to inadequate sleep, you’ll face the uphill battle of establishing muscle memory and managing the steep learning curve that comes with these changes. Without good sleep you may find yourself constantly falling back to easier exercises.

Guy doing dips
Guy Pulling Rope

Sleep Loss May Take Away Your Drive to Stay Fit

When you run low on sleep, you may not be thinking clearly as your cognitive edge is diminished. Sleepiness becomes a real problem for body builders who have strict fitness schedule to keep. Carrying this groggy state into the gym may not only bring you closer to injury, but may even be the cause for skipping training days entirely. Putting yourself in situations that remove you from your routine are certainly not ideal for individuals whose success rely on maintaining a regimen.

Sleep Loss Wreaks Havoc on Your Mood

Feelings of positivity and optimism are found less in individuals who sleep less. Bodybuilding takes a toll on you mentally as well as physically, so it is important to be able to function with a positive outlook at all times. In order to be in the best physical shape, every part of your life needs to be positively focused on achieving your goals.

Sleep Loss Messes Affects Your Metabolism

A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains that sleeping less may result in the weight gain of a pound just inside of two weeks. While it may not seem like much, the excess pounds may pile up if you don’t make the necessary adjustments right away. Moreover, the study also found that those who were sleeping less were actually eating more – a 300-calorie increase in their daily nutrition. Bodybuilders must value sleep as it contributes to achieving the best physique possible. The more you sleep, the less chances you have of ruining your diet.

Sleep Loss Can Make You Sick

Health Guidance underscores that insufficient sleep threatens your body’s condition by weakening your immune system and even raising the chances of other health issues that include diabetes, heart attack, and even depression. All of these are factors that may rob you from your time at the gym. As nurturing your muscles requires following a strict workout schedule, having a compromised immune system due to lack of sleep makes achieving this harder to realize.

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) CFT Overview

ISSA CFT Overview
ISSA CFT Overview

The world of personal training can be a lucrative way to live your life if you know what you’re talking about and you look the part. Who wouldn’t want to work in a gym all-day and help change the lives of their clients? This is what we created Fitness Informant for, to change the lives of others.

Each day, personal trainers across the world are changing the lives of others. Their journey on how they got to be a personal trainer varies from trainer to trainer. Some maybe attended a 4-year university where they majored in exercise science. Others went above and beyond and obtained their master’s degree in sports training and exercise science. However, the majority of personal trainers today obtained their certified personal training certificate through a training course they took online.

When you get the idea that you want to become a personal trainer, you first do your research. For most of us, this means turning to Google and searching, “Personal Training Programs,” or a variation of that search term. I am not going to lie, that’s exactly what I did.

Google quickly spits out 15,000,000 results in less than one second. Overwhelmed? I would say. There are many certification programs to choose from. This is where I wanted to help. How is someone supposed to know which program to enroll in? The online reviews were few and far between…and not very good. I wanted to help you all make a better decision when it came to your education on becoming a certified personal trainer.

I combed through many of the pages of results from Google. My research showed that there were 7 major online personal training certification courses to choose from:

  • ACE – American Council on Exercise
  • NCSF – National Council on Strength & Fitness
  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association
  • NCCPT – National Council for Certified Personal Trainers
  • ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association

There was not any good articles indicating in-depth reviews of each program, or how they were different or which one was better. So, what better way to attest to the validity of the program by enrolling in them? I decided to take the leap and enroll into the ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association.

The ISSA CFT Program

The ISSA CFT program is different from other online programs in that it only offers one package. Some other programs offer three to five different packages, depending on how much help and content you want. The ISSA includes all of their resources in one package for $599. Other programs range from $499 to $1,599.

The ISSA CFT Program is 100% online based. With that said, you are given an allotted amount of time to complete the course materials in order to obtain your certification program. The ISSA give you 10 full weeks to complete the course material to obtain your CFT.


The ISSA CFT program is accredited by DEAC – Distance Education Accrediting Commission. This is one of the negatives of the program as it does not have the the accreditation from National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA accreditation is generally held as the standard for the field—certifying bodies must undergo comprehensive evaluation and regular renewals to keep this accreditation.

There are some fitness franchises that will not accept your ISSA certification if you’re not accredited by the NCCA. With that being said, I am a firm believer if you look the part and you know your stuff, you can get a job anywhere in this industry. The best thing about the ISSA is that they set you up to run your own business and not work for someone else.

Corporate Partners

We all worry about whether or not we will get a job post-degree. The ISSA partners with the following fitness franchises to help you get placement once you complete your certification program:

  • Snap Fitness
  • LA Fitness
  • 24 Hour Fitness
  • Powerhouse Gyme
  • Ballys
  • Curves
  • Urban Active Fitness
  • Eqinox

There are also other resources for placement post-certification for companies that are not listed above.

Materials Included

As mentioned earlier, the ISSA includes EVERYTHING in this one package. The ISSA wants to ensure you are successful during this certification program, but also post-program for your own personal training business. The materials included are:

  • Hardcopy and Online Main Course Text
    The hardcopy text will be mailed to you after you register online. The online version is a bit hard to follow, in all honesty. I used the hardcopy for the entire program. This is your copy to keep – feel free to highlight or mark it up. The hardcopy is 759 pages of course content.
  • Study Guide and Workbook
    I used this the whole time. The study guide and workbook is great to prepare you for your weekly quizzes and the final exam. The best way to approach this, in my opinion, is to fill out the workbook as you read the chapters. The questions asked in the workbook are both important as they are the same questions you will find on the quizzes and final exam, but also because they reiterate important course concepts and terms.
  • Marketing and Business Guide
    This is where ISSA separates themselves from the other online programs; the marketing and business guide teaches us how to run our personal training business. It’s one thing to know how to design periodized training programs, diets and adjustments based on lifestyles, but if you cannot run your business you won’t have any lives to transform.
  • Exercise Reference Guide DVD
    We all have access to YouTube now, and many of us no longer have DVD drives, but the idea behind this DVD is a good one. There are so many exercises on the DVD that will help you design programs and show your clients proper form. The one thing about the DVD that is helpful is it lists the exercises and doesn’t require you to search for them as you would have to on YouTube. My recommendation to ISSA would be to move this to a digital format.
  • Practice Examination and Section Quizzes
    Outside of the course text, these are the most helpful things you can complete to be success in this program. Each section has a quiz that you are required to take and pass. Once all quizzes have been passed, you then can unlock the final exam. You can re-take the quizzes if you do poorly until you’re happy with your score.The practice final exam is awesome. You will find A LOT of the same questions on the final that you find on the practice final exam. Do this. Don’t even question it. Do it. It will be good for you, your training and your final exam.
  • Online and Home Study Exam
    The final exam can be taken one of two ways: online or take home. What I did was I printed out the take home final, completed it and then submitted my answers online for a quick response. I submitted my answers on a Sunday, I got my test results back the following Wednesday.
  • Online Student Forum
    I can honestly say that I never used this, but it is a great tool for you to communicate with your “classmates” on course topics and questions you may have. The ISSA education staff also interacts with the students and answers questions.
  • Online Exercise Lab (250 animated exercises!)
    This is another area that I never used, but it would be helpful to reiterate course concepts that you are having trouble with.
  • Free Professional Website
    This is such a HUGE asset that the ISSA provides you. Most of us don’t know how to build a professionally looking website (I do, hence why I didn’t use this feature), so the ISSA gives you nine designs to choose from to make your own website (note: a website can cost over $3,000 – $599 for the course – remember that).
  • Unlimited Educational Support
    You always have access to the ISSA faculty to ensure you can complete the course successfully.
ISSA Course Materials
ISSA Course Quizzes
ISSA Online Quizzes and Exams
ISSA Online Student Form

Guided Study

The ISSA gives you a 10-week layout they term “guided study.” This is very helpful for those that have a hard time with procrastination. If you procrastinate long enough, the end of the 10-weeks will be here before you know it!

ISSA Guided Study

The guided study is broken down into the full 10-weeks. The purpose of this is to essentially tell you what you need to complete that week in order to complete the program in the allotted time of 10-weeks.

Each week starts with the reading assignment for the week. This reading assignment will be coordinated with all other sections of the weekly guided study. At times, this may only be one unit, others it can be 4-5 units. Keep in mind, there are a total of 31 units, which would be roughly three units per week.

There are also audio lectures and powerpoint lectures available each week. I did not utilize these UNLESS I was struggling with course concepts. The lectures essentially take the full unit and break it down into a shorter, easy-to-understand presentation. This reminded me a lot of college lectures and worked just the same.

Most weeks include a final exam prep. Do these. They give you a list of 4-6 questions that are short-answer. These questions WILL re-appear on the final exam. By doing them now, you can just copy and paste them into your final and not have to spend time on these sections. Each question asked should pertain to a subject in that week’s reading assignment and lecture.

ISSA Guided Study Final Exam Prep

Lastly, each week will include a unit quiz. Keep in mind, there may be more than one quiz to complete in any given week. If the reading assignment covers four units, you will have four corresponding quizzes. The quizzes must be completed and passed in-order to unlock the final exam. The quizzes themselves are not that difficult, and it is all open-book.


As we just mentioned, the course is completely, 100% open-book. That means that each quiz, each final exam prep question and even the final exam itself is open-book. There are people who are going to hate on this. I think it is a good thing. Think about when you are out in your field, you should always have access to the information needed, and not just memorization and regurgitation.

I have rated the following main categories on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of difficulty. This should help you.

  • Reading Assignments – 5
    I am not a huge fan of reading. Some of the reading assignments are multiple units long. Depending on your everyday schedule, this can be difficult to complete in a timely matter. In fact, I got caught up with the website transition that I had to ask for an extension (I never needed to use it as I still completed the certification within the 10-weeks). Just take your time with the readings, highlight and take notes.In terms of the actual content, I love fitness so it wasn’t too difficult for me. My brain does not work the best when it comes to sciences (i.e. human anatomy) so this was more difficult for me. Understanding all the bones, muscles and joints, because there are so many of them, took me some time, but you always have access to your book.
  • Weekly Quizzes – 2
    Honestly, the worst score I got on any one quiz was an 80% and that was only because I rushed to get through it. You can re-take the quizzes until you get 100%.
  • Final Exam Prep Questions – 5
    They give you 4-6 choices, some are harder than others, some are more interesting than others. I choose questions that were interesting to me. You have to write a minimum of 250 words, but it goes by pretty quick. Just be sure to incorporate course concepts.
  • Study Guide / Workbook – 2
    The images and questions come directly out of the readings
  • Final Exam – will answer this in the next session.

The Final Exam

The final exam is broken into five parts. They are:

  • Multiple Choice
  • True/False
  • Picture Descriptors
  • Final Exam Prep Questions
  • Training Programs Design

The following sections will talk about each and give them a difficulty rating.

Multiple Choice – 3

These questions are very similar to the weekly quiz multiple choice questions. In fact, you will find that a lot of them are reused during this section. Take your time when you complete to make sure you don’t rush through. Read the full question and answer with what you think is the best answer. I flew through this section, hence the easy difficultly level.

True/False – 2

This is again similar to the weekly quiz questions. Some of the quiz questions are true/false. I actually found this section easier than the multiple choice. If you are prepared from your readings and workbook, you will fly through these.

Picture Descriptors – 2

This section will show you a photo of an exercise. Then there will be four multiple choice questions with each photo. It will ask the following:

  • What is the name of the exercise?
  • What muscle is being worked?
  • What is another exercise that would work the same muscle?
  • What is the origin point of the exercise?

These are directly out of your course text. Find the exercise and answer the questions.

Final Exam Prep Questions – 5

If you completed the guided study, and followed it, you would have already completed these. You would just copy and paste your answers here. The rating above reflects the original rating from before.

Training Program Designs – 7

You are given two different clients with different lifestyles and different goals. Your job is to design a 12-week periodized program that will help them reach their goals. The only reason I scored this as higher difficulty is because the course text, in my opinion, doesn’t do a great job with program design. That said, every client is different, so this is a not a cookie cutter approach by any means.

The course text does describe periodization. This is what you need to follow. This was more beneficial for me than the sample programs they included in the text. They only included several sample programs so it is natural to get nervous here.

The main thing here is do not overthink the program. If someone’s goal is to lose weight, you know what to do in terms of diet, exercise and tests. Follow your instincts and your knowledge.

The most important part is to showcase your knowledge. Use course concepts. Use what you’ve learned to provide an in-depth 12-week program that you know in your heart is correct. If you are confident, you will do just fine.

You also need to discuss any type of testing you want to perform with your client. Tests the course talks about are VO2 Max, Resting Heart Rate, 1RM, Body Fat Percentage, etc. Make sure to include specific tests and why you think they are important.

You need to discuss diet as well. The 12-week program is not just training. We all know that abs are made in the kitchen. Make sure you use common sense when talking about how you want your client to eat to obtain their goals.


Getting your score from your final exam takes up to three business days. It is rather quick. If you think about it, the multiple choice, true/false and picture descriptors go quick. ISSA has to personally read your final exam prep questions and your training program designs. I got my score back in two days. I passed with a 93%.

Post Final Exam

ISSA requires you to pass your final exam and your CPR/First Aid certification in order to be CFT Certified. ISSA now provides an online course for CPR/First Aid. Their online course is cheaper than the in-person course. However, I will say, from experience, it is not as in-depth or detailed. It’s almost an easier way out. I would recommend going to an in-person course to feel more confident.

ISSA does a great job post certification helping you out. They provide you with client intake forms,  business cards, a business website and help with job placement (if needed). You also still have access to the educational instructors. Also, you have your copy of Fiscal Fitness to help you run your own business.

Final Takeaway

The ISSA CFT Program was a great experience for me. Since I started lifting and eating right, I have always been in pretty good shape. It was by luck, maybe, that it worked out for me that way. I always had a sense I was doing things correctly in terms of lifting for size or cutting. Online articles can go a long way. However, the ISSA program did teach me a lot more than any online blog article.

I learned a lot about the human anatomy and how it works. I learned about muscle groups, and what types of exercises target each. I learned how to work with kids with disabilities or ladies who are pregnant. These are things the internet did not teach me.

Even after completing my ISSA CFT I wouldn’t say I am an expert. Each unit in the course only touches the surface of the topic. For example, Muscular Skeleton could be an entire semester, but in this program it is only one unit.

You have to be OK with the fact that you are not getting all the details with each unit. That’s what they designed 4-year degrees for. The purpose of the ISSA CFT is to give you basic understanding of the human body, how it works and how to manipulate it with exercise and diet to achieve a goal.

The burden still falls on you to continue educating yourself post-ISSA CFT. The certification is good for 2 years. To extend it, you must complete continuing education courses. You should always be learning anyways if you truly want to become the best in the business.

I enjoyed the ISSA CFT program. I like the open book concept. Not because it made the exam easier, but because we always have access to information. It shouldn’t be about memorizations and regurgitation, but about what we’ve learned.

I would recommend the ISSA CFT program for those looking for an online personal training certification program. It is affordable, gives you everything you need and educates yo to be a better trainer. The only downfalls are that their accreditation isn’t accepted everywhere and that there is some bias in the book (towards PowerBlocks and others). All-in-all, a solid CFT program.

Final Review: 7.5 / 10.0