Certified Personal Trainer Courses Online | Penn Foster Career School

Certified Personal Trainer

Why Penn Foster Career School?

  • Regionally & Nationally Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Online Program Overview

In Penn Foster Career School's Certified Personal Trainer program, you can take the first steps toward a career that allows you to work closely with others and pursue your passion for fitness - all in as few as three months. Our personal training courses online are designed to teach you all aspects of working as a fitness trainer, from healthy menu planning and weight-loss strategies to targeted fitness routines and anatomy and physiology. And with Penn Foster Career School you train at home or on the go, and at a pace that's right for you.

As part of the program, you'll receive a home-study package to prepare for the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) certification exam, including Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Textbook, Course Manual, Lab Manual, e-learning access (digital content and video lectures), and Exam Voucher. Upon passing the exam, you'll become an NCSF Certified Personal Trainer and eligible to join a growing industry that is expected to add more than 23,000 personal training jobs through 2024.¹ Personal trainers work in gyms, health clubs, resorts and hotels, schools, or private homes.

To be eligible to receive your Certified Personal Trainer career diploma from Penn Foster, you must pass both the Penn Foster program and the certification exam administered by the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF).

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The goals of the Certified Personal Trainer program are to provide students with the skills necessary for a career as a personal trainer, and to prepare students to take the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) certification exam.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Understand how fitness affects physical and mental well-being, assess current fitness, plan goals, and recognize opportunities in the fitness field
  • Distinguish how root words, prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms function to form meaning in medical terms, and recognize the basic structures of the human body and their functions
  • Identify the anatomy of, and the work done by, various muscles and muscle groups; recognize tests that determine overall fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility; and identify the typical components of a fitness workout
  • Recognize the functions of the digestive, urinary, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems, and identify the major organs and their functions within each system
  • Recognize the functions of the endocrine, circulatory, and respiratory systems, and identify the major organs and their functions within each system
  • Identify how carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fluids, vitamins, and minerals fit into a healthy eating plan
  • Distinguish the ingredients needed to prepare healthy menus; analyze recipes and menus for calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate, sodium, and fiber content; and identify special menus, such as low-salt, low-cholesterol, 1,200-calorie, high-protein, and macrobiotic
  • Identify muscles, connective tissues, bones, and joints, and identify their roles in movement; understand the physiology of muscle contraction and the relationship between muscular fitness and overall well-being
  • Understand why good posture helps the body to be fit and how fitness professionals can assist clients in attaining good posture
  • Recognize the structures of the pulmonary circuit, including arteries, arterioles, veins, venules, and capillaries; determine target heart rate and heart rate range, and identify information resources for developing and maintaining a healthy heart and lungs
  • Recognize the advantages of cardiorespiratory fitness, and understand the design of cardiorespiratory exercise programs
  • Recognize the benefits of resistance training, and determine safety concerns and appropriate weight loads
  • Identify how core muscles help to keep the entire body fit, and recognize exercise routines for core fitness for functional training
  • Identify the major structures of the upper body, understand the advantages of having a fit upper body, and identify various programs and exercises to enhance upper-body fitness
  • Identify the major structures of the lower body, understand the advantages of having a fit lower body, and identify various programs and exercises to enhance lower-body fitness
  • Recognize the benefits of increased flexibility, compare individual flexibility needs, and ascertain the components of a flexibility training program
  • Become aware that sports injuries may hurt for a lifetime, compare and contrast the safety requirements for specific activities, know how to exercise an injured body, and recognize symptoms of common injuries
  • Know the difference between eustress and distress, recognize the symptoms and stages of stress, and understand how to reduce stress
  • Know how to determine appropriate short- and long-term fitness goals, suggest methods for tracking progress and promoting lifetime fitness
  • Identify fitness program designs based on warm-up, cool-down, aerobic, and strength-training components, and know how a fitness instructor can cue clients during and between workouts
  • Identify common risk factors, signs and symptoms of disease, limitations to exercise, and appropriate tests for measuring the components of physical fitness; and know how to use the findings and data from the screening and evaluation process to develop a needs analysis
  • Supply information about the benefits of lifelong exercise for people with conditions such as diabetes and asthma; suggest exercise parameters for pregnant women, older adults, children, and people with lower-back pain; and identify medical conditions that prohibit exercise
  • Recognize leadership characteristics that fitness professionals should have in order to be role models and keep clients motivated
  • Recognize liability issues facing fitness professionals, identify legal sources information, and assess risks for potential for injury and litigation
  • Achieve nationally recognized professional certification as a personal fitness trainer

Unit 1

Starting Your Program

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
Introduction to Managing Personal Health

Feel good, both physically and mentally, by managing your personal health.


  • Describe the basic components of a fitness plan.
  • Identify and handle stress.
  • Shop for and choosehealthy foods.
  • Set fitness goals and choose exercise plans that fit your lifestyle.
  • Identify careers in the fitness and nutrition industry.

Unit 2

Medical Terminology

You need strong medical vocabulary skills to succeed in your career.


  • Break medical terms down to understand their meaning.
  • Describe the rules of medical terminology.
Exercise Science Terminology

To conduct exercise classes, plan fitness programs, and become an effective personal trainer, you need to be comfortable using the language of the fitness industry.


  • Use exercise science terminology fluently.
  • Understand how fitness training and exercise routines affect the body and specific muscles.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Online resource: Calculate fitness level based on a one-mile-walk test
  • Online Resource: Determine one’s target heart rate.
Fitness Anatomy and Physiology 1

This lesson is the first part of Fitness Anatomy and Physiology.


  • Describe the overall function of and major structures within the digestive, urinary, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems.
Fitness Anatomy and Physiology 2

This lesson is the second part of Fitness Anatomy and Physiology.


  • Describe the overall function of the endocrine, circulatory, and respiratory systems.

Additional Course Material:

  • Online resources: Detection, Management, and Treatment of high blood pressure

Unit 3

Nutrition Basics

Some nutritional needs are the same over a lifespan, others vary over time.


  • Describe nutritional needs for all ages.
  • Identify nutrition for infants to ensure adequate physical and mental growth and development.
  • Identify nutrition for seniors to maintain strong bones and physical and mental acuity.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Online resources: USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), the Berkeley Wellness Letter, Aetna InteliHealth, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American Dietetic Association, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) Healthfinder, the International Food Information Council, the Mayo Clinic, Quackwatch, and Food and Health Communications.
Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Fitness professionals are expected to know enough about nutrition to recommend healthy recipes and menus.


  • Compose a list of healthy ingredients and recipes.
  • Offer healthy-eating demos.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Online resource: BMI calculators and charts
  • Online resource: Healthy Menu Planning
Muscles in Motion

Physiology—how systems function and act—and kinesiology—how mechanics and anatomy relate to movement—will be presented, providing you with fuller insight into motion and movement.


  • Describe how muscles, bones, joints, and other body structures unite to get you moving.
Posture, Balance, and Proper Alignment

Proper posture and balance are important to physical health.


  • Understand the importance of posture and balance and current theories on achieving correct posture and balance.
  • Assess posture and identify exercises that will assist in attaining the best posture and balance possible.
  • Describe how poor posture can lead to bodily pain, injury, and reduced quality of life.

Unit 4

Understanding the Heart and Lungs

Cardiorespiratory fitness can be measured by assessing the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body to the working muscles during exercise, as well as by the efficiency with which the muscles use oxygen to produce energy.


  • Describe cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
  • Understand the cardiovascular benefits of exercise

Additional Course Materials:

  • Online resources:links to The American Heart Association; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the American Red Cross; the American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Dietetic Association; and the American Lung Association.
Cardiorespiratory Fitness

Cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability to maintain high-endurance aerobic exercises, such as cycling, swimming, and running, for a prolonged period of time, without the early onset of performance-inhibiting fatigue.


  • List general principles of cardiorespiratory exercise.
  • Describe the physical and psychological benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness.
Principles of Muscular Strength and Endurance

Strength training, also called weight training and resistance training, is an important tool for achieving a complete healthy body. Strength training isn’t just for athletes; anyone who wants to build or tone muscle can use strength training to achieve a fitter body.


  • Describe the advantages of incorporating strength training into a fitness program.
  • Be familiar with traditional strength-training workouts.
  • Identify safety factors that need to be addressed with strength training.
Strengthening the Core

Strengthening the core can generate tremendous benefits and is the one area of the body that will always give you a great return on your fitness investment.


  • Describe the function and importance of the core.
  • Get the core in great shape.

Unit 5

Strengthening the Upper Body

Often, the upper body is the first part of the body to show wear and tear from the stresses and strains of daily life. As posture deteriorates, the heart and lungs become physically strained.


  • Understand the importance of upper-body exercises for maintaining proper posture, aligning the spine, and maintaining joint positioning.
  • Strengthen the neck, shoulders, arms, and torso.
  • Describe how upper-body fitness contributes to the performance of daily activities and exercise programs.
  • Achieve and maintain a fit upper body.
Strengthening the Lower Body

A powerful lower body is essential to a strong and balanced physical foundation.


  • Strengthen the thighs, lower back, lower abdominals, buttocks, and calves.
Flexibility Training

Everyone needs some flexibility to function in everyday life.


  • Understand the importance of flexibility.
  • Describe how to stretch without injury.
Preventing Injury

Participation in any fitness activity presents some risk of injury. Fitness professionals should do everything possible to ensure that their clients are exercising safely.


  • Identify and prevent common fitness injuries.
Stress Management Techniques

This lesson teaches you how to apply stress-reducing techniques to tense situation.


  • Describe how stress affects people physically and mentally.
  • Use techniques to handle stress.

Additional Course Material:

  • DVD: Yoga for Every Body

Unit 6

Personal Fitness Programs

Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction must be practiced over a lifetime to maintain fitness.


  • Demonstrate strong personal commitment to fitness.
  • Establish fitness goals for yourself and your clients.
  • Design, monitor, and maintain fitness programs appropriate to clients’ needs.
Fitness Programs for the General Population

Combine your knowledge of fitness, exercise, stress reduction, and good nutrition.


  • Describe fitness programs for the general population.
Health Screening, Testing, and Evaluation

Fitness professionals know how to design exercise routines so their clients not only look and feel better but actually achieve better overall health through improved mental and physical function.


  • Assess one’s current health and fitness status.
  • Identify the team members who may be involved in the assessment process.
Preparing for Special Situations

Everyone who can exercise should exercise.


  • Determine what exercises clients should do to maintain a maximum level of fitness throughout their lives.

Unit 7

Leadership Skills

You now know the nuts and bolts of designing fitness programs and interacting with your clients and students. This lesson is designed to help you become a fitness leader.


  • Motivate and inspire clients to exercise.
Legal and Ethical Issues

A number of legal and ethical issues apply to sports and the fitness industry.


  • Identify some of the issues, challenges, and legal and ethical responsibilities involved in being a fitness professional.

Unit 8

NCSF Certification Exam

The NCSF Board for Certification serves as the governing authority over the personal trainer certification program and sets regulatory standards.


  • Prepare for your Personal Trainer Certification Exam.
  • Register for and take your Personal Trainer Certification Exam at an NCSF-approved test center.
  • Start a new career by becoming an NCSF certified personal trainer.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Textbook, Course Manual, and Lab Manual
  • E-learning access (digital content and video lectures)
  • NCSF Certification Exam Voucher

Note: You will not receive the NCSF home-study package to prepare for your certification exam until you have paid for your program in full and successfully completed all exams. The exam must be completed at an NSCF approved testing center, to find one near you click here.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Certified Personal Trainer sample lesson, click here.

Certified Personal Trainer Program Details

In the Penn Foster Career School Certified Personal Trainer program, you will learn how to become a personal trainer as you study topics like:

State Licensing Information

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Online Certified Personal Trainer

Certified Personal Trainers develop exercise programs, nutrition plans, and safety techniques for a variety of customers, and they monitor fitness levels and effective methods along the way. Here are a few qualities that qualified certified personal trainers have in common:

  • Sociable: Work with others on a daily basis.
  • Athletic: You enjoy and excel at exercise and physical activities.
  • Organized: It’s important to keep a schedule and track clients’ progress.
  • Adaptable: Every client has different physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses.
  • Persistent: You work until the job is done, and done well.

I'm 100% satisfied with my Penn Foster experience. The online format is efficient, effective, and reliable. The accessibility of the program, as well as the quality of the training materials have allowed me to meet my goal.

- Sharon, Certified Personal Trainer graduate

It’s at your own pace. My sports schedule changes daily, so I have to have that flexibility, which I did at Penn Foster. Plus when you take tests, you have instant feedback.

- Mark, Certified Personal Trainer student

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Learning aids and the National Council on Strength and Fitness Certification Test Preparation Course and Exam Voucher included
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Certified Personal Trainer academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What personal trainer certification does Penn Foster Career School help you prepare for?

Penn Foster Career School helps students prepare to sit for the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) certification exam upon completion of the program.

What hands-on training options are there for a Certified Personal Trainer?

Hands-on training opportunities include working at local gyms or even advising clients about individualized training programs.

More FAQs >

¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2016-17 Edition, Fitness Trainers and Instructors, on the Internet here. Statements found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are not a guarantee of any post-graduation salary, in part because the data used to create the Occupational Outlook Handbook includes workers from differing educational backgrounds, levels of experience, and geographic areas of the country.

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