Personal training sessions using the National Academy of sports medicine training system

There are literally hundreds of different training systems available to personal trainers. I've trained with numerous organisations including YMCAFit (I was also a tutor for them), British weightlifting, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and EXOS (performance sport). Whilst the NSCA undoubtedly provided by far the sternest test to become a personal trainer, it has been NASM that has provided the best training system in terms of my personal trainer work (in terms of strength and conditioning, it has been EXOS).

NASM has developed a highly structured training system - what it calls its OPT or optimum performance training. Whilst the system would almost certainly not result in optimum performance in international athletes (the NSCA and EXOS systems are far superior for this), in personal training it is highly adaptable and has stacks of variety.

The OPT starts with a stabilisation phase - here, you get introduced to core, balance, plyometric and resistance work that NASM classifies as stabilisation. It's great - lots of use of a Swiss ball and some interesting takes on standard exercises. Once you get used to the use of the ball (which can sometimes take a while), confidence builds. It's a great way to introduce resistance training - much less intimidating than classic weight training. It also allows you to learn about how much resistance to use, why it's important to have sound posture and how to use speed of movement in your sessions.

From here (normally after about 4 weeks) we change the exercises and start to mix stabilisation with strength exercises in what is known as super sets. This is a great way to start to increase strength, key to both weight loss and health and well-being. This emphasis on developing strength without developing great big muscles means that you can expect to tone up without getting too big.

Phases after this can move towards power; these are applied only if we need and want them. If not, we can track back to stabilisation and used some more advanced lifts the second time round. It's remarkable how quickly you can progress and get confident with your resistance training.

When combined with some structured cardio work on the bike, rower or treadmill, the OPT can be extremely effective for you.

DR. Mark Mullineaux, a personal trainer in Lancaster, is a certified Performance Enhancement Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. See more about this qualification at

Recent Posts

See All

Machines or free weights: Which is best?

In the twenty years that I've been a tutor and assessor I've taught dozens of gym instructor and personal trainer courses and this is one of the most common questions I get asked. Inexperienced instru