The Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) examination is for an expert in the field that creates and uses strength training and conditioning programs for members of a range of types of sports teams. Candidates must meet specific requirements (which include CPR and AED certifications) before taking this test. This nationwide test may be taken via computer or with paper and pencil. There are two segments that candidates will need to take, as follows:
Scientific Foundations – Candidates will be given an hour and a half to complete 90 multiple-choice items, 10 of which are not scored; these questions are pretrial items and may be used on future exams. Candidates will not know which items are scored and which are not. The items have been written to measure a candidate’s knowledge and understanding of exercise science. The content is broken down as follows:
- 58 questions on exercise science
- 22 questions on nutrition
- 10 questions that are not scored
Practical/Applied – Candidates will be given 2½ hours to complete 120 multiple-choice items, 10 of which are not scored but are on your test for pretrial purposes, just as in the Scientific Foundations section. Forty of the questions on this test are based on a video. The content of this part is broken down as follows:
- 39 questions on exercise technique
- 39 questions on program design
- 10 questions on organization and administration
- 22 questions on testing and evaluation
- 10 questions that are not scored
Candidates will receive their results about 3-5 weeks after taking the test. The raw score is converted to a scaled score; the minimum passing scaled score is 70. If successful, a candidate will get a certificate in the mail in about 8-10 weeks. The certification date will be the date of the test. If a candidate must take part of or the entire test again, he or she may do so as many times as needed, but he or she must wait 90 days between each attempt.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) designs and implements the safe and effective strength and conditioning programs for athletic teams. A CSCS certification encourages a high level of expertise among these professionals, and raises the quality of strength training and conditioning programs that are provided to athletes.
Prior to taking the CSCS examination, candidates must submit an original official academic transcript that shows the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree (either in science or in arts), or a chiropractic medicine degree from an accredited institution. College seniors are also eligible to take the examination; however, they will not be certified until they have graduated from college and their transcripts have been received.
Current CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) certifications are also required in order to become CSCS certified. The CPR and AED courses must meet the following criteria:
- The course must have a hands-on training component. Certification through a course completed entirely online will not be accepted.
- The course must include a skills performance evaluation.
CPR and AED certifications acceptable for CSCS certification include:
- The Heartsaver program offered by the American Heart Association.
- Programs offered by the Red Cross, including the Blended Learning First Aid, CPR, and AED program.
- The program offered by the National Safety Council.
- The program offered by St. John Ambulance.
The CSCS examination consists of two sections, scientific foundations and practical/applied:
1. The scientific foundations section contains 90 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in 90 minutes. These questions test the candidate’s knowledge of anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, bioenergetics, acute and chronic adaptations to aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and nutrition.
2. The practical/applied section consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and must be completed within 2 ½ hours. These questions test the candidate’s proficiency in the following four subcategories:
1) Exercise techniques (39 questions)
Correct flexibility, conditioning, plyometric, and resistance training exercise techniques.
2) Program design (39 questions)
Anaerobic and aerobic training programs based on an athlete’s sport, strength and conditioning levels, and training goals.
3) Testing and evaluation (22 questions)
Proper performance test selection, administration, and evaluation of results based on the athlete’s sport, strength and conditioning levels, and training goals.
4) Organization and administration (10 questions)
Policies and procedures, staffing, as well as layout and safety guidelines for strength and conditioning facilities.
Of the 120 questions in the practical/applied section of the CSCS examination, 40 of the questions are presented in conjunction with a video. These videos support the assessment of the candidate’s competency in exercise techniques, functional anatomy, and testing procedures.
CSCS Exam Video Review
CSCS Practice Questions
1. Growth hormone (GH) acts in all of the following ways EXCEPT:
A. It stimulates the release of insulin-like growth factors
B. It increases protein synthesis in skeletal muscle
C. It boosts immune cell function
D. It converts amino acids into carbohydrates
2. Why does joint mobility maintain cartilage?
A. It produces pressure in the joint capsule, propelling nutrients from the synovial fluid to the cartilage
B. It changes the amount of collagen in the cartilage
C. It changes the type of collagen in the cartilage
D. It increases cross-linking in the cartilage
3. According to the inverted-U theory, which of the described athletes would require the highest amount of arousal for optimal performance?
A. A highly skilled, introverted athlete
B. A highly skilled, extroverted athlete
C. An inexperienced, introverted athlete
D. An inexperienced, extroverted athlete
4. In a proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch for the hamstrings, what is the sequence for the hold-relax technique?
A. Passive pre-stretch with agonist contraction, isometric muscle action during holding, passive stretching with greater range of motion (ROM)
B. Passive pre-stretch with agonist contraction, isometric muscle action during holding, concentric contraction of the quadriceps accompanied by passive stretching by the facilitator
C. Passive pre-stretch, concentric action of the hip extensors initiated by the athlete, passive hip-flexion stretch applied and held
D. Constant stretch of the antagonist muscle
5. Which of the following is an appropriate exercise for reconditioning of an injured athlete during the repair phase?
A. Rest only
B. Closed kinetic-chain exercises
C. Sport-specific exercises
D. Exercises involving balance boards or stability balls to improve neuromuscular control
Answers & Explanations
1. D: The hormone that converts amino acids into carbohydrates is cortisol, which is mainly a catabolic hormone involved in protein breakdown. On the other hand, growth hormone (GH) is one of the major anabolic hormones involved in muscle tissue growth and remodeling, along with testosterone and insulin-like growth factors. GH has numerous functions, including those listed in responses A, B, and C as well as enhancement of lipolysis, lessening of glucose utilization, and others.
2. A: Joint mobility maintains the cartilage at joints because it produces pressure within the joint capsule, which in turn propels nutrients and oxygen from the synovial fluid to the cartilage. Collagen type II, which is the major constituent in cartilage, does not change in amount (B), type (C), or degree of cross-linking (D).
3. B: This question addresses two parameters that affect performance according to the inverted-U theory. One is skill level; highly skilled athletes can perform at a higher level than relatively inexperienced ones, but they require more arousal to achieve optimal performance. The other is personality; per the inverted-U theory, an extrovert needs more stimulation than an introvert to perform optimally. The question does not address other factors like task complexity, which according to the theory is inversely related to the amount of needed arousal.
4. B: This sequence describes the hold-relax technique for the PNF stretching of the hamstrings. Responses B and C respectively describe the hold-relax with agonist contraction and contract-relax techniques. In all of these techniques, the facilitator kneels facing the athlete, who is supine with the leg extended toward the ceiling. The facilitator has one hand on the extended foot and the other on the kneecap. PNF stretching uses phases, not just constant stretching of the antagonist muscle (D).
5. D: There are three phases of reconditioning, which in order are the inflammation, repair, and remodeling phases. Rest only (A) is recommended during the inflammation phase to prevent further injury. The treatment goal during repair is to decrease muscle atrophy and joint deterioration and replace damaged collagen fibers, which requires some but not excessive activity such as use of balance boards or stability balls to improve neuromuscular control (D). Closed kinetic-chain exercises (B) and sport-specific exercises (C) should not be used until the remodeling phase, and they are employed to progressively stress the injured tissue to improve functionality.