Reader Question

Reader Experience: From Grumpy to Passing!

Posted by on Jul 1, 2017 in Exam Preparation, Reader Question, Study Strategy | 0 comments

This was an interesting experience, for both me and the reader in question. While it always stings a little to get critical feedback, it is always the most useful. In this case, for both parties.

Ronald contacted me dissatisfied with the book, and gave me a lengthy explanation which you can read here:

Hello Julian,

I want to give you my honest regards as it relates to your CSCS Study guide e-book. My experience goes as follows. When I ordered the book my expectations were that there would be some remedy to help me remember or understand the scientific foundations portion of the exam.

My background is I have a Sports Management degree with a concentration of Wellness and Fitness. I graduated in May 2016. I have several other certifications e.g. ACSM CPT, NSCA CPT, NASM CPT PES, CES. As we both know the CSCS is definitely the most difficult and holds the most weight. I failed the exam on February 5th, 2017. I missed the practical applied section by 7 questions. I also missed the scientific foundations part by 3 questions. I am truly seeking mastery of the exam. I literally want to know everything to defeat this behemoth!

I was expecting to see a way that I could relate things such as adaptations to hypoxia immediate and long-term. Also adaptations to resistance training and aerobic training and overtraining. One more thing the testing and evaluation, a cool way to remember those 90 vs fiftieth percentiles for athletes.

The most that I gained from your study guide is a clever way of remembering the one repetition maximum. The mathematical calculations are far too advanced for me. I have never been an electrical engineer, therefore, there were several analogies that went over my head literally. In a lot of ways I must be honest with you I was more confused after assessing the study guide.

I wish that this could work for me, or had things that I could relate to the subject-matter in a simpler format. I hope this worked for you and some others, but for me it was just daunting trying to get through the esoteric format. I respect your profession and wish that I was more mathematical savvy,  but unfortunately I’m not.

I’m glad for this exam I don’t have to know calculus or analytical geometry. I’m sorry to say but according to how the e-book is now it doesn’t work for me. It probably won’t but I wish the rest of the book was designed to be as understandable as the 1 repetition maximum protocol that you designed.

Thanks for reading my email and understanding that it just did not work for me.




I immediately issued a refund and responded, read here:

Hey Ronald,

Your detailed feedback is greatly appreciated. I have refunded you the $27.

However, it seems you purchased the book 5 days ago….so I have to provide some critical feedback of my own:

Trying to understand it in 5 days might be a bit of a stretch.

I have all that math background, and I did not ace the exam by any stretch. I passed, fairly comfortably (80ish percentish if I recall). You have given it 5 days of trying to understand math that seems over your head, at the moment.

I encourage you to give yourself some more credit. When your brain is tired from trying to understand some of this shit, that is time to set the book down and go move your body, or sleep….but then you come right back and try to grasp it again. It’s like going to the gym, you exercise the muscle until it’s your desired strength.

Look for the “NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) & CPT Study Group” on facebook, join it…and start asking some questions.

Best of luck buddy!

I really appreciate your time spent giving me detailed feedback.

You’re going to get it next time! Leave no stone unturned. DO NOT wait until last minute. Make every page in my book make sense to you, even if it means learning better math….none of which required calculus, just good algebra.


Then over the next few months the following emails came in:

Hello Mr. Julian Corwin,

I wanted to thank you for the reply to my feedback concerning the issues I had with your e-book. I have learned a lot from your book in relation to tips and tricks. I also noticed the relevance it has in preparation for the CSCS Exam.

I hope you will allow me to send you the money back. I stand corrected sir you were right. This book has enough intricate details to give me just the edge I need to defeat this behemoth! Lol..

And finally

Hello Julian,

I passed the exam Wednesday the 10th. Your book CSCSEXAMGUIDE was very instrumental in my passing this exam. I was really comfortable with the exercise science portion this time. The ten repetition maximum table memory method was invaluable. You also conveyed the anatomy & physiology/ kinesiology in an easy way to comprehend.  As discussed before I failed both sections back on February the 5th.

When we accept critical feedback and respond in thoughtful ways, amazing things happen. I received the feedback and gave my response, and Ronald did the same. His response was to re-evaluate his approach – which changed everything.

Congratulations Ronald on your CSCS!

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Reader Question – Isokinetic CSCS Exam Questions

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Reader Question | 2 comments

When somebody buys my book, I always send them an email from my personal account telling them they should feel free to ask me any questions they might have. Yesterday I had a great question from one that I wanted to share with you guys. A fair number of people write to me after having not passed one of the portions – so I felt this was relevant.

I took the CSCS exam in July and failed unfortunately. I didn’t fail by much, but before I take the exam again, I want to master everything and not leave it up to hoping that I get a few more questions that are more up my alley.
I messed up on the Scientific Foundations and was significantly under-prepared for that. I figured my 2 years working as a trainer would be enough (along with just reading through the chapters), but it was not.
I failed the Exercise Science and Programming Section by just a few points, much to my surprise. I felt very comfortable with the content, and breezed through the section, but I believe my failing was due to messing up/confusing the  order of exercises when testing vs. when having athletes work out.
 The book, if I’m not mistaken, admits there is some leeway with order when administering evaluations, but in general, on p. 245 they list the accepted order. It just wasn’t entirely clear to me what the safest administration order is, and when you get a question where they give you a scenario, you can find two answers that are very similar and it’s hard to distinguish.
I also got tied up on some of their anatomy questions.
(side note, here’s my question for you: they use the term “isokinetic” quite a bit in the book, and on my test, but the book never EXPLICITLY defines it, as far as I could find. It seems it means “constant speed” in relation to exercises, but I had a number of questions on my exam that used the term and it didn’t always seem like “constant speed” was relevant)
Anyway, any insight you can share would be appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read this if you do.
My Response:
This happens fairly often in my experience, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Your second go around you have the right attitude for passing – mastery is the way to go. Going for “good enough” often results in failing by a small margin.
The isokinetic questions are there as a way to trip up people who don’t pay attention to details. Iso is a greek root for constant, kinetic is movement. So isokinetic is constant speed. There is no practical use for isokinetics – it’s purely a scientific exercise to find out more about muscles. You need a special device to do isokinetic testing, a device that can control the speed and adjust versus force output.
There’s a funny looking graph in the book that most people don’t understand on page 78. It tells us a lot about eccentric, concentric, extensors, and flexors and their relative strength under those different contractions. For example, flexors under an eccentric load are the strongest, especially at around -90deg/s.
Little niche topics like these are extremely important in the exam. They don’t take up a lot of space in the book, but they are confusing and frustrating. They take a lot more time to study. Spend a a lot of time on these topics and really get them down, because as you can tell the NSCA likes to get you on these. Commit that graph on page 78 to memory, be able to draw it on your scratch paper come exam day.
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I want to stress the need to strive for mastery, in all topics of the CSCS exam. Blowing sections off or glossing over parts that seem irrelevant is a quick way to burn some of your time and money not passing a section.
Always, always, always – I recommend at a bare minimum you should do the following in preparation:
-Read the whole book
-Do all 3 official NSCA practice exams
-Do every review question in the book twice
That’s how I did it. My book and other similar resources are supplemental.
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Reader Question: Late Support Phase of Sprinting

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Reader Question | 0 comments

I got a question today, but the question had pretty specific text and references to NSCA copyrighted material. On top of that, it references a diagram in the textbook…so you can see I have a number of challenges in explaining this material. So this is not a direct quote from the reader, but the text has been changed.

Hey! I got a question regarding the late support phase of running. The question asks what muscle action is acting to propel the runners center of gravity forward. (Text Figure 17.6 p 465-67)

Great question, and I know for a fact that this portion of the book was a little bit confusing for me too. Sometimes my intuition about what’s going on during sprinting wasn’t spot on, part of this is that static diagrams don’t help as much as you would think when you are thinking about high-velocity sprinting.

First let’s think about some of the key concepts from the question:
muscle action – concentric, isometric, eccentric
propel – drive, push, or cause to move in a particular direction, typically forward (google definition)

This question is tricky because a lot of things can propel your center of gravity forward. If you are standing straight and then raise your right knee (concentric hip flexion) your center of gravity just shifted forward a little bit.

So let’s take a look at a diagram I made. I sketched this out by hand from the book (for copyright reasons I’m not using the original) but the book also reprinted this with permission from Track and Field: The East German Textbook of Athletics by Schmolinsky (1).

Five Phases of Sprinting

Figure 1

Questions like these aren’t easy to answer. You can look at the diagram and come up with the wrong answer. Why? The diagram kinda sucks. It doesn’t fluidly show the entire late support phase on one foot. You have to follow the right foot at early support  phase (iv) and then switch to the left foot on the other side of the diagram for late support (v) phase. Would be nice to have a good drawing of the transition from the early to late support phase on the same foot. If any of you are drawers and can make a good drawing of this, let me know! I did an internet search, but most of the diagrams out there are wrong and involve heel striking – a blatant error in running technique.

ANYWAYS – back to the question at hand:

Think about the three muscle actions (isometric, eccentric, or concentric), which ones involves propulsion?
Concentric, of course. Isometric is for stabilizing or holding still, eccentric is for absorbing force or decelerating, and concentric is for movement (this might be an oversimplification…but I can’t think of a counter example at the moment).

Now look closely at the late support phase (v) and you’ll notice a few things happening:

  • Right leg moving forward (concentric hip flexion)
  • Right knee angle opening up (concentric knee extension)
  • Left side of hip going into extension (does this mean concentric hip extension perhaps? or eccentric?)
  • Left knee heading from slightly flexed to extended (concentric knee extension)

This is tricky. 

The two key frames are here:


Figure 2


Let’s get rid of half the possibilities with this argument. Your right side isn’t touching the ground, and since you are already at speed moving your right leg forward is more about getting in position to land for the next foot strike than doing anything for your velocity. So we are left with

  • Is the R-hip in going into concentric flexion? 
  • Is the R-knee going into concentric extension? 
  • Left side of hip going into extension (does this mean concentric hip extension perhaps? or eccentric?)
  • Left knee heading from slightly flexed to extended (concentric knee extension)

Working from top to bottom still, let’s try and figure out if the hip is going into extension eccentrically or concentrically. 

For a moment, let’s think of the leg as a pendulum.

Fig 3 – Oscillating Pendulum – Source: Creative Commons

Notice that when the pendulum reaches horizontal, it’s horizontal velocity is maximum and horizontal acceleration zero.

Now think of your leg as this pendulum. Sure the comparison isn’t perfect, because your leg has muscles and can move actively — but there are also a lot of similarities. Both are at rest horizontally (if rest is considered standing), their equilibrium point is the same, the points where they reach maximal and minimal velocity are the same. Acceleration points may be different, but figuring that out becomes a complex bio dynamics problem.

Let’s review what we know about the left hip (from Figure 2) in the late support phase:

  • It’s past it’s point of maximal velocity, just like the pendulum when it has swung to the left side
  • Since it was at maximal velocity, and is headed towards minimum velocity it must be slowing down (decelerating)

In order for that to happen, you must be in eccentric hip flexion. Your illiacus, psoas, and rectus femoris are actively contracting yet lengthening in order to slow that leg down. Since that is the definition of eccentric muscle action, it is not contributing significantly to forward propulsion.

Thus, only one answer remains:

  • Is the R-hip in going into concentric flexion? 
  • Is the R-knee going into concentric extension? 
  • Left side of hip going into extension (does this mean concentric hip extension perhaps? or eccentric?)
  • Left knee heading from slightly flexed to extended (concentric knee extension)

But, there is one more piece I missed from the initial observations:

Figure 4 - Ankle angle opening up in plantar flexion

Figure 4 – Ankle angle opening up in plantar flexion

Concentric knee extension and concentric plantar flexion both contribute to forward propulsion.
Eccentric hip flexion doesn’t propel you, but it gets you ready for the next stride.

These types of questions are tricky. Recreate them by running yourself and thinking about which muscles are contracting, and in what way. Sometimes figuring these things out requires a lot of sitting around and thinking, and if that’s not your thing just memorize the table.


(1) Schmolinsky, G., ed. Track and Field: The East German Textbook of Athletics.  Toronto: Sport Books.  1993.*
*neither the author or publisher were contacted for use of this sketch, please contact me if you wish to have it taken down

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Coach Weber Shares CSCS Exam Experience

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Exam Preparation, Reader Question, Study Strategy | 2 comments

This is from coach Weber on twitter.  Follow him @coachlaw71.  The nature of tweets means this message was broken into 160 word or fewer fragments, so I have arranged his tweets as a list of statements instead of rewording it.

From @coachlaw71:

I just finished the CSCS Exam. Since your blog helped me so much I thought I would pass on what I can remember.
Practical application of the scientific and nutritional principles in the text are extremely important.
Your memorization techniques of the 1RM percentage charts is spot on technique.
Memorization of the numbers in the facilities management portion is key such as square feet etc.
The video section is also huge. one thing I did not anticipate is that you are only allowed to watch the video once during the test. No replay.
Your @mobilitywod strategy of first loaded=most loaded is important to remember. Knowing the articulations of each joint is also key.
There are definitely several things on the test not covered explicitly in the text. I only knew them because I am been working as a HS strength and conditioning coach and have been conscious to be well read in technique and exercise theory during my 12 years on the job.
Best of luck. I am sure your preparation will help you pass! I will say that the test was harder than I anticipated although through the raw score data, it appeared that I took one of the harder versions of the scientific principles exam.

Hope that helps!
Coach Weber went into the test with some advantages, and some disadvantages.
First off, he has 12 years or more of coaching experience and has always taken care to provide quality exercise instruction.  This type of experience can’t be replaced by a textbook, and I’m sure it served him very well during the exam.
Coach Weber did not purchase the practice exams from the NSCA.  He got by on his experience, and help from my website, but he wishes that he did buy the practice exams as he felt he would’ve done much better.  Remember, the price for the three three flimsy paper booklets that comprise the three practice exams seems like a lot, but it’s worth it.
Time is money, time is the most precious resource we have.  If you don’t believe that, wait until you have kids.  Drop the cash on the practice exams.
Remember: My website is not intended as a replacement for the book & practice exams.  Use it as a supplement to those resources and share your experience like Coach Weber so we can all have a better shot at this thing!
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Reader Question – Lactic Acid Energy System

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Exam Preparation, Reader Question, Review Topics | 0 comments

This question comes from a reader who was studying the third practice exam.  Because he quotes the practice exam directly, I have made up a new question in its place so as to not violate the NSCA’s copyright on the exam material.

Hey Julian,

I’ve been following your blog. I’m having some trouble with a question from volume 3 practice exam Here’s the question and my possible explanation of why I think their answer is correct. Just wondering what your explanation might be?

Which training variable should be decreased in order to increase the capacity of the lactic acid energy system?

A. exercise intensity


B. rest period

He originally chose (A)  However upon trying to understand why the correct answer is B, he asked me for some help.  Below is my response, italicized text I have added in after I wrote him the email.


The question asks which variable we need to decrease in order to, with training, increase the capacity of the lactic acid energy system. I had to hunt around a bit to make sure I understood everything here, but part of the confusion lies from their use of the word lactic acid instead of lactate.  Turns out this is normal, and it is never referred to as that “lactate energy system” – so much for that idea! (edited 4/19)

Lactate is produced during anaerobic glycolysis, and reaches peak levels 5 minutes after exercise.  By decreasing the rest period, you do not allow sufficient time for the lactate to peak, and clear.  Essentially you are causing lactate to further increase, and bringing it closer to the lactate threshold.  This provides a greater training stimulus to your lactic acid (or lactate) energy system, causing your body to respond so you become more efficient with it next time.

Your original answer was wrong because decreasing exercise intensity would decrease the amount of lactate produced, since at sufficiently low levels of intensity you do not produce lactate because you aren’t in anaerobic glycolysis.

Hope this helps!


PS – I want to add how key it is to know that lactate is produced in anaerobic glycolysis (hence the bolding above).  Remember that fast glycolysis isn’t triggered heavily at low intensities, so lowering the intensity would produce less lactic acid, therefor not producing a strong training stimulus.


Cori Cycle - Creative Commons

Cori Cycle – Creative Commons


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