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.
More Comments
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.


  1. I just took the CSCS exam this morning. I passed the Practical/Applied portion however, I missed the Scientific Foundations by 4 points.

    40/59 Exercise Science
    12/21 Nutrition

    I felt very prepared for the Nutrition portion in particular and was a little surprised at my results. I knew going into the exam I was far more confident with the Practical/Applied portion having been a hands on strength coach the last 4 years. I took the practice exams multiple times and felt great with them. Without an in depth background with the Exercise Science and Nutrition portion of the exam, what do you recommend I do to REALLY prepare for this portion of the exam next time around? Any specifics within the study material?

    Thanks a lot and great job on your exam! 🙂

    • Sorry for the late reply, for some reason I haven’t been getting notifications on my comments.
      Have you retaken the exam since you posted this? What materials did you use to study?

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