There are a few books recommended by the National Strength and Conditioning Association for the CSCS test, including the main text. While these are not necessarily required, these books will give you a great head start on your way to becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – 4th Edition – This is the text of all texts that the NSCA touts for CSCS preparation. It contains pretty much all the information you need to pass the exam (and then some) and will be a great reference book for you as you start your career as a strength and conditioning or sports performance coach. Some of the early chapters will be difficult for you to read if you aren’t an exercise science geek, but is chock full of valuable information. There is no real requirement to read this text as a prerequisite, but as the name implies, it is truly essential information. If you purchase one item to prepare, and don’t mind sometimes dry textbook reading, this is what you are looking for. It may seem pricey, but for a 656 page resource guide that you can use for years to come, it is a great deal. If you are short on cash, you can also rent it from Amazon for a few months for roughly 1/3rd of the purchase price.
Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training-2nd Edition -This is another recommended text by the NSCA, but it is more of a supplement for studying. It offers step-by-step guides and checklists for 57 different exercises. This can also be a great reference book that you will probably want to hold onto for years. Even if you have been training and coaching for years, you will almost certainly learn new exercises or the proper techniques of them. Perhaps most valuable is the included DVD that demonstrates the exercises. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to understand movement by reading, so to have an option to pop in a DVD and actually watch the proper lifting technique is awesome. I think you will find the video review sections particularly useful for the video questions that you will have to answer on the test. This is also available for rent through Amazon, which can save you some money. Again, though, if you buy it you can keep it on hand as a resource for years.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning -This is the second edition of the first text listed above and can be purchased for a fraction of the cost. It was released in 2000, while the updated 3rd edition, shown above, was released in 2008. How different is it? I’m sure there are several updated sections. However, if you’ve ever compared different editions of the same textbook for a college course, you know updates are often limited and the main concepts are the same. Luckily, the NSCA prides itself of science-based fundamentals rather than fad diets and training programs. Can you pass the test by just using this text? I certainly can’t guarantee that, but I won’t get in your way if you want to try, particularly if you are hoping to save a few bucks.
While none of these books are technically required for you to sit and pass the exam, they are certainly recommended as test questions will be pulled almost directly from them. I know it can be challenging to read through hundreds of pages of scientific concepts, but understanding the content in these books are the only way to be truly confident when you sit for the test. And if you are like me, you will actually really enjoy going through the more practical and applied science sections of the text. They include great references for different sports and understanding the science of training.
All of the chapters, tables, charts, and everything else can be very intimidating when looking at these books. How on Earth could you memorize all of that information and figures? Luckily, in my experience, you don’t need to be able to memorize all the specific facts and figures as long as you understand the general concepts of strength and conditioning and are able to apply those concepts to a training program for athletes in the structure that is desired by the NSCA.