As you know, I am not an expert in strength and conditioning – I'm a physician with a keen interest in nutrition and sports science. Since I run my YouTube channel and this blog, I read a lot of research papers, mostly on nutrition, but also on exercise. Moreover, I got so invested into this topic that I purchased the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Essentials of Strength and Conditioning textbook and I've been reading it for a while. The book is awesome and I highly recommend it to everyone. Since I've spent so much time with this tome, I was tempted to take the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam and, being a lifetime student, I decided to attend a NSCA CSCS Clinic. The nearest one was in Hempstead, NY and I attended it during my Epic Journey. It was quite an experience and I would like to share my impressions with you.
Administrative aspects: pricing, location and timing:
First of all, the location and timing, both of which were quite good. The clinic was held at Hofstra University sports science facility – pretty cool place with a nice classroom and an exercise area where they could show you some practical aspects of select exercises. Timing was good too – they had it over the weekend, so even if you work full-time, you still can attend it without compromising you work. Also, I think that the course was very reasonably priced – I paid around $350 CAD for this 2-day clinic, which I personally find to be a very fair price point.
I think it would be only fair to describe my classmates – they seemed to be very nice people in general and the atmosphere in class was really good. I expected to be the oldest and the least fit fellow in the room and I was glad to see that it wasn't the case – there were quite a few PE teachers and experienced personal trainers as well as some collegiate students who happened to be the actual students of the instructors. They were making some funny remarks and I had a feeling that I'm back to my college years.
Overall, quite nice and knowledgeable – I think they are great coaches, and very experienced at that, but at the same time, I have a very strong feeling that as PhD-level instructors of NSCA CSCS clinic they were somewhat subpar. First, it looked that there were some topics they weren't really good at – essentially most of the questions beyond the scope of the syllabus were not answered fully. As a matter of fact, I answered them for my classmates. In addition to that, there were quite a few factual errors made during the presentations, like, for example, one of the instructors said that 1 g of protein yields 5 kCal whereas it's 4 kCal and it's really important for the exam as there will be questions about nutrition that will require calculations of caloric intake. The same professor also said several times in the course of the presentation that aerobic glycolysis yields 32-36 molecules of ATP per glucose molecule (should be 36-38) and when the right number popped up on the screen, she pointed out that we should memorize it (I still wonder how come she didn't memorize it herself). I don't mean to be particularly picky, but effectively this is high school knowledge and this kind of errors are not acceptable for PhD-level instructors preparing their students to take the CSCS exam.
The syllabus and the clinic flow were decent, but at certain point I was a bit surprised with the distribution of didactic material – it wasn't meant to be a teaching course, but instructors spent a lot of time describing some basic stuff, which everyone should know already, and they didn't spend much time on subjects that are particularly challenging. Overall, around 70% of the time or more was spent on teaching and only the remainder of time – on multiple-choice questions and practical part.
The multiple-choice questions:
They covered approximately 100 questions during the clinic, which is not bad, but, again, in my opinion, they should spend more time on questions by simply incorporating questions throughout the presentation. For example, after having covered some nutrition subjects they could apply the knowledge by solving some nutrition-related questions.
The practical part:
This part was the main reason for me to attend the course as I have only limited experience in terms of coaching and I would really like it being more comprehensive. The course allocated approximately 1-1.5 hours to showing us a proper technique for several major movements as well as some common errors, which was great, but I expected to see much more of that.
The slides and printouts:
The slides were good in general, but they didn't translate well into the printed materials as some of them were barely readable. Also, I'd expect to have an electronic copy rather than having a printout. Another minor criticism – some slides had videos of exercise errors and instructors had lots of technical difficulties with them. We wasted some time and focus with that.
My overall impression: A-
I think the clinic in general is worth attending as it was a nice review of the exam structure and format as well as the key topics. At the same time, the review was rather basic and I would suggest attending such clinic either in the very beginning of your preparation so that you can get an overview or 2-3 weeks before the exam – you will be able to review the material and to pinpoint your deficiencies and address them just before the exam.
Finally, I would like to say that this review was not meant to be particularly critical – I had a good experience overall, but I really wanted it to be as objective as possible. I know, that some of you will say that it's easy to criticize others, so, keeping that in mind I'll make a commitment to go over the most challenging topics in the textbook in my future blogs – I'll start a Sports Science series later this year, but only after I take my exam and get my CSCS title. So, stay tuned – subscribe to my newsletter, to my YouTube channel, ask questions and make comments. All kinds of interactions and constructive criticism are welcome!