Are Accredited Certifications Overrated?

Where to get more education.

You’ve heard it before: Get outside the Box and find knowledge on different, non-CrossFit paths.

But what about those accredited certifications? Like NASM, ACE and CSCS? What is it about these certifications that can push your coaching to the next level?

“These other certifications force you to learn basic anatomy which is super important because we’re working with the human body,” explained Ty Vincent, the owner of CrossFit Sunset in Los Angeles.

CrossFit is all about dealing with the human body, and thus, it’s important for Coaches to know what movements work what muscles, what connects to what, etc. Or at least, it’s important in Vincent’s Box.

In the past three to four months, Vincent has really pushed this belief. Before every class, him and his Coaches ask about injuries. “My Coaches are understanding how things connect, that if [a member has] a back problem, that maybe it’s not their back,” he said.

It seems this method is working, as Vincent noted he’s received emails from clients thanking CrossFit Sunset for their focus on this area.

To keep his Coaches aware and learning, Vincent will drop in on classes from time to time. He’ll ask questions when Coaches use vocabulary words like “rotator cup,” not cuff, and mention muscle groups, making them think and research the terms. Two weeks ago, when Vincent asked his Coach why they do negatives, his Coach went and did research, coming back with not only an in-depth answer, but also a question on how to gain further knowledge in this area.

“It’s not to put them on the spot or make them feel stupid,” explained Vincent of his questioning tactic. “If we’re going to say why something can hurt us or why something can help us … I want them to know what it exactly does, that muscle, that joint or that bone does.”

Vincent recommended the pursuit of several certifications: NASM, NSCA, CSCS, ISSA, ACE and USAW Level 1 — the recommendations are based on his own experience with the certs and what he’s heard about the programs.

Overall, he said it’s important to understand the basics in a wide range of knowledge areas because not everyone is going to understand or want CrossFit advice. For example, one of his Coaches who has a tennis background is able to explain things using tennis examples, coming in handy when training members who play tennis.

Plus, taking these accredited certifications means you might have to go deeper into subjects that other certifications may simply graze over. For example, Vincent said CSCS has a 600-plus-page textbook you have to go over, and for many of the certifications mentioned, you have to be CPR and AED certified. His Coaches are required to have this now as well.

At the end of the day, Vincent simply wants to give his members the best and safest route to fitness. And that, it seems, comes with diving deep into the knowledge basin. “We want to make sure we’re giving them the best possible answer we can,” he said.


Photo by Morgan Ayres

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at