Should Physiotherapists take their CSCS?

Earlier today I got a message from a colleague and thought my response would make an interesting blog post for the day.

I often get asked by other physiotherapists about getting CSCS certified and that is what this particular colleague was interested in as well. Here is my response I gave (excluding opening and closing formalities)

“I don’t know if you saw my facebook status a few weeks ago on the topic, but I may have a debby downer answer that you weren’t looking for unfortunately

I get asked this question quite a lot actually because of my CSCS background before I became a physio. However, I truly believe that it is unnecessary to get your CSCS as a physio unless you are actually planning on using it to strength train athletes. I find the 2 biggest reasons that physios want to obtain their CSCS are 1) to boost their resume or 2) to learn more about strength training. If the answer is 2 then please definitely do not do your CSCS because you won’t learn much of anything important at all (you really just learn the basics). If you want to learn more I would shadow/volunteer with an amazing strength coach in your area. The hours spent doing this will be far more valuable then studying to earn a piece of paper. It will also create a good relationship with someone in the community.

If your reasoning for CSCS is the first common reason then I understand. I understand that if Physio A, Physio D, and Physio K all have their CSCS and I don’t that maybe they will have a higher chance of landing sweet jobs. This is probably true, but also not really. Being a good clinician has nothing to do with titles really. FCAMPT doesn’t mean much and having CSCS as a physio doesn’t mean much either. CSCS might only mean something to me if you actually bring with it years of actual training experience with athletes, which I am fortunate enough to have. But if you are just getting it and not truly going to use it then I don’t think it means that much, because as I said earlier you aren’t going to learn much by taking it. However, if you want to apply to be the physio for a sporting facility/organization and you think it’s going to help you or be a prerequisite than I can’t discourage it. Though, if I was an employer at one of these facilities and I saw one applicant had their CSCS with years of training experience and the other was just a physio with their CSCS and no experience, I’d choose the years of experience any day of the week. So it may render itself pointless anyway.

Now maybe my whole response has been assuming and you actually do plan on training athletes. Then I apologize and I say go for it!! I think its great that physios are integrated into the training world because they are so highly connected. I think every physio should be able to step into the gym and coach movements at a somewhat decent level. It may not have to be at an expert level as it shouldn’t be our full on speciality, but it should be higher than an entry level trainer and also higher than the current standard of physio exercise knowledge is unfortunately.

Hope that makes sense. To answer your question if you do follow through with it. You go to the National Strength and Conditioning Association website, find your way to CSCS exam locations, register for one, buy their text book and basically just study every chapter in the book (even the stupid ones about gym organization/management). If you have any further questions about the test I’d be more than happy to give some insight!”

In summary, unless you plan on actually using your CSCS I wouldn’t recommend taking it. If you are a physio who didn’t come from a training background, but are interested in learning more it can be a helpful cert to get your foot in the door. Couple this with shadowing of a high quality strength coach and it will be one of the more valuable things you can do for your career. As a resume booster or education tool alone it is near useless for us physiotherapists.

What are your thoughts?

Sincerely,

Dave Leyland

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6 comments

  1. Had my CSCS during my last year of internship at chiro school (06) until 2008. While I was in Toronto I wanted to stand out a bit more with sports specific communities. I could have passed the exam with my Kinesiology background. It is a decent foundation, but not necessary if you’re already a PT or a DC. Just my 2c.

    1. Good point Marc!! Thanks for reading!

  2. Justin Baerg · · Reply

    Hey David,

    Thanks for the post! This year i will be entering my first year at UBC in the PT program, and i was curious about this topic because i have a very limited background in kinesiology/sports rehab/etc.. I graduated with a BSc (hon) in molecular and cellular biology with a focus on research. So while my physiology is adequate, my anatomy and understanding of program design/strength training/conditioning is very limited.
    My professor recommended the NSCA-CPT course. What would you have to say about this certification as compared to the CSCS? It sounds to me that my schooling at UBC will cover these topics but i also want to go into the program with a head start (or at least on the same level as my colleagues) . Will this certification benefit someone with my background?

    1. Hey Justin,

      Thanks for the read! I didn’t attend UBC physio unfortunately, so can’t speak definitely about the program, but I have talked to enough graduates to safely say I think that nothing related to these topics at all will ever be touched. Physio school is extremely basic as you will see and the exercise education will be minimal. If you are very limited in exercise knowledge I would maybe consider doing the NSCA-CPT. The CSCS may be good as I mentioned to potentially apply for jobs after. However, anyone who is hiring you and realizes you have your CSCS, but have no practical gym experience should realize that is not a good combo. My best suggestion would be if you are interested in learning more about exercise programming is to shadow good trainers. I work at a gym and potentially you may be able to come shadow some sessions and talk to trainers/myself and learn more that way than you would be studying for a test.

      1. Justin Baerg · ·

        Thanks for the suggestion. I may take you up on the offer! but first I will explore options in Abbotsford where I currently live.
        Last question, do you have any recommendation for reference material other than the NSCA? i.e. websites, journals, or blogs that are a go-to in this area of exercise development and conditioning?
        thanks for the info!

      2. I normally used to recommend people to read Ben Bruno’s blog as he always used to post the top 50 fitness articles to read a week. However, I don’t think he has posted that in the past few months/year. As much as T-nation can be a bit “meat-headish” it still often has lots of great articles. Reading stuff of Mike Boyle’s, Charlie Weingroff’s, Mike Reinold’s are all awesome. themanualtherapist.com is a great physio website to follow for you. May be a bit over the head a bit until you get into the physio mindset in school, but definitely check it out when you can. Mobilitywod.com used to be a great free site, but you have to pay for a lot of it now, however I think there is still a lot of old free material. That should be a good starting point!

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