The OPT Model – The NASM Difference

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The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s evidence-based personal training programs work for every fitness level and every type of fitness, including those who want to train for a specific sport or those who can barely walk.

In the past, most training programs have been based almost entirely on the experiences and goals of bodybuilders, coaches, and athletes. Scientifically unsupported training programs are not designed to meet the needs of the  increasingly de-conditioned and injury-prone society

As stated in my previous post I use flexibility, cardio respiratory, core, balance, reactive, speed, agility, quickness, and strength modalities to help my clients reach higher levels of fitness without injury. 

The Optimum Performance Training method is a system for exercise selection based on the client’s needs, abilities, and goals. The endless choices of exercises and the unique progressions keep it fun, dynamic and, most importantly, successful.

After a thorough Kinetic Chain assessment, I choose which level of the OPT model my client fits best.  Approximately every 6 weeks my clients are ready to move up to the next level and so on.

Level 1:  Stabilization Endurance Training

This level is for beginner-level clients  and athletes who possess muscle imbalances, lack postural control and stability and focuses on

  • Increasing stability
  • Muscular endurance
  • Improving Flexibility
  • Increasing neuromuscular efficiency of the core
  • Improving inter-muscular and intramuscular coordination

Before progressing to the next level, I make sure my clients have excellent proprioception (or controlled stability) in every exercise. 

Level 2:  Strength Endurance Training

This level uses both superset techniques and stabilization exercises with similar biomechanical motions.   For example, I would have my client do a bench press immediately followed by a standing cable chest press.  Same motions, though the second exercise causes the exerciser to hold themselves in perfect posture while using an unstable device (cables).  This is a hybrid form of training that promotes increased stabilization endurance, hypertrophy (muscle growth), and strength.

Level 3: Hypertrophy Training

This level focuses on the adaptations for maximal muscle growth.   High levels of volume (sets, reps, weights) and minimal rest force cellular changes that result in an overall increase of muscle.  Ladies, don’t let this scare you…you will not bulk up.

Level 4: Maximal Strength Training

This level focuses on increasing the load placed upon the tissues of the body. Increasing maximal intesity improves recruitment of more motor units, rate of force production and motor unit synchronization.  Maximal Strength Training has also been shown to help increase the benefits of forms of power training used in Phase 5.

Level 5: Power Training

This level focuses on both high force and velocity to increase power. Clients will do this by doing a superset  strength exercise with power exercise for each body part (such as performing a barbell bench press superset with a medicine ball chest pass).

And finally Level 6 for athletes or those who want to train like one!

Level 6: Maximal Power Training

In this level the athlete increases speed strength and creates neuromuscular adaptations through an entire range of motion.  

However, this is a very specialized form of training and should be implemented only for those athletes that require maximum speed strength and who have developed optimum levels of stabilization and strength prior to this phase of training.

Next time, I’ll discuss more thoroughly Kinetic Chain Dysfunction.

**Please note: This blog is adapted from the website OPT Model page.

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31 Responses to “The OPT Model – The NASM Difference”

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    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really
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  10. Steve ChambersNo Gravatar

    I like the levels. When I start some workout routines I start a too high a level and recovery is hard and my progress isn’t as good as I want it to be. It’s nice to ahve different levels to mark our progress.

    I really am looking forward to learning more.

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  11. Trisha ChambersNo Gravatar

    There’s always so much to do when it’s time to get in shape. People are always amazed at how much work you have to put into it!

  12. alam ghafoorNo Gravatar

    Sabrina great info on your blog…..I have just started training again and fortunately for me the new trainer has discussed some of the things you mentioned and created a program around that…will direct him to this make sure he isn’t missing anything.

  13. Michael D WalkerNo Gravatar

    Hi Sabrina,

    Wow you sure pack a lot of info into a blog entry!

    I know you said you’re going to discuss Kinetic Chain dysfunction next
    but I’m going to have to plead ignorance and admit I don’t know what
    is covered in the Kinetic Chain assessment.

    Did I overlook that in a previous blog post or is that going to be part of your lead-in to explaining Kinetic Chain dysfunction?



    The Success Secrets

  14. David EscalanteNo Gravatar

    An amazing trainer will have all of these details in there mind so all you have to do is follow instructions and see results.

    David Escalante
    San Francisco Roofing

  15. SabrinaNo Gravatar


    Yes, anyone can do the program. BUT, what kind of spinal problems are you talking about?

    If you have any disc problems then I would have you avoid anything that involves twisting. I would also recommend you see a good chiropractor and get their recommendations on what you can do and what should be avoided.

    Sabrina Peterson
    Fat Burning Home Workouts

  16. Eileen O'NeillNo Gravatar


    I never knew so much went into becoming a good trainer. But may I ask, can everyone partake of this program, for example, people with spinal problems?

    Using Social Media in ESL/EFL/ESOL…

  17. Dale BellNo Gravatar

    I am like April I need to find a dictonary to figure out the words. Working out is not just a bunch of mussel bound guys or gals running around training it is a real science.

  18. Scott Sylvan BellNo Gravatar

    Just like any other action the training takes planning. Not just any planning will do it has to consist of the steps required to meet the goal. When I go to the gym I see people who don’t have any clue of what they are doing they just copy what they say someone else do. Many times the workouts they are using will hurt them.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Now go implement

  19. BryanNo Gravatar

    Wow! Thats was a lot of content. I like the way you write for peopel who may have no idea waht they are doing or wear to get started

  20. Sonya LenzoNo Gravatar

    The importance of training in a trainer is becoming more and more obvious to me. When I was having a LOT of physical therapy for my back, I never could figure out why sometimes, my back got worse and sometimes it got better. Now I think that some of the therapists pushed too fast. Wish I had known all of this info from your blog THEN.
    Sonya Lenzo

  21. MarkNo Gravatar

    I really enjoy being able to see the progression so you can mentally gear up for the next level. What is the typical level of client you work with? Just curious how many people go all the way to Level 6?

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  22. Robert KauferNo Gravatar

    Very thorough post filled with good info, thanks

    Robert Kaufer
    Law and Health with Robert Kaufer

  23. Jennifer BattaglinoNo Gravatar

    My goodness you are full of great fitness information and clearly you have an eclectic approach to encompass all of your clients’ goals.
    Wish you lived closer to me!
    It’s interesting that I started exercising again and found myself correcting how I worded it. I said I was exercising versus working out…Mental note.

    Jen B
    The Harwood Group – Tinnitus, Chronic Illness, Fears, and Anxiety

  24. Mike NorrisNo Gravatar

    Yes I see there are different levels of training. Do you have a specialty that you work in?

    Safety Is Everyones Business

  25. Mike CaseyNo Gravatar

    This is great information. I am certified through both NASM and ISSA myself and it is awesome how you are laying out the different levels and what goes into it for everyone. It can be very overwhelming for some people to see.

    Mike Casey

  26. TimNo Gravatar

    That phrase injury prone and deconditioned society scares me. I probably fit into that category. When I’m next in a gym and looking for a trainer, I’ll make sure that they are certified by the NASM. Thank you for that tip. I can see all the thought you put into a training regimen, and that is comforting to someone that might be scared of a gym.

    Tim Van Milligan, helping you Make Money Online, God’s Way!

  27. Michelle MasonNo Gravatar

    Thanks for laying out the different levels. It helps to understand that you can go from dumpy and lumpy to fit and healthy – it just takes a couple of stages to get there! Do most people start at level one?

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  28. Rob NorthrupNo Gravatar


    I like this step-by-step leveled approach to fitness. Even someone who is completely a couch potato can start at the lowest level and get results to move them to the second level.

    And up the ladder till they are physically fit!

    Seize the Day,

    Simple Family Survival Tips For Dissasters and Emergencies

  29. Lisa McLellanNo Gravatar

    That is alot of “stuff.” How long did you say it takes to become certified? So do you do OPT or just weight loss? What do people want most? Are they coming for major weight loss, slight weight loss, just to tone muscle, or physical therapy?

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services, Nanny Services, and Nanny agencies

  30. SabrinaNo Gravatar


    Yes..there is a story there. I’ll blog about it soon. After the kinetic chain dysfunction blog.

    Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT,CES
    Fat Burning Home Workouts

  31. Vegas Boomer Dating ExpertNo Gravatar

    Hi Sabrina,

    oh my goodness, there is a TON of fitness information her about OPT training. I think my brain only digested the information on the first 3 attributes. And I am now going to have to go look in a dictionary online to understand the word, “proprioception.”

    How did you find out about the National Academy of Sports Medicine? And how did you get started really with wanting to be a personal trainer? Is there more of a story there?

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Cyber Dating Expert and Online Dating Coach