Back in January, I sat down and made a list of fitness, health and happiness goals. On the fitness list: Get my ACE Group Fitness Certification. I got my ACE Personal Trainer Certification in 2013 when I switched over from a lesser known certification, and have been teaching group fitness since 2010, so it only seemed right that I become an ACE-certified group fitness instructor.
Make it official, right?
I chose to stick with the American Council on Exercise because 1) loyalty, and 2) ACE professional certifications are widely accepted and respected within the fitness industry.
Before you decided what route to go, I highly suggest you do some research: If you currently work at a fitness facility, ask the fitness director which group fitness certifications they accept. Then, look into each individual certification and pick the one that speaks to you. If the certification is nationally accredited and/or accepted by your employer, you can't go wrong.
All of my group fitness instructors are certified by either ACE or AFAA. I don't have much inside info on the AFAA exam, but I can give you some tips on taking the ACE group fitness exam.
review those study tips. The following will focus more specifically on the group fitness exam.
Note: ACE unveiled a new Group Fitness Certification Study Program almost immediately after I received my books. Because of this, they gave me access to the new program. I spent some time with it, and will do my best to address both as some of you may still be using the old books.
1) If you are an ACE-certified personal trainer, trust your knowledge of exercise science.
My bundle of study materials included the Essentials of Exercise Science book, which I already had. I contacted ACE and they agreed to send me the corresponding flash cards in place of the book. The cards helped me review key concepts like slow versus fast twitch muscles, muscle names and corresponding functions, caloric expenditure, blood flow, planes of motion and more. And yes, all of these key concepts appeared on the exam.
2) Focus on class design, structure, music, teaching styles, learning methods, etc.
These concepts were new to me, as they were not presented in the personal training course materials. You should know how to build and lead a class, and know how to problem-solve your way through classes that have participants with different learning styles. Obviously, this will be a large portion of the exam.
3) Continue to take or teach group fitness classes while you study.
Immersing yourself in the culture of group fitness while you are learning about it is the best way to absorb the information you are studying. I've been a group fitness instructor since 2010, but I can tell you with absolute certainly that I still learned a thing or two. Essentially, I was able to observe myself in action, and consequently made note of the different concepts I was learning about in my books. If you are not currently teaching, being a part of a live class will give you the chance to observe seasoned instructors at work. And to become one yourself, because #handsonexperience.
4) Be prepared to apply the concepts you are reading about in your manual.
I know that ACE is phasing out the exam that I took in favor of one that's more in line with the new course materials, but I don't forsee the changes to the exam itself to be that drastic. Multiple choice questions will come firing at you, so problem-solve your way through those by trusting in the knowledge you have gained. Additionally, be prepared to work with visuals—some of the multiple choice questions had corresponding photos and videos from which I was asked to identify what was going wrong and/or how I could modify the exercises shown.
5) Don't skim over the safety and liability mumbo-jumbo.
...because it's not really mumbo-jumbo. It might not be the longest section in the book, but it might very well be the most important. You'll see a few questions on the exam pertaining to these topics, but you'll spend a lifetime of group fitness instruction making sure that your participants are safe.
Generally speaking, I thought the ACE Group Fitness Exam was quite manageable. It took me six months to prepare. I could have done it sooner, but a part-time job and two kids really sucked the life out of my study time.
For those of you who are already certified fitness professionals, it will refresh your understanding of key fitness concepts while enhancing your ability to lead more than one person through a workout.
For those of you that are not already certified fitness professionals, fear not the need to study exercise science and group fit instruction! ACE excels at the user-friendly approach. The course materials (new and old) are very approachable, and the study guides will truly assist you.
And from my perspective, I've had nothing but great experiences with ACE. They're easy to interact with and certainly affordable...fair warning, maintaining professional fitness certification can get quite expensive! Additionally, ACE presents a general group fitness certification. Many formats (like PiYO Live and Spinning) require additional certifications in order to teach. And even though you can get those certifications without being a certified group fitness instructor, I highly recommend that you pursue your general group fitness certification first.
You really will learn almost everything you need to know about leading a group through their workouts. It's worth all the time, money and effort. I promise.
Any questions? I'd be happy to answer them. Leave a comment below, or reach out to me directly: tara (at) adailydoseoffit (dot) com. These posts might be helpful, too:
• Teaching Group Fitness
• 8 Tips for Group Fitness Instructors
• Want a career in the fitness industry? What you need to know.
• How to Get a Job in the #Fitness Industry
Question: Group fitness professionals, tell me about your certifications! I want to know what you're doing! Not certified? If you could teach one group fitness class, which would you choose and why?