This post originally appeared on my old blog, but it is so relevant to The Fit Niche that I wanted to update it and re-share it here.
One of the reasons I started a new blog (The Fit Niche) was to reach more fitness professionals and trainers, so for all you aspiring personal trainers, here is my ACE Personal Training Certification Review!
ACE Personal Training Certification Review #personaltraining #onlinetrainer Click To Tweet
Let me start off by saying I LOVE ACE and totally recommend them!
There are other great companies to get certified with as well though, in fact, many different agencies are in the business of certifying personal trainers and group exercise instructors… ACE, NASM, ISSA, AFAA, ACSM, NESTA, NFPT… the list goes on…
But how do you know which one is the best and right for you?
First, you should make sure the certification is accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Some employers may not require a trainer’s certification to be NCCA accredited, but more and more reputable companies are looking for this. In my experience, the companies that do require certain certifications usually look for ASCM, NASM, NCSA, and ACE.
Also, NCCA accredited agencies usually allow CEUs (continued education units) to cross over. For example, I have my Group Exercise certification from ACE and a Cycle certification from AFAA; since AFAA is not NCCA accredited (and maybe because they are a for-profit company), they require you to get continued education specifically through them to keep that certification up-to-date. Whichever way you choose to go, this is something to research and keep in mind because the costs do add up when you have to get continued education for various certifications!
Here is a great resource on the ACE website that compares certification agencies by various categories (price, requirements, NCCA certified, exam procedure, study materials, etc.)
I chose to get my Personal Training certification from ACE because I got my Group Ex cert from them and well, like I said, I love the company.
The American Council on Exercise is NCCA accredited, offers comprehensive study packages and continued education, and has a valuable website and an extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff. One of the things I love about ACE is the staff members are available on instant message that you can talk to them and ask questions.
When I was looking into getting another certification with them, they were very helpful and even offered me a coupon code. Also, when I did not realize I had to pay to renew my Group Ex certification every 2 years (pretty standard procedure), they waived the late fee. The customer service is great and the monthly IDEA magazine is an awesome educational resource and also has quizzes in the back that you can take to use towards continued education.
No matter what certification you choose, staying up to date on the latest research and continuing to expand your knowledge and fuel your passion is what will make a trainer great!
CHOOSING YOUR STUDY MATERIALS:
You can choose one of three home study packages with ACE or buy study materials a la cart.
At the least, I would say you need the ACE Personal Training Manual and ACE Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals. I chose to order a la cart because at the time, I did not know exactly when I would schedule my test and some of the packages offer an Exam Voucher that has to be used within a certain amount of time. I ordered the above two mentioned textbooks as well as the Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement book.
The ACE website also offers an exam prep blog and various webinars that are helpful when studying.
If you consider yourself to have good study habits and are able to set study schedules and stick to them, the ACE home study program is the way to go! Other companies offer workshops and classes to teach you the information if you learn better/quicker that way versus reading and studying on your own.
I learned from this experience that I probably would have learned the material quicker in the class room setting where someone was teaching me and I could ask questions. I think I learned just as much (maybe more) by studying at home, but I spent a lot of time re-reading text, doing extra research on things I didn’t understand, taking a lot of study breaks, and not making the most of my study time.
Since I did not really have a date in mind to take the test, I would go a month or two of studying, then kind of stop, and then when I restarted I would have to refresh on the chapters I already read. I probably did this for about a year and a half!
Talk about bad study habits, eh? I realized I better get serious… and maybe not drink wine while I studied! 🙂 So I set a goal to take the exam by the end of that year (which at that point, gave me four months). I woke up before work, stayed in on weekends, set a study schedule, and brought my study materials with me to holiday gatherings so I could study when everyone went to bed.
I felt like I was never fully ready to take the exam because there always seemed to be more to learn, but I knew the material and was as ready as I was going to be!
I traveled down to King of Prussia, PA on December 30th to the exam site with a double espresso in hand.
The test is administered by a third party and when I arrived, the test proctor took my belongings and locked them up. Apparently, you are not allowed to bring your phone, purse, or even a water bottle into the exam room.
The test administrator/proctor then explained the test taking process and rules to myself and the two other people who were taking a test that day before bringing us into the exam room and getting each one of us logged into our personalized exam on our computer.
I was pretty nervous at first, but once I got going, I relaxed and felt more confident of my answers.
Some of the questions were a little confusing and I wrote the number of the question down on the provided note pad so that I could go back and revisit them at the end.
The test has a 3-hour time limit and is graded out of a score of 800, with over 500 being the passing rate. I finally clicked submit at about the 2 and a half hour time mark and the test immediately gave me my results. The results were broken down into four categories and you were given a passing percentage in each category and then your total score out of 800.
I was a happy camper with slightly sweaty arm pits when my score came up as 707/800. Woohoo!
Here was my happy dance I did when I got home after I passed that day. 🙂
The test was tough with questions that really tested your knowledge on various topics. However, I don’t think the test was extremely difficult if you have a good understanding of how the human body works and are able to reason and make educated guesses on the questions that stump you.
Studying textbooks and taking a multiple choice test are just part of being an effective and successful trainer. It takes time and experience to really excel.
You are not going to be the world’s greatest trainer with your first few clients, and that is OK. You have to start somewhere and hopefully you will keep getting better at what you do as the years go on!
Just because the test is over, which is a relief, the real work has just begun. I spent a TON of time putting programs together and tracking every little thing I did with my first few clients. I will admit, it was a bit exhausting.
I remember coming home from a long day of work one day in early January, starved and tired. I had three classes to teach beginning at 6am the next morning that I had to prep for and two new clients starting the next day whom I had promised lots of stuff… a cardio program they could do on their own, nutrition guidelines, goal sheets, assessments, etc… I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to cry.
Sometimes you have to just jump in and get your feet wet! It’s the only way to learn.
Sometimes you have to just jump in and get your feet wet! It's the only way to learn. Click To Tweet
There are things I probably should have done differently or better with those first few clients, but I gave them a good workout, poured my heart and soul into their programs, and still have a wonderful relationship with them! They say rapport is key and it really is!
While I still make notes and come up with a plan for each client, I definitely don’t spend as much time on it as I did when I first started. But I will say, I think putting in those extra hours the first few months was necessary and really helped me learn.
And I will keep learning! There is always something new to learn in this field. As an ACE certified fitness professional, you must also get continued education credits and renew your certification every 2 years.
Here are some great resources for personal trainers:
If you are a trainer, what is one piece of advice you would give to new trainers?
If you have ever worked with a trainer, what was your favorite part about it?
Great info! I just took the AFAA group exercise exam and passed. I have heard ACE is a lot more intensive. I don’t plan on being a PT, but it’s good to read about your experience. You never know! 😉
Thanks Nikki – Congrats on the Group Ex cert! You will love teaching I think, it is so fun and hey. you get paid to work out, can’t beat that!
I don’t know about one main focal point, I think the test really tries to cover a little bit of everything in the book. I would set a schedule for yourself and if you don’t understand something, just move on – don’t let it take up too much of your time. Know the basics of anatomy but you don’t have to know every single bone, muscle, insertion point, purpose, etc… I wasted a lot of time on this. The test more likely will just ask something like “what muscles are tight if your heels come off the ground in a squat?” Hope that helps a little, good luck!!
Congrats girl!! This is an awesome review!
I did my NSCA PT exam last August and am so glad I did it. I really wished I thought about studying with a glass of wine though – now that is a solid tip haha.
Congratulations it is not an easy exam. If anyone is looking for more information on how to pass the ACE Exam take a moment and pop on over to https://practicequestions.net
lots of free ace pt sample exam questions plus other blog like links for extra tips and tricks…
Hi – I am currently an ACE certified group fitness instructor but am looking to become a personal trainer. In your opinion, was the ACE group fitness exam similar to the personal training one? Easier/harder?
It was different.. but I actually scored higher on the PT exam. The PT exam was just more to do with the human body, whereas group ex had a lot about class design in it.
Hi, I’ve been looking into ACE’s Personal Trainer program for the past few weeks, but I’m worried because my background is in a completely different field.
Do you think their program is suitable for someone who hasn’t never been in the fitness field before? Or would it be better for me to do more studying before joining their program?
I think the text book and study materials teaches you everything you need to know for the test. And while you are studying, just start hanging around the gym more and observing what training sessions look like – or even get a part time job at the desk to get used to the atmosphere.
Great information!i am a bit worried regarding the aed/cpr certification.as i am from india i dnt have enough knowledge about these nor do i know from where to get certifications specificly on these two.
It would be of great help if you could guide me regarding this.
Such great information, thank you for taking the time to write this. After completing your exam, did you find it was easy to secure a position? How did you approach the post-test process?
Experience is key. Find a job in a big box gym. It sucks but gives you experience. Then branch out to smaller studios, private facilities, or your own operations.
Great read and insight, thanks, Sarah! I’ve been contemplating becoming a personal trainer myself, and the ACE certification program definitely seems like the right program to go with.
When taking your PT exam, though, was there a certain area you believe the study materials didn’t prepare you enough?
I would just really know the human body and how it moves and works. 🙂