Sitting for the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam


After almost a year of unofficially coaching and leading group fitness classes and 6 months of intention to get certified, I finally did it. I thought I would share some tips and some of my experience with studying and the exam. Decide and commit.

Before you buy the study materials and register for an exam, make sure to decide and commit to not only the outcome but also the process. The material takes time to study and digest not to mention a chunk of change for the certification. If you aren't sure if it's right for you, try going to a few group fitness classes or even shadowing another instructor.


Get your study materials. 

My recommendation is the latest edition of the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual and the ACE Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals. One of their kits comes with the Master the Manual Study Guide, but it's not really necessary if you are pretty good at studying. Also, get 1 or 2 of the practice tests. They are key to honing in during those final weeks and giving you either confidence or a reality check.

Know what you need to know.

My biggest mistake was thinking that I had to master the entire encyclopedia of the Essentials of Exercise Science book. You really only need to know the skeleton, major muscles of the body, and the basics of exercise physiology. You do, however, need to read the manual cover-to-cover. The exam is heavy on teaching methods, special populations, and common injuries. Memorize these and be able to apply what you know.

Study, study, study.

If I really wanted to, I could have compressed my studying into a couple hours a day for a month or two. Unfortunately, I'm a college student which didn't allow for that time commitment out of the gate. I spent about 4-5 months occassionally flipping through the book, and a month of hardcare grind studying.

Be prepared for anything at the testing center.

My site was an IT training center that wasn't opened on Sundays, so I had to call a number to have them let me in the back door. It was sketchy as all get-out. Honestly, I was surprised they didn't harvest my organs. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes on the prize and stayed focus on the task at hand.

You got this.

Trust the process.

The exam itself does not deviate much from the practice tests that ACE provides online. If you do well on those, you will be fine. You have to get about 72% correct to pass, and 25 of the questions on the actual exam are only used for research anyway. If you put in the work, you will reap the benefits.

As far as actually becoming a group fitness instructor, here are my recommendations as well.

Confidence is key.

This is true for everything especially as a fitness professional. Certifications give you credentials, but if you don't act like you deserve them, no one will want you to lead their class. Own what you know and what you worked for. Starting out can be hard, but have fun with it. You're going to make mistakes, but if you miss an exercise or play the wrong song, will anyone actually know?

Ask questions.

Every gym is different. There are quirks, practices, and rules of etiquette that you might not know about as a newbie. Don't be too eager to be a veteran. Be inquisitive and keep learning.

Decide what you like. 

I can't stress this enough. Just because every gym is hiring Zumba instructors doesn't mean that's your calling. Take classes. Find Groupon deals at different gyms. Talk to instructors about new trends, and decide what you like not just what sells.

Crushed it.

Cold call it. 

Well, don't call. Go to gyms around you and ask about their group fitness situation. Consider this an informational interview. Look at their class schedules. Explain where you are the certification process - certified or almost. Get business cards. Leave your information. This is a fantastic way to make connections and see who is hiring in your area with low stakes.

Keep the fire going but take it slow.

It's easy to follow the momentum of a certification or two to register for a handful of other certifications like yoga, Zumba, pilates, RPM, Insanity, whatever. Keep that excitement up, but save your money. Start teaching what you can. Circuit classes, basic strength, intervals, or a bootcamp are awesome options for beginners. Certifications especially by independent brands like Les Mills or Beachbody are pricey, so it's better to save up your money for the ones you truly want to teach.

If you are thinking about becoming a group fitness instructor or need some help studying, feel free to email me.

Also if you're into tumblr, I have a funny set about the experience.