ACE Personal Training Certification Review

ACE personal training certification review - Shh_Fit_Happens

There are many different agencies that 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 (continues 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. Which ever 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 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 a great 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!

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 text books 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.

This past summer, I decided I was going to take the PT exam by the end of the year for a job. I did not set a very strict study schedule in the summer and did NOT get as much done as I would have hoped! Once fall hit, I really made an effort to schedule days and times to study and have goals to complete certain chapters by a certain time.

I woke up before work, stayed in on weekends, and brought my study materials with me to holiday gatherings so I could study when everyone went to bed.

studying is fun with these guys

My nephew loved the Personal Training Manual text book, especially the chapter about injuries and the page with a picture of a guy holding his knee. He would carry the book around with him and then excitingly say “knee” every time he found the page (shown above). :)

I felt like I was never fully ready to take the exam because there always seemed to be more to learn, but 2 and a half weeks before the end of the year, I figured I better just schedule the darn thing!

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 3rd 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 in to 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!

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 text books and taking a multiple choice test are just part of being an effective and successful trainer. It take time and experience to really excel. Even though I passed the test, I still feel like I have a lot to learn and I spend quite a bit of time putting together training plans for clients and continue to use my text book and notes and quality website for reference.

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?

If you have never worked with a trainer, why might you decide to invest in one?

3 Resistance Band Moves to Improve Posture

3 Resistance Band Moves to Improve Posture - shh fit happens

If it looks like I just woke up in this picture, it is because I did! Well, actually it was right after a 6:30 AM class, but it was still early!

It has been a busy and exciting first week for me on the new job as a Fitness Director/Group Ex Instructor/Personal Trainer.

My job as the Fitness Director at a country club includes giving tours and orientations to members, developing ideas and programs to rebuild a not-so-popular fitness program, marketing efforts, putting together the group ex schedule, ensuring all equipment is working properly and clean, and being available to answer questions and solve problems as they arise.

I am also teaching about 8 classes a week, doing some personal training, and designing the club’s monthly newsletter (doesn’t really have to do with fitness specifically, but I do write fitness articles and promote the program in the newsletter).

One of the new classes I am teaching this year is a Foam Rolling and Stretching class. Below are three stretches that you can do at home or in the gym with a resistance band to improve your posture.

1. Chest Stretch: 10-12 reps, 2-3 sets

When we sit and slouch during the day, it causes the chest muscles to become tight over time. Try it in your chair right now…round your shoulders and slouch in your chair. Do you notice how your shoulders get pulled in towards your chest?

Now sit straight up in your chair and pull your shoulder back and relax them down. Your chest opens up and stretches out. Stretching the chest muscles helps to improve your upper body mobility and posture.

Chest stretch with band

2. Triceps Stretch: hold stretch for 30 seconds each side, 2-3 sets

While stretching the triceps is not directly related to improved posture, this exercise below will force you to lift your chest up and pull your shoulder blades together in the back.

band triceps stretch

3. Core Strength and Stretch: 6 reps each side, 2-3 sets

Almost every adult will experience low back pain at some point in his or her life and it is estimated that Americans spend over $50 billion a year on low back pain. Physical inactivity, stress, poor posture, and a weak core contribute to low back pain. Standing with the slightest arch in your lower back can increase compression loads on your spine dramatically (Source: ACE Fitness).

Try this one…stand up and arch your lower back a little. You may notice that this pushes your belly out a bit. Now tighten your abs. Do you notice it pulls your spine back into a neutral position and out of that arch? Strengthening your abs will help improve your posture and reduce low back pain.

This exercise below is a combo of stretching (as you lean to the side and stretch your obliques) and strengthening (as you use your abs to pull the band back up over your head).

Hip mobility and ab stretch with banc

I love this one! I forget where I saw this move (somewhere on the internet I believe), but it is such a great combo exercise! It looks so easy, but if you keep your core engaged, it will warm you right up!

Related posts: 

Straighten Up and Sit Right

Tips for Balance and Flexibility Training

On a completely different note... are any bloggers going to the IDEA World and Sweatpink Fitness Blogfest this summer in LA?? I really want to go! :)

Keep in touch!

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Wrapping up 2014, Rippin’ into 2015


Happy New Year!

I enjoy this time of the year when you turn on the TV and all the infomercials and news broadcasts and QVC are talking about the latest and greatest fitness trends, weight loss success stories, and celebrity healthy habits. It is the one time of the year that the general public seems to share a common goal of getting healthy…Even if does only last a week!

Forbes published an article about the “10 Common Money Wasters” and one of the biggest ones was unused gym memberships! I used to sell memberships in a gym and I would totally agree with this, it was unbelievable how many people signed up for the year and only used the gym a few times in January. What was even more crazy, was they did the same thing year after year!

If you are planning to buy a gym membership this year, I actually wrote a blog post about it a while ago with some tips and tricks. :)

So, speaking of not following through on New Years goals/resolutions…

I linked up with with Melissa from the Valentine RD on her #14in2014 check in in the beginning of last year with a handful of other bloggers to share our goals and resolutions for 2014 and check in through out the year to discuss our progress. My percentage of achieving my goals was less than sub-par. I never do well with New Years resolutions and actually stopped making them a while ago. Nonetheless, I did make a few goals that I did achieve last year, so let’s focus on the positive! :)

You can view my original goals (not resolutions) and #14in2014 check-ins below (I missed one of the check-ins though).

Goals for 2014

#14in2014 – First quarter check in!

#14in2014 – Third quarter check in!

My biggest accomplishment of 2014

I would have to say that my biggest accomplishment last year was becoming an ACE certified Personal Trainer. It has been a goal of mine for quite some time and I spent many nights, early mornings, and weekends studying this past year. I just passed the ACE CPT exam on December 30… talk about waiting until the last minute to cross that of my to-do list for 2014!!

I will write a recap post on the whole experience soon, but in the meantime, please enjoy my happy dance! :)

The coolest day in 2014

#FitblogNYC Meet and Tweet 2

Another goal of mine for 2014 was to attend a blogging or fitness conference, and I got the opportunity to go to #FitBlogNYC in October. It was such an amazing experience and I met some really inspiring fitness bloggers! If you would like to read more about that, you can view that recap post here: Fit Blog NYC Meet & Tweet 2014 Recap.

Rippin’ it in 2014


As a fitness instructor, I have the tendency to use the classes I teach as my own workout. While it is quite time-efficient, and is nice to get paid to move your body, it is not the same as getting my own sweat session on or taking another class where I don’t have to plan or think about anything but myself!

A friend of my sister and mine from high school is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and he recently opened a training studio right up the street from me. We all have a great time rippin’ it up and he writes a pretty good blog too. :)

It is also a great opportunity for me to lift heavier weights than I normally do in the classes I teach (another one of my goals) and just be a participant.

How did you do on your resolutions from last year?

Are you making any this year?

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer??

Staying Fit and Merry during Christmas

Fit and Merry Christmas

This will probably be my last post until the New Year. I want to enjoy the time spent with my family and friends, celebrate Christ’s birth, and finish studying for the CPT exam this next week and half! Not to mention I have some more shopping and baking to do before Christmas. Talk about cramming a lot into the end of the year!

In church yesterday, the pastor compared the busyness of this time of year to getting stuck in the “holiday quicksand” – instead of finding joy and comfort in God who sent his Son into the world for us, we get bogged down and overcome by the trivial things that this time of year brings.

I admit I can fall into this hussle and bussle of all the festivities, and like many others, I have been busy lately… as you can probably tell from my lack of posts this month. There are a few things I try to do everyday though, no matter how crazy busy this time of year gets!

1. Spend time with Jesus

He is the reason I celebrate Christmas and He is, unfortunately, often the first priority that gets pushed to the side during the holidays. I am participating in the Core of Christmas challenge and I have to say, it is probably one of my fave online challenges I ever did.

Not only was it easy to find the time to do a quick core exercise (almost) everyday, but it was a great way to read a different Bible verse everyday. Whether we take a few minutes to read a Bible verse, say a prayer, praise Him in song, or just reflect on God’s wonderful gifts – spending time with Jesus should be THE priority.

2. Move my body!

Everyone can find a few minutes to read a Bible verse and do a core exercise. Seriously, all you need is a minute or so in a plank to feel the burn…probably less! Below is a video collage of some of the Core of Christmas exercises I posted on Instagram for the challenge. Try a few! ;)

3. Be thankful

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

4. Listen to Christmas music!

Yes, I have been listening to Christmas music since November and, No, I am not sick of it! Between the Mariah Carey Holiday Pandora station being on my phone and office computer and the radio stations that play all Christmas music set in my car, I think I get my Christmas music cheer on just about everyday! #LoveIt

5. Drink coffee

Nothing says winter like a nice hot cup of freshly brewed coffee! It just seems to go with this time of year and the cold days. I went back and looked through my social media and blog, and turns out, I have quite a few pictures of me and coffee…

I might have to change my relationship status on FB.

Coffee Collage

Wishing you a Merry, fit, and blessed Christmas and New Year!

Looking forward to another great year of fitness and blogging in 2015.

Keep in touch!

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How many reps should you be doing in your workout?

People often ask how many reps they should be doing during a workout. I actually had two people ask me this question this past week… two very different people. One, a 20-year old athlete/runner who is currently lifting 12-16 reps per set and wants to get stronger, and the other, a 70-year old gentleman who is lifting 8 reps per exercise and wants to change up his workout.

strength training - how many reps should you do

There are three basic ways to strength train:  Continue reading

Faith & Fitness Friday: Christmas joy!


This post is getting out a little late on Friday but it is GREAT one for a “Faith and Fitness Friday.”

Niki from Overwhelmed Heart is hosting The #CoreofChristmas challenge with a couple other pretty inspiring bloggers (Courtney and Tiffany).  Continue reading

20 miles in November and sticking with your routine

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I am happy to report the I met my goal of running 20 miles in November for the Pile on the Miles Challenge hosted by Run Eat Repeat.

This is my second year doing the challenge and last year I set the same goal and came up short. I got my last 5 miles in this past weekend to meet my goal. Woohoo! Just made it!

Since it is Tuesday, I am linking up with The Fit Switch and Jill Conyers for the Dish the Fit! Today’s topic fits in nicely with this post as it is about sharing a fave fitness accomplishmentContinue reading