All About ACE


I have my certification through the American Council on Exercise, and this page is for people who need answers to common questions pertaining to this certification. I ultimately chose this certification because it fit my budget and is great for those just starting out in the world of personal training.

  1. How long did you study? I studied for a little over five months for the exam. I bought the entire course bundle, which comes with a testing voucher and re-test voucher. You’re given six months to schedule the exam before your test voucher expires. Some people can take less time than this, especially if they already have a background in exercise science. I took about three weeks to study for my group fitness exam since I already had the background from studying for the personal trainer exam.
  2. What materials are included? For the full course bundle, you get the ACE Personal Trainer Manual (5th Edition), ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science, flashcards that come with the exercise science manual, an activity workbook with the personal trainer manual, and you receive what basically amounts to an online classroom with videos, quizzes, and two practice exams. I did use all of the materials. The whole thing costs about $800.00.
  3. What’s so special about ACE? I like that the full course bundle is affordable. I enjoyed the online material as well and found it incredibly helpful. ACE is there to support you throughout your entire career. They also offer plenty of CECs and specialty certifications. When you’re certified by them, you’re also guaranteed interviews with a few gyms, like Anytime Fitness and Orangetheory. They’re also very active among the community by conducting research, hosting webinars and seminars, sending out ACE ProSource emails, connecting members with IDEA, which allows you to be subscribed to their magazine; and the website is just overall wonderful and easy to navigate. I also love their massive exercise library.
  4. Was the test difficult to study for? I wouldn’t say it was necessarily difficult. It took me time to be able to fully grasp some concepts, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. Many who have no background in exercise science are overwhelmed by the science manual. I don’t have a background, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. This might be because I followed the guidelines given to me through ACE’s online content, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed when going through the science manual. Memorizing muscles also wasn’t too difficult for me as well. All you have to do is spend time memorizing one muscle group a week. What was most difficult was memorizing muscle imbalances, like which muscles are tight and which are weak, but as long as you know the muscles involved in your main movements, like pushing, lunging, and rotating, it won’t be impossible to grasp.
  5. What were the practice tests like? The practice tests reflect the actual test really well. However, I would suggest also doing practice tests online to really prepare you for the exam. Some people did well on the practice exams but did not pass the actual exam.
  6. What was on the exam? The exam is about 3 hrs. with 150 questions. I didn’t have to use the full 3 hours. I probably used about 1.5. You can also mark questions you find difficult and go back to them. Here is what you need to know:

~Locations of muscles in order to know what exercises use what muscles

~The ACE-IFT model. This is probably the biggest part of the exam. The ACE-IFT model is simply the model ACE uses for program progressions and regressions–which you also have to know.

~Some legal responsibilities, like informed consent, liability waver, and professional liability insurance

~Business models, like the types of corporations

~Injuries, illnesses, and appropriate exercises to do with them

~Special populations

~SMART goals

~Building rapport

~Stages of change

~Different learning styles

~Postural assessments

~Muscular imbalances

~Body composition assessments and BMI formula

~Blood pressure (systolic, diastolic)

~Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factor Thresholds and risk classifications


~Fitness tests, like the 3-minute step test

~Program design

~How to deal with certain situations, such as a client struggling with an eating disorder

~SAID principle

~Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles

~Concentric, eccentric, isometric, agonist, antagonist

~Metabolic pathways and the exercise intensities that use each pathway

~Calories in the major macronutrients

~Reading a nutrition label

~Best spotting practices

~Adequate water consumption

~How to adjust exercises in varying climates

~Target Heart Rate Training Zones and formulas

~The planes of motion as well as what exercises take place in each


If you decide you want to go through ACE, make sure you let them know that I recommended you!