Become a Personal Trainer

ACE Personal Trainer Certification Review

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If you go into any gym and ask about fitness certifications, there’s a good chance they’ll mention ACE certification. There are over 90,000 certified ACE trainers and their popularity is growing every day.

The ACE CPT program is an excellent choice for new trainers. I ranked it as top #3 on my list of the best personal trainer certifications.

ACE certification combines broad foundational knowledge with the help of the IFT model. This teaches you to create effective programs for almost any client. It’s also widely accepted, due to the NCCA-accreditation, and includes excellent learning materials.

One of the things I like about ACE is that even the basic study package provides access to one-to-one feedback. The learning materials also come in a variety of formats, including text, video, and live Q&As, which can be helpful for retaining important information.

Additionally, ACE provides a wide range of future certifications and specializations. Aside from its additional NCCA-accredited certifications, there are also valuable specializations that allow you to improve your skills and provide services to a wider client base.

Most importantly, ACE trainers are highly employable. If you’re looking for a great all-around certification to kick-start your career, you can’t go far wrong with ACE.

The American Council on Exercise was founded in 1985. At this time, most certifications were only recognized at a state level. The goal of ACE was to create a nationally accepted certification.

ACE was called the “IDEA Foundation,” which stood for International Dance-Exercise Association. Its first certification aimed to standardize aerobic instruction. Since then, the organization has developed a range of certifications, including its popular personal training course.

This is interesting information, but the key takeaway is that ACE has been around for a long time. It’s improved and refined its certifications over decades – and it certainly isn’t trying to make quick money by latching onto the growth in personal training. If you want certification with an established reputation, ACE is a great choice.

ACE offers four NCCA-accredited certifications. Aside from the personal trainer program, these are:

  • Group Fitness Instructor
  • Health Coach
  • Medical Exercise Specialist

This is a smaller set of certifications than many organizations. ACE provides a range of other classes, specializations, workshops, and webinars, so there is plenty of chance to improve your skills or pursue a specialty. Examples include weight management, cancer exercise, and various health and wellness topics (such as yoga or pilates).

ACE General Info & Overview

Background:

Since 1985, ACE has been on a journey to evolve and help shape the fitness industry. From our early focus on group fitness and dance aerobics to the current, comprehensive approach centered on behavior change and health coaching, there are more than 100,000 ACE Certified exercise professionals and health coaches to get millions of people moving worldwide.

As the leading nonprofit exercise professional and health coach certification organization, their goal is to set the highest industry standards, elevate the careers of professionals and help people worldwide make movement their mission. Their commitment to create global impact inspires to facilitate partnerships with policymakers, fitness industry leaders, community organizations and the Healthcare Industry. They are determined to expand the healthcare continuum and integrate ACE Professionals, so activity is prescribed to prevent inactivity related diseases. By offering NCCA-accredited certifications, continuing education, and access to science-based health and fitness information, you are investing in their mission to get people moving—so everybody has the resources they need to lead active, healthy lives.

 

Specification Value
Bottom Line:
ACE PT certification is a great alternative to NASM if you want one-to-one feedback with any training bundle.
Prerequisites:
18+; AED/CPR; High School Diploma (or equivalent)
Support:
Support via phone, chat, and email. They are always on hand to answer your questions.
Accreditation:
NCCA
Exam Cost:
$399 (Exam Only)
Retest Cost:
$199
Recertification Period:
2 years
Recertification Cost:
$139
Recertification CEUs:
20 hours of CEUs
Program Cost:

$649 - $999 (Includes Exam)

ACE Prices and Plans:

There are several packages for the CPT program depending on the learning materials you need. All the packages include free shipping and an exam token. Here’s an overview:

  • Basic ($549) – This is the basic self-study program. The package includes the ACE Personal Trainer Manual and study companion, ACE Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals, and the ACE Academy interactive study platform. You also get limited access to the resource center, which provides personalized assistance from study coaches. While the Standard program is the same price as the NASM equivalent, NASM doesn’t include any personalized assistance with their basic package, so this is an advantage of ACE.
  • Plus ($649) – In addition to everything in the Standard Package, the Premium option includes an expansion pack of downloadable activities and an extra course called “The Key to a Successful and Effective Client Consultation.” You also get comprehensive access to the resource center, which allows you to contact study coaches by phone or email.
  • Advantage ($949) – The Premium Plus is ACE’s top package, and includes an extra course called the “3D Approach to Finding Nutritional Balance.” You also get access to a fitness math course and a retest voucher should you fail your first exam.

While the packages are relatively pricey, I think they provide good value for money. ACE has excellent learning materials that serve as a reference throughout your career. The interactive study platform and resource center are also great for providing extra support while you’re learning.

The right option depends on your requirements, although I think the Plus package provides the best value. If you want access to the Fitness Math, Client Consultation course, and extra nutritional course, however, you’ll need Advantage.

Accreditation

The ACE Personal Trainer Certification Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the U.S. for assessing fitness and allied health certification programs. It is also recognized globally by leading international standards-setting bodies, including iCREPs. Passing the exam will give you a trusted credential that will pave the way for you to help people become more physically active, and to gain the attention of sought-after employers.

With Digital Credentials, you can easily validate your achievement with employers, clients, and your peers. You will have access to a digital certificate, digital badge, and a digital wallet card, which you can proudly celebrate and share across your networks and devices.

Registration and Exam Criteria

ACE describes itself as the “leading non-profit exercise and health coach certification organization.” To achieve this, they set a high standard for their trainers – so you shouldn’t expect an easy final exam. First-time ACE CPT test takers have a 65% chance of passing.

The exam is composed of 150 multiple-choice questions and takes three hours. Only 125 of the questions are scored, while the others are used by ACE to evaluate future exam questions. There are no essay questions on the test.

There are four broad categories of questions: Client Assessment, Program Design, Program Progression, and Professional Responsibilities.

All ACE exams largely focus on the application of knowledge. Questions are designed to test your ability to problem solve and apply the IFT model when creating programs. There are also questions that focus on recalling important facts, but these are the minority.

The questions can be hard, so you’ll need a solid understanding of the main topics. You should focus on core concepts, including how the human body functions and basic anatomy, and aim to understand rather than just memorize. You should also know how health conditions, injuries, and other factors can affect safe exercise routines.

With that said, the ACE exam isn’t overly difficult and everything you need to know is included in the study materials. As long as you’ve dedicated time to studying, you should have a good chance of passing the first time. You’ll need to answer around 90 questions correctly to pass.

ACE Recertification

ACE has a two-year recertification period. You’ll need to pay $129 for recertification, although the cost rises if you’re late. This is slightly more expensive than NASM which charges $99 every two years.

During this two-year period, ACE also requires its certified personal trainers to complete 20 hours of CEUs (the equivalent of 2.0 continuing education credits or CECs). This is the same amount of CEUs as NASM.

ACE offers a range of continuing education courses that count towards your recertification CECs. These include online webinars, specialist programs, live workshops, and various other courses. Popular examples include “Cardiovascular Fitness for Firefighters,” “Senior Fitness Specialist” and “Anaerobic Power Training.”

In addition to its courses and workshops, there’s the ACE symposium held each year. This is only for ACE trainers and is a great way to network and learn from experts.

There are also external courses and workshops that may count towards your renewal CECs. ACE provides a list of approved external CECs, so make sure you check a course meets the organization’s standards.

Your CPR, AED, and First Aid re-certification count towards your CECs (0.2 CEC each).

ACE IFT “Integrated Fitness Training” Model?

The ACE program is centered around its proprietary Integrated Fitness Training model. What does this mean for your learning and future career though?

One of the keys to getting results for your clients is to provide individualized programs. It sounds obvious that a 55-year old person with arthritis is going to need a different program to a 20-year old amateur athlete, but designing effective programs for all clients isn’t always straightforward.

For this reason, it’s vital for trainers – especially ones starting their career – to have a repeatable system. This system should be adaptable to a client’s needs and goals.

That’s why the IFT model is so useful. It’s a tool to create custom programs that get results, while also building rapport with your clients. The model adapts to any fitness level, so you can help a diverse range of clients without feeling out of your depth.

Here’s a quick overview of the model’s components:

  • Function – The first stage focuses on creating a stable base for future training. You’ll also work on the client’s mobility and aerobic fitness.
  • Movement – Now the client has a solid foundation, you can start to apply movement training to improve their functional skills. You’ll also continue to work on aerobic efficiency.
  • Fitness – Once the client has improved their stability and applied it to functional movement, you can begin load and anaerobic endurance training. How long it takes to get to this stage depends on the client’s initial level of fitness.
  • Performance – The final stage continues functional movement and cardiovascular training while adding performance and anaerobic-power exercises to the mix.

Throughout these stages, the IFT model also teaches you how to build a strong rapport with your clients. This is essential for getting results – and is often overlooked by lower-quality certifications. The ability to build rapport is also important for client retention, so it’s vital for your success as a trainer.

Training Materials

ACE has some of the most comprehensive training materials of any personal training certification. This can be overwhelming when you receive your package, but you certainly get value for money. The key materials are:

  • ACE Personal Trainer Manual (5th Edition)– This book contains a wide range of tools for personal trainers, along with details on coaching philosophy and behavior change advice. All the material is backed by the latest peer-reviewed science.
  • ACE’s Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals – This is the core text, and provides the foundational knowledge required to pass the ACE exam. It covers a range of topics, including anatomy, physiology, and nutrition.
  • Academy Elite Interactive Platform – Aside from its core textbooks, the ACE program includes an interactive study platform. This teaches via instructional videos, extra resources, and additional articles. There is also a study blueprint that helps prevent overwhelm.
  • Resource Center. The resource center is where you can ask questions to study coaches. You can also get reviews of your practice test scores and access to live Q&A sessions.

Aside from the great study materials, ACE provides excellent support via email and phone. You can expect a response within 1-3 days, so don’t be afraid to contact study coaches for clarification or just for encouragement. Getting your practice exams reviewed is also helpful for speeding up the learning process.

One thing that’s missing from ACE’s material is a dedicated course on running and marketing a PT business. Most programs don’t include this (although ISSA does), but it could be helpful if you’re planning to set up an independent business.

ACE Success Stories

There are thousands of ACE success stories from all over the world that has helped them to become certified personal trainers.

ace reviews

Pros & Cons of ACE

Pros

Cons

Conclusion

To summarize this ACE review, the CPT program is an excellent choice for new trainers.

Firstly, it combines broad foundational knowledge with the helpful IFT model. This teaches you to create effective programs for almost any client. It’s also widely accepted, due to the NCCA-accreditation, and includes excellent learning materials.

One of the things I like about ACE is that even the basic study package provides access to one-to-one feedback. The learning materials also come in a variety of formats, including text, video, and live Q&As, which can be helpful for retaining important information.

Additionally, ACE provides a wide range of future certifications and specializations. Aside from its additional NCCA-accredited certifications, there are also valuable specializations that allow you to improve your skills and provide services to a wider client base.

Most importantly, ACE trainers are highly employable. If you’re looking for a great all-around certification to kick-start your career, you can’t go far wrong with ACE.

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