Today I wanted to share my experience of my AFAA primary group fitness certification… what to expect and what you really need to know. On Sunday I had a good idea of what was going to happen, but I was still a bit surprised with the practical exams. Getting certified is scary enough, and it’s a big $$ investment too, so I hope to lessen some of your nerves if you’re planning to or getting certified.
AFAA’s primary group fitness certification is an all day thing. Mine started at 10am and was supposed to go until 7pm. Luckily there was only 4 of us testing so the day went by really quickly and I got out at 5:30pm. We had 1 instructor/exam leader, but usually there is more than 1 for larger groups.
The day starts out with instructions. Instructions on…
- what you’ll be reviewing that day for the written exam (they don’t want you to be in the dark!)
- what is expected for your group cardio segment
- what is expected for the group strength and flexibility exercises
- what is expected for your individual presentation
And that’s what you go over… basically everything you need to know to pass.
A big focus that day is on the essentials of exercise, which is section 1 in the study guide.
You need to know about the body…
- Anatomical terms: anterior/posterior, medial/lateral, supine/prone, superior/inferior, unilateral/bilateral
- Planes dividing the body: horizontal, sagittal, frontal
- Joint actions: flexion, extension, adbuction, adduction, rotation, circumduction
- Muscle terms: agonist, antagonist, primary movers, assistors, stabilizers
- Muscular contractions: isometric, concentric, eccentric (most common 3) plus isotonic and isokinetic
- Muscle fibers: fast and slow twitch
- Postural deviations: scoliosis (curve in the spine), kyphosis (very rounded shoulders), lordosis (excessive low back curve)
Make sure to read up on all of these + the main muscles (in your study guide!) and you’ll be prepped.
They will go over EVERYTHING that you need to know that day. If you are unsure about joint actions (and I sure was), then you’ll learn about it there. And if you end up not finishing your study guide then guess what… you go through the entire thing together! You’ll get your answers right then and there.
Group Cardio Practical Exam
This practical exam consists of a 3 minute warm up, 4 minutes of higher intensity cardio and 1 minute of a cool down. You have to do at least 3 different moves in both the warm up and cardio segment.
For me, this is where my nerves kicked in. I knew what to expect for the practical group cardio section, but I was still nervous.
First of all, you will practice this and get feed back before you do the exam, so you’ll know if you’re doing it right. Make sure to start small with your warm up and gradually increase intensity as you warm up. Gradual is very important here. Basically you want to follow the bell curve… starting small, bringing it up to the highest intensity, then bringing it back down to your cool down.
You have to follow a 32-count beat, so if you’re not familiar with that I suggest practicing. The music was a lot faster than I was anticipating. If you practice try using something that is around 135-145 beats per minute to be safe.
I was kind of random with my choices and I didn’t follow a plan (because of nerves), but here’s an idea of what you could do.
- Side step
- Hamstring curls
Repeat between those 3 moves which each lasting 32 beats. Add levers (arm movements) and shoulders rolls + such as you go on. Keep it simple and just rotate between 3 easy moves and you’ve got a warm up.
- Jumping Jacks
- Big hamstring curls moving faster
Again you can repeat between those 3. It’s really important to maintain proper posture and alignment (which they go over!) and make sure your heels go all the way back down to the ground during jumping jacks (or any jumping movement).
Yeah that’s all you need to do. Really take it down and cool your body down. This isn’t cardio here it’s a cool down. You could add shoulder rolls here but it isn’t necessary. Not stretching, just cooling down.
Group Strength + Flexibility Exercises Practical Exam
You will complete a minimum of 2 strength exercises (in 1 minute) for each muscle group then show 1 stretch for the muscle group (after the minute is up). Only 1 isometric exercise is allowed per group.
Muscle groups to prep for and exercises you can do:
- pectorals – chest fly and chest press
- trapezius, rhomboids and/or latissimus dorsi – row and back fly
- deltoids (shoulders) – shoulder press and lateral raises
- biceps and/or triceps – bicep curl and tricep extension
- hip abductors (outer thigh) and/or abbuctors (inner thigh) – single leg squat and side laying leg lift
- gluteus maximus – plie squat and lunges
- quadriceps and/or tibialis anterior (shin area) – squats and toe lifts (this strengthens your shin area)
- hamstrings and/or gastrocnemium/solues (calves) – lunges and calve raises
- rectus abdominis and/or obliques – basic crunches and bicycle crunches
- erector spinae (low back) – plank and face down laying with alternating leg lifts (not both legs at the same time!)
Flexibility for the groups:
- pectorals – open up your chest with arms out to the side
- trapezius, rhomboids and/or latissimus dorsi – interlace your fingers and stretch your arms forward, palms out
- deltoids (shoulders) – arm across chest for a shoulder stretch
- biceps and/or triceps – arm over head with hand behind head for tricep stretch
- hip abductors (outer thigh) and/or abbuctors (inner thigh) – standing lunge to 1 side for an inner thigh stretch
- gluteus maximus – laying on your back pull 1 leg into your chest
- quadriceps and/or tibialis anterior (shin area) – standing quad stretch
- hamstrings and/or gastrocnemium/solues (calves) – standing with 1 leg slightly more forward than the other, sit back into the stretch
- rectus abdominis and/or obliques – laying on your stomach up on your elbows (not hands!)
- erector spinae (low back) – child pose
My suggestion here is to take a second to think of what exercises you’ll be doing (because you go back to back between the groups) so that you don’t start doing a bicep curl during the deltoids group. Complete about 16 reps of the first exercise, then go into the second. If you haven’t been told ‘thank you’, which means you’re done with the 1 minute, just go back to your first exercise.
You will go over each of these groups before you get tested on it, so if you go in with an idea of what you want to do for each then you’re right on track.
Individual Presentation Practical Exam
You will go in front of the group and demonstrate + explain 3 levels of an exercise – a beginner, intermediate and advanced variation, including the muscle groups being used and proper alignment. You must talk for 1 minute but no more than 2 minutes.
During this you can choose to do either a strength exercise, cardio or flexibility. I suggest choosing a strength exercise because it’s easier to differentiate the 3 levels. I did the squat for mine and here’s what I said:
“Hello my name is Heather. Today I am going to show you the squat, which is an exercise to strengthen your gluteus maximus, quadriceps and hamstrings. For level 1 begin with your feet hip distance apart, abs engaged with a neutral spine, shoulders down and back. You will bend at your knees and push your glutes back. The weigh should be in your heels here and your knees should stay behind your toes.
For level 2 of this exercise lift up the heel of your left foot. Now the majority of the weight is in your right heel with the left toe on the ground for stability. Remember to engage your core here and push your glutes back like you’re sitting in a chair.
If you’d like to take this to level 3, lift up your left foot completely off the ground for a single leg squat. Maintain a neutral spine and good form during this exercise.”
At this point you will likely here “thank you” which means you either 1) you said and showed everything you need to or 2) you went past your 2 minutes. If you don’t hear thank you then 1 minute might not have passed then just go back to 1 of your levels and queue proper alignment some more.
Key points to remember:
- Tell them your name
- Explain the exercise + the muscle groups it will strengthen
- Make sure to either say beginner, intermediate and advanced or level 1, 2 and 3
- Queue (and show) proper form and alignment
- Speak loud enough so everyone can hear you and look at the group you’re talking to
This was really the easier part of the day. It went by so quickly and you practice + get feed back before doing it.
After you’re done with everything you’ll be one tired person. I was exhausted by the end of the day. There was a lot of info to take in but it was all so helpful!
I tried to cover as much as I could here, but you’re not looking for a book to read right?
If you have any questions please ask away! I’m here to help and share what I’ve learned.
Now I’m off to walk Joe with Jacob. Joe knows what’s coming and is getting pretty excited!