Here we are with another installment of the AFAA Certification series. We’ve discussed the whole workshop from registration to completion, but in this post we’ll give a little more attention to what you should know about the Practical Exam. This is a long one, so we’ll cover the cardiorespiratory demo here and the muscle groups + individual presentation next. If you are interested in the previous posts, here they are: Post#1, Post #2, Post #3
When testing begins, the entire group will be divided in half, and each person to be tested is assigned a number. Your group will either first take the written exam while the other group does the practical or vice versa. When it is time for your group to take the practical, you might be divided into smaller testing groups, depending on the size of your workshop. Make sure your number is highly visible, like right on your stomach or chest. I usually wait until the start of the practical to apply the number so that I don’t have issues with the sticker peeling up while I’m moving about. You may notice the additional proctors who have been brought in to assist with the testing.
Once everyone has their mat and is lined up, the music will start. A voice will say, “demonstrate exercises appropriate for a warm-up.” A mad sort of organized chaos ensues. You, and everyone around you is moving about, doing their own thing, warming up their imaginary class. It can be distracting and a bit hysterical, so if you are prone to distraction, you should find a way to focus. I recommend choosing a spot on the wall in front of you, above the heads of anyone in front of you, and imagine that you are teaching your class to that wall spot. It will help you ignore what is going on around you. Just be careful not to run into your neighbors.
The warm up is expected to contain rhythmic limbering movements, movement rehearsal, and static stretches. It helps to have a game plan for your demonstration so that you don’t get lost or blank out. I recommend that you pick 2-3 movements for each category, memorize and repeat the heck out of them. The practical is not about showing off your amazing choreography skills. It is about getting a passing grade, so pick basic, obvious, unassailable movements. If you aren’t sure if it’s appropriate, leave it out. Save it for your hard core body conditioning classes. Here are some examples of movements you can use for your warm up:
“Reach and Pull” (Rocking forward and back with a lat pulldown)
Bob and Weave
Cat back with hands on thighs
Standing hamstring Stretch
Calf stretch lunge
Shoulder stretch with one arm reached across the body
Tricep overhead bent arm stretch
Supported Side Bend
After three minutes, you are asked to demonstrate exercises appropriate for a cardiorespiratory workout. You spend the next five minutes leading an imaginary “hi-lo,” kickboxing, or step class. You are also expected to demonstrate a progression of intensity with your movements. You accomplish this by adding impact or travelling or arms. Once again, I recommend keeping it simple and sticking to your game plan. You are going to see lots of action around you, and it will be easy to get distracted. Keep your focus and just keep repeating! I use the following breakdown to plan it out:
Your music will be, give or take, 130 bpm. You have to teach for 4 minutes, which means you have 135×4 = 540 beats to fill which is 67.5 8-counts or around 17 32-beat stanzas of music to fill.
If you choose 4 basic movements that have easy progressions to higher intensity movements, you can use a plan like mine. Here is my example for a Hi-Lo Demonstration.
Move 1: Step Touch. Progresses to Lateral Skater Jumps
Move 2: Step Heel: Progresses to a combination of Plyo Heel Digs and Double-Time Heel Digs
Move 3: Side-to-Side Squats: Progresses to Jumping Jacks.
Move 4: Grapevine: Progresses to Lateral Shuffle Steps
Filler Moves: Marches, Bob and Weave, just about anything from the warm up, except static stretches can be filler
Knowing that you have 16 stanzas, give or take you have lots of choices for layering and yes, TONS of repeating. Remember, it isn’t about showing off. It’s just about getting it done correctly and gradeably.
1: Step touches
2: Step heel
3: Side-to-side squats
5: 16-cts stp touches + 16-cts stp heel
6: 16-counts side squats + 16-cts grapevine
7: Repeat 5.
8: Repeat 6.
9: 1 8-ct of each movement
10: Add impact to stept touches and repeat skater jumps for 32 counts
11: 1 8-ct of each movement, using skater jumps instead of step touches
12: Add impact to step heels, by either adding plyo or double timing them, or both in combination
13: 1 8-ct of each movement, using skater jumps and plyo heels
14: Add impact to Squats, either by speeding them up or by progressing jacks or both in combination
15: 1 8-ct of each movement, using the impact movements already added
16: Add impact to Grapevine: Shuffle for 32 counts
17: 1 8-ct of each movement, all movements intensified
18 and on: Repeat until time to cool down. How much time is left will depend on how fast the music was.
Is it boring? Probably. Does it work? Yes. Should you do it this exact way? Maybe. But it is better to pick movements that you are comfortable with and know without doubt work for you. But the concept works because it is an easy-to-remember plan of attack that is hard to mess up. The game plan works no matter what style you are demonstrating or what movements you choose. You could also pick completely different impact moves that are high intensity to replace your basic moves instead of progressing, but that’s just more to remember. Your brain will already be full, so I suggest keeping it as easy as possible. Also, notice I didn’t add the filler moves to the game plan, so what are they for? Filler moves are for finding the beat, holding your place if you slip up, and all around saving the day if you lose your place. Just some backup ideas to have in your pocket. If you have to resort to your filler move, start over in your progression or pick up where you left off as soon as you get your bearings back. Don’t panic, and if worse comes to worse, you can always follow what the girl in front of you is doing….
Also, you can apply a similar formula to your warm up: 135 bpm x 3 minutes = 405 beats or 51 8-cts or about 13 32-count phrases to spread your moves among.
Finally, at minute 7 you are asked to start cool down movements. You have a minute to progress back down to your starting intesity. One minute equates to 4 32-count phrases, give or take. Work your way back down to your simpler, starting moves, and even on into moves you used in the warm up. Either way, they want to see you gradually lower the heart rate, so if you’ve been doing jumping jacks, don’t switch immediately to a cat back. Cut out the jumping, cut out the travelling, cut out the arms, march it out. Easy!
Next time, we’ll discuss the other two sections of the Practical: Muscle Group Demonstration, and the Individual Presentation.