AFAA Primary Group Certification FAQ

I’d like to thank all of you who have visited and provided feedback and questions for the series to assist with your fitness instructor training through the AFAA Primary Group Certification Worshop. Since those posts went up, there have been questions asked both on and off the blog about various aspects of the certification process that I did not specifically cover. In this post, I will attempt to further aid you in becoming a fitness instructor by providing answers to those questions. It is my hope to give you further insight into the workshops and fitness certification process. If you want to see the series, start with Post 1.

If I don’t have my CPR certification and can’t get it in time for the workshop, can I still get certified?

Yes, you can attend the workshop and take the tests before you complete a qualifying CPR course. You will not receive your AFAA certification until they recieve your proof of CPR, which can be mailed in anytime after the workshop.

What equipment will be provided for the demonstrations?

The workshops are held in a variety of locations. Some locations provide steps, mats, mirrors, balls and/or weights.  Some locations do not. For example, all three of the APEX events I have attended were held on basketball courts. Mats were available, but no other equipment and no mirrors. Do not count on having a step, even if you plan to lead a step demonstration. Instead, lead your exercises as if there were a step present. The testers will not mark you down for not having the equipment, unless you do not do a convincing job of “using it” (See post #5  about miming tubes or weights). If you are worried about the possibility of not having a mat, you should bring your own. You can also call the hosting facility to ask what equipment will be available.

Will we be cueing during the group presentation, or just demonstrating with no words?

During the practical, the only time you will actually cue out loud is during your individual presentation. During the group movement and muscle group portions, when everyone is doing their own thing at the same time, you will not be expected to speak. In fact, I don’t recall specifically, but I think it might be forbidden. If anyone took it recently and knows, please comment!

Should I buy the primary study package?

I have heard from several folks that wish they had invested in the study package, instead of purchasing just the book. It really depends on how comfortable you are with what you know about group fitness. As one commenter put it, and I agree, “if you are looking for more than a practice exam, buy the package. It may cost a little more, but I felt it would have been nice to have before the big day.”

Do you think it is an advantage to take the AFAA group certification at a conference or should I take it at a smaller facility?

There are pros and cons to both. There will be lots happening at the conference and so much to do and learn, that you might not get the full benefit of the workshop. However, the conferences usually offer the workshops at a discount, and it very helpful to have the opportunity to take care of the certification at the same time as a conference. Basically, convenience vs. chaos — you’ll need to weigh out what works for you. The only other difference would be in the number of attendees. A conference will likely have a larger number of people, whereas a facility might only have a dozen or so. If you do better in a small group setting, choose the latter. And never hesitate to call the hosting facility and ask questions about the environment if you are weighing your options.

Any suggestions on how to remember all of the muscle groups?

Keep in mind that they are going to review muscle groups very specifically during the workshop. However, it is helpful to start learning anatomy several weeks before the workshop. To me, the best way to learn muscle groups is to head to the weight room with the book and do the exercises. As you perform each motion, feel which muscle does the work while repeating the name of the muscle group with some sort of pneumonic device to help you remember it. For example: Pectoralis Major (chest) is the major mover in a push up. So I repeat while doing pushups: “Pectoralis Push Up.” Here’s another one: Overhead press works the deltoids. The top of an overhead press looks like the position you are in when you dive off a diving board. So I repeat while doing overhead presses: “Deltoids Dive.” Take some time finding little devices like that to help you remember what the names of the muscles are, and you’ll do great! Another option is to take sculpting classes offered at your gym, or work with a personal trainer to learn the names while doing the exercises.

If you have more questions, or don’t feel that I’ve given enough attention to a specific topic, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Powder Blue Productions LLC


25 thoughts on “AFAA Primary Group Certification FAQ

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. I’m taking the test on 9/11 in New York. This is not the 1st time I’ve attempted to do this….I feel more confident now after reading your blog. You see, I’m a bellydancer and I teach at the University of Richmond, so of course I must be certified. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done….but learning about the muscle groups, cueing, and proper exercise standards open my eyes to how the simplest movements can cause someone to hurt themselves. Thanks and please wish me “good luck”!!!!

  2. How many people were in your class? If they broke off in groups, how many were in your group for the individual presentation? Just curious…Thanks! Diana 🙂

  3. Diana, There were over 100 people at my workshop. We broke in half to take the sections of the test (written and presentation). In my half, for the presentation, we were in groups of about 20. That same group stayed together for each of the testing sections. I hope that answers your question!

  4. I just bought the Fitness Theory and Practice and waiting for my study kit in the mail. The certification workshop is in Nov. I’ve been reading the book about 2 hours a day, taking notes. I’m Zumba certified already but never taught a formal class. So I have two questions. #1- how long should you study before taking the workshop. I just started now and the certification is Nov. 21st. Do you think that’s adequate time given I am studying at least 2 hours daily?
    #2- During the practical exam when you are demonstrating, are you able to choose the type of aerobic class(step, Zumba, hi/lo) and can you bring your own music?
    Any insight would be greatly appreciated. I want to be certified so I have a better chance of getting a Zumba teaching job.

    • Hi Jill — I just took my first Zumba class last week and I loved it! As for how long you should study (#1)… I am afraid I cannot tell you. Everyone comes from different levels of experience and requires different amounts of time to learn and absorb the material. Neither my friend (whose only experience was working with her personal trainer for a year) nor I (who had already been certified for 5 years) studied at all before the workshop and we both passed. The answer to #2 is, yes, you choose the style that you will demonstrate. No, you do not bring your own music. During the group demonstrations, one song is played over the loud speakers for everyone. During the individual presentation… you know, I’m drawing a blank here, but I believe… there is no music at all, but they might keep the same music playing and just turn it down. I don’t recall but maybe someone who did it recently remembers? The bottom line is that you know how long you need to study to become familiar with the material. 100 questions in 40 minutes — the more you study, the quicker you’ll get through each question and less likely you will have to leave any blank.

  5. Whew! Completed the workshop and the certification exams yesterday in SLC, UTAH. What an ordeal. I am so glad it is over!!!
    Now all I have do is sit and wait. Cant tell you whats worse; the test or the waiting for my scores. Honestly, Im hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I really bombed the practical and feel my performance on the written was farely marginal as well. Not that I didnt prepare. I studied. Its just that the whole testing scenario was a bit overwhelming, now to add insult to injury… Waiting 04-6 weeks to recieve my results. Jeez. Seems like cruel and unusual punishment

    Any how, anyone reading this send your good karma my way. I WANNA PASS!!:)

    Send me good karma everyone reading this. This was my first time taking the exam. I dont want to re-test!!!

    • Take a deep breath, Julie! Often we imagine that it is much worse than it really is. Create your own karma by moving forward and being okay with a possible retest. “There are a lot worse things in life….” 🙂 We’re glad you shared your experience! Come back and let us know when you know!

  6. Could you clarify exactly what chapters are included in the group instructor exam? I got the book and almost fainted when I saw the size and depth (48 chapters). However on closer inspection I don’t think I have to do all 48. Please clarify.

    • Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly which chapters are included in the exam. There are many ethical reasons for this, but the practical reason is that I have neither access to their current textbook nor the current exam. I recommend taking the time to at least skim the chapters. Read the ones that contain information you are not familiar with. Work through the Study Guide. Then listen carefully during the workshop! You need to know this stuff anyway, so set aside the time to get through the book. It’s worth the effort!

      Best wishes!

  7. Hi everyone!
    I’m scheduled to take the group ex certification in February. I’m really nervous, as I’ve never taught a class before. I just became certified to teach Zumba in October. (Haven’t started teaching yet) Any helpful suggestions on how to get through the practical?

    • Hi KC! I wrote a series of posts about the certification process. Start here. Specific information about the practical is in posts 4 and 5. Good luck!

  8. Hi Krista, Thank you for this blog. My anxiety over the “unknown” has kept me from doing something I was meant to do last summer. I am set for the NYC APEX on Feb 14. Now I am cramming, LOL! I am not a step/cardio instructor (yet) but my passion lies with Forza (Cardio class with a Japanese wooded sword), Powerstrike which is a Kickboxing class, or a boxing on a stationary bag. Any suggestions on what to aim for in my individual presentation?

    • Thanks for visiting, Stella. As you read through the explanations for dynamic limbering and movement rehearsal, be thinking about how you could apply those principles to the classes you want to teach and choose appropriate exercises. Choose the most basic, starter movements and then go simpler. Kickboxing offers a great deal of opportunity for movement rehearsal with gentle punches in all directions that would never be used in a real encounter, but rather limber the muscles and allow for a dynamic stretch (ie punching overhead to almost full extension as a way to stretch the lats or punching across the body to stretch the lower back and shoulders). Knee lifts, hamstring curls and low kicks can be warm up movements for the legs. Then, think carefully about how to progress very basic movements to more advanced exercises. For the individual demonstration, I would pick a no-fail exercise like a squat or a push-up, however, there is no reason you couldn’t do round-house kicks, as long as you provided solid progression and form cues. Best of luck and let us know what you choose!

  9. Thanks for all your input on this blog Krista. Its very useful. I am taking the AFAA Kickboxing certification on March 7th. I was wondering if you might now about how long the individual presentation lasts? And, do you present yourself to a class or privately before the examiners? And what should your personal presentation consist of – warm up, kickboxing moves, cool down? Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. I am confident yet nervous because I’m walking into the unknown. Thanks!

    • Hi Jessy, thanks for visiting. I took the Kickboxing certification in 2004 — it was quite fun! It is not quite as intense as the Primary Group Certification, but you’ll still want to read your manual and pay attention during the workshop. I am afraid I cannot give you any specifics about the process, but I am confident that the information about Primary Group will apply for Kickboxing in some regards. For instance, the individual presentation lasts 2 minutes — a good guess for Kickboxing. They will tell you specifically what you will need to present, but yes, being prepared with warm up, movements and a cool down is a great idea. My advice is to read the materials you have received, sleep well the night before and eat brain foods that morning. Most of all, keep a good attitude and whenever you are in doubt, ASK!!! You can even contact AFAA directly if you need information prior to attending. Good luck and have fun!

  10. Hi Krista! I completed the certification last week (2/14) and it was AMAZING! Your posts were spot on and even though I did not complete my study guide (about 8 pages shy), I am hopeful that I passed!

    Our session had about 60 people. The two dry runs of everything were difficult with 60 people, but they sure helped! We were split up into two groups, 1 to take the written exam and 1 to start the demos.

    I am confident that I got at least 10 questions wrong, but that’s still passing! I found the wording to be tricky at times and tripped up on some questions.

    For the GROUP Cardio Demo – I tried to best of my memory, to do the regular warm up for the Kickboxing class that I take:
    – Wide arms and legs / up and down like a ballerina
    – Over head punches
    – Shoulder level punches
    – Fwd punches
    – Fwd punches / dbl time
    – Hooks and uppercuts
    – Hamstring stretch
    – Shoulder shrugs
    – Alternating calf stretch

    I know it was a lot more than they said they wanted, but it was a warm up that I know well. This section was three mins total with no cueing – we had to figure out the 2 mins for movements 1 min for stretch. Then we were cued to “increase intensity” where I started with the first 4 counts of my punches for four counts, added on the next 4 counts of punches (8 counts total) for another four counts. Then after I did that – I added my first 4 counts of kicks for four counts, then added on the final count of 4 kicks (8 counts total) for four counts. If I had thought about it, I should have had a bit more material, but I just kept my 16 count routine on the right, repeat on the left, then back to the right, then back to the left – I kept that up until we were cued to do the final 2 mins where we cooled down. That was basic march, arms reaching up, then cat back with arms stretched out in front of you, hand interlocked and palms turned out and I think I added in some squats. MOST importantly – we were told NOT TO STOP any segment until the instructor announced the next step.

    Now, for the Group Strength/Flex demo – I was stressed. For EACH muscle group there are two sub groups and that was where you needed to demonstrate 2 strength moves and 1 flex for 30-40 seconds total – NO CUEING except for the initial Muscle group / sub grouping. I was wholly unprepared however, the review was excellent!

    The individual presentation was actually the best part even though I stressed out most about this. I ended up doing the Lunge / Overhead Press / Glute press combo instead of the squat because I couldn’t properly execute a one legged squat, LOL! I was the third person to go up and I ROCKED it!!!! I had everyones attention, I didn’t lose anyone and the instructor “Thanked me very much”. I felt like a freaking superstar!

    Now I play the waiting game *sigh*

  11. Thank you so much for your wonderful information about the workshop. I’m going to be going to the Apex workshop in a couple of weeks, and I had a quick question for you. I’ve heard that during the cardio portion of the practical you will not be able to do any lateral movement, so everything has to stay in your saggital plane, is that true? I’m hoping not, since the routine I’ve put together has step touching and dble step touches in it.

  12. I am scheduled to take the AFAA group fitness certification in October. I have access to two of the books in the Deluxe Study Package 2010 offered on the AFAA website (Fitness: Theory and Practice Textbook (2006) and Standards and Guidelines Reference Manual (2002)). Is there a significant difference between these and the books offered currently on the website, or would I be able to prepare with the 2006 and 2002 versions? The AFAA website doesn’t specify which year the books were published in the Deluxe Study Guide. Any help anyone could give would be great!!

  13. Sarah, the updated version is the Fifth edition Theory and Practice book (just updated in June 2010). I just bought mine a few weeks ago, I was just going to borrow someone elses book that was from 2002 at first, but then thought better of it. There are some changes, and in my opinion the new book is actually easier to read and understand. I don’t know about the Standards and Guidelines Reference manual though so I can’t help on that one, hopefully someone else can. Good luck.

  14. Hi, I took the group instruction certification in May and passed the pratical, but failed the written by one point. Does anyone know if I can just re take the written and if so, how?

  15. I’m glad i found this post, I’ve been a stay at home mom for almost 15yrs and started working out when i got asked my the part owner if i would take over her beginners class. So i’m so nervous cuz i had not seen not even a text book in about 18 yrs 🙂 wish me luck

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s