Goodboy Norman Featherstone

Monday, September 14, 2009

AFAA Certification Training

Hey everyone. Woman here, high-jacking Norman's blog to give an overview of my experience with AFAA Certification Training. AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) offers numerous fitness-related certification training programs. You may recall that this time last year I trained as a Les Mills Body Pump Instructor. I guess my sadistic side kicks in around this time of year, as I went on Friday for my AFAA Group Fitness Certification training in Charlotte. It was a long day, which began and ended with me driving in the dark! It was worth it though, as with this certification I will be able to teach my own free-style fitness classes, and I would like to start teaching more classes.

Testing Overview
The AFAA Group Fitness test consists of two components; a practical test and a written test. The written test is the easiest to describe, so let's start with that first.

Written Test
The test consists of 100 multiple choice questions (listing 5 possible answers for each question). You are given one hour for the test, and you must answer 80 correctly to pass. 80% seems easy, but you really do have to study to pass this test. The AFAA text book, "Fitness Theory & Practice" is a must-have resource for passing this test. It costs $99 through AFAA, so check ebay first! The questions are not just "common sense," but are very specific to the fitness industry, anatomy, kinesiology and even cardiology. Unless you just know off the top of your head that the gluteus maximus and hamstrings work together to perform hip extension, or that cardio training decreases resting heart rate by increasing the stroke volume of the left ventricle of the heart, you need to study. The questions are sometimes worded strangely too, so I suggest purchasing the study package that comes with a practice test so you can get used to their method of questioning. Also, make sure you know where you primary muscles are located!

Practical Test
The practical component is much more .. chaotic .. than the written portion. It consists of the following:
  • As a group, demonstrate the following things:
    • Warm Up
    • Cardio training routine
    • Strength and flexibility for each of the 10 main muscle groups
  • Individually present an exercise in front of all participants showing three levels of intensity, focusing on safety cues and moving between the levels during the demonstration.
Note how I emphasized the word "group" in the first bullet. The entire group shows a 3-4 minute warm up at the same time, everyone moving simultaneously, but doing something completely different. Arms and legs flailing about, twisting, turning, traveling. It's nuts. If you've ever been to Pugstock, you'll know what to expect. After 3-4 minutes, the Trainer gives the cue to start the cardio portion, and everyone kicks it up a notch, now jumping, jogging, skipping, hopping, moving in all directions trying to maintain proper form and show full range of motion but not hit anyone else in the room! The final portion of the group demonstration is not as insane, as everyone stays on their mat to demonstrate various exercises for the muscle groups.

Testing Details
The warm-up component must include movement rehearsal, limbering movements and at least two static stretches. Appropriate exercises must be used to warm-up the entire body in preparation for the cardio portion of the sequence. You should have a warm-up composed before attending the training, as you will not have time to make one up once you get there.

The cardio component must show a gradual increase in intensity followed by a continuous training intensity. You must show at least three movements during the cardio routine and progress to a lower intensity when a cue is given. Again, have a routine ready before you get there. Don't make it too difficult, keeping in mind that you have to avoid those around you!

Strength and Flexibility
This is by far the easiest component. The Trainer will go through the 10 main muscle groups as listed in the study guide, and each participant will demonstrate two strength exercises that work those muscles simulating the use of dumbbells or resistance bands. Don't get caught up on the word, "primary;" ie, you can do a lunge for quads, hams or glutes. The Trainer will then tell you to stretch, and you show a stretch for that group. The great thing about this section is that before the test, the Trainers go through all the major muscle groups and show you acceptable exercises and stretches for each. Use their exercises, and keep it simple.

Once a year AFAA hosts an APEX event around the country, offering the regularly priced $299 training class for just $99. This is a great deal, but it has its pros and cons.

The downside, the huge size of classes at APEX events, can also be an upside. There were 99 people at my training event. You can imagine how insane the group demonstration portion was with 99 people. The downside is that it is crowded and you have to avoid smacking into people as you travel side-to-side and front-to-back during the warm-up and cardio portion. The upside is that because there are so many people, they can't really "judge" you all that critically. Remember, they have only 3-4 minutes to judge 99 people doing a warm-up. This of course could be good or bad, as they might give you a 10 second glance when you're doing something stupid. Oops!

In an attempt to manage 99 people, we were broken into 3 separate groups. Two Trainers were assigned one group. Each Trainer must score each participant in their group. So, if each Trainer must judge 33 people in 4 minutes, they had about 8 seconds to spend on each person. Do you really think it's possible to judge whether someone is performing an effective warm-up that meets all the requirements described above in 8 seconds? I personally don't, so I hope to goodness that they were very lenient during this portion.

The cardio portion has even stiffer requirements, and still only about 8 seconds per person. Let's hope they weren't watching me when I accidentally did some jumping jacks on my toes instead of sinking into the heals. LOL!

Personal Experience
I was really nervous about this training, because I am just high-strung and get nervous about anything on which I will be judged. I don't really like to be judged, but who does, right? I started studying the reference manual in July, I consulted with my friend Janice who is AFAA certified and also researched some blogs. I found 4 great blog entries about AFAA certification at that explained what to expect at the training. The author was pretty much right on with what happened at my training event too, with a couple exceptions:
  • My Trainers had not looked at the test we were taking, so not all the questions that were on the test were addressed during the Q&A period. Actually, very few were addressed.
  • My Trainers didn't seem to be all that up to date with AFAA's latest standards; for example, there was an addendum in the manual that the MHR was changed from 55-90% to 64-94% in 2007. The Trainers didn't know this, even though it happened two years ago, and continued to tell us that the MHR should be 55-90% during the review period. I'm glad that question wasn't on the test.
  • During the strength and flexibility section, the Trainers must have been working from an older manual, because we were not given as many options for muscle groups as the study guide allowed. For example, the Trainers included only hamstrings in "Grouping 2" of "Legs" when the study guide gave the option of hamstrings and/or gastrocnemius/soleus (calves).
  • During the cardio section, the Trainers informed us that we must move along the frontal and sagittal planes to pass, and that we must not perform a single-legged bouncing motion for more than 8 consecutive counts, even if we are switching legs. This was not in the manual and caused me to spend my lunch time making up a new routine!
  • We were seriously shorted on the individual presentation - given only 45 seconds for the entire thing instead of the 2 minutes we were promised. I felt a bit slighted by this.
The Trainers were very nice and knowledgeable, but the curve balls they threw were a little overwhelming, particularly when everyone was already really nervous as it was! They were very open to questions and tried their best to ease our minds about the practical component. Given the size of the group and the limited time, I would bet they were very lenient in their judging. After we had returned from lunch and they were confronted with so many panicky people about the requirements of the cardio portion, they informed us not to worry, but if you were "moving" during that portion, you would pass. I'm going to hold them to that promise!

The session was scheduled from 9am-6pm. Of course registration was a mess and we didn't start until 9:45am, but that was to be expected. There were only 3 people to check in 99, and their check-in method could use some efficiency reform. We also burned 20 minutes assigning people numbers, as they gave some people the wrong number and we had to start from the beginning with everyone turning in their previously assigned number. This was a waste of time since we wrote our number on our test sheet that had our name on it. It didn't matter if they knew who was assigned which number at this point as it would be noted later.

Even with the inefficiencies, we were out of there by 6:45pm, and for that I am grateful! It did take me the entire 60 minutes to finish the written exam, since I like to double check all my work and there was a lot of noise around us. The training was at the YMCA in Charlotte, and they didn't shut down the gym for our training, so we had to compete with group fitness classes and basketball games to try and concentrate on the written exam. I recommend bringing some earplugs so you can hear yourself think.

Overall, the experience was better than my Body Pump training experience, as I had time to prepare beforehand. There is no preparation material handed out before a Les Mills module, and I am one who likes to be prepared!

Check out this blog. This girl was at AFAA Charlotte training with me and has some good info and pointers for passing AFAA! I'm in one of her pictures of the semi-empty gym! How fun!


  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Page said…

    Weird...I was just thinking about you and about to email you since I know you're happy to be finished!! It all sounds so intense! I did get clearance to begin working out again (well, minus spinning classes...which made me laugh at the doctor...and I told him not to worry). You might just motivate me to start up again!!

    Congrats on completing the test! I'm sure you did great!

  • At 12:31 PM, Blogger Sandy said…

    Congratulations--I'm sure Norman will be glad to have your attention again ;-)

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger Tami said…

    Were the trainers anyone we would know; like someone who has made their own video?
    I bet you lost some weight preparing for this! Congratulations for completing this certification. You have more determination that most.

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger Tami said…

    Were the trainers anyone we would know; like someone who has made their own video?
    I bet you lost some weight preparing for this! Congratulations for completing this certification. You have more determination that most.

  • At 2:31 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Actually, yeah. Pam Archer was one of the trainers, and she did star in some videos in the late 90's. They're all VHS though. You can look her up on amazon if you're bored. LOL!

  • At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…


  • At 6:47 PM, Blogger Pam said…

    wow, that sounds pretty rough. Congrats!

  • At 8:04 AM, Blogger AM said…

    So proud of you! That is awesome. I went to a pilates class yesterday that was KILLER. I am excited to start exercising again! Thanks for inspiring me!

  • At 8:19 AM, Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said…

    Good job on the pilates class! You'll be a little sore for a couple days, but it's a good sore - let's you know you've done something :)

  • At 10:52 AM, Blogger Nevis said…

    Congratulations! I can't tell...I re-read through the post you say if you passed or not? Or will you not know until later. I'm dying of curiosity!

  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said…

    I won't know for 4-6 weeks.

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger kristie said…

    man, that sounds exhausting! i'm sure you are glad it's over. funny, that blog you linked to (the chic life), i read it every day!

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said…

    No way! You do not! That's INSANE!

  • At 6:22 AM, Blogger Punchbugpug said…


  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger Priscilla said…

    Oh my goodness! Thanks for posting this. I had no idea of the training and education that went into this. I love knowing that people like you will help reduce injuries and help more people.

  • At 4:11 PM, Blogger Kimpolov said…


    I found your blog when looking for examples of the practical portion for the test. I'm not sure what to put together for the warm up and the cardio portion.

  • At 1:37 PM, Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said…

    Hi Kim - Don't sweat it too much. Here's what I did for warm up:

    March - 16 counts
    While marching, add some big arms with big breaths - 16 counts
    Step touch - 16 counts
    Add some arms - 16 counts
    Hamstring Curl - 16 counts
    Add some arms - 16 counts
    Squat lift - 16 counts
    Add some arms - 16 counts
    hip flexor stretch - 16 counts
    calf stretch - 16 counts
    8 lunges
    other leg
    8 lunges
    Step forward - 16 squats
    March it out to the end of the song - add some arms when you get bored

    I did a really simple cardio routine. You have to "build up" the cardio, so it starts out with marches and progresses to jog:

    march/jog forward 4 counts
    march/jog in place 4 counts
    march/jog backward 4 counts

    v-step R - 16 counts
    v-step L - 16 counts

    8 jacks

    So easy.

  • At 3:26 PM, Blogger Kimpolov said…

    Thanks!! That really helps! Another question I have is once you do the primary group fitness what can you teach? I want to teach spinning, kickboxing and resistance training but do I need to do all those certification first or do some places let you teach without it as long as you have your primary?

  • At 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    6 out of 10 People in the US, Canada and Europe are Over weight, so losign weight has become the most important goal for many around the globe. If someone is a lazy slob who wants a 'magic pill' to give him a fabulous bpdy, that will always remain as a dream.
    One should be willing and determined to in efforts over a period of time and only then they can get lasting results. I find a few programs quite interesting and effective, you can also check some programs here and rate them based on your experience. Find the programs here [url=]WeightLossKarma.Com, lose weight easily[/url]
    - by Melinda

  • At 10:23 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Wow! I stumbled upon your blog. I am taking the AFAA exam in February and I am extremely nervous. That practical part just put my stomach in a knot. Thanks for posting. By the way did you pass?

  • At 4:59 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Thanks for informing about AFFA exam in brief. It will really help in preparing. Keep updating.

    Fitness personal trainer


Post a Comment

<< Home