AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification

Hello, friends! I didn’t intend to be absent the past two days, but life has a way becoming spontaneously busy. Monday, I wasn’t feeling well. Turns out all I needed was a sweaty dose of cardio. I didn’t workout Sunday, so I think my body was just needing to cleanse itself from the extra weekend stress.

I cycled for 60 minutes (a la Karin’s spin class), ran on the ‘mill @ 8:20 pace for 20 minutes, and did ~20 minutes of strength training. As always, my daily moves are posted @ DailyMile.

Running Tuesday flew by with fun with friends. I also fit in a 30-minute run/30-minute swim and 20 minutes of weight training.

Rewinding to Sunday, I want to share my experience with the AFAA Primary Group Exercise certification. Most of you know, I’d been preparing for this day all summer since I decided to just do it and get certified to be a group exercise instructor.

Are you interested in becoming a group exercise instructor? There are many organizations in which you can get national certifications. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America was recommended to me by the group exercise coordinator at the WREC, and I will recommend it to you.

Certification Prep

I registered for the certification about 2 months prior to the examination date. Most do not study for as long – they suggest 1 month for someone with a full time job – but I always like to play it safe. Purchasing the textbook and study materials isn’t required, but I definitely recommend it. I think it’s worth the investment (~$110).

The AFFA certification process is an all day event. Mine was scheduled from 9:00am – 6:00pm, but I finished an hour early. As much as you may think it’d be physically exhausting, it was more mentally exhausting as you’re learning/reviewing the majority of the time.

Written Exam

The written exam is 100 multiple choice questions. If you fill out your study guide and pay attention during the review, you shouldn’t have any difficulty passing. (Hope I’m not speaking too soon.) You are given 1 hour to complete the exam and need to receive an 80% percent to pass. I finished the exam in approximately 30 minutes, feeling fairly confident.

Practical Exam

There are three parts to the practical exam.

1. Group Cardio

The cardio segment is done in a group, meaning everyone is testing simultaneously. You are asked to perform a 3-minute warm-up, 5-minute higher-intensity cardio segment, and 1-minute cool-down. The examiner will instruct you when to proceed to the next portion of the routine. You must incorporate 3 separate moves in the warm-up and in the main cardio portion. It’s important to stay on beat. If you haven’t practiced this before the exam day, you will go over it and practice it beforehand.

2. Group Strength & Flexibility

The strength and flexibility is again done in a group setting. You will complete a minimum of 2 strength exercise and 1 flexibility exercise for 10 different muscle groupings. This was the toughest part of the exam for me, even though I do a fair amount of weight training. During the earlier part of the day, you will go over the muscles and joint actions that you need to know. I suggest you come feeling pretty confident about the musculoskeletal anatomy; otherwise, it could be overwhelming.

Note: We were not given any weights, rubber tubing, etc. to perform our exercises. It’s important you know the muscle locations, joint actions, and planes of the body to mimic proper moves using gravity.

Muscle Groups You’re Tested On:
    1. pectorals
    2. trapezius, rhomboids and/or latissimus dorsi
    3. deltoids (shoulders)
    4. biceps and/or triceps
    5. hip abductors (outer thigh) and/or adductors (inner thigh)
    6. gluteus maximus
    7. quadriceps and/or tibialis anterior (shin area)
    8. hamstrings and/or gastrocnemius/solues (calves)
    9. rectus abdominis and/or obliques
    10. erector spinae (low back)

3. Individual Presentation

The final part of practical exam is done individually. You may chose to demonstrate cardio choreography (more difficult) or a strength or flexibility move. You will go in front of the group, and in at least 1 minute (but no more than 2), you will instruct 3 levels of the exercise, including a beginner, intermediate and advanced variation.

I chose to demonstrate a squat. Choose something you’re comfortable with; I would suggest doing something you have previous experience with. (I do a lot of squats!)

During your presentation, you will want to:
  • introduce yourself
  • explain the exercise & muscle(s) it will benefit/strengthen
  • make sure to distinguish between the 3 different variations using proper queuing
  • queue and demonstrate proper form & alignment
  • speak clearly and confidently


I have to wait an eternity (4-6 weeks) for my results to come in the mail. I plan to get a post or two up between now and then about what’s in the future of my fitness endeavor. Stay tuned… and feel free to ask any questions that you may have :)

Additional AFAA Testimonials & Tips

I hope you’ve found this post somewhat informative and/or helpful. If you’re interested in reading more about others’ experiences with the AFAA Primary Group Exercise certification, here are a few posts I found helpful:

* * *

Hard to believe it’s already Workout Wednesday. This week is flying by and I have a daunting to-do list to tackle before I jet outta town for the weekend…

See ya!



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  1. says

    I found this post super helpful! I’ve been wanting to get a group fitness certification for a while now and was actually thinking of completing it with AFAA. This answered some questions of mine, so thank you! :)

  2. says

    This is so so helpful! I’ve been considering doing this recently but I’m no less than terrified because I didn’t know exactly what it involved. Thanks!! :)

  3. says

    I’m sure you did great!! I thought the practical was actually the easy part. That 100 question test was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I know you did better than you think. ;)

  4. says

    This is awesome. At my school, they offer a non-credit certification course, so I’m hoping to get into it as soon as registration opens…good luck with the results!

  5. says

    I just ran across this post and it made me smile. I took the AFAA Group Cert this past Saturday. I also completed the written in 30 minutes and felt fairly confident, maybe a few I was not absolutely sure about. I must say I was EXHAUSTED mentally and physically afterward. Mostly from the adrenaline and nerves though. I bet you did fantastic and cannot wait to hear about your results. I personally wish I could just fast forward to them already!

  6. Maria says

    Quick question for you. I’m taking my AFAA group exercise certification this Friday and I just came across your website. For my individual presentation, I was planning on doing a squat also. For beginner level, a basic squat…intermediate level, a squat and add arms….and for a more advanced level, a squat with arms with 3 pulses. Does this sound like it would work? Thanks for the help! :)

    • Hillary says

      Yes, it sounds like a possibility. I’m not sure what you mean by add arms; though, you’ll have a chance to rehearse beforehand and perhaps ask the instructor. Good luck :)

  7. says

    Thanks for your insight! My only fear is demonstrating something wrong since I deal with lots of arthritis pain, but I am sure I can do it! Glad I ran across your blog ;)

  8. Jennifer says

    Do you recommend taking a pre-workshop for the AFAA certification since I don’t have teaching experience with group exercise? I’ve been taking group exercises classes for over 2 years and I would say my fitness level is advance. I’m concerned about conveying exercises and music cueing. Is this something I can learn through self study with the text materials or should I attend a practical workshop? Thanks. ~ Jennifer

  9. Lisa Sergeant says

    Hi Hillary,

    I am re-sitting the written part this Sat. I just missed passing by 6 points the last time. I feel like I can’t get enough information in my head right now and always feel I am missing something…I wish I had more access to mock tests. I found in the practice test they give you with the study guide , the questions were much easier to understand. When it came to the actual written test, they seemed much more complicated in their wording and that threw me off a little. I am hoping to be more relaxed this time too. You are so right, the day is long, but they do give a ton of information. I would say practice, practice, practice the section you have to show. It becomes really obvious who has not been up in front of a class before. Saying that, everyone who is particpating gives a lot of support and encouragement when you are up there alone! All the best for your future…Lisa

  10. Stephanie says

    I just came across this… So did you get certified?! And if so, how is it going? I just got my books the other day and taking the test Aug 3rd. I want to throw up thinking about it! I’m sooooo nervous!!!

  11. Kate says

    Thanks so much for the pointers. I take my test in September. It’s a little overwhelming when you start reading the Fitness Practice and Theory book, so you have helped a lot.

  12. mistee says

    Hi Hillary,
    How long did it take for results? I just took mine on Friday 9/20… hoping it doesn’t take 6 wks… thank you for all your info.

  13. Natasha says

    Hi, how did you study? Did you read each chapter and filled out your study guide? Did you do flash cards? I’m due to take my test in about 7 weeks! Trying to get tips on the best effective way people studied. Thanks!

    • Hillary says

      Hi Natasha –
      It was a long time ago, but yes – I remember filling out the study guide and making flash cards. I don’t have any particular tips. Best of luck!

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