ACE certification review - Tyler Read reviews the ACE personal trainer certification

This ACE certification review deeply examines the American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer certificate (ACE-CPT) based on my experience studying for the ACE CPT, taking the ACE exam, and working in the fitness industry as an ACE-certified personal trainer.

Between my 10+ years in the fitness industry and my team of certified personal trainers at PT Pioneer, we have deep insight into all the various certifications in the industry, and we know how they perform in the real world. As such, this ACE review brings together a massive amount of industry experience.

I break down in detail the following aspects of the ACE CPT:

  • Cost & value
  • ACE salary
  • ACE curriculum contents
  • ACE study materials
  • How hard is the ACE exam?
  • ACE CPT vs. others – how does it compare?

When you finish reading the full ACE personal trainer certification review, you will know all the ins and outs of the personal trainer certification and will be ready to decide if becoming an ACE personal trainer is the right choice for your career.

For quicker answers on which certification is best for you, you can take the quiz and find out.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

Let’s dive in!

ACE CPT

What is the ACE CPT?

what is the ace cpt - ace personal trainer textbook displayed on table

If you are seeking a personal training certification based on popularity, the ACE Fitness CPT is it.

The ACE-certified personal training credential is an industry-leading general fitness certification that gives candidates the skills they need to succeed in the field of personal fitness training.

‌ ACE is certainly near the top of our list of best personal trainer certifications.

The ACE CPT is an NCCA-accredited certification. The NCCA stands for the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and is the premier certifying agency for personal fitness trainer certifications.

Any personal trainer certification worth the paper it’s printed on must be NCCA-accredited. Regarding all my certification reviews, I can say that ACE’s CPT is a great program.

ACE credibility and reputation

The American Council on Exercise is a leading nonprofit exercise professional and health coach certification organization.

The ACE mission is simple: get people moving.

To meet this mission, ACE offers a range of certifications and resources in a range of health and fitness industry professions.

ACE certification program board certs include:

From commercial gyms to local studios, ACE is known as a top-tier certification for both fitness and nutritionist programs.

Besides being one of the largest certifying agencies, they are also a nonprofit. I would put this certification up in the ranks with the ISSA CPT and the NASM CPT.

Collectively, this level of certification makes all of these CPTs rank among the best online personal trainer certifications as well.

Is ACE worth it?

The ACE certification is a reputable, well recognized certification and a great option for those seeking an affordable, mainstream, and NCCA-accredited program that has a less challenging exam compared to NASM or ISSA.

ace cpt review - is ace worth it? tyler read decides if the ace cpt is worth it for his fitness career

I’ve seen many trainers build impressive careers, starting with the ACE CPT.

That being said, in some instances, employers may prefer ISSA or NASM. You should check this beforehand if there is a specific gym you want to work at.

Great for
  • General personal training
  • Assisting with behavior change
Not great for
  • Building a personal training business
  • Working with corrective exercise

ACE certification cost and packages

ACE certification cost and packages - ace textbook displayed on table with coins

ACE offers three main CPT prep packages, including the exam and various study materials.

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Overall, the packages contain very high-quality study materials. Even the Basic study package has impressive videos, practice materials, and textbooks‌.

The ACE Basic Study Package costs $675 and includes the following materials:

  • ACE University
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Practice Test
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (digital only)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
  • ACE Answers (basic)

The next package is the ACE Plus, which comes in at $745 and includes the following:

  • Everything in ACE Basic
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (digital and hard copy)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
  • ACE Answers (plus)
  • Exercise Science 101 Course

The top level study package is the ACE Advantage, which costs $975 and includes the following:

  • Everything in ACE Plus
  • Facilitated Study Groups
  • Exercise Science 101
  • Dedicated Advantage Team

You can buy the exam for only $499, but I do not recommend this.

You cannot pass the ACE exam on previous knowledge alone since you need to learn the ACE IFT model, which is not covered in any other coursework.

With that said, you can’t even buy a textbook alone for $87, so it’s a small upcharge to get access to the entire ACE learning management system.

Students can opt to take only the ACE personal trainer test for a discount, so check with ACE on their current student rates.

So, are the study materials worth it?

Truthfully, while they are of good quality, the study materials from ACE have received many complaints from our trainers who used these materials.

Essentially, we felt that the direct ACE materials, while very useful, do not really prepare you for the exact type of questions typically found on the exam.

Furthermore, they are fairly pricey compared to third-party study guides of comparable value.

You can still pass the ACE fitness certification with the ACE materials despite the issues.

However, you will spend much more time and money to pass the exam than you really need to, and you are gambling on your ability to convert the ACE study information into correct answers on the test.

Third-party study guides are a good alternative to purchasing the study materials directly from ACE – that way; you only buy the exam from ACE.

ACE CPT Study Guide packages for the ACE personal trainer exam typically include the following materials:

  • ACE CPT practice exam/ACE personal trainer practice exam questions
  • ACE CPT exam study guide/ACE personal trainer study guide
  • ACE CPT audio
  • ACE personal trainer manual

Furthermore, most of these guides offer an exam pass guarantee – so if for some reason you fail, you will get a full refund for the guide without losing access.

My top choice for premium third-party study materials is, hands down, the Trainer Academy ACE CPT Exam Prep Course, which offers a full refund guarantee and multiple package tiers at a steep discount compared to the ACE materials.

I also recommend taking a free ACE CPT study guide and ACE practice test to see exactly where you stand now.

You should check the latest pricing directly from the ACE website if you plan to go with the ACE materials.

ACE CPT vs other top fitness certifications

The biggest competitors and rival certifications are the NASM CPT and ISSA CPT certifications. These fitness certifications have a lot of crossover with ACE.

However, both are more respected due to the more difficult exams. NASM has better coverage of corrective exercise methods, and ISSA does a better job at business skills.

However, both these competitor certifications are more expensive than ACE, so there are multiple factors to consider.

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A Good Option
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ACE certification review – personal trainer content coverage

ACE certification review - personal trainer content coverage. ace textbook open to table of contents

The ACE CPT curriculum covers a range of basic skill sets you will need as a personal trainer.

Personal Training Defined: the ACE CPT Role and Scope of Practice

ACE certified personal trainer review - healthcare continuum chart

As with many CPT content, ACE begins with the state of public health and some of the broad trends in the health and fitness space, such as the rise of obesity and other lifestyle-related diseases.

Following public health, the ACE CPT dives into the personal training scope of practice. This is key for any certified trainer to understand.

ACE does a great job defining and explaining the ‘Healthcare Continuum,’ a very useful model for discussing how each type of health professional fits into the overall scheme of a client’s health and medical treatment.

Without attention to the scope of practice, it’s easy to start answering the question based on what you may know, despite it being the domain of another professional.

Luckily, the Healthcare Continuum that ACE discusses makes it easy and straightforward to recommend the appropriate professional when a client presents you with something beyond the scope of practice.

Long-term programming.

Successful long-term workout programming requires you to plan multiple training phases based on your client’s goals and needs.

For example, it’s fairly straightforward to put together a 12-week muscle-building program for a generic client – in fact, you can probably find a free one in 30 seconds of searching online.

But what about a client in their 40s who wants to build muscle but also needs corrective programming to address muscular imbalances before doing any major lifting?

Additionally, the client needs aerobic exercise as well due to a history of high blood pressure.

Finally, the client has psychological barriers that prevent them from exercising and external barriers such as childcare and career demands that you must help them think through to ensure exercise adherence.

Suddenly, the 12-week muscle program isn’t so simple.

Enter the signature ACE IFT ® and Mover Method ® 

The title ACE IFT ® stands for Integrated Fitness Training and is a comprehensive exercise program framework for both aerobic and resistance training programs.

The Mover Method ® is a separate framework for coaching clients through behavioral change, starting with the initial consultation and culminating in long-term exercise adherence.

ACE also introduces “contemporary training parameters,” replacing traditional, generic parameters such as cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility with more specific and scientifically beneficial goals.

In a nutshell, as the trainer, it allows you a much broader array of programming goals and possibilities, making it much easier to develop client-centered programming approaches.

ACE CPT certification - traditional training parameters

The overall IFT model is as follows:

Cardiorespiratory Integrated Fitness Training

  1. Base Training
  2. Fitness Training
  3. Performance Training

IFT Muscular Training

  1. Functional Training
  2. Movement Training
  3. Load/Speed Training

Each IFT®  phase has its own specific training protocols.

Finally, the Mover Method ® is a framework for coaching clients through the psychological and behavioral changes needed to go from sedentary to active.

The Mover Method ® has excellent details on the interpersonal aspects of behavior change coaching, such as:

  • How to ask open-ended questions
  • Breaking down client barriers to exercise
  • Forming collaborative relationships with clients
  • Setting SMART goals

The ACE IFT ® is the hard skill of exercise technique and programming. At the same time, the Mover Method ® is the softer, more difficult skill of engaging with clients psychologically to ensure they start and adhere to the program.

The ACE IFT ® is a standout model and rivals the industry-leading NASM OPT ® Model, giving you virtually everything you need to plan long-term, multiphase exercise programs.

ACE training certificate revew - the ACE IFT Model & mover method

However, the Mover Method ® is above every other certification. Providing support points for behavioral changes can be the difference between failure and success for our client’s wellness outcomes. I like how ACE emphasizes community support as a way to maintain wellness habits. This community can be through the internet, social media groups, posts, and YouTube. I consider this key understanding of improving the likelihood of client success when mentioning ACE as the standout certification for behavioral change.

Although most CPT certs have included behavior change skills in their curricula, the ACE Mover Method ® is the most detailed and comprehensive model in any CPT I have reviewed for coaching clients through this difficult process. Furthermore, it is integrated with, rather than separated, the program design.

Exercise Science for Personal Trainers

Exercise science is often the least favorite topic you’ll have to learn as a CPT.

Although much of exercise science and physiology will not apply to the day-to-day job of personal training, it forms the basic explanation of all the practical aspects of program design, exercise technique, and nutrition.

ace fitness certification anatomical position and planes of motion

Typical exercise science topics in the ACE training certification include:

  • Anatomy of skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems
  • The cardiovascular and pulmonary systems
  • The digestive system
  • Joint biomechanics, biomechanical models, kinesiology, and kinematics

To put it bluntly, a big reason to learn ‌exercise science is to avoid looking at your client like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

What do I mean by this?

Sometimes, a client will ask you for a reason for a certain programming choice or exercise selection, for example.

While you could say, “Because that’s what the certification says,” it’s always better to be able to explain the underlying science in a simple but competent way to your client.

ace certified trainer content - muscular diagram showing upper body muscles

This helps your client build trust in your coach and recommendations.

This is key if something you say contradicts something the client thought was true.

Often, clients will have incorrect or incomplete ideas in their head about something fitness or nutrition related.

Maybe they heard it from a friend, got it from a social media post, or saw it in a supplement advertisement.

Regardless, when a client proposes an incorrect piece of information, it’s even more important that you can scientifically explain your reasoning.

Overall, the exercise science in the ACE CPT is adequate for the above purposes.

My main criticism is the organization of exercise science in the curriculum.

Rather than a single section of material devoted to these topics, they are interspersed throughout the hands-on sections.

For example, ACE covers the muscular system in the section on resistance training and the cardiovascular in the section on aerobic training, respectively.

I personally think the way most CPTs cover these topics in a single section is more conducive to learning and developing practical skills.

As such, although ACE covers these topics, I find the organization does reduce the effectiveness of this content.

Health Screening, Assessments, and Movement Testing

ace fitness training certification flowchart for clearing sedentary clients for exercise

Pre-participation health, resting measurements, and movement screening are key steps when a new client begins training with you.

The ACE Preparticipation Health Screening is fairly standard and follows the exact same algorithm as the ACSM Preparticipation Health Screening.

You must always have your client fill out a PAR-Q form that screens your client for major cardiovascular risks. You also want to screen for preexisting injuries, especially to the shoulders, knees, feet, and hips.

Overall, ACE does a good job discussing the health screening process and provides several sample forms you can use

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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Ask me a question and I will reply ASAP

20 thoughts on “ACE Certification Review 2024 – Is ACE worth it?”

  1. Hi Tyler!

    Your site has a plethora of information! I apologize if my questions are already answered somewhere in ALL you articles 🙂!
    1. The discounts don’t seem to work for the ACE certification, do you have any information on the next time there might be a discount offered? It was on sale during the holidays, but I missed it😕
    2. I work about 30 hrs a week and can dedicate between 10-20 hrs per week to studying for this certification. My education includes post graduate work and I have some background in exercise physiology & nutrition. That said, I’m sure I won’t fly through this dense material! Do you have a guess on the number of hours I would need to dedicate to this certification?

    Thanks Tyler!

    Be well🌺
    Suzanne

    Reply
    • Hey Suzanne, the discounts change throughout the year depending on what ACE is offering, so make sure to check back, especially around the big holidays. In terms of the ACE certification study, the total certification should take around 10 – 12 weeks if you dedicate 10 – 15 hours of study each week. You could even do it quicker, as you already have some experience, which many people come in with zero experience. Have you already started your studying? Did you check out the other ACE materials here on PTPioneer? Let me know how your experience is going.

      Reply
  2. Hi Tyler,
    Hope you’re doing fine.
    Your articles are so perfect.
    My question is even if i just have my degree and i dont have CPR/AED certification. How much time it will take me to get CPR/AED certification and from where i can get??

    Thanks
    Hope to hear a positive response.

    Reply
  3. Hi Tyler,
    Your experience and exposure to the various PT certifications that are being offered are highly insightful. I have 2 questions:
    ISSA-Do they offer prescription training model e.g. NASM-OPT and ACE-IFT?
    ACE/ISSA-Since I am more of a visual learner and really enjoy viewing ISSA’s Exercise Videos, I wanted to know which program has more visual lessons that delve deeper into explaining, demonstrating the exercise science concepts etc. per text book chapters?

    At this time, I am torn between both programs due the NCCP accreditation that only one program has (ACE); however, because I work overseas, I would much rather engage in a course that has all of its content and preparation materials online, to include the exam. And yes, I realize that both programs come with a hard copy textbook, which is fine also. So, in response to my questions posted above, hopefully I will be able to make a more informed decision based on my learning mode as well as how I enjoy utilizing a systemic, progressive training model.

    Reply
    • while issa does not specifically have a named model like NASM and ACE, they do have a very easy to follow Progressive programming that they teach you how to implement with a wide variety of clients. I agree, I am a visual learner to and I do love expanded exercise libraries. Just to let you know, ISSA is also NCCA accredited along with ACE.

      Reply
    • You will need to get a CPR and AED certification from any provider that does in person training. The American Council on exercise has an extensive list of these providers on their website. Good luck with your personal training career.

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    I bought the ACE MVP Package and am ready to start studying for the ACE Certification. Since I bought this study program, do I need to also buy a study package from ACE site also? Or can I just use this to study and then pay the exam fee to take the ACE cert?

    Thanks,
    Lasia

    Reply
    • Hey Laisa,
      although I do not work for Trainer Academy I can help answer this question. All you need to use their study materials is the primary textbook from ACE. You can either pick that up from them or you can pick that up from Amazon.com. I hope this helps answer your question.

      Reply
  5. If I buy Trainer Academy materials, do I still have to buy the ACE Course or is it the same study materials and I just need to pay for a test date?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hey Bill,
      For the trainer Academy study materials all you need is the textbook from the American Council on exercise. Obviously you need to purchase entrance to take their exam as well. So yes, that is correct.

      Reply
  6. Hey Tyler!
    I’ve been exploring your articles like crazy the last few days (perhaps you noticed a tiny spike your stats? Haha!) And I was wondering how long it took you to complete the ACE program and get certified? How often did you study a day and which PTC did you study for first? I see you’re certified by more than one agency.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  7. hey Tyler!
    you have written an amazingly helpful article out here and I want to thank you for that first.
    just had a question.. if I think that I am not prepared within 6 months of commencing the course, can I postpone the date of my exam without paying any extra cash?
    also, I reside in Kolkata(india) and hence ACE website is asking me to pay extra 100 dollars for shipping. is that the case for everyone living outside of the USA?
    will be really helpful if you could provide me with an answer.
    Thank You!

    Reply
    • Hey Aadam,
      if you feel like you are not ready by the time six months comes around I think you may have to pay for an extension. I know that there are some packages that may be longer than others but I’m not positive. In terms of the shipping for the ACE study materials, I have not experienced the price of shipping outside of the USA. Sorry I cannot be more helpful without answer. Good luck with all of your studying!

      Reply
  8. Hi there I just had a few questions regarding the ACE study program. I don’t have much kinesiology or exercise science knowledge, I only took a few intro classes in college. Do you think the middle study package would be enough information?
    Also, I’m mostly interested in teaching weight training classes(community members), would the group fitness be a better fit?

    Thanks! ps your website is very helpful!

    Reply
    • Hey Catherine,
      If you have very little knowledge in this area I think that the middle option would be plenty for you to get started. Just make sure you take your time and study consistently every day and you should get it down and around six months. The ACE certification is a great match for you for weight training classes 🙂

      Reply

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