AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review - Tyler Read holds up the AFAA GFI

This is my full review of the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification. I base this review on my experience taking the certification, passing the AFAA GFI exam, and working in the fitness industry as a group fitness instructor.

I look at whether this program is the best option for your needs versus other group exercise certifications.

I’ve been a group fitness instructor and personal trainer for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to earn many group fitness certifications. With that said, I know exactly how each certification ‘works’ in the real world of group fitness.

Additionally, our team at PT Pioneer has trainers certified in group exercise through the main organizations. I’ve consulted with them to give you the best possible review of this certification

In this review, I cover the following:

  • AFAA certification info, price, packages, prerequisites
  • Quality of textbook and exercise program
  • Pros, and cons, is this the best certification for you?
  • How the AFAA Group Fitness Certification stacks up against the competition

I also recommend getting a personal trainer certification to be a better group exercise instructor.

I also highly recommend that you take the quiz and find out which AFAA certification is best for your career goals.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

Let’s begin.

What is the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification?

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review 6

The AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification (AFAA-GFI) is an industry-leading group fitness certification that teaches you the major skills needed to become a group exercise instructor.

It includes information about:

  1. How to design, choreograph, and lead a group fitness class.
  2. Training in modalities, including: strength and resistance, HIIT and interval, boot camp, yoga, cycling and more.
  3. Essentials of exercise and physiology.
  4. Foundations of nutrition and healthy eating.
  5. How to adapt for special populations, like pregnant and senior participants.
  6. Business skills and professional responsibilities.
AFAA Group Exercise Instructor General Information

AFAA Group Exercise Instructor General Information

  • Exam cost: $299
  • Study material cost: $299 to $859
  • Prerequisites: High School Diploma, CPR/AED
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: 61%
  • Average completion time: 3 months

AFAA credibility and reputation

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) is a fitness certification company founded in 1983.

They have certified over 350,000 trainers and fitness instructors since their beginning, and were the first organization to produce standardized national guidelines for fitness professionals.

The AFAA offers a job-guarantee with their certifications, which is something I found useful when first becoming a group fitness instructor.

AFAA is owned by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the two organizations share a few certifications. NASM is one of the top worldwide fitness certification companies, famously known for its NASM CPT certification, which is among the best personal trainer certifications in the industry. The NASM umbrella gives the AFAA certifications some serious weight in terms of their industry reputation.

I personally prefer the NASM/AFAA and ISSA certifications the most, so I would certainly recommend the AFAA group exercise certification.

AFAA programs are NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accredited certifications, which is a huge plus. The NCCA only approves the top certifications and is a great method of quality control, establishing that the particular certification has met all of the major guidelines needed as a top certification in the fitness industry. 

Is the AFAA GFI worth it?

Is the AFAA GFI worth it? Tyler read decides whether the AFAA GFI is the right certification.

The AFAA Group Fitness Instructor certification is worth it for becoming an excellent group fitness coach. Additionally,  AFAA GFI is good for working at most major gyms that offer group fitness classes.

The AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification is ideal for anyone looking for support in teaching group classes in strength building, cycling, or yoga, as all of these topics are covered in-depth in the program. 

Pros
  • Broad coverage of training modalities
  • Effectively prepares coaches to design and instruct classes
Cons
  • Limited corrective exercise training
  • Difficult exam

AFAA Group Fitness vs other top certifications

The AFAA Group Fitness Certification has many rivals from other organizations. Their top two competitors are the ACE Group Fitness Certification and the ISSA Group Exercise Instructor Certification.

The ISSA Group Exercise Instructor Certification excels in that it covers many different disciplines of group fitness, like boxing, step-class, water aerobics, suspension training, and battle ropes along with weights.

Other group training courses include ACSM’s Group Exercise Instructor Certification, but this program is not as popular as the others. 

Who is the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor certification meant for?

The AFAA Group Fitness Certification is geared towards people who want to learn the basic skills of how to lead an exercise class safely and effectively. 

The AFAA certification would be a great addition for certified personal trainers who also want to coach multiple people at the same time.

The benefits of learning how to teach classes are huge, even for people who normally coach small groups.

Great For:
  • Personal trainers that want to coach small-group fitness
  • Coaching large group fitness at commercial gyms
Not Recommended For:
  • Strength and conditioning coaches
  • Coaching individuals with movement dysfunction

This certification is not a personal training certification or corrective exercise program, nor is it a credential that specializes in teaching any individual type of class.

Moreover, the AFAA group exercise certification is a broad group exercise certification that covers many individual group exercise types, in order to give you a broad base from which to work.

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review 7
AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review 8

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification cost and packages

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification cost and packages displayed with coins - how much does the AFAA GEI cost

AFAA has 4 main packages with their group fitness certificate with different levels of guidance.

The AFAA Group Exercise Instructor Basic course is $299 and gives you a copy of the virtual textbook, learning videos, practice quizzes, practice exam, and the exam itself. You can also do payments of $27 per month.

The self-study is the next tier, costing $349 and giving you everything from the Basic course plus a job guarantee.

The Premium Self-Study package adds in a free exam retest, hardcover copy of the textbook, along with access to coaches who can answer any questions you may have as you study. 

Finally, the All-Inclusive Package contains more elements, including a recertify-for life which covers all your recertification fees in the future years. This package costs $859. While this seems expensive initially, over a lifetime of recertifying this is excellent value and will save you a lot of money.

The payment plans for the higher tier packages go for $32/month, $38/month, and $78/month respectively.

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Generally speaking, video lectures, practice tests, and flashcards are some of the best supplemental resources. Becoming a certified group fitness instructor is difficult, so you really need to know your kinesiology, weight management, and group exercise leadership skills.

You can check for deals and discounts on all of these materials directly on the AFAA website

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification review – content coverage

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification review - content coverage. AFAA textbook open to table of contents.

AFAA’s textbook has 13 chapters and 5 appendices covering what you need to know as a group fitness instructor:

  1. The Group Fitness Industry
  2. Foundations of Exercise Science
  3. The Human Movement System
  4. Integrated Fitness
  5. Teaching Basics
  6. Teaching Multi-Training and Exercise Technique
  7. Class Planning and Preparation
  8. Adapting to Class Dynamics
  9. Communication and Learning Styles
  10.  Inclusive Instruction for Special Populations
  11. Class Engagement and Motivation
  12. Professional and Legal Responsibilities
  13. Nutrition

Appendix A: The Kinetic Chain

Appendix B: Expanded Human Movement Science

Appendix C: Other Systems Related to Human Movement

Appendix D: Chronic Conditions and Expanded Emergencies in the Fitness Environment

Appendix E: Expanded Nutritional Concepts

The Group Fitness Industry

This first section of the AFAA book covers the history of the fitness industry, along with different principles and formats of group fitness training. 

When examining if an exercise should be used, AFAA uses five questions: 

  1. What is the purpose of the exercise?
  2. Are you doing the exercise effectively?
  3. Does the exercise create safety concerns?
  4. Can you maintain proper form and alignment during the exercise?
  5. For whom is the exercise appropriate or not?

I find this basic list of questions incredibly valuable to evaluate most movements’ suitability for group exercise.

This chapter also gives a basic overview of the scope of practice as a group fitness instructor and the three main group fitness methods: pre-choreographed, pre-designed, freestyle. 

I like that AFAA includes this list and the pros and cons of each method, along with a description of them. 

Foundations of Exercise Science

Next, you learn basic biomechanics of movement. 

AFAA covers planes of motion, body positions, exercise modalities, and joint actions, along with plenty of examples to clarify these definitions. This chapter doesn’t go quite as in-depth as in most personal training certifications, but it’s enough to get you started as a group exercise instructor with the basic exercise research.

It will certainly give you a foundation of understanding to work from and you can fill in the details later. 

The Human Movement System

In the Human Movement System chapter, muscle fiber types are described, joint types, and how agonists and antagonists work together to create movement.

One of the parts of this chapter I find incredibly helpful is the section on kinetic chain dysfunction. 

As an exercise instructor, you will encounter many people and bodies with kinetic chain dysfunctions. Being able to recognize each dysfunction using fitness assessments and make the proper modifications is extremely important for both safety and effectiveness of instruction.

Finally, this chapter covers cardiovascular and respiratory systems along with the main energy systems. 

Integrated Fitness

AFAA describes Integrated Fitness as an approach that brings together multiple components of fitness in an exercise class: flexibility, cardiorespiratory, core, balance, plyometric, resistance, and sometimes SAQ (speed, agility, quickness).

The course goes on to very briefly describe these components, although I wish it went into detail a bit more. 

While AFAA covers resistance training in other areas of the course, there is no supporting content on plyometrics and speed, agility, and quickness. Both of these topics can be incredibly useful in a group exercise context. 

The Integrated Fitness chapter describes zone training, which is a big component in fitness classes that you’ll need to know, which is good.

I like that the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor certification has a section on ways to prevent overtraining. I’ve noticed that often the people who attend group exercise tend to overdo it with the amount of daily activity, so knowing how to prevent and understand overtraining is a key skill for any exercise instructor.

Other mentions in the AFAA Integrated Fitness chapter include the basic overload principle in exercise and how specificity is important in order to induce proper adaptations.

Teaching Basics

The AFAA Group Fitness Instructor chapter on teaching basics does an excellent job of covering the common outline for a group exercise session, from the introduction, to the movement prep phase, the workout itself and the outro. 

AFAA gives you multiple ways to monitor and establish proper exercise intensity, all of which I think are invaluable to learn. 

In some environments, each of these methods is appropriate. For example, the Talk Test is probably the easiest method to use for lower intensity exercise, while using Heart Rate Reserve is more ideal for high performance athletic endeavors. 

AFAA also goes through considerations for strength, HIIT/interval, boot camp, yoga, and cycle workouts. These types of workouts are the most covered in this course, so if you want to teach any of them specifically, you will certainly be ready. 

Teaching Multi-training and Exercise Technique

The section on multi-training and techniques goes over common exercises and how to cue them properly. 

AFAA provides some really detailed descriptions of proper cueing, along with regressions and common mistakes to correct with these exercises. 

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The modalities described are strength and cardio exercises, yoga exercises, and biking exercises.

I do wish the textbook provided images for the biking exercises like it does for the other modalities, but it’s not a deal breaker. 

Class Planning and Preparation

AFAA covers how to plan a good group fitness class in this chapter.

They provide a really useful group fitness checklist that I use in all my classes, along with a sample class planning sheet.

This section of the AFAA textbook also includes recommendations for music based on the class format, which is a great addition and I haven’t seen in any other group exercise certifications. It also goes through different BPMs based on exercise style. 

Adapting to Class Dynamics

The chapter on class dynamics goes over proper spacing set-up, and ways to monitor the class throughout the workout.

I find this to be a key concept when learning how to be a group exercise instructor. 

It’s much easier to coach one person and fix their form, making sure they are using safe technique than group instruction. Knowing how to do this properly will boost your confidence as an instructor.

Communication and Learning Styles

This section of the AFAA textbook provides different cuing options for different learning styles, a great addition to the Group Exercise Instructor program.

This is especially important in the group setting where different people learn movements differently, so combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic instructions at the same time will improve ‌class flow and help transfer your passion for fitness to your students.

Inclusive Instruction for Special Populations

The Inclusive Instruction for Special Populations chapter is probably the weakest section of the AFAA Group Exercise Instructor Certification.

While the section provides the fundamentals of how to teach classes with different populations, it doesn’t go as in-depth as I would like.

Often, you may deal with individuals with chronic conditions as a group exercise instructor, and this chapter gives you specialized guidelines.

I wish there was more detail regarding youth training or coaching older populations. I feel as if these are two groups you will encounter depending on where you work, and there isn’t too much information here compared to most personal training certifications.

You may need to supplement your information elsewhere if you encounter any of these groups.

Class Engagement and Motivation

AFAA covers how to make classes fun and motivate your participants to succeed in this chapter of the group exercise course.

This chapter of the AFAA group exercise curriculum includes:

  • Influences on human behavior
  • Stages of Change model
  • Ways to build goals of clients

One of the highlights here is a few pages on building a brand and fitness community as a professional that I think everyone today will find helpful. 

The AFAA discusses how to use social media engagement as well. This is also a topic rarely discussed in most certifications, and I found it a welcome inclusion to the AFAA Group Fitness Certification.

Professional and Legal Responsibilities

This chapter discusses how to take in and handle feedback from others and conduct self-feedback about your performance, which I think is a good addition to the AFAA certification. 

The AFAA also stresses the importance of further educational development as a fitness professional. 

After you become certified, it’s essential to continue the learning process to stay fresh on any new fitness findings and to keep the memory of the material clear in your mind. 

This section of the AFAA Group Exercise Instructor course also covers proper scope of practice and the ethics of being a group fitness instructor.

Additionally, there are a few pages on figuring out proper music legalities for use in a class setting. This is a good overview and essential for any group exercise instructor to learn to cover their bases. 

As you grow and grow your group fitness business, knowing the proper legalities of anything you do in a professional setting is essential for avoiding trouble and keeping your business afloat.

Also, if any injuries arise while you’re teaching, you need to know how to fill out a facility incident report, you need to know how to check equipment for damage so no injury occurs. 

Finally, AFAA discusses self-care regarding energy and stress management as a class instructor; a vital part of the job in my opinion. 

Group exercise classes require a large amount of energy from the individual teaching them and if you are not on top of your own health, it’s going to be hard to help to motivate others, leading to burnout and poor results. 

Nutrition

As a group fitness instructor, you won’t generally deal with as many nutritional questions as a certified personal trainer (CPT), but it’s still good to know the basics and AFAA does a fine job of covering those.

They include information on macronutrients, recommended daily intakes of nutrients, and proper hydration. 

I find that the most common nutritional issue you will deal with in a class setting is the hydration component, as many times people overexert themselves and under-hydrate, which leads to performance drops and exhaustion. 

Appendices

Each appendix has further information on the topics discussed in the AFAA textbook, including info on bones, muscles, fitness emergencies, vitamins, and supplements. 

These appendices flesh out some of the areas where this certification is light on content.

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor exam prep and study materials

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor exam prep and study materials - AFAA group exercise textbook open to SMART goals page.

Because AFAA is linked to NASM, their range of study resources are top-notch. Each module on the online course will easily lead you through the content therein, making the entire study process seamless.

It’s a great user experience compared to some of the other organizations like ACSM or NSCA. 

I tend not to use these features. I like to just read the textbook, but if you like using online portal assistance, the NASM system is among the best.

You can always supplement their study material with third-party help, which I find really covers all your bases. 

AFAA Certification requirements

There are no major requirements needed for the AFAA Group Exercise Instructor besides holding a current CPR/AED certification and high school diploma.

These are the same eligibility requirements that most candidates need for a CPT. 

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor salary

Group fitness instructors make an average of $34,348 a year, according to zippia.com in the US. In different states and cities the average is a lot higher.

For example, in Los Angeles, California, the median wage is $50,501, so choose where you work wisely.

Income is always variable, depending on experience, good business practices, and skill, so don’t rely on these numbers in terms of expectations.

I recommend setting a goal for yourself and making a commitment towards trying to beat it every year, just like a new personal record in the gym. If you stick to the path, you will certainly make enough to make it worthwhile and be able to change some lives in the process. 

Taking the final AFAA Group Fitness Instructor exam

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor exam - taking the AFAA GEI exam

The AFAA certification exam has 120 multiple choice questions, with 20 of those being unscored. Those are used as test questions for later exams for the AFAA. 

You have 2 hours to complete the final exam, which is plenty of time in my opinion. You must score at least 70% to pass. The test is in-person and proctored on a testing computer, so you will have to go to a center to take it. 

Personally, I did not find this exam level of difficulty too challenging and I passed it on my first attempt. I spent roughly 2 months studying the AFAA Group Exercise textbook. Based on my experience, if you study carefully and consistently to the best of your abilities, you will pass the exam.

AFAA continuing education and recertification

AFAA requires 1.5 CEUS (15 hours) every two years to renew your certification amd keep you credential in good standing.

Renewal fees on top of that are $99, unless you do the renewal for life option, which costs $399. 

Other AFAA offerings

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America has many other certification programs and courses that offer both credentials and continuing education units, including:

I’d recommend using some of these courses as a way to help you recertify on account of the fact that they will boost your career opportunities versus other CEU options. The knowledge you learn is also a bonus.

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification overall rating

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review 9

The AFAA Group Fitness Certification gets a 9.5 overall rating. It’s a quality certification and really shines in the areas of instruction and preparation teaching group fitness classes. 

It doesn’t cover each type of exercise class, but if you are thinking of teaching a strength, HIIT/interval, boot camp, yoga, and cycle workout, this is definitely the certification to consider.

AFAA Group Exercise Instructor
AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification Review 10

Find out if the AFAA Group Exercise Instructor certification is right for you. Read my complete AFAA GEI review and kickoff you group fitness career.

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 299

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.5

Pros

  • Broad coverage of training modalities
  • Effectively prepares coaches to design and instruct classes

Cons

  • Limited corrective exercise training
  • Difficult exam

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification FAQs

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification FAQs

Is the AFAA Group Fitness test hard?

According to their site, the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification has a 61% pass rate, making it one of the harder certification tests. Personally, I don’t think it will be too hard to pass if you study appropriately for at least 6 weeks. 

How long does it take to complete AFAA Group Fitness Certification?

It should take 1-2 months to complete the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification and study and take the exam. Of course, this number will depend on your study habits and the time allotted. Some people may need up to 3-4 months if they are slower learners.

Is AFAA nationally recognized?

The AFAA is nationally recognized through its NCCA accreditation. The NCCA only approves the top certifications and is the gold standard of excellence for top fitness certifications. If you live outside the US, make sure to check your individual country’s requirements. Other countries like Australia and the UK sometimes have additional things you need to check off. 

What is a passing score on the AFAA Group Exercise Instructor exam?

You must score at least a 70% to pass the AFAA group fitness instructor. 

What is the pass rate for the AFAA Group Fitness Instructor?

AFAA data puts the pass rate at 61%, although I would say your odds are much higher with a good study guide. 

How many questions are on the AFAA group fitness test?

The AFAA exam has 120 multiple choice questions.

How much is the AFAA group fitness exam?

You can purchase the exam by itself for $249, but I would recommend getting at least the Basic study course as it gives you the textbook and some online tools for only $299. This is just $50 more than just the exam. This will mean you have a higher chance of passing on the first try, so you won’t have to re-take it. 

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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