The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a worldwide authority on fitness education, training, and certifying personal trainers, health coaches, and other fitness professionals. ACE certifications are highly respected within the industry and demonstrate competency with high standard educations on professionalism, safety, and effectiveness in fitness programming.

What is the American Council of Exercise?

The American Council of Exercise is the leading non-profit organization emphasizing public health improvements through physical activity. The organization has helped over 90,000 fitness professionals become certified. Among fitness certification agencies, ACE and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) are the two biggest and most respected credentials. 

An ACE fitness certification is recognized internationally, as they partner with roughly 143 other countries conducting research, developing standards, and providing recommendations for fitness products. 

What Does the American Council of Exercise Do? 

ACE takes a comprehensive approach to healthy living, making physical movement the foundation. As exercise trends change, the organization is committed to ensuring qualified ACE personal training professionals lead safe and effective workouts through ongoing research and public education. 

ACE operates on a straightforward mission “to get people moving.” Their visionary approach to preventing sedentary-related diseases is by collaborating with health, nutrition, and physical fitness professionals making fact-based education accessible to all. 

What is an ACE Certification?

An ACE certification is one of the most respected credentials a fitness professional can obtain. It certifies a thorough understanding of general health and fitness concepts from a world-renowned expert. The American Council on Exercise provides education backed by university research.

Why Get Certified through ACE?

No laws prohibit someone from labeling themselves as a trainer without academic credentials. Still, pursuing an ACE certification has many advantages. Trainers with certification are more desirable by potential employers, earn higher wages, and are able to obtain business insurance.  

Why Choose ACE?

An ACE personal trainer certification is recognized by fitness employers throughout the world. It’s a well-respected certification from a reputable agency in the fitness industry. ACE personal trainers have undergone a comprehensive education with evidence-based methodologies covering anatomy, exercise science, nutrition, behavior change, and program design. 

When was the ACE Founded?

The American Council on Exercise was founded in 1985. The organization was created in response to a growing need for qualified fitness professionals and standardized practices. Its founding members are Richard Cotton, a published exercise physiologist, and Scott Goudeseune, an entrepreneur in the fitness industry. 

The founders wanted to create an organization that would provide education and certification programs for fitness professionals backed by research. Since its founding, ACE has grown into one of the world’s largest and most respected fitness organizations, with more than 90,000 ACE CPTs throughout the world. 

Why was the ACE Founded?

In the first half of the 1980s, there was a lack of standardization and regulation in the fitness industry. At that time, there was an increase in fitness programs but no clear standard for the quality of instruction or the qualifications of personal trainers. 

The lack of standardization led to growing concerns about the safety and effectiveness of exercise programs and general confusion from the public about which programs were reliable and credible. 

The founders of ACE recognized the importance of exercise and physical activity in promoting overall health and well-being and created a professional organization to help ensure fitness trainers received the highest quality instruction and advice.

What are the Requirements to be Eligible in ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam?

It’s recommended that you have a foundation in exercise science, anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, and nutrition. A foundation in exercise science is not required to take the ACE CPT exam, however. To be eligible for the ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam, you must meet the following requirements.

  1. Must be at least 18 years old.
  2. Must have a high school diploma or equivalent. 
  3. Must have current CPR and AED certifications. 
  4. Must have completed an ACE-approved course of study.
  5. Must have a government-issued photo ID.

How to Prepare for the ACE Certification Exam?

The ACE certification exam is challenging. The online personal training provided by the American Council on Exercise offers everything you need to know to pass with confidence, however. Here are some steps to help you prepare for the ACE certification exam listed below.

  1. The ACE exam content outline provides a breakdown of the topics to be covered on the exam. Review the outline to get an idea of what to expect and help you focus your study efforts.
  2. All of the questions on the exam will be covered in the ACE Essentials of Exercise Science textbook. Read the textbook thoroughly, taking notes on key concepts. 
  3. The ACE website offers practice exams. Take these practice exams multiple times to identify areas you need to concentrate more on. 
  4. The exam covers theoretical and practical knowledge. Gain practical knowledge by working hands-on with clients or by shadowing an experienced trainer. 
  5. Utilize an ACE Exam Prep Workshop, which provides an in-depth review of the material covered on the exam. 
  6. Create a regular study schedule, allowing yourself enough time to review all the material without distraction. 
  7. Practice self-care by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, staying active, and taking breaks when needed during your studies. 

How Hard is the ACE Exam?

Prior knowledge, preparation, and experience in the fitness field will all help make the ACE PT exam less challenging. However, the ACE certification exam is considered to be one of the more challenging fitness certifications to obtain. 

The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and covers several topics, such as anatomy, exercise physiology, nutrition, exercise programming, and client consultation and assessment. The pass rate for all ACE certification exams combined is roughly 65%.

What is the Hardest ACE Certification Exam?

Hardest is a subjective term. An individual’s level of education, experience, and familiarity make testing in a particular field easier or more challenging. Generally, the ACE CPT certification is the most difficult, given the depth of knowledge required to pass. 

Still, according to, other certifications offered include the Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam, Health Coach Certification Exam, and Medical Exercise Specialist Certification Exam are also comprehensive testing experiences that require a deep understanding of specific areas of health and fitness. 

How Much Does it Cost to Get ACE Certification?

The cost of obtaining an ACE personal trainer certification online can vary depending on the specific certification program and the level of study materials or support chosen—the four primary certifications offered by ACE range in price from $399 to $999. 

What are the Certifications offered by ACE?

There are several ACE personal fitness certifications available. These include:

  1. Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
  2. Group Fitness Instructor (GFI)
  3. Health Coach Certification (HCC)
  4. Medical Exercise Specialist Certification (MES)

Each ACE certification has its own set of requirements, and you must pass an exam to obtain any formal credential. ACE also offers continuing education courses and resources for ace personal fitness professionals to maintain and improve their skills and knowledge. 

1.Personal Trainer Certification

Preparing for the ACE CPT is challenging, given that it covers several scientific topics related to health and fitness. Many candidates choose to enroll in an ACE-approved exam preparation course to help them prepare. An ACE CPT certification is valid for two years.  

To maintain the online personal training certification after its received, you need to earn 20 continuing education credits within those two years and pay a recertification fee. 

While the certification alone does not guarantee a job or success within the industry, an ACE CPT certification increases your earning potential as a personal trainer. 

2. Group Fitness Instructor Certification

The GFI is ideal for individuals wishing to provide class instruction. Group workouts are a popular setting and growing in demand. The GFI is a self-paced online personal training program. It can be accomplished between 3-6 months with dedicated study time, however.

The GFI certification from ACE is more challenging than other group fitness trainer credentials. It covers topics such as fitness fundamentals, instruction design, motivation, and leadership capabilities. Most commercial gyms offer group fitness classes making the ACE GFI a smart investment.

3. Health Coach Certification

In line with ACE’s mission of overall well-being, the HCC is geared toward individuals who approach wellness from a holistic viewpoint. Candidates who already have an established base of healthcare or coaching knowledge might find this online personal trainer course easier. Once obtained, you’ll need to acquire 20 hours of continued education every two years and retest.

The Health Coach Certification covers a broad range of topics, such as human anatomy, exercise science, nutrition, and coaching and communication skills. If you wish to work one-on-one with a client’s overall health, the ACE HCC will help you stand out as a reputable professional. 

4. Medical Exercise Specialist Certification

Obtaining MES trainer certification online from ACE opens up career opportunities to work alongside medical professionals such as physical therapists, chiropractors, or in hospital or recovery centers. The MES certification is valid for two years, during which you’ll need 20 hours of continued education to recertify. 

During your studies for the ACE MES, you’ll be covering topics such as anatomy and physiology, exercise principles for individuals with injury or illness, as well as studying special populations. Bridging the gap between exercise and physical recovery is challenging, but that’s the goal of an individual with an ACE MES. 

Which ACE Certification is Best?

Determining which online trainer certification offered by ACE is the best depends on an individual’s fitness professional goals. Those wishing to work one-on-one towards fitness objectives will find the ACE CPT best. However, if you want to explore the relationship between movement and physical health, then the Medical Exercise Specialist would be most ideal. 

Something to keep in mind is that if you wish to pursue specialization credentials, you must have a Certified Personal Trainer certification from a National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited organization. Without the title “best,” the ACE CPT is essential if you wish to further develop your skills.  

Finding the best ACE online trainer certification requires an individual assessment of goals, prior experience, and desired impact. Each course is challenging in its own right but benefits the individual with the backing of a reputable organization with national accreditation. 

Which ACE Certification is the Cheapest?

The cost of becoming a certified online trainer through ACE will depend on which study material package and support you need, as well as exam fees. On the surface, the cheapest course is the Group Fitness Instructor, costing between $499 and $749. However, failing an exam requires an additional retake fee, so choosing the right course is more important than the cheapest one. 

What are the Specializations you can get in ACE?

There are several ACE specializations offered for fitness coaches who want to focus their skills in specific areas. These specialized certifications include: 

  1. ACE Fitness Nutrition (FNS)
  2. ACE Function Training (FTS)
  3. ACE Weight Management (WMS)
  4. ACE Senior Fitness (SFS)
  5. ACE Behavior Change (BCS)
  6. ACE Orthopedic Exercise (OES)
  7. ACE Youth Fitness (YFS) 
  8. ACE Sports Performance (SPS)
  9. Pain-Free Movement (PFMS)
  10. Pilates Mat (PMS)
  11. Corrective Exercise (CES)
  12. Cancer Exercise (CES)
  13. Size Inclusive Fitness (SIFES)

Like each primary certification, a fitness coach obtaining specialized credentials will be qualified for two years. Renewing the certificate requires 20 hours of continued education and a recertification exam. Additionally, you must have a CPT from an NCCA-accredited program before seeking an official specialization certification.

1.ACE Fitness Nutrition

Those wishing to pursue an ACE Fitness Nutrition online course for personal trainers can expect a deep dive into a range of nutritional science-based concepts, including life cycle, weight management, and dietary assessments. In addition, you’ll be challenged with behavior change theory, coaching, and a business strategy. 

The ACE Fitness Nutrition certification starts at $699 up to $799, depending on desired study material. Once completed with all prerequisites, the certification will establish credibility as you effectively coach clients towards healthier eating habits developed with the careful planning strategy learned here.

2. ACE Functional Training

An ACE Certified Functional Training Specialist compliments both the ACE CPT and the MES credentials. A personal fitness trainer with this specialization combines the knowledge of implementing safe and effective exercise but focuses on functional movement that translates to real-world activities helping someone improve strength, balance, and flexibility. 

Adding functional limitations or injuries with the ACE FTS combined with the ACE MES opens up personal fitness trainer opportunities as a conditioning coach, support specialist at a rehabilitation clinic, or serving sports teams. ACE offers this course for $649. 

3. ACE Weight Management

The ACE Weight Management Specialist certification pairs well with an HCC as it takes a deeper look into the science behind weight management. You’ll cover physiology regarding weight fluctuation, hormones and metabolism, and comorbidity of weight-related diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension. 

Medical facilities often employ weight management specialists to work alongside other medical professionals to help monitor and manage patient weight loss success. A personal fitness trainer with this credential develops effective weight loss and weight management programs for these roles. This specialist certification course starts at $649, and candidates need 100 hours of prior practical application.

4. ACE Senior Fitness

ACE certified personal trainers with credentials in any of the four primary certifications will find this specialization adds value for senior clients. Whether working to increase strength and fitness or provide overall client well-being support, the ACE SFS focuses on the unique needs of older adults. 

The course costs $599 and requires 200 hours of experience working with a generalized population for consideration. Individuals with prior biology or anatomy knowledge might have an easier time with this class as it covers issues such as musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems that are affected by aging. 

Additionally, you’ll be examining the impact of aging on cognitive changes and dietary needs. Overall, the ACE Senior Fitness Specialist certification is designed to provide fitness programs tailored to help circumvent the process of aging with safe and effective fitness programs. 

5. ACE Behavior Change

Continuing your ACE education with the Behavior Change Specialist certification starts at $649, with testing fees added. This niche credential explores the entire process of behavior change theory from assessment to action planning and building self-efficacy, rounding out the course with long-term behavior adaptation.

You’ll build hard skills like motivational interviewing to assess a client’s readiness for change, identifying barriers along the way. This ACE training complements the ACE CPT and HCC seamlessly, as neither a personal trainer nor a health coach forces a client to change until the client is motivated to do so.

6. ACE Orthopedic Exercise

Athletes often experience injury. The ACE Orthopedic Exercise online personal trainer certification would provide an advantage to someone already holding a CPT or MES. This specialization focuses on musculoskeletal conditions, injuries, and chronic pain and offers tools to help clients overcome those disadvantages. 

While not a medical credential, the OES online personal trainer certification allows fitness professionals to assess and evaluate clients experiencing pain while identifying any issues with mobility. The goal is to implement exercise programs that increase the range of motion, alleviate pain, and improve overall physical functioning from various ailments.

The course starts at $749, but the course can be upgraded. In addition to meeting the standard prerequisites, candidates must have 300 hours of practical experience working with clients with physical, neurological, or immunological conditions (special populations such as pregnant women or senior citizens should also be considered). 

7. ACE Youth Fitness

Youth sports is in high-demand in the fitness industry. ACE offers a personal training certification online to be an ACE Certified Youth Fitness Specialist. Youth sports often include group fitness. Therefore the primary GFI would complement this specialization nicely.

The course covers critical concepts related to youth fitness focusing on ages 5-18. The in-depth overview elaborates on pediatric physiology and psychology, growth and development, and fitness abilities related to youth. You’ll also cover the legal and professional responsibilities of working with minors. 

Candidates must have at least 100 hours of documented experience working with youth in a fitness or physical activity setting. This personal training certification online starts at $549. 

8. ACE Sports Performance

A physical trainer with the ACE Sports Performance Specialist credential will be able to understand topics of movement science as it pertains to athletic performance. The course will cover biometrics involved with explosive movements to improve speed, agility, and quickness. 

Each of the four primary ACE certifications would benefit from this specialized credential as it encompasses injury prevention, nutrition and supplements, and mental health as they apply to athletic ability. 

Candidates seeking the ACE SPS must have six months of experience working in a fitness setting to be considered. Only one pricing package for this certification is available at $749. 

9. Function First Pain-Free Movement

Like the Orthopedic Exercise Specialist, the ACE Pain-Free Movement Specialist focuses on musculoskeletal issues. There is a subtle difference between these two certifications. The ACE PFMS studies pain-related neurology and how that impacts movement. 

The ACE Pain-Free Movement Specialist aims to manage persistent pain through fitness and lifestyle in collaboration with healthcare professionals. It’s an extensive subject requiring two years of prior experience working with clients who have chronic pain. The course is priced at $475.  

10. Pilates Mat

Pilates is a widely popular group fitness class offered by commercial gyms. The American Council of Exercise includes standardization in its mission statement. The ACE Pilates Mat Specialist Program achieves that goal. 

This specialization takes an encompassing approach providing a history and concepts of Pilates beyond physical activity. It also details a specific focus on the muscles, joints, and movements involved in Pilates exercises. 

Unlike many of the other niche credentials, candidates do not have to have prior experience related to Pilates. General fitness experience is required to take the ACE Pilates Mat Specialist Program exam, however. The ACE Pilates Mat Specialist Program course is $799. The Ace Pilates Mat Specialist equips you with the skills and knowledge to teach Pilates mat classes.

11. Corrective Exercise

Acefitness org is the only source to provide The BioMechanics Method to a Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) certification. The ACE CES is similar to the Functional Training Specialist in that both credentials focus on functional movement. 

The ACE CES focuses on improving movement with corrective exercises for individuals with an identifiable cause for movement dysfunction. It covers specific techniques such as foam rolling, stretching, and complex mobility exercises designed to improve function. 

The CES complements each of the primary certifications. Candidates must have 100 hours of prior practical experience designing and teaching exercise programs for individuals to be considered for this $749 course. 

12. Cancer Exercise

The ACE Cancer Exercise Specialist Program stands out among other personal trainer organizations as it’s led by Andrea Leonard, who founded the Cancer Exercise Training Institute. The course is available for $749, and there is no prior cancer-specific prerequisite to be considered. 

This ACE training covers the physical impact of cancer on the mind and body as it explores treatments and their side effects. Personal Trainers will learn how to implement various cardio, strength, and mobility exercises regarding how the cancer journey affects those abilities.

Students with an established HCC or MES will be particularly interested in this specialization as it can qualify them to work collaboratively with healthcare providers, oncologists, or physical therapists to develop exercise programs that address the client’s overall health and medical history.

13. Size Inclusive Fitness

The ACE Size Inclusive Fitness Specialist answers a growing demand for exercise that emphasizes body positivity. The course addresses mainstream media and common fitness advertisements’ impact on people with larger bodies. 

You’ll learn the importance of creating size-inclusive workout environments and the intricacies between weight loss and fitness goals. The course will challenge outdated information regarding calorie deficit regiments, instead focusing on empowering clients to love the body they have. The online fitness coach certification is offered at $549.  

Which ACE Specialization is Best?

Each of the 13 ACE Certified Specializations complements other credentials for individuals with various backgrounds in education and fitness experience. There is no “best” specialization. However, the ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist and the ACE Behavior Change Specialist are broadly applied expertises within fitness certification organizations. 

Which ACE Specialization is the Cheapest?

The Pain-Free Movement Specialist is the niche that costs the least offered by ACE. The course costs $475, nearly $100 cheaper than the next cheapest credential of YFS. However, remember that the PFMS certification requires that candidates have 100 hours of hands-on experience working with mobility limitations. You cannot be considered without that experience. 

What are the Advantages of being ACE Certified?

ACE training offers several advantages for someone interested in the fitness industry. Personal trainers with credentials from ACE benefit from all of the following advantages listed below.

  • Credibility: As the leading non-profit organization in the fitness industry, an ACE training certification demonstrates that you have met high standards in your field. 
  • Curriculum: Each program provides a comprehensive curriculum that covers a wide range of topics, including exercise science, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and psychology.
  • Continued Education: Recertifying an ACE credential requires continued education credits ensuring their trainers have the latest research and industry-related trends. 
  • Career Opportunities: An ACE certificate is a preferential credential because of the organization’s reputation for excellence and quality
  • International Recognition: ACE is recognized internationally, meaning personal trainers from ACE are qualified to work worldwide. 

What are the Disadvantages of being ACE Certified?

While ACE is a highly respected credential among personal fitness coaching certifying organizations, there are some potential disadvantages to consider, such as those listed below.

  • Cost: Aside from the cost of the courses, there are exam fees too which range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand depending on the level of certification and study materials. 
  • Time: Obtaining an ACE certifications is time-consuming and intense. Candidates must meet specific educational and practical requirements, pass a difficult exam, and maintain credentials through ongoing education credits. 
  • Constraint: While an ACE certification is widely respected, it’s just one of many personal fitness coaching credentials available. Some employers prefer or require a different certificate. 
  • Recertification: Recertification is required every two years and requires a certain number of continuing education credits. This is challenging for busy schedules or limited resources, and failure to do so results in the loss of credentials. 

What Professional Career can you get through ACE Certification?

A physical trainer certificate from ACE, a leading authority in the fitness industry, can open up many doors for employment. Some of the careers pursuable with an ACE certification include: 

  • Personal Trainer: Work with individuals or groups developing fitness programs to meet specific goals. 
  • Group Fitness Instructor: Teach popular group classes, including cardio, strength, yoga, or dance. 
  • Health Coach: Work one-on-one with clients to implement personal plans to improve overall health and wellness.
  • Sports Performance Coach: Work with athletes and coaches to improve athletic performance focusing on improvement movement, agility, and speed. 
  • Fitness Director: Oversee fitness facility operations, including managing staff, developing programs, and overall functioning. 
  • Wellness Coordinator: Develop and implement workplace wellness programs to promote healthy employee behaviors. 

Do you need an ACE Certification to open a Gym Business?

You do not need an American Council on Exercise certification to open a gym business. However, having a certificate from a reputable fitness organization such as ACE demonstrates to clients and investors that you have the necessary knowledge and skill to run a gym successfully. 

Additionally, the American Council on Exercise certification helps you develop effective training, provide quality customer care, and maintain safety in your new gym business. 

Does ACE require a Degree?

You do not need a degree to pursue an ACE fitness trainer certification online. However, there are certain eligibility requirements, which vary depending on the certificate you seek. In general, you need to be at least 18 years old and have a current CPR and AED certification. 

Is ACE Personal Trainer Certification online?

Yes, ACE offers online courses for personal trainer certification programs. You will study and take the exam entirely online. However, the practical exam portion of the physical trainer certification must be completed in person at a designated testing center. 

Is ACE the Best Personal Trainer Certification online?

ACE is a well-respected and internationally recognized fitness coaching certification organization. It’s one of the largest non-profit fitness organizations in the world, with more than 190,000 certified professionals in over 143 countries. 

A fitness coaching certification from ACE would be desirable to most potential employers. However, there are other reputable organizations offering personal trainer certification programs online, such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). 

Is the American Council of Exercise (ACE) legitimate?

Yes, ACE is a legitimate and respected organization that has been operating since 1985 and is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The organization has a reputation for providing high-quality education and research-backed certifications. 

ACE also operates on a code of ethics, which all certified professionals must adhere to. The internationally acclaimed ACE organization will likely appear if you’re searching for reputable fitness training near me.

Is ACE better than NASM?

ACE and the NASM are both internationally respected organizations certifying fitness trainers. They are organizations that are NCCA accredited and have generally positive reviews. However, with a slight advantage, ACE was established first in 1985. 

What is the difference between ACE and NASM?

A side-by-side comparison is beneficial for a comprehensive examination of ACE vs. NASM. When deciding which certification to pursue, consider the following:

  • Approach: ACE’s approach to fitness focuses on health through activity. Their certifications are geared towards holistic wellness with exercise at heart. NASM takes a science-based approach to corrective exercise, emphasizing injury prevention or recovery. 
  • Exam: The ACE exam is a 150 multiple-choice questionnaire with practical skills knowledge testing. The NASM exams consist of 120 multiple-choice questions and 20 unscored research questions. 
  • Continued Education: Continued education is required by both organizations. ACE requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years. NASM requires 20 hours of continuing education yearly. 

Cost: While educational costs through either organization depends on several factors, in general, ACE tends to be slightly cheaper overall.

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