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February 20, 2012, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  5 Comments

What You Really Need to Know from the Essentials of Exercise Science

exercise science anatomy

I've just received my ACE certification exam study materials and I'm getting started in ACE's Essentials of Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals. There is so much information that I am feeling overwhelmed! Help!

Sound familiar? Don't worry. This is a common feeling among many individuals who are getting started with this book, but it doesn't have to be!

In this post, I will answer the question you're most interested in: What do I really need to know from the Essentials of Exercise Science book?

First and foremost, starting off as a fitness professional requires you to gain a foundation in the human body and its systems. This book is designed not only as a study guide, but also as a resource tool for the future. You are being introduced to the human body and let's face it, it's interesting how much we don't know about our own systems!

Before we break down the five chapters, my favorite tip is, while working through the material, picture how you would apply the information to a personal training setting.

If it is a topic that is in great detail such as the structure of a nerve cell, recognize how this is not necessarily something you would directly use in personal training. Therefore, it serves more as reference material. Continue to apply the information in this way and it will become clearer which information is most important.

Here are the most important elements of each chapter:

  • Chapter 1: The most important aspects of this chapter are the anatomical positions and planes of motion; the segmental movements in the three planes; and the muscles and their actions. You need to have a general understanding of the systems introduced in this chapter (cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, skeletal, nervous, and muscular), but you do not need to be able to reproduce all the information. Remember, this is a personal training application-based exam, not a science or anatomy exam.

    This chapter is a good time to introduce the Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement textbook to gain the best understanding of each muscle and how it produces movement. Quick tip! You do not need to know the origins, insertions or blood or nerve supply of the muscles. You do need thorough knowledge in movement analysis, understanding how each muscle contraction creates the movement as well as understanding the actions of the muscles. This will also come later in Chapter 3 in more detail. If you are more of a visual learner, this is a great time to view the ACE Essentials of Applied Anatomy and Kinesiology DVD that is included inside the back cover of your Essentials book.
  • Chapter 2: Within this chapter, you do need to take away some of the key points in exercise physiology. This includes the fitness components, when each energy system is used, ventilatory threshold, exercising in the heat and cold, and an understanding of the environmental considerations. You do not need to be able to reproduce the structure of the energy components, the Kreb cycle, RER values or the food consumption diagram.
  • Chapter 3: Understand the fundamental movements, the main function of different muscles, the key aspects of human motion terminology (agonist, antagonist, synergist and co-contraction), open and closed chain activity, and the muscle analysis and movement of the lower and upper extremity.

    This chapter is important for helping you understand movement analysis. Here's a great tip: While you are learning the muscles and their actions, get up and perform the actions! Picture the muscle, where it is located, how it is contracting, and what movement will result. It's also a good idea to continue with muscle and movement analysis throughout your studies. Each week, work on one body segment. For example, work on the leg during week 2, the arm during week 3, etc.
  • Chapter 4: This chapter is the only segment of your studies that focuses on nutrition. It is important to understand calories per gram of the macronutrients, the main source of the key micronutrients, and weight management calorie deficit. Gather an understanding of the digestion pathway and the aspects of the MyPyramid. You will need to know hydration recommendations, and the nutrition needs — amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat — for adults. You also need to make yourself familiar with doing a calculation for the nutrition label sample. You do not need to know how to calculate RMR or the RDAs of the micronutrients and minerals.
  • Chapter 5: The core aspects you need to take away from this chapter are the fuels used during exercise, thermoregulation during exercise, fluid intake, general training principles and the types of flexibility training. You do not need to be able to reproduce acute and chronic responses to exercise, the details aspects of hormones (a general understanding, however, is important) or detailed neural changes and adaptations.

As mentioned earlier, don't forget to utilize the ACE Essentials of Applied Anatomy and Kinesiology DVD, which is a very helpful study tool that will give you visual learning of the materials.

So that covers what you need to understand from the Essentials of Exercise Science materials! Do not get bogged down, keep working through the materials and soon, you will be into the Personal Trainer Manual when you will start the fun stuff!

By Bindi Delaney


Bindi Delaney is the Professional Education Coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. She is an ACE Master Trainer, ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Bindi moved to the USA from Australia in 2011 and is an exercise fanatic who loves to take on new challenges, recently completing an Ironman triathlon just for the fun of it!

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