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Who Is the ACE Group Fitness Instructor and Should I Become One?

Who Is the ACE Group Fitness Instructor and Should I Become One? | Leslie Mansour | Exam Preparation Blog | 9/12/2011


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group fitness instructor The two most common questions I receive from individuals who are studying for an exam or selecting between certifications are: “What is the difference between the ACE-Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Group Fitness Instructor (GFI)?” and “Which certification is best suited for me?”

While there are similarities in what draws individuals to both professions — like a quest for health, passion for exercise, and a desire to help others – there are significant differences in scope and delivery between a CPT and GFI.

The answers to those two common questions can be found in understanding who the ACE GFI is.

Range of Services: Personal Trainer vs. Group Fitness Instructor

GFIs and CPTs work in a variety of settings – from teaching in large health clubs, small studios and wellness centers to operating their own business. Although they may work in the same settings, their range of services varies. The ACE CPT designs structured exercise programs for one-on-one and small group personal training sessions.  He/she also conducts health history interviews, determines appropriate assessments, designs and modifies programs to meet the client’s goals, and refers the client to appropriate health practitioners when necessary.

Conversely, the ACE GFI provides general exercise leadership in a variety of classes through safe and effective program design and teaching techniques geared toward a group setting. This requires knowledge of exercise science, music selection, cueing to the beat, the ability to teach and modify exercises for a variety of participants (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), and applying effective communication in group instructional methods.

Traits, Knowledge and Skills of the Group Fitness Instructor

Building rapport

An important element in leading a group fitness class is to create a welcoming atmosphere in order to develop rapport with class participants.  Personal attributes can affect how you motivate your class, from communication quality to attire choice.  Pay attention, greet class participants as they enter the room and get to know their names.  Appropriate exercise attire, timeliness and sensitivity to class participants reflect your professional demeanor,  and when combined, these elements will ultimately create a positive group fitness experience for participants.

Understanding your students
Who are you teaching? Whether it’s a team of athletes, older adults, youth, or women aged 20-40,  knowing a bit about the population you are teaching is imperative in preparing for your class.

Preparation starts with the class objective, layout, and design.  Where and how will you lead the class?  Leading does not have to always occur in the front.  Instructors may consider moving around during segments of the class they are teaching to interact with more participants and further develop rapport with each individual.

Teaching techniques and considerations

Exploring your teaching style is like being a kid in a toy store trying to choose which color toy you really want. It’s personal!

Teaching styles range from the common command style (a “follow the leader” type approach) to inclusion, reciprocal, or self-check.  The style you choose will depend on the type of class, its participants and your personality.  Being able to teach using a variety of styles throughout a class can help to effectively guide the entire class, and create success for each individual participant present.

Another important element is incorporating music that fits the class format. Selected music aids in setting the pace of the class and provides motivation for the participants.  Things to keep in mind when selecting music are purpose and audience.  Nothing is worse than attending a class where the music selection is poor and does not fit the style of the class, or participants involved.  When building your class, decide on a music style and whether it will be used in the foreground (movement to the tempo) or background (used solely as motivation).

Finally, cueing is vital to conveying your message.  Methods of cueing include verbal, visual, and kinesthetic.  When cueing, you want to remember to:  (1) Cue to safety – this includes alignment of the body and use of equipment;  (2) Cue to purpose – what relevance does this exercise have and how can the exercise progress or regress for varied levels?; (3) Cue to movement – this includes direction and spatial cues; and (4) Cue to motivate – cueing is used to encourage and reinforce the effort participants are giving.

As a GFI, you are not only the expert, but also each individual’s cheerleader.

Ready to get certified as a Group Fitness Instructor? Sign up for our free study coach program to help get your preparation for the exam underway! Also be sure to check out the wide variety of study materials available to prepare you for your future as a Group Fitness Instructor, including the newly released “Essentials of Group Fitness Instruction” DVD by world-renowned ACE Group Fitness Instructor, Lawrence Biscontini, which focuses on mastering the skills to become a great instructor for any group fitness class format!

Still unsure if this certification is right for you? To develop a deeper understanding of the role and responsibilities of the Group Fitness Instructor, take a moment to review the exam content outline, which details the knowledge, skills and job-related functions of this profession.