The AAAI/ISMA Personal Training Test

I get a lot of questions about the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer test.  It makes sense as this is the most popular class I teach.  I want to help you if you are trying to pass this certification test.  What I’d like to do is tell you about how  the AAAI/ISMA certification works and try to answer some of the questions I think you have and clear up misunderstandings.  I also want to offer you some tips about how to how study and prepare for the AAAI test. Feel free to leave comments at the end and I will help you if I missed anything. Also see my post on how to be a personal trainer too.

AAAI/ISMA stands for the American Aerobics Association International / International Sports Medicine Association. The office is based in PA but there are people all over the world who are AAAI/ISMA certified. AAAI – which is how most us of abbreviate the organization –has been around since the 1980s and there are well over 150,000 people who have attended AAAI personal trainer testAAAI workshops. Everyone who teaches for AAAI has at least a MS in a health related field.


AAAI has over 30 different certification programs and their certs  are  accepted at most – if not all  – major gyms and health clubs including Bally Total Fitness, YMCAs, Retro Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness to name a few.


Basically this is how the AAAI certification works.  There is an all day class and a test at the end of the class.  Your job is to study before that class.


This set up is just like when you studied for your driver’s test or when you were in high school or college.  We call this the university model – because it works the same way as testing in schools.


You usually register for a class by finding a class in your area and calling AAAI/ISMA (their office is 609 397 2139).  When you register, you will be given the chance to purchase the AAAI/ISMA study materials.  The books are called

  • Studies in Exercise Science
  • Abook called “Personal Trainer

I suggest you read the book about “personal training” first.  This will make the book about exercise science easier to understand.

Note. Depending on when you purchased the AAAI books you may have a “Supplement” Book.  The “Supplement book” is not a book about supplements.   Rather, the book contains supplemental material to what is in the studies in exercise science book.  It’s pretty much been replaced by the book called Personal Training.


If you want to know more about dietary supplements, check out my book about supplements that I recommend all personal trainers read.  Trust me, personal trainers always get asked about supplements.  My book is just facts, no hype.


When you get the AAAI/ISMA books, you should study both books completely.  I know the book says to study only certain pages but trust me – study both books completely. Study them – don’t just read them.


Tip. If you are studying for the personal trainer test, you don’t have to worry about anything that has to do with teaching aerobics classes (grapevines, cadences etc).  Anything that has to do with exercise science, anatomy, physiology etc, is fare game on the test.

During the all day class, the person teaching the class reviews stuff that fitness trainers need to know. For example, as a trainer you will need to know about:

  • anatomy and physiology
  • exercise science – and how to use it in the real world
  • safety issues during exercise
  • how to make exercise programs that are safe and effective

The person teaching will also share real life information that is not found in most books.  You need to know this also for the real world.

Book smarts will only help you a little bit as a trainer.  Learning personal training from a personal trainer will take you to the next level.


Remember the person teaching the class will review material.  They are not there to teach everything to you for the very first time.  You can’t remember it all anyway in a day so don’t even try.  There is also a practical component to the class.


Where Are AAAI/ISMA Classes Held?

If you go to the AAAI/ISMA website you can see a list of every class that is being held. On my website here is a list of all classes I teach.  It’s located here at the Classes Page

Tip. The name of the instructor who teaches each class is usually listed on the AAAI calendar.  Most instructors have websites. If you find their website, you can learn about the instructor. Email him her and maybe even ask them questions. This is probably true for many other certification organizations as well. If you have a facility that wants to host a class, you can contact AAAI directly. You can even request an instructor if you like.

If you want me to teach the class,  email me directly.


How Long Should I Study?

It really depends on where you are starting from. I studied for over 3 months for my CSCS cert –and that’s with a degree in biochemistry under my belt. That said, Id say that if you have a college degree in exercise science (and recently graduated) you probably could pass right now.  If you are a novice, who has never opened a book about exercise science, I recommend you study a few hours a night for at least a month.



What Should I Bring To Class?

You’re probably going to be taking a lot of notes, so a pen and paper is smart.  I often tell people to bring ear plugs also.  This will block out noises and help you concentrate during the test.

Tip. Ear plugs are a very good idea if you take your test at one of the AAAI/ISMA fitness conventions.  AAAI/ISMA has conferences in New Jersey, Colorado, Cape Cod MA and Maryland each year.


How Should I Dress?

Dress comfortably.


Do You Teach Everything I need To Pass The Test?

No. You are expected to study BEFORE you walk in the door. Remember, there is more to personal training than just passing a test.  I – as well as all the other AAAI/ISMA faculty – give you a gigantic amount of information in a day and there is no way you will remember everything in class anyway.  Most importantly, the teacher does not cover everything on the test. When I teach a class, I try to be your mentor for that day. I want you to succeed so I hold nothing back. You will be overloaded with information if you do not study.

Tip.  The class is your chance to ask questions.  All people who teach for AAAI/ISMA are personal trainers or have been trainers.  We want to share our knowledge with you.  By asking questions you help yourself.


My Friend Told Me I Don’t Have To Study

If you listen to your friend, you will fail.  You studied for every other test in your life so why would you think you wouldn’t have to study for something as important as a personal trainer test? Personal trainers PRESCRIBE a drug called exercise.  It’s the most powerful drug in the world.

To prove this, here are just a few things exercise can do.

If you don’t know what you are doing, you WILL hurt somebody (e.g. rhabdomyolysis). This will hurt your personal trainer reputation. This test is no different than any others you took. Study for it.


People may try to tell you what they remember from the test they took.  Don’t assume that the test your friend took will be the same test you will take.  Study everything.  Also, don’t study somebody’s notes that they took in the class they attended.   What if that person took terrible notes?  Don’t study somebody’s notes. Study a book about “personal training.”


Tip. Not all certified personal trainers are qualified personal trainers.  Here is an example of personal training mistake I personally saw while at the gym. This person was certified – but didn’t know anything.


How Do I get Re Certified?

I have written a detailed review of how to get re certified by AAAI/ISMA. I suggest you read this. You will have to know this one day.


What If I Fail Test?

If you fail the AAAI personal trainer test  – ANY AAAI test – you have up to 1 year to retake the entire class and test again for just $30. The only stipulation is that you cannot retest at a college for $30.  They will charge you full price again (that’s the college policy and not that of AAAI/ISMA).  You also can’t retest at any of the AAAI conventions for $30 either (it’s full price).  On the classes page of this website is a list of the classes I teach.

On the AAAI/ISMA website there is a list of ALL of the classes they offer.


What’s The Best Certification?

You get out of a fitness cert what you put into that cert.  Here are my thoughts about the best personal trainer certification if you want more insights.  What I tell you is very different than you’ve heard before. Ive reviewed MANY different certifications on this site.

Here is a list of all the certs I have reviewed.


Can I Use The ACE Books For AAAI?

Exercise science does not change from organization to organization.  Most textbooks about exercise training cover the same main areas of information. In that respect, ACE, AAAI/ISMA, ISSA, and other organizations are going to have a lot of the same stuff.  So if already have the ACE books and study those, you should be familiar with much of what is covered on the AAAI test.

Those ACE books are big, so study all of it!

On a personal note, I don’t recommend people study the NASM book to prep for AAAI. I feel their book is too narrow in its focus. I also feel its overly technical. Study the NASM books for the NASM test only.  For more on my thoughts about this, see my post NSCA or NASM: What’s better?

Read this about the NASM TV Commercial too.

Tip. My resource page has the textbooks, practice tests etc. for most fitness certs as well as other information.

Is There a Practice Test?

I have created a 300 question personal trainer practice test to help. AAAI/ISMA does recommend this test to students prepping for their test. You can get the test from them or me. It’s also on Amazon

My practice test will help with ANY fitness trainer certification too.

Remember, the practice test is not a substitute or shortcut to studying. For best results, use the practice test along with a book about personal training. Do not use the practice test in place of studying.

Is Your Book The AAAI/ISMA Book?

I have written a book about personal training too. It’s called  but if you’re serious about being a personal trainer, I do recommend my book  – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics . My book shows you what I need to know as a personal trainer. If I need to know it, you do too. AAAI/ISMA does not currently use my book however I do recommend it.

My book is on Amazonbut if you get them from me, on my website, they come with a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. If you get my book on Amazon, make sure you get the 2nd edition as this is the most current version.

Fact. Nobody has ever returned a book to me.

AAAI does use my books on Nutritionand Advanced Personal Training and you can get those from them when you sign up for those classes.




What’s The Best Way To Study?

Here are some tips to help you when you study for the test:

  1. Skim over a section before reading it
  2. Highlight important information
  3. Make flashcards of important information
  4. Imagine if a somebody asked you a question about a topic
  5. Read both of the AAAI books cover to cover. Read ALL of both books.


Is The Test Done On A Computer?

No. The teacher grades the test him/herself.


Is The Test Multiple Choice?

That’s classified


Is There A Time Limit?

Yes you have 60 minutes to complete the test


Can I Do The Test Online?



Can I Use My Notes During The Test?

No. You cannot use  your books or notes during the test. Also, turn off your cell phone or keep it out of sight during the test.  Also, no text messaging during the test is allowed.


Do I Get The Test Back To See What I Got Wrong?

No and here’s why. If people got a test back, they would be tempted to just study the questions they got wrong. If you only studied a test, then you would only know what was on the test. What if you got a different test when you took it again?


How Long Is The Cert Good For?

If you pass a AAAI/ISMA test for the very first time, you have 2 years before you need to get recertified.  After that, you will need to be re-certified every year. Again, read my post on how to get recertified for more info. Make a note of when your cert expires. If your cert expires, you will have to retake the test again.


I’ve Passed. What’s next?

AAAI also has a Master Personal Trainer cert. This cert deals specifically with how to help people with health needs like high blood pressure, diabetes etc.

Tip. All personal trainers should attend the Master Personal Trainer class because most people they work with will not be “healthy“.

Personal trainers are part of the health care system. So, we should aim to be qualified personal trainers – not just “certified”.


For more information, also read these posts:


What do you think?


  1. Mark H. Matteo says

    Joe, I attempted to contact you via, facebook… because at some website or another It directed me there. I’m scheduled to take the personal fitness exam on September 10th … I’m pretty well rounded in the area of fitness as I’ve played a multitude of sports since age six… Specifically wrestling. So diet, nutrition, and fitness were always right up my alley.
    Unfortunately I really can’t afford to buy your practice test and am I bit nervous about the exam day. When I look at all the material in the two books I ordered from AAAI it’s a bit intimidating.

    Especially when I don’t specifically know what to study… Despite the information listed above (which did help a bit)…. Is there anything else, or at least A better direction u can point me in. I’d really appreciate some more pointers. Either way thank u for being here to contact and for having supplied the info that u did!! Hope to hear back from you…
    Sincerely, Mark M

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Mark
      I dont remember getting anything from you on facebook (I’m Joe Cannon MS CSCS on FB). I would recommend that you study everything in both of the AAAI books except anything that has to do with things not specifically related to personal training (teaching step classes ect). I cant tel you specifically what to expect. It will be a lot of material and Im going to specifically discuss information that many people – including personal trainers – are not aware of. I’m going to do this so you are better prepared in the real world and so that you will have the benefits that I did not have. Study those books before class for the basics and I will take you beyond that in class – and make the materials in the books more understandable.
      Don’t be nervous about the test. In the grand scheme of life, this is no biggie. Believe me, There are much worse things out there than that test.

  2. Nicole henry says

    Hi Joe
    I got certified by you (advanced trainer certification) a year and a half ago in PA. What is the requirement for CE’s in order to maintain the certificate in terms of how many ce’s and time frame etc? Also once I get the ce’s do I send to you or aaaisma etc
    Thank u

  3. Carmen Toliver says

    Hi Joe, I took the personal trainer class at the Anne Arundel community college in Baltimore,Md. and I failed the test. I have tried to retest but unfortunately with no success. The gym I attend have not cooperated in having someone proctor the exam. I read if I retake the full course I cant take it at a community college. So I was wondering if you have any suggestions. Please help me if you can. My email is provided above

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Carmen, you can take the test again for $30 anywhere the class is offered. I was just at LA fitness in woodbrige VA this past weekend you could have retested there. Have you checked the list of classes on my website? Do any of those classes work? Have you checked the list of all the classes offered on the AAAI website?

  4. Christallin says

    Hi Joe. I’m going to take the Personal Trainer certification course at the AAAI-ISMA convention this weekend. I’m excited as I am reaching one of my goals for 2011.

    Anyway, I can’t imagine that the test can be that difficult. This is a two day course that will most likely be comprehensive in scope. Due to the relatively short teaching period, how much can one be expected to know? Are there some books I should have already read and studied? I thought the test would be on what we were taught over the two day period? I am studying anatomy and physiology and some of the other subjects you talked about and hopefully, with God’s blessings, I’ll have my first certification under my belt. I do well on tests, I just need to know what to study and remember.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Christallin, it’s a lot of info in 2 days (when I teach it, its only one day!). At the convention there will be a LOT of different things going on at the same time. You however will be in the same classroom both days. Todd Bazilla should be teaching the class this weekend. Anatomy/physiology is good to review and if you can get your hands on a book about “personal training” study that too.. Todd will likely be covering a lot of of whats in those books but its good to be at least familiar with some of the info before class. AAAI does have books but if you have any book on personal training use that since the weekend is coming up.

      Its probably going to be a pretty big class so I’d get there early and sit in front of the class. dress comfortably also. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in class either. I’m teaching the sports nutrition and advanced trainer class this weekend also so feel free to stop in and say hi if you have any questions.

  5. Christallin says

    Sounds exciting.I will be in the front row. I have the ACT certification manual I can study from, although its very basic, it will probably help a lot.
    What is missing is the anatomy and physiology. So I will have to get cracking with my studying. Fortunately my daughter is studying to become a massage therapist so I can get some info from her. I will definitely look for you at the convention and look forward to meeting you.

    • Joe Cannon says

      sounds good and yes I think your daughters massage therapy books will help with the anatomy/phys. It probalby goes into way more depth than most trainers need but if you focus on the big picture and major muscles bones and concepts you should be ok

  6. mike says

    I just picked up a flyer from my gym LA Fitness Mt. Laurel for certification Oct.23rd Can i just study the Personal Training Beyond The Basics book or should i buy the study guides?

  7. Eric Thurman says

    Hello Mr. Cannon my name is Eric Thurman, i took the AAAIISMA test with you last thursday and was wondering if you had the test results for me by chance? I appreciate your time.

  8. Christallin says

    HI Joe, it was nice meeting you this weekend. I really enjoyed my time studying with Dr. Bazilla. His information was awesome and he gave lots of it. I especially liked his personal stories and anecdotes. He was quite funny also.
    The only part I felt was missing was specific exercises to use when training a client. This would have been during the program assessment and design portion. Dr. Bazilla did show us some in home techniques that were great, however, one of the test questions asked us to be very specific. I did not feel I had adequate information from the lecture or from the book to answer that question as well as I should have. This is my bad though, and something I will have to put more effort into learning.

    I found the test to be very comprehensive but not so hard as it was cracked up to be. All the questions were things one should have known from the lectures and from the Studies in Exercise Science book that was on sale at the convention. I think the association should had told people they needed to read this book LONG before taking the test. Instead they had it in tiny print on one of the brochure pages. Not cool. The only way I finally found out was a fellow student told me about it so I bought it on Saturday. That was the associations responsibility to tell us that they had that info available and how to get it. I felt like not having the book was a good way to have a lot of re-test fees.

    This is a good book but someone ought to go over it with an editor because there are many repeats, errors in grammar, misspellings etc. Also, on the muscle system chart portion of the test, there are two lines leading to muscles we were supposed to identify, but those two muscles were not listed in the muscle lists! I know this for sure because I know what muscles they are and checked it when I got back home. Anyway, the test covered all the topics we should know except the question about the program design.

    I went into an empty room and prayed before the test and whatever the outcome, I will be glad that I was fortunate enough to be able to participate this weekend. I look forward to continuing my studies with certs. in Cycling, Mat Pilates, and Older Adults for starters. I love being in a learning environment. The sky is the limit!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Nice to meet you also Christallin. Thanks for stopping by. It is a lot of information to absorb in a weekend but I can tell you that you did well on your practical so that’s good. The convention center is a nice place but since there is no “gym” I think it makes demonstration specific exercises challenging. When I teach at gyms, I make use of the equipment. You should hear something from them in about a month if not sooner. let me know how it goes.

  9. Christallin says

    P.S. I almost had an aneurysm trying to remember the Karvonen Method but was pleasantly surprised to see that we only had to recognize it, not perform the actual equation. Thank you, Lord.

  10. Evin says

    @Christallin – I just bought the books as well, and echo your frustrations. I am taking the exam this Saturday at a Baltimore community college, and the blurb with the class description said to call the number to AAAI for materials, but that was it.

    I wish it said, “Read entire course material packets before course and allow 1-4 weeks for study, depending on prior experience and knowledge.” THAT would have been helpful. Often in college, you can more than get away without purchasing the text books, so I was alarmed.

    My other complaint was that AAAI took two days to ship my book (which happened to also fall on a holiday weekend), so I only just received the materials three days ahead of time! Thank goodness I scoured the internet for info, and found the product offered on this website, as well as a whole personal training practice course at which is another excellent website for info.

    I’m so happy to have found these sites! There is NOT enough info on this industry on the internet. You can’t even find a book on it at Barnes and Noble!

    Anyway, I was also studying the ACT manual ( which offers some resources as well.

    As I understand it, ACT is a great place to buy liability insurance… Something like $105 a year?

    @Joe – is there information on your site about liability insurance – best deals, etc?

    Thanks again Joe for the great info. These comprehensive sites featuring resources on becoming a trainer and revving up your business are rare. So keep up the good work, you have been EXTREMELY helpful!!!

    (PS just in case anyone is wondering what cert to get, if you are a member of AARP you get 20% off the exam and materials for ACE. Since the ACE packages on the website are pretty pricey, that’s a good deal since it only costs $16 to be a member of AARP! Plus you don’t have to be a senior to join.)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Evin,
      thanks for the kind words, I apprecaite it. It looks like Im teaching your class so this weekend so I’ll likely discuss some issues about personal trainer insurance – as well as a bunch of other real life info. About the AAAI books, even though I teach for AAAI, I would prefer that this post not be about the AAAI books or other grievances. My main goal here was to help answer peoples questions, settle their nerves about the test and debunk the “myths” that I’ve heard of.

      If I can plug my own personal training book, I’ll stack it up against the ACE book – or any other book – and win every time. My personal training book prepares people to be personal trainers – not just “getting certified”.

  11. Chris M. says

    Hi,I am a 47 year old college student,I am aaai certified and have others from school, my instructor had us read the books and I read your book beyond the basics along with our personal training book by Franks.Loved your book.I am going for the personal nutrition course on Nov. 5th you are teaching,I have taken nutritional classes at school.Do you think I need a book to study before the test,would yours be a good one if so? I’d love an autograph in it that day, I am an exercise science major going to grad school for this next semester..I better know something. Well Thank you for your time!
    Chris–see you in a couple weeks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Chris, AAAI uses my book Nutrition Essentials as their textbook for the class. I’d say that since you are in grad school for ex phys and have taken nutrition classes that you might not need the book but if you are are on the fence and are not sure, I say get it and read it before class. you can get it from AAAI when you sign up. Id be glad to autograph it if you like – but that might decrease the value of the book 😉

  12. Karen Cooper says


    Hey, Joe! I have been studying a lot and am eager to take the AAAI cert test. Very pleased to find such helpful tips on this website, as well as your practice test (which I purchased, and found to be extremely thorough and helpful)..Just a question for you– how long does it usually take to receive the results from the exam? I would want to retest asap if I need to, and want to be certified by the end of the year. Thanks, in advance, for your response!!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Karen, thanks I am glad my website is helping you. I usually tell people that it might take as long as 6 weeks to hear back from AAAI, but people often hear from them much faster than that, sometimes within a week. It usually varies by how fast the person who taught the class, gets them the grades. I know Im usually very quick with getting them the grades. if I am the guy who teaches the class and if you need to know ASAP, contact me privately and I can let you know sooner so you can make arrangements even faster.

  13. says

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for clarifying this process! Was wondering what exactly delineates a Personal Fitness Instructor vs. a Group Fitness Instructor? Specifically, if a Personal Fitness Instructor wants to work with 2 clients at once (say, for a Bring-a-Buddy deal) would that require a Group Fitness cert?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Jen, thanks and I’m glad to help. The big difference between the two is that group fitness instructors usually only work with group fitness classes. They usually know a lot about aerobic classes and target heart rate and tempos etc but not as much about strength training and the other ways people train. For example, in the AAAI personal trainer class we often discuss topics like different strength training programs, muscle anatomy/ physiology and questions that come up in training sessions. I also like to debunk myths in class.

      Some clubs would require a personal trainer to get a group fitness cert before letting them work in classes – and they would likely require a group fitness instructor to get a personal trainer cert before letting them train people one-on-one.

      Personal trainers do sometimes train small groups of people – usually 1-2 or even 3 but more than this I think takes the “personal” out of personal training. Often trainers give people this option to cut down on the cost of personal training. trainers would not need a group fitness cert to train 2-3 people.

      I personally think its harder to teach a group fitness class because you have to keep tabs on 10 20 or more people at the same time!

  14. Jen says

    Joe, I’ve been reading through your Supplement Geek site as well, there’s a whole world of things out there I didn’t know about before! It really is very helpful – I like the variety of topics covered, too.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Thanks Jen. I have many other reviews in the works for that supplement geek and this one too in 2012 and beyond :)

  15. Jen says

    That’s great because your reviews are well balanced – I like reading articles that are well-researched, thorough, and even-minded rather than one-sided so I can take in all the information and make an informed decision for what’s best for me. I see this as the “Consumer Reports of Supplements”.

    On a different note — Are certified instructors usually set up as sole proprietorships? I could see why it would be good to set up the sole proprietorship first and deduct the costs of First Aid/CPR/AED/Instructor Certification(s) + any costs related to developing your biz/client base. Is this standard practice? Thanks again, Joe!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Jen
      Good question. Yes a lot of trainers seem to do sole proprietorships. Some eventually move on to LLCs while others stick with sole proprietorships. Either way, you can deduct any business expenses – certs, books/classes/educational materials, miles driven etc – on your taxes. Since you are going to be going in business for yourself, It might be good to speak to an attorney about what your unique needs might be. They could also draw up the necessary personal trainer forms – waiver, informed consent etc. If money is an issue, you might try contacting a law department at a college and see if there are any law students who might want to help you for college credit. Either way, it cant hurt to try.

      I also recommend personal trainer liability insurance. there are many companies that offer this. AIG is one of the biggest players. I use Fitness and Wellness Insurance which costs about $171if you are a member of IDEA (fitness education company, which is $99 per year).

      I like “consumer reports for supplements!” I’ll have to remember that :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jen, I think there is value in several of them for different reasons

      my book on supplements is a good quick reference for 119 different supplements. I included over 900 references so people can check out the facts for themselves if they wanted to see how I determined what worked and what didn’t. Like supplement geek, the book also tackles supplement side effects.

      for exercise my book Personal Fitness Training Beyond the Basics debunks myths and covers 50 different exercises including how to alter the exercise for people with special health conditions. there is also a chapter on how to work with people with health conditions, which many overweight/obese people have.

      Nutrition essentials is all about nutrition from the perspective of what a personal trainer needs to know when working with people.

      So I think, consider what you think you know best and least and choose the books you feel would be best for you. All of my books are on Amazon but if you get them from me at this site, they come with my 100% money back guarantee.

      In terms of good websites, I like, I’m a fan of these 3 sites.

      Hope that helps Jen :)

  16. says

    Yes, it helps Joe! Thanks for the info on the business side of things, and the books/sites you suggested. Those sites are great (found articles on obesity and “tips for safe exercise after a heart attack”), and I’ll order the books since they focus on practical, real-life application. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jen, glad to help. yes those sites are some of my favorite and I go there often myself. When you get your own website feel free to link to that. Linking to me will help your own website rankings :) Let me know if I can be of more help and enjoy the cold weather out there tonight 😉

  17. Donna says

    Hi , I signed up to do the 8 hour class to try to get certified .i just signed up today , And they told me there isn’t enough time to read the books . Is there any possible way I can pass this test!?

    • Joe Cannon says

      donna i dont know because i dont know where your are starting from. i want you to know what your doing – as do your clients – not to just pass a test. id start studying some book about personal training now either way.

  18. Vanessa says

    Hi Joe, thanks for all the information provided. I’m looking into getting certified and was told to look at AAAI by fitness trainer at my gym.

    What insurance if any comes with certification ? Is it something that I have to purchase independently?

    I have several people wanting me to work with them but I want to make sure I’m covered and they’re safe..of course. I live in Edgemont PA and noticed AAAI isnt to far. Would I be able to test at that location?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Vanessa, the AAAI certification seminars are given all over. All the classes are on their website and the classes I do are listed on my website. the AAAI office is located in New Hope PA. they dont do seminars at their home office.

      As for insurance, trainers get insurance separately from the cert. Trainers who work in gyms may be covered by the gyms insurance (ask the GM/owner to make sure) but trainers who are self employed like me need to have our own insurance. So whether you need it or not would depend on whether you are going to be self employed or not.

      Have you ever done personal training before? Do take a look at my personal training book too. I wrote that book so you would know what I know.

  19. Vanessa says

    Joe, thanks for getting back to me. No, Im new to training but I’ve been working out and eating right all my life. I do promote my life style and as a result have influenced friends and family over the years to do the same.

    I’ve worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 12 years . A few years ago I was looking to purchase a fitness center but it fell though. It is said to do what you love so hear I am.

    I want to be able to instruct classes and work one on one. Some of the women in my neighborhood would like me to train them but I’m a little hesitant. So, I’m just given them same ideas on nutrition for now. I think it’s important to be certified and insured before taking on clients, so this year I’m just going to do it.

    I wasn’t looking for clients but it just happened so I feel I should stop thinking about it and go for it.

  20. Vanessa says

    Joe, look forward to reading your book. I also ordered the
    Personal Fitness trainer materials. I hope to take your workshop within the next two months.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Vanessa, Since you will have my book too study chapters 1-13. That will help you most for not only the test but for life in the real world too.

      I address a lot of the questions your future clients are going ask you – muscle memory, 1 set vs 3 sets – and things like that.

      let me know if you have any questions.

  21. Darin says

    Hey Joe, Read a lot of your comments and I am looking forward to taking the exam in a month. My only concern is that I am moving to Kentucky in 3 months. What would be the best thing for me to do when I have to re certify in two years time.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Darin, I believe AAAI has classes in Kentucky. I dont do them but I am pretty sure somebody does. Check their website and even give them a call to see about this.

  22. Brad says

    Hi Joe, I was referred to AAAI by la fitness, do you know where in Southern Cali I can get info on a weekend class?

  23. Anita says

    Just wondering for the test do you have to know how to spell the muscles of the body or is it matching fill in the blank

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Anita, If I teach a class, I don’t count spelling as long as I understand what you are saying. As for your other question about the format of the test, I cant tell you that, its classified 😉

  24. Vivian says

    Dear Mr. Cannon,

    My certification expires May 2013. I would like to take your re-certification course. Can you please email the dates when you will be offering the re-certification class in February and March please. Also could you please recommend study material so that I can come prepared to participate in the class discussion and pass the exam?
    Thank you very much in advance for your attention to this email.


  25. Anita says

    hello again, I am finding the aaai studies in e exercise science very confusing, I signed up for your workshop on test on 27 of Jan. any advise..worried

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Anita, wish you contacted me sooner. If you happen to have a copy of my book Personal Fitness training Beyond the Basics, read that. I’m not trying to sell you a book but I do explain things easier than most. Do you have any other books on “personal training” if yes, take a look at those. Exercise science and stuff like that doesn’t change from book to book.

  26. Samantha says

    Thank you so much for this amazing info, it is so helpful! I am planning on attending the AAAI-ISMA convention in Colorado Springs in March & my goal is to leave with my personal trainer certification. I do see that they have a few “phases” for personal training going on that weekend, do I need to attend all of those or is attending the personal fitness trainer certification Saturday & Sunday what I need to do to get started?

    I was told taking just taking the phase 1 classes wouldn’t actually get me prepared to test but that I needed to take all the phases to be ready, is that true?

    They have a “phase 2 personal trainer” course, do I need to take that now also? Again…your site has answered so many of my questions, the CEC world is new to me, I have been a fitness instructor for 4 years through Les Mills & am looking to become a trainer & move beyond the Les Mills, I am hoping AAAI is the right path for me. Thanks so much

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Samantha, glad you found me! I haven’t yet taught at the Colorado convention but I hear its amazing! When I teach I always suggest people also eventually take the phase II/Master trainer certification also because a very high percentage of clients wont be “healthy.” Often they will have diabetes, high blood pressure etc so knowing how to prescribe exercise in the right amounts to help those people, put you ahead of most other trainers who don’t know that information. Most trainers only want to be “certified” and not qualified. to prove this, If you take both classes in Colorado, look at how many are taking the level 1 personal trainer class and how many less take the level 2 course.

      If you can take both certs at the convention then Id say try to do that -I know its a lot to do in a weekend so if you cant just make it a point to do it at some point. AAAI does have a book to help you prep for the phase 2 course (I wrote it) and another book that I recommend is ACSM Exercise Management for people with chronic disease Even after the cert, as long as you keep learning you will be way ahead of most personal trainers.

      I suggest you study before the convention takes place. that way it will be easier for you to absorb new information in the class and it will help you ask questions that occurred to while you were studying.

      I dont know if you saw it but I also have a post on the AAAI recert process also

      In case you didn’t see it, on my other website, I review dietary supplements also – honestly.

      Hope that helps Samantha. Let me know how the Colorado convention goes and tell everybody I said hi!! :)

  27. Sapna says

    Hi Joe

    I just stumbled upon this website. I am scheduled for a class/test for Personal Training Certification in Lawrenceville, NJ on March 10. I am soooo glad I saw this blog. I have started to study the books that AAAI recommended . Although I strictly followed the instructions in the personal training book to review only a few chapters from the science book. I am afraid that I have very little time to read up the two books thoroughly. I did finish reading the personal training book first and made my notes. I have also reviewed the recommended chapters. But now I have the entire book to complete. The office should be emphasize upon us to review both books. I just kept that last one week to study the notes.

    Also to give you a little bit of a background, I have been working out for more than 6 years (running, aerobics, weights, yoga) but never read about workout regiments, exercise routines etc. Not very familiar with anatomy, physiology either. I have a BS in sciences and MS in Computer Science. God only knows how much of Sciences I remember.

    I was told by the office of AAAI that a week of preparation should be enough. But I am glad i started early. Do you think I will be ok for the exam. With all of that I have told you about myself do you think I will be ready for the exam? I am not sure if rescheduling is even an option. Also wanted to find out if I should be CPR/AED certified prior to taking the exam?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Sapna, personally I’d say study as much as you can before you take the test. I know April, who teaches it will be going over a lot of stuff. Also read through some of the other stuff Ive put on this site as that might help you also. Look at my posts on DOMS for example. I want to give you the best advice I can and so I say study everything as much as you can before you take the test. I’m glad you read the personal training book first because I think that makes the other book more understandable.
      While AAAI/ISMA does not currently require you to be CRP/AED certified before you take the class/ test, I recommend you get it before you become a personal trainer because bad stuff happens in gyms all the time and knowing what to do in this case can only help you.

      Hope some of this helps Sapna and tell April James I said hi :)

  28. sapna says

    Thank YOu Joe. I am only worried about those huge tables there are in the books with lots of data in them. I hope that we are not expected to memorize them all. for ex nutrition tables.

  29. Jon says

    Hey, I’m a novice, just trying to get my AAA certificate, where can I go to sign up? Also, do they have testing places in Ohio?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Jon, on the AAAI website there is a list of all personal trainer certs they offer. they do classes in Ohio.

  30. Jessi says

    Hi Joe, I am signed up to take the AAAI/ISMA personal fitness and sports nutrition course next weekend Aug 3/4 in Ft Lauderdale, FL. I received all of my books last week, and should be done with the nutrition one within the next day or so.

    So that leaves me with a full week to go over all 3 once again and try to thoroughly understand. But as what other have said, I am nervous about this exam and that it’s a lot of info in short time, but hey that’s what I signed up for! I did get your practice test and will take it once I feel more prepared.

    I was just wondering if you can give a little more information as to the layout of both days ( if possible) and any other extra info for studying and taking the exam. I read the exam is 60 minutes, do most people finish within that time frame?

    I’m just working myself up and getting nervous because I am the type that likes to know about things and have a plan before I do them. Any information is a great help! Thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      you said you had my practice test, the version I wrote. take it now. that will help you get an idea of some of the stuff that the teacher will cover and so this will help you key into some of the info when you run into it in the AAAI books. I’m guessing your teacher for the class will be Mike Rickett. Tell him I said hi.

      As for the Sports Nutrition class, AAAI uses the book I wrote. if you know what is in that book you should have no problems with that test.

      Some people take all 60 minutes while others take less. it depends on what point you are starting from.

      Dont stress. study and you should be ok. Let me know how you do :)

  31. Patricia says

    Just a few questions? Do you need to have the regular Personal Training Cert before going to the 2 day coarse for Master Personal Training Phase 2? I Need to get my Cert and that’s the only one they have coming up in Ca. Is it a lot Harder? Also, I already have all The ACE Books, do you still recommend getting the study guide Bundle? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Patricia, let me try to help answer your questions.

      1. While AAAI does not require you to pass the “regular” personal trainer class before taking the Master trainer class, I recommend you take the regular personal trainer class first if you plan on being a personal trainer. This is because the classes are so different than each other. The Master trainer class deals a lot with training people who have various diseases and conditions like diabetes, arthritis etc.

      I usually assume most people who take the Master trainer class already know the stuff covered in the regular personal trainer class. You can take the Master trainer class first if you like. I just recommend you take the regular class after that.

      2. as to whether the master trainer class is harder, it depends on how well you have prepared for the class. Do study before the class and that will make it easier.

      3. I think ACE has very good books – although they are hundreds of pages long. If you have their personal trainer book and their book about special populations (Amazon Link.” target=”_blank”>clinical exercise specialist manual) I’d say study both of those and you should be good.

      If you dont have the ACE special populations book, AAAI uses the book I wrote called Amazon Link.” target=”_blank”>Advanced Personal Training which you can get from AAAI or Amazon.

      I hope that helps Patricia. Let me know if you have any other questions and also keep me posted on how you do on the test as well. I think I know who is teaching your class (either Todd Bazilla or Mike Rickett) so tell him I said hi too :)

      • Patricia says

        Great, thanks you Joe. I’m going to order your advanced PT book and study that! Yes I do have the Ace Personal Trainer Book as well as the essentials of science. You think id be okay just studying those instead of getting Aaai’s bonus bundle study guide books? Ace’s books are just so big, would you recommend studying anything specific in the science book ( bones/ muscles?) that would be on the master Personal Training Test?

        I just wanna make sure I’m studying and focusing on the most important parts that would be in the test and not all that extra info that I could learn as my career as a personal trainer progresses! Thanks

        • Joe Cannon says

          Glad to help Patricia. If you are going to be taking the test at LA Fitness, study all of their books (or the ACE book) as I think that might serve you best. While I dont feel its needed for trainers to know all the muscles and bones of the body, they should know the big muscles and bones because these come up in conversation with clients a lot.

          Most personal trainer books are like ACE books – big. There is a lot of good info in all of them but I understand that idea of reading/studying all of it daunting. Can I suggest you get a copy of Personal Fitness Training Beyond the Basics. Its my original personal training book. That book is only about 200 pages and contains essentially all that I’ve had to know as a personal trainer – including personal stories of mistakes and insights of mine. I wrote it to be easy to read, just like I was talking to you personally. I think it will serve you well for personal training in the real world. It’s on my website and Amazon Link.” target=”_blank”>here it is on Amazon too.

  32. Heather Cattell McNulty says

    I am so grateful I found your site. Lots of Great info. and confirmation on how I’m feeling.

    I have been a very active person my whole life. Very athletic, health conscience and eager to learn more (in the health field) I believe health is a science. It’s complex to your own body. I have my body down to a science and I try to help others reach their goal by helping them find what works for their bodies. I Love inspiring people to be healthy. I love helping them maintain it as well. I went through the Police Academy and helped train individuals with my own life experience and my own knowledge.

    It’s a passion of mine.

    So,….. here I am. I’m trying to pursue a career in Personal training.
    I gathered information on AAAI through my local college. ACCC. There was no specific information regarding these classes. It was a 9 Class course over a period of about 8 weeks. Every Saturday was another class. I signed up for the classes. Orientation was about a week before the classes started. I gathered my books. “skimmed” through them. As instructed we should do.

    I was Very shocked the first Saturday “Personal Training Phase I) 10am-5pm Trying to retain a massive amount of information for the test. 1 hour for the test. Shewwww,….. Needless to say. I bombed this test. For sure!!!! It is sooo in depth. You NEED to know your stuff!

    I just wish I was TOLD that I would NEED my books to study from. Months in advance! I don’t feel this class (1,000.00) is Fair. I am now locked in to all of these classes now and I know,…. I will Not be passing them. It says on your website that I could retest for 30.00 (but not at a college, they charge full price).

    I live in South Jersey. So, According to the test dates and areas AAAI offers, looks like I would not be able to retest the classes unless it is with my local community college. (full price) I’m so bummed about the set up of the classes.

    The Lack of information for the people that are taking these classes. I want time to study. Everyone taking these classes should have knowledge of how in depth they are and how they should prepare for the class. If not- You’ll be like me!

    Out a lot of money,….. and disappointed. I am going to see if the College will freeze this class for me. Sign up for all of the classes again the next time they offer them. I don’t know what to do! HELP Joe!
    Thank You.

      • ryan says

        Thanks for replying back. I sent you a email so you can disregard it. I will be purchasing the book from your site. Is there anything else I should look into to study for this? Or the book you wrote is all I need?

  33. Key Everett says

    Hey Joe,
    Great info, thanks for the insight. I’m taking the AAAI pt cert exam in about a week and have a few questions. First, I studied the entire ACE manual front to back (very exhausting) and was wondering is there any info specific to AAAI that ACE may have left out? Secondly, I’m using this last week to review and do practice test. What areas from that manual should I place my focus on. With almost 500pgs it’s hard to determine.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Key,
      While I cant deluge specifics, I believe if you know the info in the ACE book you should do ok with the AAAI exam. Exercise science is exercise science no matter what book you study. ACE does have a very big book and while I know it has a lot of good info, it can be daunting to take it all in. Are you using ACE practice tests? AAAI uses the practice test I created so that is what I recommend. Here is my 300 question practice test if you want more info.

      Let me know how you do on the AAAI test!

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