Overview of ACE and Its CPT Certification

ACE certified women's health trainer in fitness studio.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to improving people’s quality of life by means of safely and effectively increasing fitness levels.

Organization Background

One of ACE’s primary objectives is to safeguard the general public against risky or non-effective exercise programs, products and fads through active study, analysis and education. ACE also plays a significant role in safeguarding our society’s health by establishing quality certification and continuing education benchmarks for health and fitness professionals.

Started in 1985, ACE is among the biggest international fitness certifying, training and teaching organizations, with over 50,000 certified professionals around the world. Granted ACE’s extensive, long-running involvement in fitness education, its certifications are some of the most highly recognized and regarded in the industry.


Their mission to promote a more healthy society by defining and encouraging proper exercise habits and regimens goes beyond the fitness sector. ACE makes accessible its industry expertise and objective viewpoint by presenting a variety of complimentary health and fitness advice to the general community and acts as an advisory committee and consumer advocate for all areas pertaining to fitness.


Since 1995, ACE has worked with some of the leading exercise science researchers at top universities throughout the nation in carrying out studies on fitness trends and products. For example, in 2009, ACE performed a scientific analysis on the ideal push-up and the advantages of boot-camp workout routines. More recently, ACE published their findings on CrossFit, one of the most popular fitness trends, which quantified the exercise intensity and caloric expenditure associated with these workouts. The findings of these research studies are published online at ACE’s ‘Expert Insight’ blog.


The American Council on Exercise was among the very first organizations to recognize the importance of national accreditation, subsequently pursuing this distinction for its core fitness and health credentialing programs. In 2003, ACE received accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) for their Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Medical Exercise Specialist (formerly known as Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist) certification programs. Since then, their Health Coach certification has also become NCCA-accredited; currently the only program of its kind to have been granted this recognition.

ACE CPT Certification

The following are details on the American Council on Exercise’s Certified Personal Trainer credential. For our overview on their accredited Health Coach program you can go here.

Does having a degree help?

Though not required to be eligible for the ACE Personal Trainer certification, having a degree in kinesiology, exercise science or similar major can be valuable in helping prepare for the exam. A degree benefits those interested in eventually pursuing administrative roles in fitness or clinical fitness roles in a healthcare setting. It’s common for personal trainers to earn a degree later on to advance their career.

According to ACE, over 70 percent of fitness professionals certified by the organization hold bachelor’s degrees – mainly in the area of Exercise Science. All content on the ACE CPT exam is covered by ACE’s detailed study materials, which can be be purchased as a package with the exam ticket. You do not need a degree to successfully pass the exam.

What’s on the exam?

Composed of 150 multiple-choice questions, you’re allowed three hours to complete ACE’s personal trainer certification exam. 125 of these questions are actually scored with 25 unscored questions used for experimental purposes in determining future exam content. The purpose of the exam is to ascertain that you have the essential know-how and abilities to develop and carry out safe and successful workout plans customized to your clients’ total fitness objectives.

All the material on the exam is categorized into four major areas called domains with each domain consisting of 3-4 detailed tasks. The tasks are in turn composed of specific areas of knowledge and skills you should know. The following is the current distribution of the exam’s domains, including the purpose of knowing each.

You can view ACE’s full CPT exam content outline here: Official ACE CPT Exam Content Outlne

Domain I: Client Interview & Assessment

This domain accounts for 31 percent of the exam and involves how performing proper before and after fitness & health evaluations is essential for ensuring client safety and optimal exercise program development.

Domain II: Program Design & Implementation

Making up 33 percent of the exam, this domain involves how the exercise program of every client needs to be created particularly to suit the fitness requirements of that person. The client’s health record, fitness assessments past injuries, present physical conditioning and schedule should all be taken into consideration.

Domain III: Program Progression, Modification, and Maintenance

19 percent of the exam deals with this domain which involves how to keep the client on track with his or her exercise program and help them achieve enduring results. Personal trainers take on a vital responsibility in encouraging clients to keep inspired by incorporating suitable exercise program adjustments to help them continue advancing towards meeting their fitness & health objectives.

Domain IV: Professional Role and Responsibilities

Covering 17 percent of the exam, this domain outlines how it’s essential for personal trainers to act based on professional work morals and values in reducing the possibility of injury to clients and to preserve a good, reliable reputation. Personal trainers are an integral component of allied health due to the fact that they assist people in safely and successfully lowering their risk factors for a number of health conditions/diseases and restoring health & fitness during periods of rehabilitation.

Know Your Applied Sciences

It’s vital that personal trainers hold fundamental knowledge of science as it applies to physical activity in healthy people. They need to also recognize how injuries, health conditions, disabilities and prescription drugs can affect one’s capacity to take part in an exercise routine.

The science-related questions that appear on the exam involve “applied science”. For example, the risk factor markers for heart disease and how the body responds and adapts to different types of exercise. ACE includes all the necessary study materials, including the applied sciences you need to know, in their CPT certification exam packages. There are 3 different programs available – determining which one to go with depends largely on your current knowledge and learning style.

Here you can take a look and compare the official ACE Personal Trainer Certification packages if you’re interested in becoming ACE certified.