To become a certified personal trainer, of which I am, you must pass a written personal trainer certification exam. The exam I took had 175 questions and was for certification by the American Council on Exercise. Every major certifying organization requires passing of a written exam. Some organization, in addition to the written test, also require that you pass a hands-on test with actual equipment and “clients.”
The exam study materials usually involve a thick textbook – really thick, and compact with tons of information about the human body.
For anyone wanting to become a certified personal trainer, chances are, you already know a lot about how the body works, and you probably already know all your muscle anatomy. But there’s a lot of things you will not know, no matter how much free advice and help you’ve given people over the years at the gym.
Do you know which medications lower resting heart rate? Do you know what medical condition contraindicates isometric exercise? Do you know what the temperature of the water should be for an asthmatic swimmer? The list goes on.
Here’s how I literally memorized every bit of information in the trainer’s textbook, though I will admit, I did not memorize specific forearm muscle anatomy, nor did I memorize the names of the deep muscles of the back. I just had a hunch this stuff would not be on the exam, and I was right. But I memorized everything else.
First of all, simply read through each chapter. As you do so, jot down notes in a notebook. But make the notes orderly. Use bullet points. Use headers and sub-headers. Underline areas for emphasis. Get down everything that is important. Do this for all chapters. Once you’ve recorded notes for every chapter, you now have a notebook from which to study from.
However, your notes will not have every bit of information, and sometimes, exam questions nab you with questions about “filler material” in the text. This is why you must read through the text a second time, this time with a highlighter. Highlight information that you did not put in your notebook. You now have a second study guide: the highlighted portions in your textbook.
Next, review the section (usually in the back of the text) consisting of definitions of terms, many medical, and many that pertain to exercise physiology. Every time you get to a term you don’t know, write it on an index card, then write the definition on the other side. You’ll soon have a small stack of index cards.
Fourth, go through the textbook again, and any information that is either not highlighted, or not in your notebook, write down as a question on more index cards, and write the answer on the back. When you review the cards, don’t just look at the question and guess the answer. Do this also in reverse: Look at the answer, and guess the question that goes with it.
To test anatomy knowledge, with a copy machine, make copies of anatomical illustrations — but with the names of the anatomy covered up with Post-its. You now have blank pages of anatomy. See what you can label.
When you have everything memorized, read the book again – without taking any notes or highlighting anything. Read it just for the enjoyment of it. After that, you should be ready to ace the exam.