Exercise Leader

The ACSM Exercise Leader is the professional involved in "on-the-floor" exercise leadership. The following KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) are items that would comprise a written examination for this certification. Additional competencies are:

  1. Demonstrate practical skills and abilities associated with exercise leadership and instruction.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to interact and communicate with others and to motivate, lead, and counsel.
  3. Possess adequate knowledge of how the body responds to, and is affected by exercise.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to safely apply the principles of exercise and training to fitness programs.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to answer basic questions relating to exercise science and to refer others to appropriate sources of information.
  6. Possess a basic knowledge of exercise science including kinesiology, functional anatomy, exercise physiology, nutrition, health-appraisal techniques, and injury prevention.
  7. Possess current CPR certification.

Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics

  1. Describe the basic structures of bone, skeletal muscle, and connective tissues.
  2. Describe the basic anatomy of the heart, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system.
  3. Identify the major bones and muscles and their actions. Major muscles include, but not limited to: trapezius, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, biceps, triceps, abdominal, erector spinae, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius.
  4. Define the following terms: supination, pronation, flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, hyperextension, rotation, and circumduction.
  5. List and describe the types of joints in the body.
  6. Identify the interrelationships among center of gravity, base of support, balance, and stability.
  7. Describe the following abnormal curvatures of the spine: lordosis, scoliosis, kyphosis.
  8. Describe low back pain syndrome and describe exercises used to prevent this problem.
  9. Describe the biomechanical effects and potential risks of using hand/ankle weights.
  10. Describe and demonstrate exercises to enhance muscular strength and/or endurance of specific major muscle groups.
  11. Describe and demonstrate exercises for enhancing musculoskeltal flexibility.

Exercise Physiology

  1. Define aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.
  2. Identify the role or aerobic, anaerobic and ATP-PC systems in the performance of various physical activities.
  3. Define the following terms: ischemia, angina pectoris, tachycardia, bradycardia, myocardial infarction, cardiac output, stroke volume, lactic acid, oxygen consumption, hyperventilation, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.
  4. Describe the role of carbohydrates, fats, proteins as fuels for aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the components of fitness: cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, body composition.
  6. Define the major components of motor fitness: agility, speed, balance, coordination, power.
  7. Describe the normal cardiorespiratory responses to static and dynamic exercise in terms of heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption.
  8. Describe how heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption responses change with adaptation to chronic exercise training and how men and women may differ in response.
  9. List the physiological adaptations associated with strength training in men and women.
  10. Define and describe the relationship of METs and kilocalories to physical activity.
  11. Identify the common sites for pulse palpation and describe how heart rate is determined by pulse palpation. List precautions in the application of these techniques.
  12. Identify the physiological principles related to warm-up and cool-down.
  13. List the effects of temperature, humidity, altitude, and pollution upon the physiological response to exercise.
  14. Identify the physical and physiological signs of over-exercising, over-training, overuse.
  15. Describe the common theories of muscle fatigue and delayed muscle soreness (DOMS).

Human Development and Aging

  1. Describe the changes that occur in maturation from childhood to older adulthood for the following areas: skeletal muscle, bone structure, reaction and movement time, coordination, tolerance to hot and cold environments, maximal oxygen consumption, strength, flexibility, body composition, resting and maximal heart rate, resting and maximal blood pressure.
  2. List the benefits and risks associated with exercise training in pre- and post-pubescent youth.
  3. Identify benefits and precautions associated with resistance and endurance training in the older adult.
  4. Describe special leadership techniques which might be used for children, adolescents, and older participants.

Pathophysiology/Risk Factors

  1. Identify risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) and designate those that may be favorably modified by regular and appropriate physical activity habits.
  2. Define the following terms: total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol/high density lipoprotein cholesterol ration, anemia, and hypertension.
  3. Be familiar with the plasma cholesterol levels for various ages as recommended by the national Cholesterol Education Program.
  4. Identify the following cardiovascular risk factors or conditions which may require consultation with medical or allied health professionals prior to participation in physical activity or prior to a major increase in physical activity intensities and habits: inappropriate resting; exercise and recovery HRs and BPs; new discomfort or changes in the pattern of discomfort in the chest area, neck, shoulder or arm with exercise or at rest; heart murmurs; myocardial infarction; fainting or dizzy spells, claudication, ischemia, cigarette or other tobacco use, lipoprotein profile.
  5. Identify the following respiratory risk factors which may require consultation with medical professionals prior to participation in physical activity or prior to major increases in physical activities or habits; extreme breathlessness after mild exertion or during sleep, asthma, exercise-induced asthma, bronchitis, emphysema.
  6. Identify the following metabolic risk factors that may require consultation with medical professionals prior to participation in physical activity or prior to major increases in physical activity intensities and habits: body weight more than 20% above optimal, thyroid disease, diabetes or glucose intolerance, McArdle’s syndrome, hypoglycemia.
  7. Identify the following musculoskeletal risk factors which may require consultation with medical professionals prior to physical activity or prior to major increases in physical activity intensities and habits: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, acute or chronic back pain, prosthesis-artificial joints.
  8. Demonstrate an understanding of muscle atrophy and the loss of strength and endurance with disuse/sedentary behavior.
  9. Define shin splints, sprains, strains, tennis elbow, bursitis, stress fracture, tendinitis, contusions, osteoporosis, arthritis, overweight, chondromalacia, blisters, skin irritations, and low back discomfort.

Human Behavior Psychology

  1. List several techniques to deal with disruptive individuals in group programs (e.g. non-complier, comedian, chronic complainer, and the over-exerciser).
  2. Define the psychological principles which are critical to health behavior change (i.e., behavior modification, reinforcement, goal setting, social support and peer pressure).
  3. Describe the personal communication skills necessary to develop rapport in order to motivate individuals to begin exercise, enhance adherence, and return to exercise.
  4. Identify several techniques which can be used in an exercise program to facilitate skill development in muscular relaxation.
  5. List specific techniques to enhance motivation: posters, recognition, bulletin boards, games, competitions, etc.

Health Appraisal and Fitness Testing

  1. Describe and demonstrate the use of health history appraisal to obtain information on past and present medical history, orthopedic limitations, prescribed medications, activity patterns, nutritional habits, stress and anxiety levels, family history of heart disease, smoking history, and use of alcohol and illicit drugs and know when to recommend medical clearance.
  2. Describe the use of informed consent forms and medical clearances prior to exercise participation.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to conduct group field assessments such as Cooper 12-minute test, step test, strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility assessments.
  4. State the rationale for determining body composition.
  5. Describe the types of tests for cardiorespiratory fitness, evaluation of strength and flexibility, and technique used to determine body composition and the purposes for which each may be used (i.e., base-line, comparison, motivation, etc.)
  6. Describe the difference between maximal and submaximal cardiorespiratory exercise tests.
  7. Demonstrate the ability to measure pulse rate accurately both at resting and during exercise.
  8. Demonstrate the ability to measure blood pressure accurately at rest.

Emergency Procedures and Safety

  1. Demonstrate skills necessary to obtain basic life support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification.
  2. Describe appropriate emergency procedures (i.e., telephone procedures, written emergency procedures, and personnel responsibilities, etc.) in a variety of exercise settings.
  3. Describe basic first aid procedures for exercise-related injuries such as: bleeding skin wounds, contusions, strains, sprains, fractures, dizziness, syncope and metabolic abnormalities including hypo/hyperthermia, hypo/hypertension, hypo/hyperglycemia.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the risks associated with exercise participation.
  5. Describe signs/symptoms for participants (including special populations) to defer delay or terminate the exercise program.
  6. Demonstrate the basic precautions taken in a weight room area to ensure participant safety (e.g., spotting, buddy system, control speed of movement, weights returned to rack, safe passageways, check loose parts on equipment, etc.)

Exercise Programming

  1. State the recommended intensity, duration, frequency, and type of physical activity necessary for development of cardiorespiratory fitness in an apparently healthy person.
  2. Differentiate between the dose of exercise required for various health benefits and the dose required for fitness development.
  3. Describe the differences between improvement and maintenance exercise training programs.
  4. Describe the principles of overload, specificity, and progression and how they relate to exercise programming.
  5. Describe and demonstrate appropriate exercises used in warm-up and cool down for cardiorespiratory conditioning classes, weight training, and sport participation (racquet sports, volleyball, basketball, etc.).
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the components incorporated into an exercise session and their proper sequence (i.e. warn-up, aerobic stimulus phase, cool-down, muscular endurance, and flexibility).
  7. Define overload, specificity of exercise conditioning, use-disuse, progressive resistance, isotonic, isometric, isokinetic, concentric, eccentric, atrophy, hypertrophy, sets, repetitions, plyometrics, Valsalva manuever.
  8. Define RPE and describe the relationship to the physiological responses to exercise and its role in exercise programming.
  9. Demonstrate an understanding of calculation of predicted maximal and training heart rate ranges.
  10. Demonstrate various methods for monitoring exercise intensity such as heart rate and perceived exertion.
  11. Describe the signs and symptoms of excessive effort that would indicate a range in intensity, duration, or frequency of exercise.
  12. Describe and demonstrate appropriate modifications in exercise programs that may be recommended by a physician for the following: older adults, acute illness, controlled conditions such as exercise-induced asthma, allergies, hypertension, pregnancy and postpartum, obesity, and low back pain.
  13. Demonstrate the ability to recognize proper techniques and use of all exercise equipment (i.e. proper body mechanics, proper positioning on apparatus, appropriate settings for cardiovascular and resistance training, proper monitoring techniques, safety considerations, etc.).
  14. Describe the importance of flexibility and recommend proper exercises for improving range of motion of all major joints.
  15. Demonstrate the ability to modify exercises in the group setting for apparently healthy persons of various fitness levels.
  16. Describe and demonstrate exercises for the for the improvement and maintenance of muscular endurance and muscular strength.
  17. Describe how the following weight training methods may be used in resistance programming: progressive resistance exercise, super sets, pyramiding, split routines, plyometrics, isokinetic, isotonic, isometric.
  18. Identify various types of isometric, isotonic, and isokinetic equipment.
  19. List advantages and disadvantages of various aerobic exercise equipment such as stair climbers, rowing machines, treadmills, bicycles etc.
  20. Describe the hypothetical concerns and potential risks that may be associated with the use of exercises, such as straight leg sit ups, double leg raises, full squats, hurdler's stretch, plough, forceful back hyperextension, and standing straight-leg, toe touch.
  21. Describe the difference between interval, continuous, and circuit training programs.
  22. Demonstrate appropriate and effective group management and teaching techniques.
  23. Describe various locations a leader may take within a group to enhance visibility, participant interaction, and communication.
  24. Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively with exercise participant in the group and one-on-one setting.
  25. Describe and exercise regimen for a water exercise class.
  26. Describe partner resistance exercises that can be employed in a class setting.
  27. Demonstrate a knowledge of techniques for a accommodating various fitness levels within the same class.
  28. Identify the differences between high impact and low impact exercises classes and which class is appropriate for various participants.
  29. Identify the short-term and long-range advantages/benefits associated with fitness participation.

Nutrition and Weight Management

  1. Define the following terms: obesity, overweight, percent fat, lean body mass, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and body fat distribution.
  2. Discuss the relationship between body composition and health.
  3. Compare the effects of diet plus exercise, diet alone, and exercise alone as methods for modifying body composition.
  4. Describe misconceptions about spot reductions and rapid weight loss programs.
  5. Explain the concept of energy balance as it relates to weight control.
  6. Identify the functions of fat and water soluble vitamins and contrast their potential risk of toxicity with over-supplementation.
  7. Discuss the ramifications of the use of salt tablet, diet pills, protein powder, and other nutritional supplements.
  8. Describe the importance of and procedures for maintaining normal hydration at times of heavy sweating, and describe appropriate beverages for fluid replacement during and after exercise.
  9. Demonstrate familiarity with the USDA Food Pyramid and US Dietary Guideline.
  10. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of calcium and iron in women's health.
  11. Describe the effects of diet and exercise on the blood lipid profile.
  12. Describe the myths and consequences associated with inappropriate weight loss methods: saunas, vibrating belts, body wraps, electric stimulators, and sweat suits.
  13. List the number of kilocalories in a gram of the following: fat, carbohydrate, protein, and alcohol. List the number of kilocalories in 1 pound of fat.
  14. Describe appropriate weekly weight loss goals.

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