Qualified Personal Trainer

How to Use Fitness Assessments for Clients

Craig Salmon 0

Fitness assessments are a series of tests that help you, as the Personal Trainer, determine the current level of your clients and is then used to create individualised progressive programmes.

The questions always posed are:

  • What assessments should be completed with the client?
  • How many tests should we complete?

Let's explore these questions in depth within this guide to fitness assessments. 

How to choose the right fitness assessments for your clients

The assessments you choose should be based around the client, their ability and their goals. For instance if a client wants to reduce body fat then we should measure this using a Bioelectrical Impedance scale. If the client wants to improve their VO2Max then we require a test that will measure this but one which is specific to their sport.

Long distance runner could be the Coopers Test or a Tennis player may use the Multistage fitness (bleep) test as these are more specific to their chosen discipline.

Though, there are some tests we should complete with all clients, no matter the goal or the ability. One being the Blood Pressure test, as individuals do not show signs or symptoms of high blood pressure. We should complete this with all clients to ensure the exercises and plans meet their health needs.

Why fitness assessments are so important to conduct

Arguably, the more tests we complete with clients, the better. As this will give us a greater understanding of their starting ability. It will also allow us to measure their progress throughout the training. If we have minimal tests then we cannot show the full impact of Personal Training.

Consider this situation; a client wants to lose weight (most common gym goal) so we measure their weight and BMI at the start of the Personal Training journey. One month later the client has lost half of what they expected to lose. This would make them feel demotivated, demoralised and possibly cause relapse and we potentially lose a client.

Alternative situation: We measure their weight, body circumference measurements, body fat, muscle mass, along with other health/fitness tests. One month later they have lost half of what they wanted BUT they have lost several inches, reduced body fat and increased muscle mass. Along with further fitness improvements.

Now the client can see huge benefits and show they are on course and improving throughout various their levels of health and fitness rather than just on the scales. Changing the mentality around ‘weight loss’ is required, granted, but this will go a long way to helping this client progress on that journey and help them feel positive, motivated and re-focused.

When should you do a fitness assessment with a client?

Fitness assessments are typically completed towards the end of the consultation process, prior to the first Personal Training session and then repeated every 1-3 months. Too frequent repeated testing will not show enough progression which could dishearten a client, so be sure to give enough time for the effects of training to be evident.

To be honest, testing, analysis, and assessments occur from the moment the client walks into the consultation. When the client enters the consultation area, we can assess how they carry themselves, look at their moving posture, to when they communicate how motivated and enthusiastic are they. This will determine how you can manage the Personal Training sessions. This is all explained well in the SOAP acronym.

What does the acronym "soap" stand for?

SOAP notes were developed in the 1960’s by Dr Lawrence Weed as part of problem-orientated medical recording. Now it is used in medical, health and wellness fields:

  • Subjective
  • Objective
  • Assessments
  • Planning

Let's check each of these out. 

S = subjective

In the “Subjective” section, we would include client responses to your
questions regarding everything to do with Fitness, Lifestyle and Nutrition. Write down answers using the client’s own words.

For example, the client might say, “I’m out of breath when I climb the stairs at home” or subjective observations of the client, such as “Client is kyphotic” or “Client is highly motivated.”

o = objective

In the “Objective” section, data is key! Data may include results of any fitness tests performed (body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility or cardiorespiratory). It would also be any self-assessment information like with a diabetic, the client would be self-assessing their blood glucose levels or any medication the client may be on. As previously discussed, more data gives us more tracking which could show us greater progression.

A = Assessment

In the “Assessment” section, we focus this more on the clients movement capabilities. At Premier Global NASM we use the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHSA) to check the client’s posture whilst moving which highlights overactive and underactive muscles. Now, few clients come to the gym to work specifically on their posture.

But that is where a good Personal Trainer will weigh up the clients WANTS and NEEDS. We give the client elements of their planning to suit what they WANT, but we also include elements of the training and planning which will work on what they NEED. For instance, a client may want to reduce body fat, but as they are desk bound their posture highlights an Excessive Forward Lean and Arms Falling Forward in the OHSA.

We can focus on the body fat reduction with various training methods (WANTS), but we would also plan in techniques and exercises to combat the imbalances of muscles (NEEDS) which in turn would increase the metabolic effect, create greater muscle recruitment and thus leading to them reducing body fat (WANTS).

P = planning

Planning should take into account the clients ability, experience, OHSA, lifestyle, likes/dislikes and of course their goals. Effective planning helps the client improve what they WANT and improve what they NEED but provides motivation and focus through progressive plans. Our Optimum Performance Training Model helps do just that.

what is the overhead squat assessment and how do you use it?

The OHSA is very specific in the set up in order to highlight any compensations the clients may have:

  • Start with shoes off
  • Feet hip width apart
  • Feet pointing forwards with knee tracking over second and third toe
  • Arms Straight above head with bicep level with ears

We would then encourage the client to squat down to a level that is comfortable (no more than the height of a chair) for 5 reps. We would watch from the anterior, then from the lateral for another 5 reps and document any results. Typcial compensations we may see

  • Anterior: Feet turn out, Knees move in
  • Lateral: Excessive forward lean, Lower back arch, arms fall forward

overactive versus underactive muscles

Each movement compensation found while doing an overhead squat assessment (OHSA) will highlight overactive and underactive muscles that we would include within our planning to improve balance of muscles and avoid movement issues like altered reciprocal inhibition, group coupling, synergistic dominance which would all lead to altered joint motion and increased risk of injury. Once we have the highlighted imbalances we can focus on specific planning:

  • Overactive muscles – self myofascial release / stretching
  • Underactive muscles – Activation/strengthening work

There are other assessments that can compliment the OHSA including a progression within the single leg squat assessment and the Push/Pull assessment to focus more on the upper body imbalances. Static posture, range of motion are also beneficial in this section.

concluding thoughts on fitness assessments

Fitness tests should be used with all clients, they are great to give us and the client a starting point, essential for tracking and monitoring the clients progress and allow us to create individualised, bespoke periodized plans which will give our sessions more accountability and improve client retention.

More information can be found within our PG-NASM course curriculum. Be sure to check out our personal training courses if you haven't already!

Tags: Qualified Personal Trainer

The Author

Craig Salmon