Focus: To learn what assessments your clients need and how to perform them.
What You'll Learn Performing an initial assessment with a new client is a quick way to develop trust, show your professionalism and deliver a great service from the get-go. Many personal trainers do not provide an initial assessment so you can quickly differentiate your personal training service from others.
Why is This Important? There are many different ways to assess physical fitness and we wanted to make a simple and straightforward system for delivering an assessment on your clients.
Before you begin conducting assessments, you'll need to decide whether or not to charge for your time. You could include the physical assessment as part of a free consultation, or you may choose to charge your client for a session.
A lot of the iPT trainers do their assessment for free to help build rapport with potential clients, however other trainers decide to charge. There’s no right or wrong way - it’s entirely up to you!
Before you begin your assessment, it’s a good idea to make sure your client is aware of what is going on. They will need to bring suitable sports clothing as well as a drink. Make sure your client fills in a PAR-Q form before beginning, and then we can begin!
Choosing an Assessment
An initial assessment has a whole host of benefits for both you, and your client but not all assessments are necessary for every clients.
For example, a client looking to improve their 5k time in 6 weeks would require very different assessments to a client that is suffering from lower back pain.
Let’s break these down so you can share this information with your client.
Creates a benchmark for your client’s progress Having a starting point is a great way to keep a client motivated. When your client can see how much progress they have made from day 1, it will encourage them to keep on track.
Injury prevention Being able to identify any areas for injury, or weakness, before you write your program can help reduce the chances of your client getting injured.
Program Design You will be able to identify certain areas of fitness that are not optimal, so you can design your client’s program to overcome those weaknesses to help them achieve their goals.
The first section of the assessment will assess the physical readiness of your client. This can be done weekly or monthly and here's how to do it:
1. Chest: Place one end of the tape measure at the fullest part of your bust, wrap it around (under your armpits, around your shoulder blades, and back to the front).
2. Upper arm: Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your upper arm from front to back and around to the start point.
3. Waist: Use the tape to circle your waist above your belly button and below your rib cage without sucking in your stomiach.
4. Hips: Make sure the tape is over the largest part of your buttocks.
Thigh: Wrap the tape measure around the fullest area of your thigh from front to back. You may be tempted to cheat by lowering the tape measure a few inches, but then you won’t get an accurate measurement.
Other measurements Other measurements you may want to consider should you choose to are:
Height so you can workout BMI and/or calorie requirements
Progress photos (add example pictures, front, side, back)
Resting heart rate
Bear in mind that some clients will be uncomfortable with progress photos either topless or in sports underwear, as well as having skinfold measurements.
You can reassure them that you will be the only person with access to these photos - and it will be good for them to see a benchmark. If they are still not comfortable, just stick with measurements, weight, height and resting heart rate.
After you have recorded the basic measurements of your client, the next step may be to perform a postural assessment.
Postural assessments are often done when a client complains of aches and pains. Aches and pains can often be a sign that your client has some major musculoskeletal imbalances that you may be able to address with training.
When profiling your client’s posture, it is recommended to assess it from the front, side and back. You may wish to take pictures and record this to help show progress and show the client any problem areas you identify.
Make sure to take notes, as this information will help with your program design later on. Postural assessments might include:
Head Look how the head is positioned in relation to the spine. Is it tilted forward, tilted backwards or tilted sideways?
Upper Back Is the spine neutral, or is there some curvature of the upper spine (kyphosis)?
Shoulders Are the shoulders positioned forward? Are the shoulders internally rotated? Are they dropped and/or asymmetrical?
Pelvis Have the client stand with their back to a wall. Look at the lower back gap. There may be a level of anterior (lordotic) tilt or a posterior (under tuck) tilt.
Knees Are the knees rotated inwards or outwards? Are they both at the same height?
Feet Are the feet arched or excessively flat? Do they point inwards or outwards?
Gait Get the client to walk. Look for internal and external rotation of the feet. Look if the weight is evenly distributed. Watch the arm swinging and torso rotation.
The next step is to take a movement analysis. Some trainers make the movements very complex, and end up getting their clients to perform advanced movements like an overhead squat. The likelihood of your average clients ever performing an overhead squat in their program is extremely unlikely. For that reason, we recommend a basic squat, lunge, push, pull and core test.
Squat test Have your client perform a bodyweight squat. Have them stand with their feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ensure their feet are pointing outward and their body is upright. Instruct your clients to hold their hands in front of them and perform a parallel squat. You may choose to use a bench. You are looking whether the knees go inwards (internal hip rotation) or outwards (external hip rotation), whether they lean sideways and how their ankle dorsiflexion is. Ask the client how they felt performing the movement and repeat 5 times.
Lunge test Instruct the client to perform a bodyweight lunge with their hands on their hips. If the client struggles with balance, you can have them hold onto a wall or try reverse lunges. You are looking for hip, knee and ankle alignment, as well as rotation of the torso and any core instability.
Push test Have the client perform a push-up either on their knees or on their feet. Get them to go to a 90-degree angle and repeat 5 times. You are looking for scapula retraction, imbalances in their pushing motion and core stability.
Pull test Using the lat-pulldown machine, instruct your client to perform 5 reps of a wide grip lat pulldown. You are looking whether they can retract their scapula, any imbalances in a pulling movement and whether they receive any pain in their shoulders.
Core Finally, get your client to perform a plank either on their knees or on their feet and hold it for as long as possible. This is going to show you how strong their core is, and whether they are dipping on either side. Record the time.
Once you have finished the movement analysis, you may wish to perform a flexibility assessment. This may only be necessary if you have highlighted any problem areas. You may wish to take pictures or make measurements to gauge progress over time. You are trying to identify any common problems in the following muscles:
Hamstring - instruct the client to slowly bend down to reach their toes. Look at how far they can reach without pain. If the client has high levels of body-fat, movement may be restricted which is not caused by tight hamstrings.
Lats - Have the client lie on their back and reach directly over their head. You are looking for range of motion.
Hip flexor - With the client lying on their back on the floor, bring their knee to their chest with their other leg fully extended. Look for their head coming off the floor or their other leg bending.
Quadriceps - With the client lying on their front, ensure they can extend their knee to a 90-degree angle.
Depending on your client’s goals, you may wish to conduct a cardiovascular assessment. We recommend iPT trainers to do it, as it’s another benchmark your client can measure progress against. We recommend two options, and they are:
One mile walk test Have your client walk one mile as fast as they can on a 0 incline on a treadmill. Record their rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and their total time.
12-minute run test If your client is already relatively fit, have them perform a 12-minute run test at a 0 incline. Record their total distance.
Once you have collected all the relevant data from the client’s physical assessment, there is still some more information you can collect to you develop an efficient program.
Ask the client about their stress, sleep and nutrition, and how they currently manage each aspect. Here are some example questions for each section:
Rate your stress from 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
What are the main causes of stress in your life?
What impact is stress having in your life?
How do you currently manage stress?
How many hours do you sleep, on average, per night?
What time do you go to sleep and wake up at? Is it consistent?
Do you have an Apple Watch, Fitbit or Oura ring to monitor your sleep?
Please provide a 3-day food diary with all the food you eat, including the quantity, as well as liquids consumed.
Do you drink alcohol? If so, how much?
Do you drink caffeine? If so, how much?
Do you have any food allergies?
The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to design the most effective program for your client. A good assessment is time well invested for your client to reach their goals, and for you to build sufficient rapport.