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How to structure a fitness assessment

Woman doing lat-pull downs.
Woman doing lat-pull downs.
EFS, Inc.

Assessing a client before beginning a fitness training routine is necessary. However it is important to keep the client in mind when performing the various assessments. The assessment process can be an intimidating time for a client. In addition certain assessments such as body fat analysis using skin fold calipers or testing for flexibility via goniometry assessment, can make the client feel uncomfortable. When performing an assessment it is critical to keep the client as comfortable as possible. Explaining what you are doing, joking with the client, or just finding out how their day went can help break the ice and make the assessment process easier on the client.

It is important to begin your client assessment with a health questionnaire. A good questionnaire to use would be ACSM's Par-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire): Using the Par-Q is vital as it can help identify any potential risks that could increase the potential of injury to the client.

After reviewing the Par-Q to make sure there are no glaring red flags, you can move onto the actual physical assessments portion. According to the 2nd addition of “ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer” (pg. 315), a recommended order for performing assessments is below:

  1. Heart rate: resting
  2. Blood pressure: resting
  3. Body Composition: height and weight, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and skinfolds
  4. Postural analysis and body alignment assessments
  5. Goniometry and joint range-of-motion assessments
  6. Cardiovascular assessment: Rockport 1-mile walk test procedures, 1.5-mile run test procedures and Queens College Step Test.

Keep in mind an assessment session can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, so it is important to inform the client and also make sure they wear snug fitting clothes. This will assure that you will be able to properly perform some of the assessments (posture analysis, goniometry are a few examples as loose fitting clothes and make it difficult to attain accurate results).

For more information on exercise program design, check out this article:


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