Great fitness programs can only be created through a deep understanding of each individual client. A comprehensive fitness assessment and ongoing assessments and consultations are truly the gold standard in order to continue to experience long-term progress.
In this post, we will talk about the power of a fitness assessment and go into detail about what a comprehensive assessment should include in order to create a holistic and personalized approach in supporting each client’s specific goals.
Every assessment should include space for an in-depth conversation. This is an opportunity not only to create coach and client rapport but also to get a deeper look into the individual's background.
Besides knowing a client’s biological age, understanding his or her training age is just as if not more important. How long has the client been CONSISTENTLY training and what does the client’s background look like? It is important to understand if the individual played sports as a child or not as generally, this can provide insight into whether the client is a fast or slow adapter. What is the client’s experience with the type of training he or she needs to be exposed to in order to reach his or her goals? Is the client a beginner, intermediate or advanced trainee? Knowing this will heavily impact the fitness program in terms of volume, intensity, time under tension, recovery, etc.
Does the individual have any previous or current injuries? Two of the most common predictors of injury are previous injuries and imbalances, respectively. Understanding what injuries have occurred in the past will give deeper insight into what should be conducted during the movement analysis and strength balance portion of the assessment. Based on the information gathered, a personalized approach can be formulated to reduce the risk of that injury occurring again in the future.
Although all of this information is imperative to create a successful approach to personalized health and fitness programs, one of the key reasons a consultative process is crucial is to gain a better understanding about why the client wants to work with you in the first place. Knowing the client’s specific goal is a good starting point, but getting the opportunity to deeply understand the client’s intent and emotional connection to those objectives is even more powerful. More often than not, when we ask clients WHY their specific goals are important to them and determine the reasons for their emotional connection to those specific goals, they get wide-eyed and respond with: “Hmm, no one has ever asked me that question before.” Because of this, sometimes clients may not even know the answer, and as coaches, it is our responsibility to help them navigate toward their own deeper understanding of their goals. Why does this matter? Because it leads to better compliance when the going gets tough. This will also give the coach more insight into their level of readiness, which is important when creating nutrition, lifestyle and training recommendations. If they are more hesitant or not very connected to their objectives, giving them a handful of things to focus on may be too overwhelming for them to handle, thus leading to a lack of compliance. Those who are deeply connected to their objectives and have many years of consistency under their belts will likely be able to handle much more with success.
Another arena into which the Central Athlete coach gains insight is the client’s nourishment profiles. If someone is looking to improve energy, the ability to recover or alter body composition, the Coach needs to have an understanding of the client’s nutritional habits. The Coach is looking to prescribe a habit that is connected to the objective and meets this criteria:
- Will create the greatest physiological impact
- In the least amount of time
- With the least amount of psychological resistance
Other important factors to take into consideration during the consultative process of the fitness assessment are genetics—are they fast or slow responders, long-limbed versus short-limbed, etc.— as well as their resiliency. Understanding the rhythm and structure of their lifestyle is also important because those who have more consistent rhythm tend to respond to varied stimuli more effectively than those with a more chaotic lifestyle. Looking at someone's wake and sleep times, when they have bowel movements, their mealtimes, their work and work-out schedules, and their general routine day to day, show us if they have a daily rhythm or not. We find that the more consistent a client’s schedule, the better they are at adapting to the “stress” of training and the more resilient they become.
IN-OFFICE DATA COLLECTION
Whether the goal is performance, body composition or health and prosperity, understanding what is going on within the body is important. We use a few different tools at Central Athlete but the two we will discuss in this article are the InBody Bioelectrical Impedance test, which measures body composition, and the OmegaWave, which measures an individual’s readiness to take on strain.
Looking at the individual's body composition is vital. By using the InBody we get objective measurements into each person’s fat mass, lean muscle mass, basal metabolic rate, hydration levels, muscular imbalances, etc. This is important information to have when creating a personalized nourishment and lifestyle plan and is also a crucial tool in tracking success over time.
We use the OmegaWave to check the client’s readiness for strain. This is a four-minute test that uses heart-rate variability, DC potential (Direct Current) and an EKG to measure how recovered an individual is at that point in time. Someone who is less resilient, extremely stressed and a poor sleeper may present with a score of 2 out of 7, which signifies that high-intensity training will result in poor adaptation, making it even more difficult to reach performance and body composition goals. The Omegawave gives coaches an idea of how much strain an individual can handle.
The next phase of a comprehensive assessment is movement analysis and strength balance testing. We test various levels of six different types of movements:
- Double Leg
- Single Leg
Within each movement category, we are looking at whether clients have proper motor control and stability, how they can perform various movements against their bodyweight under an external loading environment, and finally, with degrees of explosiveness. When observing movements with an external load, the Coach is looking at both their strength relative to their bodyweight as well as their strength balance between various muscle groups, which will be explained in more detail below. Last, when the client possesses adequate stability, relative strength and proper strength balance, they can advance into movements that require degrees of explosiveness.
An example: if a client does not possess proper stability and motor control of the shoulder, a level one phase of strength, it does not make sense to put that client into movements that involve degrees of explosiveness such as the kipping pull-up. The same goes for single leg strength; if the client does not have adequate glute activation and hip stabilization, it does not make sense to add a high amount of running or jumping into the training program. Understanding where a client sits on the strength spectrum is imperative to reduce the risk of injury and ensure the client is progressing intuitively toward goals without hitting plateaus.
When looking at relative strength standards, one example we use is the weighted pull-up. Instead of creating a goal across the board for each client, it is important to take into consideration the bodyweight of each individual. When clients possess adequate relative strength in this movement (20% body weight for females and 33% body weight for males), they have shown prerequisite strength standards and can now move into more advanced gymnastics work. When we assess relative strength, we are assessing their strength relative to their bodyweight.
Understanding an individual’s absolute strength relative to other movement patterns gives insight into possible weaknesses and compensations. If someone has a back squat that is stronger than the deadlift, it is safe to say that the individual favors knee flexion over hip flexion. This can be due to poor mechanics, previous injury, weak muscle groups, etc. Ideally, we would like to see the back squat around 85% of the deadlift, dependent upon the client and the specific sport. When one muscle group is much stronger than another, injuries can arise. However, it all depends on the client’s individual function. Having a strength balance protocol comparing anterior to posterior movement patterns is essential in prioritizing strength training within someone’s program.
A movement analysis is also included in this portion of the assessment to get a better understanding of their flexibility and mobility. Here we look at ankle flexibility, hip internal and external rotation from various positions, shoulder internal and external rotation from various positions, spinal flexion and extension from the lumbar (lower back) to the cervical spine (neck) and more.
We have various tests we use to assess work capacity, which is defined by how much work an individual can perform in a specific amount of time. A client’s training age and goals will determine which test we will conduct during the work capacity portion of the assessment. This portion will give their Coach great insight into the client’s understanding of pacing and sustainability and ability to recover, as well as a deeper understanding of the client’s physiological limitations.
The 30/30 row test is a more advanced work capacity test for clients who have adequate absolute strength and proper rowing mechanisms, and who are interested in improving their level of fitness across the board. During this test, the individual rows for 30 seconds at one hundred percent, repeated four times with only 30 seconds of rest between each set. This provides loads of information regarding the individual's power output, ability to recover, dominant energy system and much more.
Another work capacity test we conduct is the ten-minute assault bike test. This is a reliable baseline test that can have several physiological limitations, depending upon the client. This test can give awareness into the individual's ability to pace, neural ability to express work capacity, as well as local muscle endurance abilities. For example, we may use this with a client who was a former collegiate athlete and has detrained over the last three years, yet wants to keep up with his kids. Getting a baseline score will illustrate the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the program as we periodically retest along will creating a positive feedback loop for the client as he or she progresses.
The Central Athlete fitness assessment is extensive, individualized and can take up to two hours, but it is an essential part of the onboarding process. It allows the coach to create an efficient and extremely personalized road map toward clients’ objectives. It not only allows that client to move diligently and more quickly toward goals, but it also decreases the risk of injury along the way and creates flexibility for training to evolve over long periods of time as the seasons change and goals continue to develop. The more aligned a plan can be with clients’ deepest priorities and goals in mind, the better adherence they will have—which ultimately leads to more fulfillment.
If you have any questions regarding our assessment process and/or are interested in learning more about Central Athlete and our personalized approach to health and fitness, click the link below to speak to one of our coaches today! We put the pieces together for you, in a personalized fashion, to ensure that your hard work both inside and outside the gym pays off!