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Purposes of Assessment

by NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition
Kinetic Select May 2017

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The purposes of assessment are to gather baseline data and to provide a basis for developing goals and effective exercise programs. Gathering and evaluating the various pieces of information give the personal trainer a broader perspective of the client. The process and the data collected assist the trainer in identifying potential areas of injury and reasonable starting points for recommended intensities and volumes of exercise based on the goals and fitness outcomes.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

The purposes of assessment are to gather baseline data and to provide a basis for developing goals and effective exercise programs. Gathering and evaluating the various pieces of information give the personal trainer a broader perspective of the client. The process and the data collected assist the trainer in identifying potential areas of injury and reasonable starting points for recommended intensities and volumes of exercise based on the goals and fitness outcomes.

Gathering Baseline Data

There are many valid reasons for administering assessments to clients. The data collected provide

  • •  a baseline for future comparisons of improvement or rate of progress;
  • •  identification of current strengths and weaknesses that may affect program emphasis on specific components;
  • •  assistance in establishing appropriate intensities and volumes of exercise;
  • •  assistance in clarification of short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals;
  • •  identification of areas of potential injury or contraindications prior to program initiation, which may lead to referral to a physician or other health care professionals; and
  • •  a record demonstrating prudent judgment and appropriate scope of practice in program design should client injuries develop after a program has begun.

The assessment process may fall within the services typically provided to all clients, may constitute an additional revenue stream for the personal trainer, or may do both. However, subjecting clients to a seemingly endless barrage of assessments that have little or no relevance to their program goals is a violation of the trust the client places in the personal trainer to gather necessary information to design a program.

Goal and Program Development

The personal trainer can use physical assessment information in conjunction with personal information gathered about the client to plan a time-efficient, specific program that will help the client achieve his or her goals. Understanding personal characteristics and current lifestyle factors about the client helps the personal trainer plan sessions that are reasonable in length, frequency, intensity, and complexity so that the client is more likely to continue adhering to the program. Developing goals with a client is critical for both program design and motivation. (Refer to chapter 8 for more details on motivating clients.)

When possible and appropriate, choosing specific tests that are congruent with clients’ goals or preferred mode of exercise may give them a clearer picture of their progress and may be more motivating. For highly trained clients, choosing an exercise ergometer that most closely matches their mode of exercise (treadmill, cycle, swim flume) leads to a more accurate assessment of their performance. For average or deconditioned clients, the type of test is not as much of a factor in assessing aerobic function; however, a treadmill test will usually produce the highest maximal V̇O2 scores. Clients who seldom if ever ride a bike may experience local muscular fatigue and as a result achieve a lower estimated V̇O2 max value on a bike test compared to a treadmill test. In addition, if clients are tested on a cycle ergometer but will not be riding a bike in their program, they may overlook some of the indicators of their improved performance during the training period.

A timed mile can be easily repeated on occasion during a walking program; if the client can cover the distance more quickly or easily with a lower exercise heart rate or rating of perceived exertion (RPE), the client knows immediately that he or she is making progress. In this instance an appropriate test may match the type of activity the client enjoys doing. However, for clients who are overweight or who have lower body joint issues that make weight-bearing activities painful, the advantages of a non-weight-bearing cycle test may override any concerns about slightly lower estimates of maximal oxygen consumption. Additionally, since cycling tests give results independent of body weight, they are more accurate indicators of progress for a person on a weight loss program than is a treadmill test, whose results are directly related to an individual’s body weight. Assessment of health- or skill-related fitness components, or both, provides the personal trainer and client with baseline information that will be used to develop safe, effective, and appropriately challenging goals.

NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition, is the authoritative text for personal trainers, health and fitness instructors, and other fitness professionals as well as the primary preparation source for those taking the NSCA-CPT exam. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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