Fitness Assessments: How To Do Client Intake Sessions
Any personal training or fitness coach relationship will start with a comprehensive fitness assessment. Conducting a great fitness assessment, or client intake session, is a combination of two way communication to build rapport and getting the information needed to build a sound fitness and nutrition program. You can learn how to be a personal trainer conducting these types of consultation and training programs. Every fitness assessment should include:
- PAR-Q (physical activity readiness questionnaire) and health risk appraisal to make sure the client is clear to begin exercise.
- Lifestyle Questionnaire to gain insight into the client’s daily activities, schedule, and preferences.
- Biometric data and starting points including resting heart rate, weight, body composition, BMI (body mass index), and sometimes blood pressure.
- Fitness test for assessing factors like cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility testing, muscular strength, and postural movement assessments to determine current fitness level.
During a fitness assessment, the personal trainer should know the ultimate goals of the client intake session include:
- Rapport building and relationship development
- Establishing trust and credibility
- Honing on realistic fitness goals
- Developing an exercise plan and schedule
- Determining starting statistics to track progress
- Obtaining information to customize fitness program
Here, you’ll learn:
- Agenda for a fitness assessment
- How and why to conduct a PAR-Q and Lifestyle Questionnaire
- How to gather biometric data
- Fitness tests you should include
Remember, a fitness assessment is the first impression the client will get of you. If it’s a free consultation, then their commitment to a paid package will hinge on the outcome of the session. If the client is just starting with you, this sets the expectations and tone for the remainder of the trainer-client relationship.
This will help you deliver a meaningful and valuable first session experience leading to better conversions and client retention.
Fitness Assessment And Intake Session Agenda
Fitness assessments should never be rushed. Realistically, you can get what you need in 30 – 45 minutes. However, block off at least 60 minutes. If you’re rushed, the client will notice and it can be damaging to the relationship. Most new clients won’t yet feel comfortable with you. Therefore, exposing their goals and starting levels just to rush them away is problematic.
Use the following guide to structure a fitness assessment.
- :00 – :05 Temp Check And Ice Breaker
- :05 – :10 PAR-Q And Medical History
- :10 – :25 Lifestyle Questionnaire
- :25 – :35 Biometric Data And Fitness Test Stats
- :35 – :45 Goals And Wrap Up
Before The Session
Some trainers like to fill out and review client paperwork together and others do it independently. Doing it with the client helps rapport building happen faster. However, it consumes extra time. The best way is to send the forms and questionnaires in advance. Then, during the fitness assessment session, review it with the client, having follow-up questions. This will establish you as a greater professional, provide detail on the client, build trust and rapport, and reduce time.
Specifically, be sure to review the client’s PAR-Q, Life-Q, and Dietary Record in advance and write in notes for follow-up questions and further discussion. In addition to doing your prep work, make sure that the client is prepped too. Let them know what to expect from their first fitness session with you and how to plan.
Temp Check- 5 Minutes
When first connecting with the client, use this time to see how they’re feeling about the process. Did they have any reservations, are they excited about embarking on this journey, what their day is like, etc. are all easy icebreakers to check-in. Give them a chance to settle in before moving into the next segment.
PAR-Q, Medical History, And Lifestyle Review
The PAR-Q portion can and should be quick. Review their answers with them and respond with a “Great, it looks like nothing is holding you back from getting started on this exercise program”. Or (if they answered yes to one or more of the questions), “I’m sure your doctor is in favor of exercise, but can you connect us and get a release to their office?”. Then, you can spend time on medical concerns you/they have. But keep the conversation directed to “How does this impact your ability to be physically active and eat well?”. As always, remember to never provide or suggest a diagnosis. In any case of doubt, refer them to the appropriate medical professional.
This is the biggest part of getting to know your client. Specifically, you’re looking to know their dreams, barriers, preconceived notions, commitment levels, preferences, and more. It’s the context for how all the scientific programming will fit into place.
Biometric Data: Heart Rate, Weight, Body Fat, And More
Biometric data includes statistics that impact a client’s current fitness level without actually doing exercise. It helps you determine how they might respond to physical fitness.
Heart Rate, Body Weight, And Body Composition
The first step is getting the client’s resting heart rate. Have them perform this on themselves by checking their pulse at the wrist or neck. Make sure they are relaxed and sitting down. If you can perform blood pressure testing, and want to, this is when you’d do it. However, it’s best to leave the blood pressure testing to a medical professional. For example, if their numbers come back high, discussing this with them can go out of your scope of practice. Even telling a client they have high blood pressure teeters on diagnosing them with the condition.
Next, you should get their weight. If the client is overweight, they’ll be reluctant to do this. Remind them how important it is for them to see their progress. The best time to check weight will be right after waking up. However, taking it together is also helpful for greater accuracy. Make sure they understand the degree to which water weight can fluctuate based on nutrition, sleep, hydration, hormones, and workouts. Instead, it’s the overall trend that to track.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation from weight and height. Medical professionals use it to determine where someone falls on the range of underweight to morbidly obese. It’s important to get this information, but it doesn’t take into account body composition, or muscle mass versus fat mass. Body composition, or body fat testing, is a better indicator of health. Through skinfold measurements, bioelectrical impedance, or hydrostatic weighing, this determines what percentage of a person’s body is fat versus muscle. It’s better than the BMI because it you can have someone with a low BMI, but risky body fat.
This info is helpful for the client to have more than just scale weight to hold onto. Additionally, if you don’t have a method to do a skinfold measurement or bioelectrical impedance for body fat testing, this can be used. The following are guidelines on where to take each measurement.
- Neck- Widest part around from the side view
- Chest- Center of the chest, the widest part around, or another landmark (note measuring point)
- Waist- The waist circumference should be take at narrowest part of the waist or navel (note which landmark)
- Hips- Widest part around from the side view
- Thigh- Widest part around of one upper thigh (note right or left)
- Upper Arm– Arm flexed to shoulder height with palm facing up, the widest part around (note right or left)
- Lower Arm– Same as upper, except on forearm
- Lower Leg– Widest part around the calf complex (note right or left)
Fitness Test Types
There are different types of fitness tests that should be a part of a comprehensive fitness assessment. All of them paint a picture of what the client is capable of. Some people recently under medical supervision will do these tests with an exercise physiologist, however a trainer can do these too. Common fitness test types include:
- Flexibility Testing- These can include any assessment that addresses range of motion, whether static or dynamic. Examples of flexibility tests include overhead squat assessment, static postural assessment, and goniometer assessments.
- Cardiovascular Fitness (VO2 Max) Test- This type of test is best left to exercise physiologists and requires additional equipment not conducive to a traditional gym setting.
- Cardiovascular Endurance Tests– These are general aerobic fitness tests and can include the YMCA step test or the three minute step test. It can also include a 12 minute walk-run test.
- Muscle Endurance Tests- This can include a push up test or or any other common movement that looks at how long a client can maintain good form.
- Muscle Strength Tests- These are common one rep max tests (1RM) and include the chest bench press, squat, row, and deadlift.
Goals And Wrap Up
If you dug deeply into the Life-Q, then the two of you know what the realistic fitness goals are to accomplish. Therefore, the closing part of the intake session should recap what you learned about them, confirm their goals, and finalize how this looks for the next four weeks as you work together.
Knowing how to base an exercise program from a fitness assessment is the basis of a personal trainer’s job. You can learn how to do fitness assessments for yourself and others to design fitness programs just like a personal trainer. Learn how to be an EMAC Certified Personal Trainer to hit fitness goals or make money in a rewarding career.