A fitness assessment performed by a personal trainer prior to providing training services may seem tedious and unnecessary, but it is critical. The results indicate a person’s current health and fitness status, and trainers use these results to design a fitness program suited to the individual. The results also provide a baseline by which trainers can measure progress down the road.
Blood pressure is the measure of pressure placed on the walls of blood vessels as the heart pumps blood around the body. Too much pressure puts strain on the arteries and increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Blood pressure is typically measured with a standard cuff.
Heart rate is a measure of how many times the heart beats in a minute. It's an indicator of physical fitness, as heart rate decreases as the heart becomes stronger. Heart rate is typically measured with readings taken during and after a short cardiovascular exercise, such as a one-minute walk test.
These two readings combined give the trainer a better picture of the client's cardiovascular health. In some cases, the results will alert the trainer to a potential problem. In that case, clearance from a medical doctor may be required.
The most valid measure of the capacity of the cardiorespiratory system is VO2 max, or the use of oxygen by the muscles during exercise. This is best measured in a laboratory setting, but field tests can also be used; their advantages include being inexpensive, less time-consuming and easier to administer. Examples of field tests include a 1-mile run, 1-mile walk and the YMCA step test. Results from these tests can be used to estimate VO2 max but are no substitute for direct measurement of this value.
Body Composition and Girth Measurements
Many people invest in personal training services to improve body composition measures. These include body mass, commonly referred to as weight; body fat percentage, or the amount of body mass that is composed of adipose tissue; and body mass index, or BMI, a measure of body fatness based on height and weight.
To measure body fat, a trainer takes skinfold measurements in specific areas of the body and records the data. He can then use a chart to determine body fat percentage and BMI and set goals for the client based on those results.
In conjunction with body mass, people tend to focus on girth assessments as a measure of progress in a personal training program. This could be relevant for both fat loss and muscle gain. The basic measurement sites tend to be consistent across gender and include the neck, shoulders, chest, upper arm, waist, hip, thigh and calf.
Muscular endurance is a measure of how many times the muscles can expand and contract repeatedly over a period of time. As with cardiovascular endurance, it's a measure of stamina. There are many different types of tests used to determine muscular endurance. Tests may involve bench pressing a pre-determined weight at a particular cadence for a particular amount of time. Or, clients may be asked to do as many repetitions as possible of pull-ups, push-ups, leg presses or crunches in one minute.
Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint. The most standard test of flexibility in a personal training setting is the sit and reach test, which evaluates low back and hip flexibility. Tests can be conducted to measure flexibility in other joints including the shoulder, ankle, hip and spine.