Having a fitness assessment completed before beginning personal training services is important for several reasons. First, the results indicate a person’s current health and fitness status. Second, trainers use those results to determine their plan of action. Third, trainers can use those data to measure progress. A thorough assessment involves a number of variables.
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In addition to filling out a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, or PAR-Q, a two-page form which determines if a person needs a doctor’s permission before becoming much more physically active, two vital signs must be checked by a trainer. These signs are blood pressure and heart rate at rest. Blood pressure is the measure of arterial pressure while the heart’s ventricle fills with and empties of blood. There are a range of values associated with increasing health risks. The generally accepted blood pressure reading recognized as normal is 120/80 mmHg. Heart rate, or pulse, at rest is the expansion and retraction of an artery after each contraction of the heart’s left ventricle. For adults, this reading can range from 50 to 80 beats per minute, depending on cardiovascular health.
If someone presents with a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher, is taking medications for high blood pressure, or answers "yes" to one or more questions on the PAR-Q, a doctor must complete a PARmed-X form clearing that person for physical activity.
Body Composition and Girth Measurements
Most 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 the body mass index, or BMI, which is measured by taking the person’s mass in kilograms and dividing by their height in square meters.
Normal values for body fat percentage depend on a person’s gender and can range from 15 percent for men and 23 percent for women. The healthy range for body mass index also depends on gender and ranges from 24 to 27 for men and 23 to 26 for women.
In conjunction with body mass, people tend to focus on girth assessments as a measure of progress in a personal training program. The basic measurement sites tend to be consistent across gender and include the neck, shoulders, chest, upper arm, waist, hip, thigh and calf.
The basic measures of muscular endurance include bench press for the upper body. The goal is to complete as many repetitions as possible at a cadence of 30 repetitions per minute. Males use an 80-lb. barbell and females use a 35-lb. barbell. Normal values depend on gender and age and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research notes that a classification of good ranges from 30 to 37 for men in their 20s and 11 to 18 for men older than 60. For women in their 20s, a classification of good ranges between 24 and 30 while a range of six to 12 is good for women older than 60.
Additional tests of muscular endurance include curl ups and push ups.
As cited in Advanced Fitness Assessment & Exercise Prescription, the most valid measure of the capacity of the cardiorespiratory system is VO2 max, or the use of oxygen by the muscles during exercise. Aerobic capacity can be measured using treadmill and cycling tests. Field tests can also be used; their advantages include being inexpensive and 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 extrapolated to calculate VO2 max but is no substitute for direct measurement of this value.
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.