Everything Is An Assessment

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You’ve all probably heard the saying, “if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.” I wholeheartedly agree. What’s more, as fitness professionals, this can mean the difference between helping someone achieve their goals, or you know, getting sued. It often boggles my mind that many trainers still have no concept of how crucial the initial assessment is. For many, rather than putting some actual though into it, and devising an actual PLAN, they’ll haphazardly throw bits and pieces together, cross their fingers, and hope for the best – Frankenstein programming at it’s best.

While I could sit here and discuss the advantages and disadvantages on several school’s of thought (Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen, NASM protocol, or Assess and Correct, to name a few), one of the best pieces of advice I ever received with regards to assessments was from physical therapist and strength coach, Bill Hartman:

Everything is an assessment

Literally, everything. To be honest, from the moment someone walks into the facility, I’m “assessing” them. It makes sense, really. Using a specific example, lets assume someone walked in with a history of chronic lower back pain. Considering the fact that, at some point in their lives, roughly 80% of Americans experience back pain, this certainly isn’t out of the question.

Sure, there are some provocative tests I can use to help me ascertain what the underlying issues are – slump test, Thomas test, differentiating between flexion intolerance and extension intolerance, prone/side plank endurance, overhead squat pattern, etc – but other things like what their standing posture looks like, how they walk, or even how (s)he gets up from their chair can (and will) undoubtedly give me a lot of information to work with as well.

To be perfectly clear, I am in no way trying to downplay the importance of a systematic assessment. On the contrary, I think they’re invaluable. All I’m trying to say is that, as fitness professionals, we can’t neglect the simple stuff. Too often we try to get “cute,” and try to impress people with big words like flower reciprocal inhibition, carrot cake scapulo-humeral rhythm, or boobies synergistic dominance. Concurrently, we get so caught up with OVER-assessing, that we often fail to see the big picture. I mean, does it really matter if someone’s left pinky toe pronates?

Again, EVERYTHING is an assessment. Keep this in mind the next time you start with a new client. I think you’ll be surprised as to what you may find when you start paying attention to the smaller things.

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