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Assessing Movement Efficiently with New Clients

by Meaghan posted January 20, 2016

This week, our FPTI Advanced Concepts students are learning the finer points of movement assessment. Assessing a client’s movement capabilities is one of the most important aspects of a first session. It gives the personal trainer the information he/she needs in order to write a program that addresses mobility and stability, and, most importantly, SAFE exercise selection and loading parameters. It also serves as a catalyst for the personalized programming in future sessions AND the explanation of it, allowing a foundation of trust to form between trainer and client.

Yet, movement assessments are probably the most neglected element of initial personal training sessions.


A lot of the reasoning has to do with time. Granted, a membership at some chain clubs and larger facilities comes with TWO complimentary sessions: One assessment session and then one workout. While this may be ideal in theory, the assessment session isn’t always used as efficiently as possible, and TWO free trial sessions certainly isn’t the norm for private personal training companies or independent trainers. Movement assessments are just as important, however, so trainers are often left with the challenge of both assessing new clients and giving them a solid workout – all in an hour’s time (and sometimes less!).

Clearly, they need a more efficient way of getting the information they need to write a safe and effective program while still showcasing their ability to provide an intense session, and without simply trying to impress people with the latest trend or some crazy  circus act…

SB squat

One of most efficient ways to do this is by turning the warm-up component of a first session into a movement assessment. When you recall that a warm-up is meant not only to increase core and tissue temperature but also to effectively prepare the neuromuscular system for the movements to come in the workout, you realize that these are the same movement patterns that you should be assessing. After all, you want to first assess what you plan to train before training it with external load, right?

Here’s an example of a warm-up that gives ample information about movement while still increasing body temperature when done at a moderately quick pace – all in about 8-10 minutes:

  • Cat/cow x 5 (spinal movement)
  • Bird-dog x 5 each side (spinal stability through hip extension)
  • Waiter bow x 5 (hip hinge pattern)
  • Walkout x 5 (hamstring flexibility, core and scapular stability)
  • Push-up x 5 (push pattern)
  • Mountain climbers x 15 seconds
  • BW squat x 10 (squat pattern)
  • Reverse lunge w/ knee up x 6 each leg (lunge pattern and single-leg balance)
  • Jumping jacks x 20


If all looked good in the waiter bow and push-up (or minor flaws were quickly fixed with your cuing), you can probably begin safely loading those patterns. If your client had trouble sitting back in the hips in their squat, however, and were way off balance in their lunge, you may need to work on those patterns a bit more before loading them up. Either way, you have the information that you need without having spent any extra time “assessing” (you had to warm up the client anyhow). The client also hasn’t been made to feel like he or she is “under a microscope” so to speak – an important psychological consideration for many people. Moreover, you now can pick more appropriate exercises to use during the rest of the workout, and the client understands why (provided you gave them the appropriate feedback during the warm-up/assessment).

Now that is efficiency, and a good way to turn over a new client, too!



Given the aforementioned examples, the remainder of the workout might then look something like this:

  • Hinge pattern- Kettlebell deadlift
  • Horizontal push pattern- Push-up
  • Squat pattern- Bodyweight squat to a bench
  • Horizontal pull- TRX row
  • Lunge pattern- Split squat (arm support as needed)


Bottom line: Do NOT neglect your movement assessments! Just be efficient with them.

Filed under: tips for trainers

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