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Why Is It Important To Do Fitness Assessments In Personal Training?

Best fitness tests for personal trainers 5

Fitness tests for personal training clients are crucial in understanding their levels of fitness and developing fitness programs that both work to their strengths and address their weaknesses. 

We’ll discuss what these tests involve, as well as everything you need to know: 

Before we begin, the ideal way to understand and tailor fitness tests for your clients is through a specialist Level 4 PT course. With our advanced sports nutrition course, you'll be able to provide a comprehensive overview of both diet and exercise.

Alternatively, you can explore the full range of courses we provide by downloading our complete course prospectus.

Why Is It Important To Do Fitness Assessments With Clients?

Personal training fitness tests can help you evaluate a client’s level of fitness. These evaluations provide you with an insight into their:

  • Overall Health - Such as whether a client’s body is free from injury or illnesses.
  • Body Composition - The percentage of body fat, muscle and water held within the body.
  • Cardiovascular Endurance - A measurement of how well they can perform high-intensity exercises.
  • Muscular Strength & Endurance - How well muscles perform repetitive contractions for a set amount of time.
  • Flexibility - The limitations and pain felt when joints move through a range of motions.

The information you gather from these different tests will enable you to write a fitness program that reflects your client’s capabilities but also the fitness goals they would like to achieve.

During the assessments, you’ll also discover that there are biological factors that could influence the results you receive, which include: 

  • Biological Sex - On average, men have 36% more skeletal muscle mass than women. This can affect the speed at which exercises are performed, depending on the client you have. 
  • Age - If you’re training elderly clients, you’ll need to be aware that their bodies don’t utilise oxygen as well as younger people. This means it can take longer for them to perform an exercise.
  • Past Injuries - Depending on the severity of a past injury, your client may have limited mobility in the affected area. This will require them to perform less intensive exercises to prevent any further damage to the injured area.

After you’ve recorded your results, you should have data tables to compare your client’s fitness levels against. 

We’ll explore these shortly, but first, let’s discuss the optimal times to measure your client’s fitness levels.

When Should You Do A Personal Training Fitness Assessment For Clients?

There are a few key moments throughout training your clients where you should use a fitness assessment.

Let’s explore these points in your training, and better understand why a fitness assessment is crucial at that point.

You Should Carry Out A Fitness Assessment During Your First Session

During your first session with your client, it’s important to carry out personal training fitness tests to record a baseline of their physical health before they commence training with you.

This will identify areas where your client is below or above average, relative to the test they’ve just participated in.

It will also allow you to consider what exercises might need to be incorporated into your client's fitness plan that could assist them in achieving their fitness goals.

For example, If your client is a 20-year-old male who can only run 1200m during a 12-minute Cooper Run as part of their cardiovascular fitness test, they would be underperforming.

Let’s look at the data table held on the Parallel Coaching website:

Best fitness tests for personal trainers 18

These results would highlight that your client needs aerobic-friendly exercises to be introduced into their training plan to improve their cardio levels.

Carry Out Another Fitness Test After Several Weeks To Monitor Your Client’s Progress

 

If you feel your client is not responding to the training program you curated, you may wish to carry out fitness tests 2-6 weeks later.

This will allow you to assess whether there have been notable changes in your client’s fitness levels.

It can help you understand the trajectory of your client’s fitness goals, and whether they need to be amended if you believe the current training program is not working.

Following these intermediate tests, you may discover that your client is underperforming, requiring you to move their fitness goals towards more achievable ones.

You may even have to introduce rewards or gifts for your PT clients when they carry out the remainder of the training program to help them improve their results.

Conduct A Final Fitness Assessment At The End Of The Training Program

The final occasion you will carry out fitness tests is when your training has finished with your client.

This will help act as comparative data to help you understand how well your client’s fitness has improved compared to the results you recorded during your first session with them.

It can indicate that your client’s fitness is now at average or above average levels, demonstrating to your client how successful your training program was for them.

Finally, if you decide to introduce reward incentives, you can use this data to determine whether your client is eligible to receive them.

 

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A Client Returning From Injury Is Also An Opportunity To Conduct A Fitness Assessment

Injuries can occur for anyone engaging in physical activity, which is why you may find yourself conducting fitness assessments for clients who are returning from an injury. 

If you are training clients with injuries, it’s important to make sure you complete a personal training fitness assessment form to make sure they can safely carry out any training with you. We’ll explore what this form involves shortly. 

You can expect your client’s results to be drastically different compared to when they’re exercising in full health. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, clients may perform fitness tests up to half of their capabilities.

It’s also vital that you conduct fitness assessments that focus on different areas of the body to avoid aggravating the injured area, as well as ensure that there’s no discomfort when using the injured part of the body.

 

5 Tests To Include As Part Of A Personal Trainer Fitness Assessment

The fitness assessments you carry out with your clients must provide a detailed overview of their physical health. This can be done by measuring their: 

  • Overall Health
  • Body Composition
  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength and Endurance
  • Flexibility

Let’s explore these 5 areas in further detail to get an understanding of what they entail, and how you can best measure them.

#1 - An Overall Health Analysis Can Help Identify Any Underlying Health Conditions In Your Client

After speaking to your client, they’ll have an understanding of the risks and what the fitness assessments involve.

Following this, they will complete a personal training fitness assessment form, better known as a PAR-Q form, which helps safeguard you and your client. 

It protects you legally and mitigates the risk of your client sustaining an injury as it identifies health and lifestyle issues that can undermine well-being.

Take a look at this example that our students use as part of their training:

The questions featured on the PAR-Q form can uncover whether a client has any pains in their chest whilst exercising, or if they’ve experienced any recent loss of consciousness.

If they answer yes to at least one of these questions, you’d need to ask follow-up questions to discover further information that might point towards an underlying health condition, such as arthritis or pregnancy.

These follow-up questions may result in your client answering yes again, and should this be the case, you’ll need to refer your client to another professional.

You may also need to delay the start of any training if your client indicates to you that they’re not feeling well.

If the initial PAR-Q questionnaire highlights there are no health concerns, and it’s safe for your client to proceed with training, you can use the answers to write a program tailored to their needs.

It will allow you to build a program that circumvents any health issues, or that uses low-intensity exercises to reflect the client’s ability with these health conditions.

#2 - Measuring Body Composition Can Help You Understand How Much Muscle Mass Your Client Has

The best fitness tests for personal trainers help you gain a clear understanding of your client’s health and body composition tests are a perfect example of this.

Body composition tests help measure the percentage of body fat present in your client’s body. There are several tests you can carry out, including:

  • Skinfold tests
  • Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
  • Body measurements using measuring tape and scales

Let’s explore these in further detail.

Skinfold Tests Are A Quick Way To Calculate Your Client’s Body Fat

Skinfold tests use callipers to estimate the body fat by gently squeezing specific areas of the body using:

  • 3-point tests (measuring chest, thigh and abdominals)
  • 7-point tests (measuring chest, thigh, abdominals, supra iliac, triceps, subscapular and axilla)

Once you’ve taken measurements using either the 3- or 7-point tests, you could use the measurements recorded (along with the client’s gender, age and weight) to calculate the client’s overall body fat.

This formula doesn’t have to be calculated manually. Personal training resources like this one from Trainer Metrics allow you to enter your findings, and automatically calculate your client’s body fat: 

This type of test does carry its limitations because it doesn’t conduct a full body assessment but rather measures fat found below the surface of the skin.

 

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Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) Can Provide A More Accurate Reading Of Your Client’s Body Fat Levels

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis is another fitness assessment for personal trainers that can help you understand your client’s physical health.

It is a device that generates very low electric currents through the human body to determine how much fat there is.

Since your client’s muscles will contain more water than fat, the low electrical currents will face less resistance when a client has high levels of lean mass, and greater resistance when their body has higher levels of fat.

To receive an accurate reading, your client should hold a handheld device and stand on the BIA’s platform with their feet. Both of these areas will generate electrodes that will pass through this body using these areas.

After five minutes, the device will provide you with a calculation of your client’s body fat percentage.

You can use this information to determine if your client's body fat percentage is within healthy limits. Using tables like these from Sport Nova can help contextualise your client’s measurements: 

It’s important to note that your client’s hydration levels and whether they’ve eaten will affect their results. 

When you return to these tests several weeks into their training program, it’s a good idea to complete them at the same time of day to ensure accurate and consistent results.

Body Measurements Using Measuring Tape And Scales Can Help You Monitor Your Client’s Weight Loss

One of the final personal trainer fitness assessment tests you can perform involves using a tape measure and scales to record the different circumferences of the designated areas of your client’s body.

For example, you could measure Waist to Hip Ratio. This is the difference between waist and hip circumferences. 

If the ratio is measured high, this indicates more fat is stored in the waist and abdomen areas. To get a measurement of your client’s waist circumference, simply wrap a tape measure around the smallest point of their waist, which is normally around their navel area.

To get a measurement of their hip circumference, measure their hips at the widest part. This will be your hip circumference.

After you’ve recorded these measurements, you can then use a calculator to divide the waist circumference against the hip circumference to understand the ratio between the two areas. 

If your client was a woman with a reading less than 0.85, they would have a low risk of having health risks, according to Steadfast Nutrition:

Equally, there are a couple of additional measuring tests you could use to give you a more accurate picture of your client’s body composition:

  • Measure Biceps - To measure biceps using tape, you can ask your client to move their arm into a bicep curl position. Whilst their arm is tense in this position, you can wrap a measure around their bicep and get an accurate reading of the muscle. This measurement can be used for comparison later in your client’s program, particularly if they wish to grow muscle mass.
  • Using Scales - This is a great way to simply measure your client’s weight. All you have to do is make sure your client’s feet are spread evenly on the scales to get an accurate reading.  

Using scales and tape measures can help you better monitor your client’s weight loss, which is excellent if you’re training clients who are overweight, or whose goals revolve around losing weight.

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#3 - Cardiovascular Endurance Tests Can Help You Understand Your Client’s Aerobic Fitness

One of the key fitness assessment tests for personal trainers that can help indicate how well the body takes in and distributes oxygen is a cardiovascular fitness test.

It can help you understand how well your client performs aerobic exercises should you feature them in your client’s exercise program. These tests can include:

  • 3-minute step test
  • Rockport Walk Test
  • Bike test

Let’s explore them in further detail to see what they involve.

 

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Enrol onto one of our fantastic courses to expand your skill set.

The 3-Minute Step Test Can Help Assess Your Client’s Heart Rate Levels

A 3-minute step test helps measure your client's aerobic fitness by monitoring how rapidly their heart returns to its resting heart rate.

To complete this test with your client, you simply need the following equipment:

  • 12-inch step
  • Stopwatch
  • Metronome (to set workload) - this can be physical, or done using a personal training app

Once you’ve got this equipment you will need to complete the following steps with your client: 

  • Set your metronome to 96 bpm
  • Ask your client to place their lead foot on the step, followed by their second foot
  • Standing on top of their step, they must step down beginning with their lead foot
  • They should repeat this process during the 3-minute test
  • Their steps must follow the pace set by the metronome
  • Make sure the steps are completed for no longer than 3 minutes

During the test, it’s important that your client:

  • Keeps good posture
  • Keeps their feet fully placed on the step
  • Steps down with their feet close to the step
  • Ensures their knees are fully extended

Upon completion of the test, ask your client to remain standing for one minute while you take their pulse.

Following this period, you can compare the resting heart rate recorded with what's on the table you're referring to. If you don’t have a table to refer to, we’d suggest using this one from Makeover Fitness:

A 26-year-old woman with a resting heart rate of 113 bpm, for example, would be underperforming on this chart, and need a training plan that includes cardio exercises to improve her cardio fitness.

The Rockport Walk Test Can Help Monitor How Efficiently Your Client Takes In Oxygen

The Rockport Walk is one of several fitness assessments for personal trainers that help monitor their client’s maximum oxygen intake (VO2 Max) by measuring how fast their clients can walk in one mile.

It helps indicate the aerobic fitness levels of your client when coupled with other biological factors, such as: 

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Body Mass Index
  • Heart Rate

The test can be performed on a treadmill or outside and requires your client to complete a 1-mile walk as fast as they can.

Before the Rockport Walk commences, your client must complete a personal training warm-up for at least 5 minutes to reduce the chance of injury. Following which, you should inform them: 

  • The timer starts as soon as they begin to walk.
  • Once they’ve completed the mile, stop your timer.
  • Record your client's time in decimal points. For example, 13 minutes plus 25 seconds divided by 60 seconds = 13.25.
  • After that, take their pulse for 15 seconds, then multiply it by 4 to get a 60-second reading.
  • These results can be entered into an online calculator, such as the one available through ExRx.net, to calculate your client’s VO2 Max:

Once you’ve got your client’s VO2 max, you can then refer to your table of results, such as the one available on the Very Well Fit, to determine how well they performed:

This information can then be used to determine whether more cardio-focused exercises need to be introduced as part of your personal training session plan.

Astrand’s Treadmill Test Is A Great Way To Monitor Your Client’s Oxygen Intake 

One of the final personal training fitness tests you can carry out in this area with your client is the Astrand Treadmill Test.

Similar to the Rockport Walk test, it helps predict the maximum amount of oxygen intake (VO2) that assists with general endurance. This means you’ll need a timer to measure the length of time they’re running for. 

When commencing with the Astrand Treadmill Test, it’s important to follow these steps:

  • From a natural walking pace, your client needs to build up their speed to 5 mph.
  • The grade incline should be set to 0%.
  • After they’ve reached this speed, start your timer and record them running for 3 minutes at this speed.
  • Once the 3 minutes have elapsed increase the treadmill grade to 2.5% and ask your client to complete another 2 minutes.
  • After those 2 minutes have passed, increase the grade by another 2.5%, and then time your client running for another 2 minutes.
  • Repeat this process until your client can’t run anymore.

After you’ve recorded the length of time your client has run, you can use the following equation to work out their VO2 Max: 

VO2 max = (Time × 1.444) + 14.99

For example, if your client was a 25-year-old male who ran for 18 minutes, the equation would look like this: 

18x1.444 + 14.99= 40.9 (VO2 Max, to one decimal place)

This means that if you refer to results available at PT Direct, you can work out how well your client performed:

 

You can then use this to decide on introducing cardio-based exercises into your client’s training program to make incremental improvements to their fitness.

 

Become a Level 4 Advanced Personal Trainer

Enrol onto one of our fantastic courses to expand your skill set.

#4 - Muscular Strength & Endurance Tests Help You Understand How Strong Your Client Is

There are other fitness tests for personal training clients that you can carry out to get an overall view of their fitness.

Another set of tests you can carry out are all based around muscular strength and endurance, which can indicate your client’s balance and strength capabilities, and inform the types of exercises they can perform.

There is a range of muscle strength and endurance tests you can carry out, including

  • Basic Squat Test
  • Upper Body Push-Up Tests
  • Plank Tests

Let’s explore these in further detail.

Squat Tests Are A Good Indicator Of Your Client’s Core Strength

Squat tests are great fitness tests for personal training clients as they highlights their core strength, and balance and help you assess your client’s posture.

There are a variety of squats you could ask your client to carry out but a basic squat can easily help you gain an understanding of their fitness levels.

You should ask your client to perform the following routine until they start to feel discomfort and are unable to continue the exercise:

  • Allow the client to warm up before exercising
  • They should place their feet shoulder-width apart in front of a chair, facing away from it
  • Squatting down, your client lightly touches the chair with their backside and then gets up, repeating these movements until they can’t continue
  • You record the number of completed squats

If your client was a 32-year-old female who completed 34 squats, you will see that they have good levels of fitness, according to the tables available on the Brian Mac website:

This would indicate that you don’t have to focus too heavily on core exercises in your client’s fitness plan.

Upper Body Push-Up Test Help You Understand Your Client’s Upper Body Strength

A push-up test is a great way for you to monitor the strength your client has in their upper body. To make sure your client performs push-ups correctly, you need to make sure:

  • Depending on the client, they need to be placed in a high plank position with men using their toes and women their knees holding this position
  • A ball, no bigger than a tennis ball, needs to be positioned under their chest
  • The client begins to bend their elbows, allowing their chest to touch the tennis ball beneath them
  • Your client must keep their arms straightened when they push back into the plank position.
  • Ask them to repeat as many push-ups as possible until they’re no longer able to.
  • Record the number of push-ups that are completed. 

Once you have recorded their final number, you can refer to the data tables found on Kinesiologists to see how well they performed:

  

If your client was a 27-year-old male who was able to perform 32 push-ups, you would see that they had above-average fitness levels, requiring you to only introduce a small number of exercises to improve their upper body strength.

A Plank Test Can Help You Understand How Healthy Your Client’s Posture Is

One of the personal training fitness tests you could also take to record your client's fitness test is a plank test.

Plank exercises carry many benefits that you may later incorporate into a circuit session plan or training program, but as a PT, they help indicate the strength of your client’s core muscles and how healthy their posture is when tested.

For your client to perform the plank correctly, you need to make sure they complete the following steps:

  • They must start in a press-up position.
  • They then must bend their elbows until their forearms are touching the floor.
  • You then need to make sure their shoulders are positioned to keep their body in a straight diagonal line.
  • They also need to make sure their abs are kept tense looking down to help ensure a neutral spine position.
  • Ask them to keep the position for as long as possible.
  • Record the time they’re able to hold the plank.

According to Top End Sport, if your client can hold the plank for 2 minutes, they’ll have average levels of fitness for carrying out the plan:

This means they would need to have exercises written into their training plan to improve their core fitness.

#5 - Flexibility Testing Can Help You Understand How Well Your Client’s Joints Move

One of the final fitness tests for personal training clients you can carry out focuses on the client’s flexibility. 

There are several flexibility tests you can carry out, including: 

  • Sit and Reach Test
  • Back Scratch Test

Let’s explore these tests further and understand what they involve.

Sit and Reach Test Helps You Understand Your Client’s Hamstring And Lower Back Flexibility

The sit and reach test is a personal trainer fitness assessment test that can help you measure your client’s lower back and hamstring flexibility.

This can help you identify whether your client needs more stretches incorporated into their training program, or if you need to plan a flexibility session.

To perform the sit and rest test, you need to have a Baseline Body Flexibility Box, which will help you record the results of your client’s flexibility test more accurately.

To successfully record results, you need to instruct your client to complete the following steps:

  • Ask your client to sit on the floor in their socks with their legs fully extended.
  • They should keep their knees straight and feet pressed against the flexibility box.
  • Your client should start moving forward slowly from their hips.
  • Whilst keeping their knees in the same position, ask them to move the palms of their hands as far as possible along the ruler.
  • Record the result they’re able to move their hands to.
  • Ask them to complete this step two more times with you recording the result each time.
  • Divide the results you receive by three to get an average result of this data.

Once you have these results, you can refer to this table from Very Well Fit to understand how well your client performed: 

If your client is a woman who had an average score of 35 cm from the sit and reach test, you can see from the table above that they would have an above-average score.

This means you would only have to bring a small amount of stretching exercises into their exercise program to improve their flexibility further.

The Back Scratch Test Can Help You Understand Your Client’s Upper Back Flexibility

One of the final fitness assessments for personal trainers you may want to consider to understand your client's flexibility levels is the Scratch Back Test.

This test measures flexibility in their shoulder joints and upper body areas and understands their functionality.

For your client to successfully perform this test, you should direct them to complete the following instructions:

  • Stay in a standing position.
  • Place one of your hands between the shoulder and back of your head.
  • With your palm face down, reach down as much as possible down your back.
  • Your hand should be touching your back and reaching down as far as possible.
  • Your other hand should be positioned behind your back.
  • With your second hand’s palm facing outward and fingers facing upward you should allow this hand to overlap with your other hand.
  • Repeat this process a further two times.

Once you’ve completed this process with each of your client’s hands, you will need to record the distance to the nearest ½ inch.

If the client’s fingers do not touch this will create a negative result, if they overlap it will create a positive result and if they touch but do not overlap, a zero score.

You can then use tables from Clinical Portfolio to see how well you’re client has performed in this test:

If your client was a 63-year-old male, who had a space of 8.5 inches between both hands, this would record a below-average score and would require you to introduce more exercises to help them feel the benefits of flexibility training in their fitness program.

Before You Go!

After reading this article, you should have all the information you require to carry out fitness assessment tests with your clients correctly. 

Remember, you can increase your skill set and client base by enrolling on an advanced level 4 qualification

You can also learn about the additional courses we offer by downloading our free course prospectus.

Written by Liam Donohoe

Content Writer and Fitness Enthusiast

Liam graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a 2:1 in BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing. He has also co-written a short film that has been featured in several film festivals. In October 2023, he ran and completed his first half marathon and for 2024, he's now training to complete his first metric marathon.

In his spare time, Liam likes to teach himself German, read books, lift weights and listen to metal music that only passionate fans of the genre will understand.

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