How To Screen Clients Prior To A Personal Training Programme

How to screen clients prior to personal training programmes

One of the most important jobs before you start your sessions is conducting client screening questions for the personal training process if you want your sessions to begin safely.

There is a lot of work that goes into this process and it can vary slightly but the main premise and outcome is always the same, so to help you along the way we will cover:

Before we get straight into the guide and what it is client screening consists of, the best way to help clients is with Level 4 Personal Training course. With our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course, you can combine fitness programmes with nutrition advice, helping people live much healthier lives.

Find out how you can continue helping clients through courses by downloading our course prospectus.

Why Client Screening Is A Vital Part Of Personal Training

client screening questions for personal trainers

Client screening for personal training is not only a vital step towards creating a good relationship with clients, but it also keeps your clients safe and protects you (the personal trainer) from any potential legal issues. 

In a nutshell, client screening is a way of identifying risk factors, big or small, and to understand the limitations of your client.

As well as reducing the risk of injury to the client, screening allows for you to set expectations with your client.

Plus, going through this process ensures that if necessary, you’re able to get GP clearance before the training begins.

It is during this process that you will find out the current exercise habits of your client and where their starting point is. You will also get to know their general lifestyle habits like:

  • Sleeping pattern
  • Whether they smoke
  • Alcohol intake 
  • Any other lifestyle implications that may affect their performance

Without this information prior to planning a programme, you simply won’t be able to create effective sessions that are personal to them, defeating the object of the term personal training. 

There are different ways to screen clients that we will talk about next, but this is simply a gentle reminder that first and foremost screening should take place before any physical activity takes place under your supervision or instruction.

Methods to Use When Screening Your Clients 

client screening for personal training

Before we get into the questions that you need to ask, let’s first consider the 2 methodological approaches that you could use to ask these questions about your clients lifestyle. They are:

  • Questionnaires
  • Observations

These are the 2 most popular methods used when screening clients prior to a personal training programme, here’s how you can implement them.


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Method 1: Questionnaires

The most common approach is utilising questionnaires during an in-person meeting. This allows you to write the answers to your questions in detail in real time, ensuring that you don’t forget or miss out on any important information.

This also means you will have hard copies of these questionnaires and it can be stored securely. It is an invasive technique of screening and allows for your client to feel like the answers are completely in their hands and are communicated at their discretion.

Client screening for personal training

Method 2: Observation 

On the other hand you have observation, which is a great secondary approach to client screening.

For example, once you have the answers to important health related questions and their readiness for exercise, you can ask them to take part in a low impact exercise routine that is standard for most clients. 

During this, you could observe how their endurance performance is or how their resistance training is. By paying attention to these elements of exercise and noting down their results, you can appropriately adjust the sessions when they start training with you.

The Questions You Should Ask In Your Client Screening Process

client screening

Client screening questions for personal trainers can be lengthy, but it's important that you take the time and effort to get to know your client as much as possible. This is important to make money as a personal trainer as showing you care about them not just as clients but people, increases the likelihood of them continuing to train with you.

With this in mind, we have separated the questions you should be asking into 2 sections to make the understanding a little clearer and easier to follow. 

These sections are non-performance variables, areas that are directly related to fitness and performance variables, those that aren’t. 

Begin Your Client Screening with Non-Performance Variable Questions

The bulk of your client screening process will be non-performance variables. 

These are basically areas of the client’s being that are not associated with the physical fitness level of the client, so let’s see what these consist of and what questions you should be asking in this area of concern.

Non-Performance Variable Questions: Find out Your Client’s Major Risk Factors to Their Fitness

why is client screening important

First are major risk factors, these are important factors that could affect the clients well being if you instruct exercise without taking into consideration the potential risks they could pose on the client. 

This being said, these are the questions, but not limited to, that you should be asking to rule out major risk factors.

#1 Do You Have Diabetes?

This is a very important diagnosis to be aware of as if the answer is yes, you must take action and adjust your sessions accordingly for safe exercise practice.

This is because training clients with diabetes needs to be done correctly. Any exercise that is too intense can raise blood sugar which makes it even harder for muscle cells to use insulin. 

So though exercise for those with diabetes is incredibly beneficial, you need to ensure that it is the correct kind of exercise like low impact or raises the heart rate to a particular degree that is safe for the client. 

Though, this is subjective to each diebetic client so you should seek their GP’s advice and get clearance before starting.

#2 Does Your Weight Control Daily Tasks or Exercise?

This is a question you need to ask to get a better understanding of whether your client might be suffering with a condition such as clinical obesity or anorexia.

These factors are major risk factors as exercise can ‘stress’ the body and care must be taken when helping the client to get to a healthy weight bracket. If they answer yes, you should seek GP clearance and for this area of concern refer them to a dietician if necessary.

#3 Do you Have a History of High Blood Pressure?

Before starting any training programme, it is important to know whether your client has a history of high blood pressure. If they do answer yes, it's also important to understand the risks and benefits of training clients with high blood pressure. 

The important thing to remember is that to combat high blood pressure, your client needs to be consistent with their exercise as it can rise again if they stop. You should communicate this and ensure that they get clearance from their GP prior to training with you.

why is client screening important

#4 Do you Have a Family History of Coronary Heart Disease under the Age of 50?

If the answer to this question is yes, you should relay the benefits of the inverse relationship between coronary heart disease and exercise.

However, the main takeaway from this question should be that if necessary, you advise your client to consult their GP to gain clearance before training with you.

Discover Their Personal Medical History & How This Could Affect their Performance

what questions to ask during a PT screening process

Here, you should ask about the clients medical history and establish whether there is anything that could be a risk factor to their exercise practice. These questions should be yes or no and if yes, an explanation.

Have you ever suffered from any of the following (Yes/No)

  • Heart attack, heart murmurs or cardiac surgery
  • Any vascular disease
  • Chest pain when exercising or sedentary
  • High blood pressure (over 140/90)
  • Ankle swelling
  • Asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Fainting spells

These are all serious health implications that can affect the response to exercise if not taken into consideration. These symptoms or conditions can be an indication of serious health implications and should be treated with care.

Gain an Insight to Their Lifestyle Habits 

why is client screening important

One section of your client screening form for personal training sessions should be about the client's lifestyle. 

The way that they treat their body is important to understand where their limitations may lie and how you can overcome any habits that are damaging their progress. 

Below are the questions you should ask your client to get a better insight into their lifestyle and daily habits.

One thing to keep in mind when asking these kinds of questions is that you should approach the topic with caution and care, as these are about their choices they make for themselves. 

For example, if a client drinks more alcohol than they should be, they may feel embarrassed to say so. However, you should make it known that they are doing a great job in making the first step to a healthier version of themselves and the more that you know, the better you can help them achieve their goals. 

Ensure you create a non-judgemental space and that they feel comfortable in trusting you.

#1 Do you smoke, or have you ever smoked? 

Smoking can affect daily life, it can put the client at advanced risk of serious health implications like heart attacks. Thus, if your session is intended to improve cardiovascular endurance, the heart is going to be put under pressure.

If you learn that your client is a smoker, you should adjust accordingly and take extra care in pushing your client too far. Understanding whether they’re a smoker or ex-smoker is vital to understand why they may tire out easily and how to help them progress while not putting their body under too much stress. 

#2 How often do you drink alcohol? (A range is fine)

Drinking alcohol is common, but knowing whether somone is a regular drinker or not is important in understanding if they might be at risk of other health implications. 

Drinking too much alcohol can put the body at risk of heart disease and weaken the immune system. Among many other risk factors of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, it can put the body under pressure increasing the development of these kinds of health conditions.

With this in mind, you should avoid putting the body under tremendous pressure depending on the level of their alcohol consumption to ensure their safety when training. 

how to screen clients before personal training

#3 How many hours of sleep a night would you say you get?

Among the most important client screening questions for personal trainers is how many hours of sleep a night your client gets. 

You should be aware of this to plan a session that will truly be effective and enjoyable for your client. If they have chronic sleep problems, you should keep up to date with their progress. Since exercise should improve their insomnia tendencies should they have them, it should begin to improve.

Nonetheless, you should gauge how they have been sleeping and maybe fit them in your schedule at their preferred time, avoid early mornings and work around the days when they may not feel so focused to avoid injury.

#4 How much water would you say that you drink daily? (How many glasses a day)

Hydration is key with or without training, but you should know if your client has a habit of forgetting to drink enough water or if they do not enjoy drinking water at all. 

Being dehydrated and working out is a recipe for disaster, they may faint or suffer with dehydration symptoms like cramps or headaches. You should know their hydration habits before working out so that you remember to check in and also, you know to be aware of any dehydration symptoms creeping up when observing them.

client screening questions PT

#5 What is your occupation?

This is a lifestyle question that will determine whether they have an active job role or a sedentary workplace that requires little to no movement. 

For example, the endurance level of somebody who has a laborious job role is likely to be higher than somebody who works in an office environment.

This is at no fault of either client but there may be more improvement needed for those who aren’t getting much movement in their daily life due to their job.


Develop Your Expertise With Our Level 4 Courses!

Advance your career in the fitness industry, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

Ensure That You Have The Client Information Up to Date

Best questions to ask during a pt client screening

This section completes the non-performance variables and is a place to store the clients information surrounding their build up. That includes information such as:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Body composition
  • Average body circumference

These are the areas that you should be keeping track of and updating necessary ones when conducting client progress reports. 

Ultimately, these are going to be the things that help you to review progress and relay back to them how far they have come.

- - - - 

For some more useful insight into becoming a top personal trainer, read our articles below:

Measure Your Client’s Performance Variables 

client screening questions for a personal trainer

After you have the all important information about their health, the next part of this process should be centred around finding out the level of which they currently stand when it comes to fitness levels and ability. 

Measure Your Client's Cardiovascular Endurance / Fitness Level

Since cardio exercise is a key part of many programmes you might design, you should find out where your client is at with their cardiovascular fitness. 

A good way to measure your clients aerobic level is to use fitness tests, like the bleep test or three minute step test. 

These tests, among others that you can pick from, are used to measure how the heart and lungs work together during cardiovascular exercise and to ultimately identify weaknesses. All the while, you’re able to observe and analyse where they’re at.

Asses Their Muscular Endurance & Strength 

Similarly, you should also be looking out for your clients' advancement level when it comes to muscle. How much can they currently lift and simply finding their starting point and 1 RPM’s (1 rep max) so you can evaluate progress over time.

client screening questions for a personal trainer to use

Measure Power, Speed & Agility

Power speed and agility all work hand in hand when it comes to fitness and particularly, explosive exercises.

This can give you an idea of how your client can handle explosive movements and again, testing can help to measure progress over time. You could use simple agility courses and time how long it took the client and repeat the test every progress review date to see how they’re improving.

Complete Your Screening with a Lifestyle and Personality Assessment

client screening questions

This is the more relaxed part of the client screening questions for personal trainers, it is a time when you can set goals and come to terms with a plan for the programme.

Here are some things you’re going to want to talk about.

Set SMART Goals for Your Clients

You may have heard of SMART goals and you should be utilising them. They effectively lay out a path for your clients and help them to set realistic goals. 

You can suggest goals depending on your assessment of the client and they can also decide what they think they’re capable of. Your job is to ensure that they meet them!

Ask Clients About Their Eating Habits

You can’t outrun a bad diet, so you must have a conversation about eating habits with your client. 

However, stay within your scope of practice, don’t distribute meal plans and ensure you use the correct suggestive language - you’re a personal trainer, not a dietician.

If you believe they would benefit from a dietician, you could suggest they see one alongside their sessions with you. If you need more clarity on what you can and can’t do when it comes to eating habits find our article on can a personal trainer give nutritional advice here.

client screening questionnaire

Chat To Clients About Their Stress Levels & Lifestyle Commitments

Another thing you need to talk about during your client screening process is home life. 

Does your client have commitments outside of work that cause them stress? Is their work life hard to work around? Whatever it is, you should ensure that you’re well aware so that you can offer a service that is going to work around them and make them happy.

If they have kids or work commitments ensure that they feel accommodated to, you don’t want to make their schedule more stressful than it already is!

What To Do After You’ve Screened A Client

client screening questions for a PT

Finally, now that you know how to screen clients prior to a personal training programme, what do you do afterwards?

You wouldn’t go through all this hard work for nothing, so gather all the information that you have and put it to use.

Use what you have found out during the client screening to inform your programmes, this is how your client will remain happy throughout their duration with you and ultimately, how they will see results.

These are the things you need to remember:

  • Retain information securely
  • Refer to it when necessary
  • Update it when necessary
  • Use it to portray progress

This is to keep you and your client safe, health issues can easily be aggravated by exercise so finding the correct balance for each and every client is absolutely essential.

Before You Go…

Hopefully you’re no longer thinking “why is client screening important?”

Now you’re well aware of why you need to concentrate on such an important task, we hope next time you plan your screening process it will be much easier. 

Continue helping clients by enrolling on specialist fitness courses, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. By developing your knowledge in this area, you can help clients improve their quality of life.

Find out more about the rest of what we offer in our downloadable course prospectus. 

Written by Kimberley Mitchell


Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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