T Nation

Is the Whole Assessment Craze a Con?


#1

Hi Guys,
I've been a trainer since 1985 and I like to think that I try to keep up with current trends. Over the years some have been good and others not so good.

One of the current trends is assessing your clients; after this you plan in mobility drills, foam rolling, static stretching, and recovery work. I do this -sort of... I watch people perform the exercises that are needed for their goals and I coach them -am I old fashioned or what? Some of these folk will get some foam rolling, etc, others won't.

99% of those I train want to lose weight, they couldn't care less about how they score on some movement screen, they're only interested in losing the blubber!

At present I take a Blood Pressure reading and will assess each movement that they do in their programme (obviously I watch their movement between exercises as well). Much of the time this will lead to them being given Leg Swings and Shoulder rotations with a stick, and maybe some foam rolling. I am also lucky enough to be able to give my clients moves on the Powerplate which I really like for mobility and recovery.

My question to you is - how essential are assessments, and am I being unprofessional by not performing a full screen with each client?

Let me have it!

Cheers,
Chris


#2

It all depends on the client and their goals. Performing numbers of assessments on an athlete who wishes to reach their full potential is necessary to find any and all weaknesses relative to their sport, while those who just want to lose weight are much easier assessed by watching them do the exercises. If anything sticks out that you feel needs to be addressed then move on to a more thorough assessment. Keep doing what you're doing and strive to do it better.


#3

I agree with Remu that having them perform the exercises is an assessment in itself. Like you said, most people could care less how bad their posture is or if they can do a perfect lunge. Just do enough to know which exercises are more appropriate for them. If you spend too much time doing corrective exercises then that might take away from more calorie costly exercises and they might not get the results that they came to you for even though their posture and muscle imbalances have improved drastically.


#4

I just had a thought to tack onto Traps' response.

The average client looking to improve his/her body doesn't know where the problems are beyond the mirror. If you sell it to them that they need to be doing these corrective exercises, they'll want to jump to the conclusion you're a lousy trainer because those corrective measures take a while and results are subtle, even to an experience eye.

Imagine the client's inexperienced eye, they probably won't notice a thing. You took a lot of their time to do something they can't even tell you did, while they could have just been doing those exercises to build muscle, lose fat, and make them think you're a miracle-worker since they can buckle their pants again.

I'm all for honesty and being the best trainer you can be, but it is a business. Each client needs to be dealt with individually, and I imagine that in most cases, it's only the athletes who already know a thing or two who would be interested in correcting small defects. Convincing the others will only prolong their desired results and decrease your reputation in their eyes (even though what you're doing may be great). And of course, word gets out quickly.

Just some things to consider.

You've been at it since before I was born, though, so I'm sure you have the business tricks down. I think it comes down to giving the client what they want while keeping them reasonably safe.


#5

I started in the gym business in 1979, as a gym instructor, employed by the gym. I worked at a few gyms, but never agreed with the owners policys. I'm now 47 and I have my own gym at home called Performance Training Centre (PTC).

I dont know anything about the PT situation in USA, but here in Australia, the feedback I get from clients is that most cant help them. I have 6-7 PT's train at my gym increasing their knowledge, I even have a rival gym owner training there. He much prefers the atmosphere at my gym, his PT's also lift at my gym.

Now, I have to admit my gym is set up as the kind of gym I want to train at. I have around 100 clients and a waiting list, its 18 months old, so far its working out.

Now,the original question. I always watch someone perform an exercise to assess the individual. I dont have fancy machines, not even cardio equipment, unless you consider my kegs, stones and KB's as cardio equipment.

I always address the posterior chain first, an injured client makes you no money. I am proud to say that I have 31 lifters deadlifting 450lbs at PTC, raw, no belts.

To keep a client coming back, they need to see improvent. Whether its strength, speed or fat loss, they want to see value. I even do a newsletter for them each week.


#6


Here is a pic of Mick, pulling 200kg last night. Hope this pic gives you an idea of what kind of gym it is.


#7

Thanks for the responses guys.

The reason I'm asking the question is that I see more and more high profile trainers like Cosgrove, Boyle, Robertson, and the King of assessment, Paul Chek bang on about the importance of this or that type of assessment. I sometimes think that it's done to sell more products, and some of these don't come cheap!

As many of you have said I too believe in balanced programmes, and if I see an imbalance I will work the hell out of it but as part of their fat loss/muscle building programme.

Does anyone think that a Chek like questionaire book, and Grey Cook's movement screen are absolutely needed for everyone?

BTW -Nice Gym PTC, sounds like you've got some strong folk down there, and I thought the only strong Aussie's were ex-Bulgarian weightlifters;)

Cheers,
Chris


#8

Thanks, strength is my key focus for all my clients. Most have had your run of the mill trainer, churned out of some school with zero experience. Here in Australia you can get a certificate after a 12 week course, no previous experience needed. You need 4 years training to be a hairdresser for goodness sake.

Anyway, I've never been in a position to use a lot of this new age equipment. Asking somebody to perform a deadlift, squat and overhead press will let you know what you need to know. When they can do this correctly, we start to progress.

I have a 330lb female client who still cant do this after 12 months though lol. Then I have a 175lb lifter who deadlifts 405lbs on his 3rd weight session.

Botev is Australian isnt he lol


#9

At least you had Dead Lukin! Britain's best were Precious MacKenzie (South Africa), and Louis Martin (Jamaica)!

I run a gym rather than own it and I have lots of the flash equipment but very rarely have my clients use it. I totally agree with you; but then again we're both lifters so I guess we'd agree on most things:)

Anyone got another point of view?

Cheers,
Chris


#10

Speaking of Boyle. Towards the end of the interview he did on the fitcast, he answers a question regarding assessments.

http://thefitcast.com/episode-127-spike-and-protein-dont-mix-w-mike-boyle

As Stuart McGill would say, "it depends, it depends, it depends..."

Some of the things I think it depends on are: the compliance of the client, how much time you have with them, how serious the problem is.

Cook's movement screen is one of the most thorough one I've seen and it is a great resource to use, but it seems to be more geared towards athletes. So depending on the population you work with, it may or may not be necessary. It's not the end-all be-all of screening. It's just another useful tool in our toolbox.

Chek is more on the holistic side so what he looks for may not be exactly the same as what Cook looks for. To do them both would probably give you more useful info about an individual but would consume a lot of time. The great part about being in the trenches is that you can experiment to see what works for your specific situation and what doesn't. Just make sure that you understand why you're doing what you're doing and that you're not just doing it because other trainers are doing it.


#11

Thanks Traps,
I couldn't agree more. Do you ever listen to the Strength Coach podcast? Grey Cook has a section in it every week, which is always to do with his movement screen; the intimation is that this should be used for everyone -"if you're not assessing you're guessing!" Along with listening to the fitcast where they all seem to assess and most don't work with athletes, I have momements where I feel as though I'm short changing my clients. As I said I do assess but I think of it as more coaching that assessing.

The real world (well, UK anyway) doesn't seem to match this assessment utopia which I'm hearing all about. At my gym the only people doing dynamic warm ups and foam rolling are our members; guests (we're connected to a hotel) haven't a clue what is going on. I shouldn't be surprised as we're years behind the US.

Just interested to hear opinions on this.

Cheers,
Chris


#12

Like a lot of you all I assess my athletes in a sneaky fashion. I do some really basic stuff in the first session measuring lever length, general mobility etc. After that almost all of the "assessment" done while observing technique and form of lifts.

Real imbalances often show their true colors when the weights get heavier. Not dangerous heavy but just once the athlete has to think about something other than making sure they are doing everything correct and looking sexy. Once their mind shifts to the weight then i can really see where physical traits are causing movement patterns etc.

but the reality is that I can get gabillions of corective mobility done in between sets. In fact, and steal the shit out of this idea if you want, I find that if I load in the mobility drills and other light corrective work in right after really hard "anaerobic" conditioning work as a sort of "active rest" people really love it. It means they get 3 minutes of not doing the horrifying conditioning Bullshit they just had to do [BB complex, litvinov lift/sprint (had one gym even move a power rack up to the track section for me on this one), sled etc]. Little do they know that a non-asshole might have just let them rest for the 3 minutes, on the floor even.

But i say what they dont know about they dont miss. Plus many client/athletes really like hearing about how the mobility drills are helping to create better fat loss because of better posture and therefore more weight moved in big lifts and better sprint mechanics etc etc.

But apart from any injury status I dont think there is any need to be poking and prodding athletes in leiu of actually training them.

BETTER YET,

send them to someone else who does that type of stuff all day long. I personally have a chiropractor that I would trust the lives of my unborn children to to tell me all about the postural deficiencies of most of my clients, except the ones the "dont believe in chiro's" to which im like "So santa claus, the easter bunny and a chiropractor walk into a bar..."

But mostly i find that cooling down with all the corrective work and isolation work [I love tibialis ant drills while doing grip work at the end].

Also this becomes more of an issue with massively obese or unfit-to-do-more-than-sit clients. You have to spend ages just getting them ready to learn to lift. Had one fella moving plates from one side of the gym to the other by hand. all the 45's from one rack to another and back along with some squat work to get his mechanics right. Now that he's on to bigger and better things he's telling me how he wants to go back and do the pate carrying drills to see how fast he can do it now and how easy it will be. Im like WTF? but he is dying to rearrange te whole training area like its an olympic sport. its like his passion. go figure.

-chris


#13

I live in a T Shaped court with zero traffic, I get all the 20kg, 25kg plates and place them 20m apart and have clients race to fill one guys end before he can empty it. Bending, carrying and running is very beneficial for mobility.


#14

Agree pretty much everything. All my clients are athletes ages 10-18, so my training focus is a little different, but I do a lot of the same thing. I assess when they are doing various exercises and look at that. I never "test" an athlete, but the way I see it, every day of training is a test; you should be constantly analyzing form and technique and trying to see what that tells you.

At the end of the day though, I find that 90% of my kids have the same problems:

*** Lower back will cave in during pushups or bridge holds due to weakness and pelvic tilt
*** Poor posture due to tight and short internal rotators
*** No posterior chain strength and little clue how to use the hips in any movement
*** Weak glutes, knees cave in during squats and jumping and landing, especially girls

So assessment is good, but a lot of times you wind up with almost the same assessment, especially for high school kids.


#15

Hi Chris (Cool Name)
I totally agree with you about fillers between sets of a major exercise -a great way to get extra work done.

As regards moving the weights -I sometimes think that the most cardiovascular part of my training is putting my weights away; it's getting to a stage where I have to psyche myself up for this more than my lifts;)

I think the cut off so to speak, with assessments, is if the gym session is the toughtest activity the client is likely to do then assessing during a session while they're training is premitted, but if you're training athletes, those where the gym isn't neccassarily the physical high point of the week then extra assessment probably needs to be done. True, or am I talking out of my behind -again:)

Chris


#16

Hi,
The same could almost be said for the general public due to the huge amount of time spent sitting -
*Rounded upper back (Cervical Kyphosis)
*Weak everything but especially glutes and hamstrings
*Tight hip flexors

It's a sign of the times I'm afraid:(

Chris


#17

Hey chris [a very dignified handle by the way],

I think you have it about on. Even with sports competitors I use the training as the assessment tool MOST of the time. Using lifts like the snatch, clean, jerk, front squat, press etc. etc. I can always see mostly what the deal is as far as mobility and imbalance goes. I even end up reprogramming assistance work on the fly as the core lifts give me the heads up.

The only real exception is when athletes have injuries. That is the best case where assessment comes up as a stand alone fun-time activity. Even then I get my "anabolic response" [kelly starret] training items done before i start working on my rehab focus items. even then the rehab focus items are hard shit. I hate doing them for my shoulder/ankle injuries. Do you know how much holding DB's isometrically to flood the shoulder with fluid/blood hurts? It hurts more than when we all sucked at training and we would smash our biceps beyond belief for 1.5 hours 2x/week and then couldn't even move our arms the next day. I think isometric flooding is worse than rest pausing or drop sets because at least you get to move there and the tension can let up or change.

So I try and keep it all looking like it isnt assesment but it is. The real question is if someone came to you with all their little research and asked you specifically for such-and-such's assessment mobility screening process would you take them on and do it? I'm not sure how i answer that. I would check the disposition of the person first obv. but i still think id send them elsewhere and let them know that I use a different but equally effective [IMHO] method and that they are welcome to it but it wont ride like the specific one they're asking for.

good thing wierdos like that are few and far.

-chris


#18

Hey chris [a very dignified handle by the way],

I think you have it about on. Even with sports competitors I use the training as the assessment tool MOST of the time. Using lifts like the snatch, clean, jerk, front squat, press etc. etc. I can always see mostly what the deal is as far as mobility and imbalance goes. I even end up reprogramming assistance work on the fly as the core lifts give me the heads up.

The only real exception is when athletes have injuries. That is the best case where assessment comes up as a stand alone fun-time activity. Even then I get my "anabolic response" [kelly starret] training items done before i start working on my rehab focus items. even then the rehab focus items are hard shit. I hate doing them for my shoulder/ankle injuries. Do you know how much holding DB's isometrically to flood the shoulder with fluid/blood hurts? It hurts more than when we all sucked at training and we would smash our biceps beyond belief for 1.5 hours 2x/week and then couldn't even move our arms the next day. I think isometric flooding is worse than rest pausing or drop sets because at least you get to move there and the tension can let up or change.

So I try and keep it all looking like it isnt assesment but it is. The real question is if someone came to you with all their little research and asked you specifically for such-and-such's assessment mobility screening process would you take them on and do it? I'm not sure how i answer that. I would check the disposition of the person first obv. but i still think id send them elsewhere and let them know that I use a different but equally effective [IMHO] method and that they are welcome to it but it wont ride like the specific one they're asking for.

good thing wierdos like that are few and far.

-chris[/quote]

Interesting question. I actually think that I'd refer out; I'd also probably tell them what I think of that test. Not being too much of a dick is something I'm really trying to work on.

I'll have to try your isometric flushing, it looks interesting. I regularly do high rep Db work and find it useful for my shoulders -which are pretty screwed! I'm getting to the point where I'll try anything -anyway that's another post.

Thanks for your feedback,
Chris


#19

yeah dude I've found plenty of good coming from isometric holding work. It really gets some good blood flow into an area. Also great if the area is injured and suffers from lack of ROM due to acute injury or just bad mobility.

I even do it for my scaps and rotator cuffs etc. in my warm up to get blood into the most injury prone areas before the big lifts come up. doesnt get them as tired as full ROM prep work. I dont use it in lieu of of anything but for what its worth it does well.

-chris


#20

I use assessments, but I am a S&C coach.

I use a graded one that can give you a score between 1-5 for each test.

By having it graded, you can check for progress.

The only reason I use it though is to pump out numbers and graphs for the people that want to see them.

I can tell if someone needs to work on what every quality via warm up drills and actual lifting.
I don't feel I need the numbers