The practice of administering assessments to clients requires that the fitness professional use good judgment in selecting which tests (if any) are appropriate for that individual at that specific time. As such, there are no industry-wide agreed upon standards that dictate which assessments you should use with your clients, other than a proper pre-exercise health-risk appraisal [i.e., health history (cardiovascular disease risk factors, medication use, and musculoskeletal-injury history)].
Consider the following guidelines for health screening and baseline data collection:
• Conduct a health-risk appraisal to identify any areas of concern or need for referral. For this reason, it is important to administer preliminary health-history questionnaires and resting measurements [i.e., heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP)] prior to beginning any vigorous fitness testing or supervised exercise program.
• Collect baseline data to use in exercise program design.
• Educate the client on his or her risk factors and areas of concern, especially those related to normative data for age and gender. For example, cardiorespiratory fitness scores are significant predictors of cardiac risk, as are abnormal BP responses to exercise.
• Motivate the client by establishing realistic goals and expectations. Injury and burnout are common side effects associated with starting an exercise program too aggressively. Remind clients that even small changes will positively impact their health.
• Lastly, be aware that not all clients desire or need a comprehensive fitness evaluation prior to engaging in an exercise program. In fact, physical-fitness assessments can be demotivating to some individuals, making them feel intimidated, embarrassed, or fearful of the exertion required and the results. Proper test selection can minimize these aspects.
Apart from the aforementioned guidelines, you should feel comfortable choosing from a variety of fitness assessments to test your clients because each client is an individual and presents differently than the next. If cardiorespiratory training is a focus of programming for your client, then some sort of cardiorespiratory fitness test is appropriate to administer because it will guide your intensity recommendations. If resistance training is a focus, then muscular strength testing is appropriate.
Generally speaking, a basic postural screen is a good idea for all types of clients because all movement is based on posture. Observing a client’s static posture is an excellent way to start giving you ideas about areas you might want to follow-up with using movement-based screens. For example, if a client stands in a slight kyphotic posture, I would be interested in assessing his or her shoulder function with tests such as Apley’s back-scratch test, shoulder extension/flexion, shoulder internal/external rotation, and a push-up screen. If I observed the client standing in anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, I would want to assess his or her ability to control the pelvis during movements such as squatting, lunging, and hurdle-stepping. There really is no right or wrong approach to fitness testing as long as the client can tolerate the assessment and is not at risk for exacerbating an injury while performing a test.