Monday, December 19, 2011

5 Reasons Why You Muff the Your Client's Assessment

Here's a topic that I had a discussion with lately with a fellow trainer regarding assessing their clients using the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) by Gray Cook; using any other screening process (i.e. NASM Overhead Squat Profile, TPI Functional assessments, etc). The FMS calls for clients to perform exercises or drills in a controlled manner while the fitness professional observes closely for any deviations in movement, dynamic posture, weakness, or loss of coordination. The typical exercises used for screening are the Active Leg Raise, Seated Rotation drill, Hurdle Step, and the Deep Squat.There are many other exercises that can be used to assess a client's movement patterns, but these are the most popular and most used.

There is no doubt that performing an assessment on a new client and selecting the proper order of exercises is important.  We do our best when conducting screenings, but somehow, we tend to fall short when designing the optimal training program. How many times have you asked yourself: "How can that be? I checked his internal rotation, why is his toe still turning outwards?"

Here are 5 Reasons Why You Muff the Your Client's Assessment

1.) You don't use an order of observation. Many trainers tend to observe their clients during a FMS screen as a whole part. Rather than focusing on a joint by joint observation method. There should be an order to any screening process that consists of a first and last joint or area of observation. For instance, when using a Deep Squat or Overhead Squat screening, you should start with the ankle joint and move your way up the body. Record your findings at each joint. I typically will tell a client to stop for a moment (if using the squat), so that I can write some notes down before I have them resume again and move up to the knee joint.Take your time jotting down your findings. Feel free to have your client repeat the drill several times until you feel comfortable that you spotted everything worthy. 

2.) We tell the client too much! This is a classic mistake. As trainers, we sometimes want things to be just right, and that we go overboard with the instruction or demonstration. And what happens when you have a really receptive client? They listen and mirror your performance. That's flattering, but suddenly you don't find much wrong in their movement. Hmmm....shoulders seem retracted and scapula seems stabilized. Sure, most clients if they cannot perform the movement efficiently, you will find problems. Most trainers make the mistake of cueing the client too much during the initial introduction of a screening and automatically null the findings. For instance, saying things like "Okay, make sure you keep your elbows straight while you hold your arms up." Or, "Keep your chest erect and high".  Anyone guilty of this? Key point: make minimal cues and basic visual demonstrations. Instruct what you want completed verbally and never tell your client what you are looking for (before they act). Keep your findings as true as possible.

3.) Not video taping or taking photos. Let's face it, alot is going on during an Overhead Squat test. It is difficult to keep your eyes on everything. Sure if you follow a joint by joint observation method, you can still miss how a faulty joint effects a contra-lateral joint superior to it. Everything is connected. And because of that, more than one thing happens when you think just one thing is happening. Did you get that? Here is where a video shot of an assessment becomes very valuable. There have been many times where I have gone back to see a video screening and played it back in slow motion to get a better idea of what I was observing. It also helps to video clients performing the same screen weeks after your program, so that you can educate them on your findings and how the exercise program has helped them. It is a valuable tool that increases your marketability and edges you from the competition. Make sure you always have a client aware of video-taping them by using a written and signed Release for Promotional Purposes form.

4.) Client leaving their shoes on. I know this one slips our minds alot and sometimes it could be uncomfortable for a new client to take their shoes off in front of a stranger. But, if presented with professionalism and a good explanation for the reason, any client should be open to this. Removing shoes is an invaluable key to a good assessment--especially a squat, hurdle, or lunge. Most sneakers have 1-3 inch rubber heels and "hide" the activity of the foot. You want to be able to observe what happens with the foot/ankle--especially when you remove the 1-3 inch "crutch" during a squat. You will notice things like ankle restriction or flat feet. This will help to 'fill in  the blanks' on most of your findings.

5.) Trying to 'correct' every problem. Yes...this is true. Sometimes, we corrective type, get over-zealous with everything we have learned and we want to find every tiny dysfunction and balance out every little antagonist. We tend to think that the entire kinetic chain is one bi-lateral unit that shouldn't have compensations. Reality: our bodies will have compensations because it needs them. If you are a right-handed person, chances are you have compensations. Unless, you are the tiny few that can write with both your left and right hands--you will have compensations. It is natural. Our jobs is to find compensations in areas that cause injury, movement impairments, and areas that may effect performance. Those kinds of compensations stick out to the trained eye. But stop over-analyzing every single thing and seeing things that are not really there. Go for the big stuff. Chances are, when you help correct the big stuff--the little stuff will follow.


  1. Awesome Post John. I just started using the FMS and you made a lot of great points that I'm going to start applying. Thanks!

  2. Thanks John, for providing such qualitative insights on the FMS concept of health needs assessment. Indeed a great post.

    Keep sharing, I always look forward to reading your posts.

    - Rick Kaselj


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