Evaluating Progress

One of the primary responsibilities as a personal or professional trainer is to discuss the goals that a client has and to assist him or her in developing a program and strategy that will allow those goals to be achieved. To determine where the client is in regard to the goals set requires an individual and periodic evaluation. Evaluating individual progress can be done by measuring performance, visual tracking such as taking scheduled photos, testing the client’s strength, and other methods. In short, the success of a training regimen is dependent upon satisfying the performance aims and goals associated with it. Dr. Tindall suggests evaluation and physical tests on a frequent basis. An ideal schedule would be quarterly.

What are the first steps?

There are two: 1) Testing; and 2) Measurement, i.e., develop a test for the client and then, measure the performance in each criteria of the test. Of necessity, the test for an athlete would be much different than the test for the average individual.

How is progress evaluated?

There are seven steps that are generally used to evaluate a client’s progress. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Select the condition, lift, parameter, or characteristic to be measured.
  2. Develop a suitable methodology to measure said parameter.
  3. Collect and record the performance data for each parameter tested for.
  4. Observe the general characteristics of the data and analyze it.
  5. Determine if current training will achieve training goals and make a decision about the best approach to proceed with.
  6. Implement the new decision and approach.
  7. Begin the cycle again.

Depending on the individual, a trainer may be required to alter a program at any time within the training cycle. For example, a client is being trained for bodybuilding and the trainer and client make a visual assessment about 10-12 weeks prior to competition.

During this assessment it is agreed upon that the deltoids are a little too small. Analysis of the current program shows that the deltoid and shoulder exercises prescribed in the training program may not be enough to enhance this body part. Thus, the trainer must rework or rewrite the program to enhance this body part and evaluate it carefully during the next 2-3 weeks. This is a constant process and mandatory to achievement of goals, whether an athlete or an individual.

What are the requirements for an evaluation or physical test?

The requirements of such tests are simple. All items tested should relate directly to the individual clients goals, expected performance, and conditioning level. In other words, the test should measure all factors required to be tested, and must be objective rather than subjective. Additionally, all tests should be sport specific. This means that the strength test for setting a one rep max or goal training weight for a body builder may be much different than tests for the field and track athlete. The test must be designed to assess an individual’s fitness, performance, or strength level for the activity in question. In addition, the test must be reliable, which means the individual should be able to consistently repeat it and it must be objective in that regardless of who administers the test, there should be a consistent result from the client.

Each test should adhere to four basic principles:

  1. Each part of the test should focus on and measure only ONE factor.
  2. The test should be physical only, not technical unless a particular technique is being assessed. But, technique is best assessed during training sessions.
  3. Ensure that the client or athlete understands what the test is for and what is required of them. They should know the basics of when, what, and why.
  4. The test should be formalized or standardized so that no matter who gives it or where it is given will not affect the performance of the client, i.e., the client could consistently and repeatedly perform the test.

The benefits of testing?
The benefits of testing are important. They will break up the monotony of training and add spice and variety to the client’s regimen, and satisfy the client’s competitive urge due to the requirement of maximum performance. Often, the trainer or coach can conduct the test for several to many clients at the same time, which will help develop a team spirit and camaraderie among participants. More importantly, the test results can be used to further goals such as:

  • Measure improvement.
  • Place the client in an appropriate training regimen.
  • Indicate individual weaknesses
  • Since past performance is an indicator of future performance, the test can be used to predict future performance.
  • Motivate the client.
  • Assess the training program.

Factors that can influence test results.

Many factors can influence test results and, since test can be a measure of specific benefits, such as the 6 areas listed above, it is important to understand factors that can influence individual performance while testing. The following factors may have an impact on the results of a test and therefore, its reliability:

  • Ambient temperature, humidity, and noise level (golf is a good example).
  • The clients emotional state.
  • If the client is taking medication and what kind?
  • Time of day.
  • Amount of sleep prior to testing.
  • Presence of others, i.e., will this cause nervousness or enhanced performance?
  • Overall personality, knowledge and skill of trainer or coach administering test.
  • Physical environment, i.e., indoors or out, track or grass, field or gym.
  • Client’s prior testing experience and/or knowledge of what to expect. Those new to such tests typically exhibit nervousness, apprehension, and sometimes a lack of confidence and lowered self esteem.
  • Method and accuracy of measurements taken such as load, time, height, and distance.
  • Caffeine intake prior to test.
  • Time since last meal.
  • Ability to put forth maximum effort, i.e., is the client trying hard as he or she can. A good reason on why testing multiple clients or athletes is best since it brings out the competitive nature and typically boosts performance.
  • Warm up, was it sufficient?

Record data accurately

To determine if your training program and regimen is working for the client or athlete, it is absolutely imperative that you record all measurements accurately and utilize results for future comparison. Typical data that should be recorded is name, date, and environmental conditions during testing. Also, clients health, body weight, resting heart rate, body fat, BMI, one rep max, strength, response to training such as speed to return of resting heart rate, and a host of other factors depending on client goals and skill requirements.

Additionally, the client should maintain a record of each program and performance as well so that he or she can compare future performance to past. The best way to do this is for the client and trainer or coach to have an individual training log. When planning future training cycles, information of this will be invaluable.

What should be included in the test?

Examples of areas that can be covered in a physical test include:

  1. Maximum strength such as one rep max or maximum repetitions.
  2. Muscular endurance pull ups, chin up, pushups, dips, etc.
  3. Time trials – speed, speed endurance, and endurance.
  4. Mobility & Flexibility – objective measurements of the range of movement and overall flexibility.
  5. Explosive strength – height jumps, vertical jump, ball throws, or any movement required in a specific event.
  6. Another example is a straddle jump, both form and height as used in NPC fitness competitions and gymnastics.
  7. Event specific performance

Following is a list of some of the things a trainer may wish to test for. Note that this includes more than just strength and can easily be used for athletes and those in many competitive events.

  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Time
  • General Fitness
  • General Strength
  • Elastic Strength
  • Core Strength, i.e., abdominal
  • Speed & Power
  • Absolute Strength
  • Sub maximal Test (client works below max effort)
  • Maximal Test (client works at max effort)
  • Performance Test (event specific)
  • Body Composition
  • Agility
  • Psychology or mental attitude
  • VO2 max

What about competition?

It is important to be able to tie in all of the above as preparation for a client or athletes possible competition. Also, directly following competition it is important that both client and trainer meet to evaluate performance. What were the weak areas? How can improvement be obtained? Were mental preparations adequate? There are a multitude of questions to be answered. Thus, it would be helpful if you developed an evaluation plan ahead of time. Then, link this evaluation to the training regimen. Remember, training should be long term and some results will not be achieved overnight. The goal is a continual, constant progress.

This is only a glimpse of the evaluation process. Get started on it now to help your clients and to add variety to training. As you may have guessed, the evaluation process can be one or more training days in and of themselves.

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