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Fitness Assessments for Online Personal Training Clients

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Maybe you’ve been doing online training for a while or thinking about including an online option for clients. One of your big challenges as a personal trainer working with clients mostly or solely online is assessment. This includes initial fitness assessment forms, like health and activity questionnaires, but also ongoing fitness tests, health and body composition measurements, and assessment of specific exercises. 

Assessment is essential for setting fitness goals, tracking progress, making changes to programs, and training safely. It’s not as easy to do when working as an online personal trainer, but there are ways to assess clients virtually so that you can keep working. 

About Online Personal Training

If you have never trained a client online, this is a new world, and it may feel a little overwhelming. Some of the tools online trainers use to work with their clients include: 

  • Streaming videos of workouts and exercise demos
  • Mobile apps to track progress and workouts
  • Email and messenger apps to communicate
  • Document sharing online for training programs
  • Video conferencing for face-to-face sessions
  • Social media sites for sharing information
  • Personal trainer software for tracking clients and for organizing business information

A big difference in online training is that more responsibility goes to the client. They need to be motivated to get the work done. Admittedly, this can be a challenge. Communication with clients is different too. So, the first step is to determine whether online training is right for you. If it is, the next step is to figure out your assessment process.

Is online training the right fit for you? Learn more about what it takes to work in this specialized fitness career. 

Why is Assessment Important? 

Assessing clients online is a big challenge, but it is not insurmountable. Although it may seem more difficult, it’s important that you don’t let this part of training slide. Assessments are essential for many reasons: 

Initial Assessments Help You Set Goals and Plan Programs

You need to know where your client is before you can determine their personal fitness goals and then design the programs that will achieve them. A well-written questionnaire can help you ascertain their current fitness level. It will also tell you more about their health history and current status. 

For instance, do they have a medical condition such as heart disease or high blood pressure? Knowing this upfront is critical to developing a safe program. Learning more about their nutrition choices, strength level, and preferences is helpful too. An initial assessment helps you get to know your client. It sets the foundation for successful training. This increases the likelihood that they will remain a personal training client for years to come.

Ongoing Assessments Track Progress

You also need ongoing assessments of your clients’ health measurements, fitness level, and strength to ensure progress. If you don’t measure, you don’t know if they are succeeding or if you need to make changes to their fitness program. If your clients don’t get results, it will hurt your personal training business. With every fitness goal that goes unmet, you lose more and more credibility. The use of a personal training questionnaire provides the ability to modify your training sessions so they are more effective.

Assessments are Motivating 

Motivating online clients is especially challenging. Assessments help mark victories. They show clients that they are making progress. And if they’re not progressing as they’d like, assessments can identify areas of needed improvement. 

A questionnaire will tell you which area of their training program is creating issues. Maybe they’re struggling with the exercise portion, or the meal plan is presenting problems. A personal training form that asks about these areas tells you where to focus your efforts. It provides the information needed to help motivate clients to keep going. It also tells you where you and they need to double down on effort. 

Fitness Assessments for Online Clients May Be Even More Important

Assessment is important for all your clients, but the special circumstances of online training make it even more essential. When you meet with clients face-to-face you can learn so much more about them. You will find you are constantly assessing them, simply by talking to them and observing their workouts. With online clients, this isn’t possible. As a fitness professional, you must be able to conduct a movement assessment via video. You must be able to assess muscular endurance over an internet connection. This places an emphasis on online formal assessments. 

The Challenges of Assessing Online Clients

Some aspects of assessment are easily done online, especially those that involve your clients filling out forms. For instance, a PAR-Q, or physical activity readiness questionnaire, is essential before starting with a new client. It gives you important health information about a client so that you can plan safe workouts. This is easy to do with an online form. 

You can also have new clients make certain measurements and report them to you: height, weight, specific body circumference measurements. Body composition, an important measurement of body fat versus lean muscle, may not be possible. Most clients don’t have the tools for this. 

Also more difficult is assessing how a client moves and what their form is like. Do they have good posture? Do they make similar errors in form for most of the exercises? What is their cardiovascular fitness like? These things are all easier to assess in person, but you can still get most of the information you need online. It just requires some special strategies. 

Tips and Tools for How to Write an Online Personal Trainer Client Questionnaire

Not only is assessing online clients doable, it is crucial. For all the reasons that assessment is important for in-person clients, it is possibly even more essential for those you only see online. You can’t be physically there to watch your clients move from every angle, take measurements, or correct their form hands-on. 

When you work with a client in a gym, it’s much easier to see progress or setbacks. When you don’t have that in-person connection, you rely more on formal assessments. These measurements will help you get a more accurate picture of how a client is progressing or struggling. Here are some tips to help you do it right. 

Start with a Thorough Questionnaire

A PAR-Q is necessary for any new client. With online clients, include even more information. Be as thorough as you need to establish a good baseline. Identify each risk factor that person faces. This will ensure that you can provide safe workouts for your online clients.

Require completion of this questionnaire before providing a personal training service. Add the needed language to your personal training contract. This helps protect you legally. It shows that the client gave informed consent.

Do an Initial, Face-to-Face Video Consult

It may not be feasible to chat online regularly with all your clients, but at the least, you should make time for an initial consultation. Paperwork can only tell you so much. Require that new clients get online with you to chat. You can use FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another video conferencing platform. Rely on the completed assessment forms to direct the conversation. Ask questions and seek clarification for anything unclear. 

Set a Schedule for Assessing

Make expectations clear from the beginning with an established schedule for assessing your client’s progress toward physical fitness. This may vary by client, but for instance, it could include weekly measurements for weight and body composition and bi-weekly assessment of specific exercises, like squats or push-ups.

You can do this after a regular personal training session or set a completely different time. Consider the schedule of your online client. Being flexible can enhance the coaching relationship.

Setup Video Uploads

Live video chats like your initial face-to-face consultation are a great time to conduct assessments of the kinetic chain and more. But that doesn’t have to be the only time you check on your client’s movements. Include video uploads in your assessment schedule. Write up a description or create a demo video detailing the moves your client should make for physical assessments. Instruct your client to record themselves doing these moves. They can submit their videos by uploading to a client-specific Google Drive folder, via a personal training app, or through whatever platform works for you. 

Use Tape Measurements

An easy way to track progress quantitatively when you can’t be in the same room with a client is to have them tape measure parts of the body. Instruct new clients on how to do this accurately during your initial consultation. Then, agree on how often they’ll take new measurements to report back to you. Useful measurements are waist, hips, thighs, biceps, shoulder, and neck.

Give their body enough time to react to the demands of your exercise program. If you don’t, it may de-motivate the client. You may even want to provide a tape measure in your personal training package.

Use a Body Fat Calculator

Body composition is one of the most useful assessment strategies for health and weight. But the best way to measure body composition will always require tools your clients don’t have at home. As an alternative, try a calculator for body fat, which is easy to find online. This technique isn’t as accurate, but it will still give you a good sense of how a client is progressing. You’ll need to get a few measurements from the client: weight, waist circumference, wrist circumference, forearm circumference. 

Invest in Technology for Assessment

If you think you’ll be doing online training for the long haul, it may be worthwhile to invest in tools for easier, more accurate, and more varied assessments. Fitness assessment software designed just for trainers can be useful for gathering and organizing information on clients. 

What makes these kinds of tools so useful is that they capture and breakdown movements so you can do the assessments you would typically do in person, in the gym. Some programs focus on assessing to reduce injuries and pain, while others analyze functional movements in 3D. With tools like these, you can have clients record their movements and assess them as if you were right there. 

A few programs offer a complete set of tools for personal trainers, extending beyond assessments. These include business tools, websites, apps, workout libraries, e-commerce functionality, custom branding, and payment processing. How do you know which one to use? 

Choose the Right Assessments

Whichever tools or measurements you use to assess clients, make sure they are appropriate for the individual. The assessments should match the client’s abilities and goals. For instance, those trying to lose weight will need to be assessed through weight and tape measurements. For those more interested in building strength, assess individual exercises. You don’t necessarily need to do a full range of assessments for every client. 

Online training presents a unique challenge. If you’re up for it, consider how you’ll effectively assess clients. This is an essential part of personal training, and even in an online setting it’s possible to do it well. 

Ready to start training clients in-person or online? The ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program is the right course to get you started.


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