Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-Sarah’s Soapbox: Fitness Assessments-


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Currently, there seems to be this battle going on in the fitness industry (big surprise there, lol). Some people seem to be overly-emphasizing corrective exercise and assessment, while others at the opposite end of the spectrum are saying it’s hogwash.

In true fitness industry fashion, too many people blindly adhere to a guru’s school of thought, while a few “renegades” diss it (some without having done much research, others probably just to draw attention). Furthermore, social media has enabled everyone to become an expert.

Those of us who do not profess to be renegades for the attention, nor sheep who cannot think for themselves seem to fall into the middle of the fitness professional spectrum. Here we somewhat-quietly conduct our own research via working with our clients and applying the methods of those we respect.

The result is a synergy of approaches, in essence, our own unique training methodologies…each a unique shade of grey.

I feel that the thought processes of those at either end of the fitness professional spectrum are flat-out ignorant. Nothing in life is black nor white, and to utilize such an approach is limiting to one’s personal and professional growth, as well as the lives they touch.

The FMS (Functional Movement Screen) has become one of the major whipping boys of this debate. Some want research proving that it is effective. There is no research proving that it is not effective, nor any stating that it is not safe. To be honest, I do not feel that there could be a realistic study focused on the FMS in the first place. This is one of those instances where I feel that “in the trenches research” may be more convincing.

The FMS is a tool. It doesn’t cure cancer, create the best athletes, or allow anyone to become a personal training genius.

The FMS does, however, allow the fitness professional to provide a simple, standardized method of screening movement. This is more than 80% of personal trainers/group fitness systems do out there in the real world!

It has most definitely impacted my programming in a positive manner. Do I need scientific proof to back this up, or is the fact that I am able to more effectively prescribe exercises for my clients sufficient?

Here’s my $0.02 on fitness assessments:

They are an essential part of establishing a baseline for a client’s fitness program.

If you’re skipping this important part of the process, you’re crazy.

You wouldn’t seek the help of an MD when you have the chills and are throwing up all over the place, and then take their advice if they didn’t perform some sort of test, would you?

Obviously we are always assessing clients when they are training with us. That should be a given.

The initial assessment DOES NOT diagnose anything (we are not MDs), nor does it allow us to accurately pinpoint specific issues, but it DOES allow us to devise a strategy to safely troubleshoot a client’s postural/movement/strength/whatever discrepancies.

The initial assessment gives us the ability to narrow down the possible reasons for any issues and subsequently formulate a plan of action to minimize them.

It gives the client an ongoing measure of their progress and gives the fitness professional a list of checkpoints for each client.

The information gathered in the initial assessment serves as a reference for those who wish to progress their clients safely and effectively towards their goals.

My career as a fitness professional began in 1995. I started my clients’ programs with an initial assessment back then, and I do not see any reason why this should change. My protocol has morphed over the years (I no longer have clients perform the 1-min crunches and sit & reach, for obvious reasons), but the idea of starting a client’s program without an assessment? Ludicrous!

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