by Pete McCall
The ability to conduct postural assessments for clients is a critical addition to a personal trainer’s toolbox and an excellent way to enhance your training services. Movement begins from a position of posture; therefore, poor posture could result in poor movement patterns leading to possible muscle or joint injury. Taking the time to conduct a postural assessment is the foundation for developing an effective exercise program tailored to each client.
The challenge with marketing the value of a postural assessment is that many individuals don’t understand how posture affects their ability to exercise. In addition, clients don’t want to pay money to have a trainer tell them what’s wrong with them. Exercising, especially with a new trainer, can be very intimidating so it’s important that trainers realize this and understand that the purpose of a postural assessment is to identify any possible muscle imbalances which could lead to potential injury - not to point out what might be “wrong”.
Communicating the features, advantages and benefits of postural assessments to clients can be a challenging task, especially for a trainer who has recently learned the technique of how to conduct an assessment. A client is paying for results, so they need to understand that taking the time to conduct a full postural assessment will allow them to experience the most favorable results from an exercise program.
- A postural assessment can help the trainer identify muscle imbalances at a joint and the working relationships of the muscles around a joint such as over-facilitated agonist and inhibited antagonists.
- A personal trainer will observe the client’s posture in all three planes relative to a vertical plumbline, allowing the trainer to identify any muscle imbalances at the major load-bearing joints: the feet, knees, hips or shoulders.
- A personalized assessment based on a client’s posture will allow the trainer to develop a personalized workout based on the client’s current musculoskeletal structure.
- Poor posture and poor structural alignment of the load-bearing joints could lead to overuse injuries of the muscular system. A trainer can use the postural assessment to identify specific muscles which will need to be lengthened or strengthened to help the client achieve their specific goals.
- A postural assessment takes the guesswork out of choosing which exercises to use for a particular client and allows a trainer to select the best exercises for each client’s individual needs.
- The client will receive a more effective, personalized workout for his or her specific needs.
- The client is working with a fitness professional who takes the time to identify a client’s specific muscular alignment helping to create the most effective exercise program that will minimize the risk of injury.
So, when do you conduct a postural assessment?
A postural assessment will have a much greater impact if the client understands that the trainer is conducting it in an objective, non-judgmental manner to determine the most effective exercise program tailored to their needs. This will only happen if the trainer has first taken the time to establish a relationship based on trust and communication with the client.
We recommend waiting until the fourth or fifth training session to do a postural assessment. Due to the personal nature of a postural assessment, conducting one sooner could risk the client perceiving the personal trainer as being critical instead of trying to gather objective information about the client’s current status.
Instead, focus the first few sessions on developing the relationship and establishing a positive rapport. During this time watch the client closely to identify any possible muscle imbalances or movement compensations and refrain from making any specific comments about a client’s posture or movement skill until a full postural assessment has been conducted.
How do you share the results with your client?
When conducting the assessment simply make notes of which muscles might be over-facilitated or tight and which might be inhibited or weak. When sharing results from a postural assessment, focus on the positive aspects and how the observations can be used to help the client move closer to their individual fitness goals. Avoid using negative language such as: “wrong,” “bad” or “poor.”
Keep scope of practice in mind as personal trainers never diagnose a condition or prescribe a solution, they merely make observations that are used in designing an effective and efficient exercise program. Make simple statements that link back to your client’s goals such as “it seems as though you might have tight hip flexors so it will be important to take the time to thoroughly stretch the muscles to reach your fitness goals in a timelier manner”.
Taking the time to do a postural assessment on a client is analogous to a mechanic driving a car before taking the time to make the necessary repairs. Just like the mechanic needs to drive the car to identify the specific issue a trainer needs to take the time to observe a client’s body structure relative to a plumbline to identify any potential muscle imbalances and create a proper stretching and strengthening exercise program.
Visit the American Council on Exercise’s ConEd Center, for additional information and to purchase the Conducting Postural Assessments course ($49.95 | 0.2 CEC).
Conducting Postural Assessments
The Conducting Postural Assessments course reviews the neuromuscular principles associated with bad posture, provides comprehensive instruction on conducting a postural assessment and introduces practical solutions for restoring good posture through a proper stretching and strengthening exercise program.
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