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Physiological Assessments: Muscular Fitness Assessments

Physiological Assessments: Muscular Fitness Assessments | Jessie Newell | Exam Preparation Blog | 5/2/2014


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Assessment performed at the start of a client’s program are a great way to track progress and increase motivation. These assessments are divided into four categories: anthropometric measurements (body size or body composition), cardiovascular assessments, muscular fitness assessments and sport-skills assessments. I refer primarily to the assessments outlined in Chapter 8 of the ACE Personal Training Manual, although the same guidelines apply to the physiological assessments described in the ACE Health Coach Manual.

For each assessment, your goal is to identify the objective of the assessment (why do we perform this assessment or what information can we gather?), who it is appropriate for (special populations or contraindications), and any advantages or disadvantages of these assessments. This blog focuses on the two types of cardiovascular assessments: VO2 assessments (treadmill assessments, cycle ergometer assessments, field tests, etc.) and ventilatory threshold assessments. VO2 assessments measure predicted or actual VO2max to give us an idea of a client’s cardiovascular health and fitness. Ventilatory threshold assessments determine an individual’s heart rate at his or her first and second ventilatory threshold; this information is used create an individualized training program. Each assessment has its advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to identify the most appropriate assessment for your client.

Muscular Fitness Assessments

This portion of the series will discuss muscular fitness assessments, which determines an individual’s  muscular strength and endurance. Both are important for activities of daily living (ADL), positively impact resting metabolic rate (RMR), protect against osteoporosis, and enhance glucose tolerance (p. 212, ACE Personal Trainer Manual). There are two types of muscular fitness assessments: muscular-endurance tests, which assess the ability to resist fatigue; and muscular-strength tests, which assess how much force an individual can produce in any one effort (hence the term repetition max or RM). Again, these assessments can be very useful for tracking progress and motivating your clients, so routinely performing them can be an essential part of a client’s program.

Before we discuss these assessments in more detail, let’s first talk about the time and place to use them. Because of the physical demand of these assessments, be sure that your client has the physical capacity to participate in these assessments. If a client is brand new to exercise, the focus of his or her initial program should be on stability and mobility [Phase 1 of the ACE Integrated Fitness TrainingTM (ACE IFTTM) Model]; therefore, the exercises performed in these assessments might be too demanding and could potentially injure the client. Also, if you know your client is deconditioned, he or she probably won’t perform very well, so there is no need to do these assessments and potentially risk discouraging further participation. Once your client has progressed into Movement and Load Training (Phases 2 and 3 of the ACE IFT Model) performing these assessments would be appropriate. One exception is the McGill’s Torso Muscular Endurance Test Battery, which is appropriate to perform with most individuals even if they are new to exercise. Use these assessments at your discretion depending on your clients’ fitness level and needs of their goals.

When performing 1 RM assessments, it can be a challenge to correctly guess the perfect weight for each client. Fortunately, you can predict what your client’s 1 RM would be after having them perform an initial trial. You can use the 1 RM- Repetition Table (pictured) to determine what percent of the client’s 1 RM he or she lifted during that trial (see How to Use Math as a Fitness Professional, for a sample calculation).

Key Topics to Remember:

-For each assessment, make sure you know the objective, who it’s appropriate for (any contraindications) and any advantages/disadvantages.
-Know how to calculate a predicted 1 RM using the 1 RM – Repetition percent Values
-Familiarize yourself with the McGill’s Torso Muscular Endurance Test Battery and the values that suggest balanced muscular endurance

I hope that this discussion was helpful in understanding how to use muscular fitness assessments. As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic or any other topic, please contact our Resource Center at or by calling 800-825-3636, Ext. 195, where our Study Coaches attend the line 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. PST, Monday-Friday. Please allow 24 hours for response time.

For information on other types of physiological assessments, read our Anthropometric Measurements and Cardiovascular Assessments blogs.