Assessing Assessments

Any coach worth their salt knows that an assessment is a critical part of the training process.  Without an understanding of an athlete’s current condition, it’s very difficult to determine which training protocols are going to be most effective for him/her.  It’s also virtually impossible to measure progress, which is crucial for keeping morale high and, most importantly, knowing if your program is working.  As an athlete, there are various parts of an assessment that you should be paying attention to.  Information is power, and an assessment from a qualified trainer should yield some valuable insight into your strengths and weaknesses, which can help you take control of your training and performance

Did Your Coach Do an Assessment?

This should be a no-brainer, for the reasons outlined above. If your training process doesn’t start with some sort of assessment, that should be a huge red flag.  A strength training program that doesn’t have as its foundation a baseline measurement of your performance and physical condition on day one signifies at least one of three things: ignorance, incompetence or ineffectiveness.      

Asymmetries and Imbalances

Asymmetries and imbalances are one of the most important things we look for when assessing an athlete.  Why? Because they are the strongest indicators of potential future injury.  Unfortunately, your brain is very good at compensating for asymmetry.  If your left leg is stronger than your right, your brain will rely more on your left leg, which both compounds the asymmetry issues and ultimately leads to dysfunctional movement patterns and, finally, injury.  If you have serious symmetry issues, correcting them should be a high priority for you and your coach.  

Mobility Issues/Movement Patterns

The next thing you should be looking for in your assessment is identification of any mobility restrictions at any joint.  Inadequate mobility can also kick of the chain reaction of compensation, dysfunction, and injury.  For instance, if you don’t have great hip mobility, your body might compensate for that during a deadlift with movement in the lumbar spine or SI Joint.  Basically, if you’re telling your body to get into a position that it doesn’t have the mobility to get into the “right” way, it will try to get to it another way, regardless of differences in safety or efficiency.

The other side of this coin is hypermobility.  It is entirely possible, and actually quite common, especially in women, to have too much mobility in a joint.  Hypermobility generally indicates insufficient strength to properly stabilize the joint, which also puts the athlete at risk for injury.  Like Goldilocks, we want our mobility to be “not too hot, not too cold”.

Development Priorities

Once you’ve gone through the physical part of your assessment, it’s time to do a little “triage”. Based on the results, you should ask your coach what your training priorities are going to be.  

Are there any issues that may need a referral to a PT or other medical professional?

What needs to be corrected first?  

What can be fixed relatively quickly?  

What will need a more long-term approach?

Your priorities should also be based on your goals.  If you’re just walking into the gym for the first time in years and your priority is just to be able to ride your bike and play with your kids pain-free, your priorities will be much different than a professional athlete who is interested in improving his/her performance and lowering his/her risk of injury.

All in all, you should be looking for a coach who is at least doing some sort of assessment.  Then, if he/she doesn’t answer these questions, make sure you ask them.  Being aware of your problems and knowing the “why” behind your training will help build trust and confidence with your coach and set you up for long-term training success.  At SISU Strong, assessment starts on day 1 and continues every day that you’re in the gym.  It’s not always formal, but it’s always going on in the background.  As coaches, we’re constantly trying to proactively identify minor issues and get them taken care of before they become more serious. If you want to learn more, set up a free intro consultation with us!

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