What is 'in session' fitness testing?
An ‘unconventional’ (and in our opinion not used nearly enough) method of fitness testing personal training clients is 'in session testing'.
As the name implies in session testing is simply testing your client during a personal training session as opposed to scheduling in a specific day and time to conduct formal test protocols. For example rather than scheduling in a testing day where you might do a series of set protocol based tests such as the Harvard step test, push-up test and crunch test, you would simply measure your client doing the exercises that they have programmed, such as the bench press, squats, treadmill and prone hold.
Why do 'in session testing'?
There are several benefits of doing in session testing.
As clients are already turning up for their regular personal training session, it is a very time efficient method of measuring progress. This is because there is no need to schedule in a separate day and time to carry out testing; instead it is simply done as they perform the exercises in their exercise programme.
Another benefit of doing in session testing is the fact that clients don’t even have to know they are being tested. The beauty here is for all intents and purposes the client thinks they are just doing their regular personal training session, which they are! However at the same time you can make note of the progressions your client has made and report the results back to them later.
The exercises in your clients programme would have been prescribed for one of the following two reasons; either they are an exercise preference that the client enjoys doing or they have been selected because they are very specific to the goals your client wants to achieve. Either way the client can relate strongly to these exercises. Therefore tests which show the client how much they have progressed and improved in exercises that have a direct link to them (as in they enjoy them or understand the benefits of them), will have a very positive and motivational effect.
How do you do in session testing?
In session testing occurs during the normal personal training session with your client and is focused on the exercises they have been prescribed.
To carry out in session testing you have to maintain certain aspects while altering others. For example if I was testing a client after four weeks of weight training and they were initially bench pressing 40kg for 10 reps at the start of the four weeks, I could measure either the progress in the reps or the load.
I would choose which aspect to test based on the clients goal. If their goal was to get stronger I would measure load by seeing how much more they could now lift for 10 reps. If their goal was to improve their muscular endurance I would measure the reps by seeing how many more reps they could achieve with the original 40kg load.
You can also do in session testing for cardiovascular work. For example if I was testing a client after four weeks of training and they were initially jogging 5km at 10kph at the start of the four weeks, I could measure either distance or speed.
I would choose which aspect to measure based on the clients goal. If their goal was to be able to run 10km I would measure the distance to see how far they could now run at 10kph. If their goal was to run 5km in a quicker time I would measure the speed and see what speed they now averaged over a 5km distance.
How do you report the results?
When reporting the results for in session tests, you can present them as tables, graphs and or percentages. This gives the client something to take home and show off to their friends and family or simply to file away and keep as a record of their progress.
Following are a couple of worked examples of in session testing and how to create percentages that you can give to clients to show them how much they’ve progressed. Results presented as a percentage improvement are much more motivational to a client than simply presenting the numbers. For example instead of saying to a client you were lifting 10kg, now you are lifting 12kg, you would tell them they are now lifting 20% more!
Worked example 1:
Jamie wants to increase is strength, particularly his upper body strength and lat pulldown is one of his favourite exercises. Four weeks ago he managed 6 reps of the lat pulldown at 18kg. In today’s session Jamie managed 6 reps of the lat pulldown at 22kg. To calculate his percentage improvement you divide the difference by the original figure and multiply it by 100, for example:
22 - 18 = a difference of 4
4 / 18 = 0.22
0.22 x 100 = 22%
So you can tell Jamie that he is now lifting 22% more load than he was four weeks ago, how fantastic that is and how you can’t wait to see what he can lift in another four weeks time!
Worked example 2:
Jamie also wants to increase his running time so he can do a half marathon next year. Four weeks ago he managed 20 minutes at 10kph. In today’s session Jamie managed 30 minutes at 10kph. To calculate his percentage improvement you divide the difference by the original figure and times it by 100 for example:
30 - 20 = 10
10 / 20 = 0.5
0.5 x 100 = 50%
So you can tell Jamie that he is now running 50% longer than he was four weeks ago, that this is fantastic progress and you can’t wait to see how much more progress he’ll make in another four weeks time!
You can also present results for in session testing in the form of graphs or charts with a brief explanation about the results and a message of celebration for the client on achieving so much! An example of this is below, which shows how Jamie improved his Bench Press, Squat and Lat Pulldown results over a two month period.
Certificate of Sensational Achievement
Wow Jamie! In the last two months of training you’ve got more than 100% stronger in all of our key weight exercises – well done!
Here’s a brief summary of your results;
In session testing is an excellent way of motivating your clients by showing them results which are specific to exercises they either enjoy or understand the benefits of in terms of achieving their goals. It is also a time efficient and non threatening means of testing, as they are conducted within a regular personal training session.
Another benefit is that clients will experience surprise and high levels of satisfaction when you present them with results on how well they have been progressing with their training. This demonstrates that as a personal trainer you have been paying close attention to the client and have spent time outside of the personal training sessions tabulating their progress, highlighting great results, relating their results to their goals and celebrating this with them.