Chapter 10: Posture, Movement, and Performance Assessments

Posture and movement assessments are crucial steps fitness professionals must use to determine any muscle imbalances or movement issues that should be focused on or corrected during the exercise program.

In the field of personal training, movement assessments are utilized as a baseline tool to determine injury risk, establish a range of motion patterns, and identify movement dysfunctions in a potential client.1

Ideally, the movement assessments used for a particular client directly relate to the actions the client will regularly engage in (squats, push up, etc.), thus providing the most objective indicators of performance possible.2

Introduction to Biomechanical Checkpoints

Key points to focus on are around the major joints and will be specific to each assessment. The primary focal point for the lower body will be the hip complex and, for the upper body, the shoulder complex. The less mobile joints (knee, elbow, etc.) play a secondary role for most assessments but still deserve full attention.

Observers should denote asymmetry throughout the range of motion of each assessment. As the client performs each assessment, they should be viewed from a frontal, lateral, and posterior position to get a full picture of the client’s kinematic chain.

Denote obvious compensation patterns as a guide for how to build a program to maximally benefit the client.

The use of static postural assessment helps to identify muscle imbalances, range of motion difficulties, and flexibility limitations. A static postural assessment provides excellent indicators of problem areas that can then be further evaluated so that the trainer can then come up with an action plan. 

Static Postural Assessment

This provides a basis for developing an exercise strategy to target contributing factors of incorrect movement patterns and neuromuscular inefficiency. This information might provide knowledge for which selection of stabilization exercises and stretching and self-myofascial release strategies might be used.  

There are three common distortion patterns:

  1. Pronation distortion syndrome: characterized by foot pronation (flat feet) and adducted and internally rotated knees (knock knees).
  2. Lower crossed syndrome: characterized by an anterior tilt to the pelvis (arched lower back).
  3. Upper crossed syndrome: characterized by a forward head and rounded shoulders.19, 20 

Postural assessments require observation of the kinetic chain.

  • Foot and ankle
  • Knee
  • Lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex (LPHC)
  • Shoulders
  • Head and cervical spine

A static posture assessment may offer valuable insight into:

  • Muscle imbalance at a joint and the working relationships of muscles around a joint.
  • Altered neural action of the muscles moving and controlling the joint – tight or shortened muscles are often overactive and dominate movement at the joint, potentially disrupting healthy joint mechanics.

Overhead Squat Assessment

General Purpose

The squat assessment is a dynamic movement assessment designed to measure the client’s functional range of motion. It helps determine overall core strength, balance, kinesthetic awareness, and movement pattern discrepancies.3

Procedure

Have the client start standing with feet comfortably spaced shoulder width apart and toes straight ahead. Demonstrate a proper squat while instructing the client to perform the move to the best of their ability.  

Have the client perform 10 squats while watching the movement pattern. If performing the overhead squat, instruct the client to fully extend arms overhead before beginning the squat and keep them there throughout the movement. A PVC pipe may also be held overhead with a wide grip if available. During the squats, the trainer can move to slightly different angles if necessary to determine more information about the movement pattern. 

Movement Findings

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Feet turn out. Throughout the squat movement the client’s feet rotate out.

Indications: Overactive soleus, lateral gastrocnemius, and biceps femoris. Underactive medial gastrocnemius, semimembranosus, semitendinosus, gracilis, and sartorius.

Compensation: Knees cave in. Knee visibly points or tracks inward during the squat rep. Typically, knees will be seen caving in on the eccentric phase and will circle medially with the start of the concentric phase of the squat.

Indication:  Overactive adductor, biceps femoris, tensor fascia latae, and vastus lateralis to the dominant side. Target strengthening for the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and vastus medialis oblique.

Compensation: Torso falls forward. Client cannot maintain a neutral spine and their torso flexes forward towards the floor. 

Indication: Overactive soleus, gastrocnemius, rectus femoris, psoas, rectus abdominis. Underactive anterior tibialis, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae.

Compensation: Low back arches. Hyperextension of the low back during squat.

Indication: Overactive rectus femoris, psoas, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi. Underactive gluteus maximus, hamstrings, lower core musculature.

Compensation: Arms fall forward (overhead). Arms fail to stay vertical and fall towards the floor. 

Indication: Overactive latissimus dorsi, teres major, and pectoralis group. Underactive mid/lower trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff.

 

Compensation: Head protrudes forward. Head fails to stay stacked in a neutral position. 

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive deep cervical flexors.

Single Leg Squat Assessment

General Purpose

The single leg squat assessment is designed to measure lumbo-pelvic hip stability of the client.4

Procedure

Have the client start standing with feet together. They will pick up one foot to a height of 45 degrees of hip flexion while keeping that foot off the ground during the squat. Arms should be straight out in front of the client with the hands clasped together. Instruct the client to squat on the standing leg as low as comfortable or to 60 degrees of knee flexion. Instructor should be able to assess the range of motion within 3 to 5 repetitions then have the client repeat the test on the opposite leg.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns:  

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Knees cave in. Knee visibly points or tracks inward during the squat rep. Typically, the knee will be seen caving in on the eccentric phase and circling medially with the start of the concentric phase of the squat.

Indication: Overactive adductor, biceps femoris, tensor fascia latae, and vastus lateralis to the dominant side. Target strengthening for the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and vastus medialis oblique.

Lunge Assessment

General Purpose

The lunge assessment measures movement asymmetries, lateral stability, and balance.5 

Procedure 

Position the client into the lunge by having them take one stride forward while leaving their back foot planted on the ground. With their arms crossed over their chest, have the client attempt to touch their back knee to the ground bending both knees to 90 degrees. Perform 5 repetitions on the same leg before switching sides.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns:  

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Asymmetrical weight shift: client noticeably shifts weight further to one side. 

Indication: Potential side dominance with similar indications as the knee caving in on a squat assessment. Overactive adductor, biceps femoris, tensor fascia latae, and vastus lateralis to the dominant side. Target strengthening for the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and vastus medialis oblique.

Compensation: Excessive knee bend: knee of forward leg drives forward into deep knee flexion as a sign of quadriceps dominance.

Indication: Overactive quadriceps and hip flexor complex. Underactive gluteal and hamstring groups.

Compensation: Lack of hip extension: posterior hip doesn’t move into extension and stays flexed.

Indication: Overactive psoas and rectus abdominis. Underactive gluteus maximus and lower core stabilizers.

Step Up Assessment

General Purpose

The step-up assessment measures the strength and stability of the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps as well as the client’s balance.

Procedure

Find a stable and elevated surface for the client to step up onto and have the client stand directly in front of the surface. Arms should be crossed in front of their chest. Instruct them to place one foot on the surface and step up into full extension of the planted leg. Opposite leg should be pulled into hip flexion to 90 degrees. Perform 5 repetitions on the same leg before switching sides.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Hip dropping upon lifting of foot.

Indication: Overactive psoas, rectus femoris, and tensor fascia latae. Underactive gluteus maximus/medius, quadratus lumborum, and transverse abdominis.

Compensation: Inability to dorsiflex foot. Client cannot lift toes up.

Indication: Overactive gastrocnemius and soleus. Underactive anterior tibialis.

Compensation: Forward lean into step. Client leans forward over leg to step up.

Indication: Lack of strength through the range of motion.

Compensation: Failure to flex hip. Client cannot get into 90 degrees of hip flexion.

Indication: Overactive gluteus maximus and hamstring group. Underactive psoas, rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, and rectus abdominis.

Pulling Assessment

General Purpose

Designed to test the strength and range of motion of the posterior shoulder girdle, specifically the muscles acting on the scapula.6 

Procedure

Submaximal assessment in which the instructor will need access to a cable row, suspension trainer, or resistance band. From a standing or seated position, have the client start with arms extended and holding resistance in a neutral grip. Torso should begin and remain upright throughout the assessment. Instruct client to pull handles to their torso as far as they can comfortably. Instructor should be able to assess client within 5-10 repetitions.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Low back arches.

Indication: Overactive psoas and rectus abdominis. Underactive lower core stabilizers.

Compensation: Shoulders elevate. With concentric motion shoulders elevate rather than remaining neutral.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive middle/lower trapezius.

Compensation: Head protrudes forward. Head fails to stay stacked in a neutral position.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive deep cervical flexors.

Compensation: Shoulder rounding forward: shoulder complex fails to stay inline and rotates forward during pull.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and pectoralis major/minor. Underactive middle/lower trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff.

Pushing Assessment

General Purpose

Designed to test the range of motion for the anterior shoulder girdle and chest.7

Procedure

Submaximal assessment in which the instructor will need access to a cable machine, resistance bands, or a suspension trainer. Can be performed from a standing or seated position. Have the client start with an upright torso and resistance handles at chest height with arms wide and elbows bent to 90 degrees. Perform the test by having the client fully extend arms until both handles are directly in front of the client’s chest and shoulder. Instructor should be able to assess the client within 5-10 repetitions.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Low back arches.

Indication: Overactive psoas and rectus abdominis. Underactive lower core stabilizers.

 

Compensation: Shoulders elevate. With concentric motion shoulders elevate rather than remaining neutral.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive middle/lower trapezius.

 

Compensation: Head protrudes forward. Head fails to stay stacked in a neutral position.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive deep cervical flexors.

Overhead Pressing Assessment

General Purpose

The overhead pressing assessment measures range of motion of the upper body, strength of the elbow, extensors strength of the medial shoulder, and core stability.8

Procedure 

Submaximal assessment in which the instructor will need access to a bar. Client starts in either a seated or standing position. Bar will be brought to shoulder height with hands just outside of shoulder width apart. Goal for the assessment is to monitor range of motion while the client extends the bar fully overhead and returns to the starting position.

Movement Findings Including Tight & Weak Patterns

Common patterns and their indications:

Compensation: Asymmetrical weight shift: weight is clearly shifted towards one arm.

Indication: Side dominance and potential lack of strength in non-dominant limb.

 

Compensation: Shoulders elevate. With concentric motion shoulders elevate rather than remaining neutral.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive middle/lower trapezius.

Compensation: Head protrudes forward. Head fails to stay stacked in a neutral position.

Indication: Overactive upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapulae. Underactive deep cervical flexors.

 

Compensation: Bar fails to remain vertical and deviates forward into sagittal plane (sagittal deviation).

Indication: Overactive latissimus dorsi, teres major, and pectoralis group. Underactive mid/lower trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff.

Performance Assessments

General Purpose

While movement assessments determine the quality of movement capabilities of a client, performance assessments determine strengths and weaknesses of the client. Performance assessments require clients to directly display their skill in a particular subset (agility, strength, endurance, etc.) of fitness.

Push Up Test

General Purpose

To test the strength endurance upper body pushing capabilities of a client.9

Procedure

Test can be performed either from toes or knees depending on client’s preference and background. Contraindications include shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury. If any exist, a modified test may be performed where the movement only goes to 90 degrees of elbow flexion. If no contraindications exist, have the client start in the push up position of their choice. Instruct them that a proper rep involves controlled lowering of the torso until they touch their chest to the floor then return to full extension of the elbows. Count all continuous repetitions until the client can no longer perform the movement.

Davies Test

General Purpose

The Davies test measures the client’s upper body agility and stabilization.11

Procedure

To set up the test, put two pieces of tape or floor marker 36 inches apart on the floor. Have the client start in a push up position with one hand on each piece of tape. Set a timer for 15 seconds and explain to the client to bring their left hand to meet their right and back, then their right hand to meet their left and back. Continue alternating hand movements during the duration of the 15 second timer. Count every hand movement back and forth as one repetition. Repeat the test 3 times and take the average score.

TrialTimeScore
115 sec 
215 sec 
315 sec 

Shark Skill Test

General Purpose

Designed to test lower body agility and stability.

Procedure

Create a 3×3 grid on the floor consisting of 9 squares measuring 12” in on all sides. Have the client start standing in the center square on one foot.  In a designed pattern they will jump to a  particular square then return to the center square. They will continue around the grid until all squares have been touched and then return to the center square. Let them practice one round with each foot. After practicing, they will perform two rounds per leg for time alternating legs each round. For each mistake they make, add 10 seconds to their round time.

TrialTimeMistake TallyPenalty Time (#Mistakes x .1)Total Time (Time + Penalty Time)
Practice Right    
Practice Left    
#1 Right    
#1 Left    
#2 Right    
#2 Left    

General 1 Rep Max Procedures 

General Purpose 

The 1 repetition max test is designed to measure absolute strength in one specific motion. It can be performed through a variety of exercises with the same general construct.

Procedure

Ideally the test will be performed utilizing free weights with the trainer functioning as a spotter with the option for additional help if necessary. 

  1. Have the client do a warmup set of 8-10 repetitions at 50-60% of perceived maximum. 
  2. After allowing a 1-minute rest (longer can be taken if needed), have the client perform a set of 3-5 repetitions at 60-80% of perceived maximum.
  3. Next the first 1 repetition maximum attempt is performed. Add weight based on the client’s perceived maximum and performance then attempt the first lift. 
  4. If successful, allow the client to rest 3-5 minutes before adding more weight and performing a second attempt. 
  5. Repeat until the client fails a lift or has clearly reached a maximum.
  6. Ideally a successful 1 repetition maximum test is completed within 3 attempts.

Vertical Jump Assessment

General Purpose

To determine a client’s maximal vertical jump power.

Procedure

Test utilizes either a large-unobstructed wall or vertical jump testing device. Have the client first stand next to the measuring surface with feet flat and arm nearest surface fully extended overhead. Measure the maximal beginning reach. Then demonstrate a proper jump with arm swing. Lower body quickly into a partial squat while extending arms behind torso then rapidly extend entire body vertically into a jump and touching measuring surface at the apex of the jump. Measure the difference between standing and jumping heights. Allow client 3 attempts to gain maximal height with a short rest between each.

Lower Extremity Functional Test (LEFT)

General Purpose

The lower extremity functional test (LEFT) is used as a measure of an athlete’s ability to return to sport. During the test the athlete will be required to perform every movement pattern that may occur in sport.

Procedure

A diamond grid is created with four cones, where the vertical cones are placed 30 feet apart. The trainer place two horizontal cones 10 feet apart halfway between the vertical cones to create the diamond pattern. Client will then run the following patterns in a continuous motion test. (Cones labeled A, B, C, D.A is the start, so moving clockwise B would be 15 feet ahead and 5 to the left, C would be 30 feet ahead of A, and D would be 15 feet ahead and 5 to the right.)

  1. Forward sprint A-C-A
  2. Backpedal A-C-A
  3. Side shuffle right leg first A-D-C-B-A
  4. Side shuffle left leg first A-B-C-D-A
  5. Karaoke right leg first A-D-C-B-A
  6. Karaoke left leg first A-B-C-D-A
  7. Forward run figure 8’s circling C cone from left to right A-D-C-B-A
  8. Forward run figure 8’s circling C cone from right to left A-B-C-D-A
  9. 45-degree cuts A-D-C-B-A
  10. 45-degree cuts A-B-C-D-A
  11. 90-degree cuts (outside leg) A-D-B-A
  12. 90-degree cuts (outside leg) A-B-D-A
  13. 90-degree cuts (inside leg) A-D-B-A
  14. 90-degree cuts (inside leg) A-B-D-A
  15. Backpedal A-C-A
  16. Forward Sprint A-C-A

40-Yard Dash

General Purpose

Designed to test a client’s explosive lower body power and maximum movement velocity.

Procedure

This is best if performed on a track, but any level surface will work. Measure a 40-yard space clearly marked with start and finish lines. Instruct the client on how to position themselves at the start line. Typical positions include a track stance with one hand on the ground or a standing start, whichever chosen should best reflect performance needs of the client. Instructor stands at the finish line with a stopwatch to ensure accurate timing. Instruct the client to begin when ready. When the client moves, begin the watch and stop when they cross the finish line. Take the best effort of 2-3 attempts.

Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test

General Purpose

The Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test assesses a client’s ability to repeatedly perform intervals over a long period of time. Additionally, it can be used to determine a client’s VO2 max.11

Procedure

Instructor will need a flat, non-slip surface, marking cones, measuring tape, recording sheet, and a pre recorded copy of the test and beep. The cones are layed out in 3 lines that are 20 meters and 5 meters apart respectively. The client starts at the middle line. When prompted by the recorded beep they will run to the 20-meter line. Another beep will prompt the client to return to the starting line. Each round the recorded beeps speed up, lowering the amount of time the client has to complete a shuttle. There is a 10 second active recovery between shuttles where the client must walk or jog around the first line 5 meters away and return to the starting line. The first time a client fails to complete a shuttle they are given a warning. The second failure leads to the test being completed. An alternative version exists titled the Yo-Yo intermittent endurance test wherein the active recovery time is lowered to 5 seconds.

To estimate VO2 max use the following formulas:

Intermittent Recovery Test (IR1 aerobic):

Yo-Yo IR1 test: VO2max (ml/min/kg) = IR1 distance (m) × 0.0084 + 36.4

Intermittent Endurance Test (IR2 anaerobic):

Yo-Yo IR2 test: VO2max (ml/min/kg) = IR2 distance (m) × 0.0136 + 45.3

1-Mile Run 

General Purpose

The 1-mile run is designed to test a client’s aerobic endurance capacity.

Procedure

Ideally performed on a track without interruption of the run or walk/run effort. The goal of the test is to have the client complete one mile as fast as they possibly can. Shorter versions can be introduced for younger children (1/4 mile) and pre-teens (1/2 mile).

20-Yard Shuttle Test

General Purpose

The 20-yard shuttle test (also known as the 5-10-5) is used to test a client’s agility, explosiveness, overall body control and speed.

Procedure

Three cones are placed in a line 5 yards apart from each other. The client starts at the middle cone. First, the client sprints to the right cone (5 yards), then all the way to the far left cone (10 yards), and back to pass the middle cone (5 yards). The instructor begins timing at the start and stop time when the client runs past the middle cone. Two different variations exist in which the client must touch each cone or simply place their foot in line with the cone before changing directions. Allow the client sufficient time to rest then have them repeat the test starting in the opposite direction.

Kneeling Chest Launch Test

General Purpose

The kneeling chest launch test is designed to measure a client’s upper body coordination, power, and strength.

Procedure

Instructor needs a 2 or 3 kg medicine ball, measuring tape, soft pad to kneel on, and an open area. The client begins on both knees with an upright torso. Toes should be pointed behind the client to keep the client from utilizing extra traction from the lower body. Client starts by holding the ball with both hands directly overhead. Then they lower the ball to their chest as they sit back towards their heels. In one smooth motion, the client then explodes up and throws the ball in a pressing motion for maximum distance. Knees should remain on the ground for the throw, but the client is allowed to fall in front of the starting line upon release. The client shouldn’t favor one arm over the other in the throw and their spine should not rotate. Allow the client a practice throw to determine best practice and aim for maximal distance. To test, allow the client two throws with at least a minute of rest between attempts.

Pull Up Test

General Purpose

The pull up test is used to measure upper body strength and endurance.

Procedure  

This test is performed to the failure of good form. The instructor needs access to a high-horizontal pull up bar tall enough so that when the client hangs from the bar at full extension, their feet cannot touch the ground. Begin by having the client grasp the bar in either an overhand or underhand grip. Grip width will vary by client but will be approximately shoulder width. Once ready, the client raises body until their chin clears the top of the pull up bar. Then they lower themselves back to full arm extension and repeat until technical failure. The motion should be smooth without additional bending, kicking, or swinging of the body.

Summary

Assessments are useful tools for fitness professionals in the field of personal training. A static postural assessment will give important information to the trainer about which common distortion pattern a client may be experiencing, movement assessments indicate range of motion and muscle asymmetries that should be corrected, and performance tests give the personal trainer an idea of the client’s fitness in a particular area. Each test should be used for a particular purpose to answer specific questions that need to be answered to keep the client healthy and moving toward their fitness goals.

References

  1. Glaws K, Juneau C, Becker L, Di Stasi S, Hewett T. Intra-and Inter-rater Reliability of the Selective Functional Movement Assessment. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Apr; 9(2): 195-207
  2. Cook G, Burton L, Hoogenboom B, Voight M.  Functional Movement Screening: The Use of Fundamental Movements as an Assessment of Function – Part 1. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 May; 9(3): 396–409.
  3. Myer G, Kushner A, et al. The Back Squat: A Proposed Assessment of Functional Deficits and Technical Factors That Limit Performance. Strength Cond J. 2014 Dec 1; 36(6): 4–27.
  4. Bailey R, Selfe J, Richards J. The Single Leg Squat Test in the Assessment of Musculoskeletal Function: a Review. Physiotherapy Practice and Research, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 18-23, 2011.
  5.  Hartigan E, Lawrence M, Bisson B, Torgerson E, Knight R. Relationship of the Functional Movement Screen In-Line Lunge to Power, Speed, and Balance Measures. Sports Health. 2014 May;6(3):197-202.
  6. Yoo W.  Effects of Pulling Direction on Upper Trapezius and Rhomboid Muscle Activity. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017 Jun; 29(6): 1043-1044
  7. Trebs A, Brandenburg J, Pitney W. An Electromyography Analysis of 3 Muscles Surrounding the Shoulder Joint During the Performance of a Chest Press Exercise at Several Angles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2010 – Volume 24 – Issue 7 – p 1925-1930
  8. Kroell J, Jonathan M. Exploring the Standing Barbell Overhead Press. Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2017 – Volume 39 – Issue 6 – p 70-75
  9. Baumgartner T, Suhak O, Hyuk C, Derek H.  Objectivity, Reliability, and Validity for a Revised Push-Up Test Protocol. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science: 2002 – Volume 6 – Issue 4.
  10.  Goldbeck T, Davies G. Test-Retest Reliability of the Closed Kinetic Chain Upper Extremity Stability Test: A Clinical Field Test. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation: Volume 9 – Issue 1 – p 35-45
  11. Bangsbo J, Iaia FM, Krustrup P. The Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test: a useful tool for evaluation of physical performance in intermittent sports. Sports Med. 2008; 38(1):37-51

See if our exam pass guarantee study system is right for you!

Close

Try The CSCS MVP For Free 🤓

See if our exam pass guarantee study system is right for you!

Close

Try The ACSM MVP For Free 🤓

See if our exam pass guarantee study system is right for you!

Close

Try The ACE MVP For Free 🤓

See if our exam pass guarantee study system is right for you!

Close

Try The NASM MVP For Free 🤓

See if our exam pass guarantee study system is right for you!

Close

Try The ISSA MVP for free 🤓

Find out if our study system is right for you!

Close

Try the NSCA MVP for free 🤓

Scroll to Top