Assessments - What Are We Looking For?


When I assess clients, I look broadly at two things:

First, I want to check how you move. Do you have the necessary control over the shoulder joint to be successful in pulling activities?

The shoulder joint is extremely mobile, and controlling it's a challenge. If this basic control is a limiting factor, we need to identify it and address it properly.

In the video I explain in a little more detail why controlling the shoulder can be challenging.

The second thing I look for when assessing my clients is pulling strength... And pulling strength can mean a couple of different things.

1. We can look at absolute strength. For our purposes, this is the heaviest amount of weight you can use in an exercise, regardless of technique.

2. We can determine your technical max. That's the amount of weight you can use while performing an exercise absolutely perfectly.

The bigger the gap between these two metrics, the more of an imbalance you have in your muscle groups.

A Note About Tempo

When performing assessments, I often use a specific tempo prescription.

The main reason for this in tests is to establish a consistent baseline that can easily be repeated for more accurate results. In other words, if we use the exact same tempo every time, we know that our results are reliable.

Here’s how it works:

Use a 4 digit system. For example, suppose I ask you to do a chin-up with a 4010 tempo... that would mean...

  1. The first digit always refers to how long the yielding phase of the exercise will take in seconds. In this case, the lowering phase of the chin-up will be 4 seconds.
  2. The second digit is any pause in the bottom of the exercise in seconds. In the case of this chin-up, there is no pause (“0” seconds).
  3. The third digit is the number of seconds on the active phase of the lift. For our example, the lifting phase should take “1” second.
  4. The fourth digit is any pause at the top of the lift. In these case, there is no pause.

For example: A squat with a 3311 tempo would have a: 3 second lowering phase, 3 second pause at the bottom, 1 second on the way up, and a 1 second pause at the top before the next rep.

For beginners, this point about tempo isn’t critical. But it’s useful to be aware of because it's a tool we can manipulate in our training prescriptions to improve results.