Fitness Assessment: Building Biomechanics for Weight Lifting

The Sand & Steel Fitness Assessment has been constantly developed and refined since we opened our doors in 2014.  We have done thousands of these fitness assessments over the course of five years.  Here’s what we’ve learned and how we use the Fitness Assessment to build client specific programs.

Fitness AssessmentA Vital Tool to Safe and Effective Programming

Before you can think about writing a program for a client, you need a fitness assessment.  We have built numerous assessments for different kinds of athletes (runners, genpop, seniors, cyclists, etc.)  When you are starting out as a personal trainer, you might be included to just skip the fitness assessment.  Don’t.  In the early days of Sand & Steel, we tried skipping the fitness assessment a few times, but we always built a sub-optimal program when we did.  Clients that completed our Fitness Assessment had far fewer injuries and much better progress overall.  For this reason, we decided as a company that every client gets a Fitness Assessment.  Through our fitness assessment, we are able to provide our clients with: Consistency in Results, Optimization of the Speed of Fitness Improvements, and Safety in all Exercises and Programming.

Fitness Assessment

1) If we don’t measure don’t measure your progress, how can you judge your results?

2) If we don’t measure don’t measure our client’s progress, how can we improve as personal trainers?

3) If we don’t test principles exercises patterns for muscle engagement, how can we ensure safe biomechanics function in exercise?

Hiring a personal trainer usually boils down to a very simple desire for the client, they want to get results consistently (corollary 1), quickly (corollary 2), and safely (corollary 3).  Without this tool, we are guessing at what program is best for you, we aren’t collecting data about whether the program is working, and we cannot make the program as safe as possible.  For all these reasons, your first workout at Sand & Steel should be the Fitness Assessment.  Besides it feels like a workout, it’s a just workout where measure everything.

The Sand & Steel Fitness Assessment is the tool we use to build our clients custom workout programs.  It’s the instrument that you can use to gauge your own progress.  In one hour, we can learn your strengths, weaknesses, and the areas we need to focus on so that our team can deliver you Sand & Steel Grade Results.

What does our Fitness Assessment Assess?

In a nutshell, our Fitness Assessment tests for Biomechanics & Muscle Function, Cellular Energy Generation, Fitness Capacity, Mobility and Flexibility, and Proper Execution of Functional Exercise Patterns

Biomechanics and Muscle Function

  • Muscle asymmetries can occur between antagonistic muscles like triceps and biceps. If the ratio of the strength of the muscles is imbalanced – muscle injury becomes imminent. Muscle asymmetries also occur between left and right sides of the body.  For example, if someone’s left glute muscles aren’t firing properly, then they can develop an injury in the right knee.
  • Neuromuscular disorganization refers to the inability of the brain to cause muscular contraction. Common causes of this include injuries and lack of use.  When the brain cannot properly contract the muscles the body needs, it contracts muscles that proximal to the bones that need to move.  Contracting the wrong muscles causes increased joint stress and wear on tendons leading to injury.  The screen tests for common areas that people have trouble with, Glutes, hips, shoulder muscles, back muscles, and muscles in the hands and feet.  If we find a lack of coordination or communication between your brain and the target muscles, we include specially designed exercises to help you start rebuilding your neuropathways.
  • Compensations from existing injuries.  Injuries are part of life, but did you know that existing muscle weaknesses can cause new injuries?  Muscle weaknesses don’t cause you pain.  You often don’t even know you have them, until pop, you pull a hamstring.  Or your knees hurt after doing squats.  You might think you just have bad knees, but chances are it’s weak glutes causing your pain.
  • Body Awareness.  Think your form on the kettle swing is perfect?  Is your back flat on a deadlift?  Body Awareness is knowing where your feet, hips, back, and head are during an exercise.  It’s understanding what full range of motion.  Yes you can go deeper, nope that’s still not parallel, etc. can cost gains in the gym and potential injury down the road if not corrected.

Cellular Energy Generation Efficiency

  • Peak Anaerobic Threshold relates to the maximal force you can exerts on major lifts like squats, deadlifts, and benchpress. Since we utilize compound exercises when testing strength, you’ll be getting a complete workout while you are being tested in the screen.
  • Lactic Acid Threshold relates to your ability to withstand the change in pH balance in your body under bouts of sustained activity. This particular energy system, the glycolytic pathway, play a key role in weight loss and athletic performance.  Like most areas of fitness it can be improved through training.  So we test it, and build you workouts that make it better.
  • Peak Aerobic Power is your ability to perform an exercise while maintaining requisite levels of oxygen in your muscles for a period longer than 2 minutes. We test the aerobic system with movements like the Assault bike and the Jacobs ladder.  The Aerobic energy system is your fat-burning haven – so you’ll see this energy system tested and utilized in many of our XT60 workouts.

Fitness Capacity

  • Willpower: some people have hire thresholds for lactic burn.  Some people can push harder when they are out of breath.  For people who like to push very hard, we build simpler exercises into the program, so they don’t get injured.  For other people who are willing to take things a little slower, we can build more complex patterns in earlier, because you take the time to learn.
  • Adaption Speed: some clients learn faster.  They under cues better.  They remember and can execute complex patterns faster.  The better you are at learning new techniques, the more new techniques we teach you.
  • Recovery Speed: recovery measures how much rest time your need after going to full tilt on a sled push, assault bike, Jacob’s ladder.  Recovery speed in a measurement of conditioning, and is also linked to respiratory health and willpower.
  • Respiratory Health: Conditions such as emphysema, high body fat, asthma, etc. can affect how much oxygen you can breathe-in per minute.  If you are a lower oxygen client, we’ll take that into account so that you’ll be finish your workouts successfully.

Mobility and Flexibility

  • Range of motion across key exercises: joints have a normal range of motion.  Measuring this range of motion is called goniometry.
  • Strength through the complete range of motion of a joint: It’s easy to be strong at mid range, but sports and life takes into the limits of our range all the time.  If you aren’t strong at the end of your range, you can easily get injured if the load is too high.
  • Proper firing of synergistic and antagonistic muscles in response to an exercise.  If your hamstrings are too weak, they won’t slow down your tibia when you are running (which uses quads.)  If your TFL is too weak, your knee won’t be stabilized when you are running and you’ll develop tight IT Bands.  Strength and endurance balances in muscles is key.
  • Balance. Improving balance is a key part of our training methodology.  Improving total body strength aids in improving balance.  We measure your balance during our fitness assessment with our overhead Surge hold.

The Results Come From YouFunctional Exercise Patterns

  • Foundations of Movement:
    • Squat:
    • Lunge:
    • Hinge:
    • Push:
    • Pull:
    • Spinal and Abdominal Flexion/Extension/Rotation/Resist Rotation,
    • Arm and Leg Internal and External Rotation
  • M|WOD Movements and Positions:
    • Overhead: Flexion and External Rotation
    • Front Rack: Flexion and External Rotation
    • Hang: Internal Rotation
    • Press: Extension and Internal Rotation
  • Functional Movements Screen and Y-Balance
    • Active Straight Leg Raise Mobility
    • Shoulder Mobility
    • Rotary Stability
    • Trunk Stability Push-up
    • Inline Lunge
    • Hurdle Step
    • Deep Squat
    • Upper Quadrant Y-Balance
    • Lower Quadrant Y-Balance

A Fitness Assessment that Scales to You

We have one exercise test: The Sand & Steel Fitness Assessment.  One assessment to test active military and police officers, competitive athletes, teenagers, and men and women in their 70s and 80s.  Our assessment is dynamically scaled by our coaches to provide you with reliable and relevant results.  In this way, it’s equally challenging to complete for everyone.  Each Sand & Steel Assessment generally involves 8-12 exercises depending on the client.  Each exercise informs the personal trainer of which exercise to perform next and what difficulty.

We generally repeat these assessments once every two months to determine your progress on the selected exercises.  Retesting allows us to build you new workouts as you overcome previous limitations and challenges.

Fitness Assessment for Travelling

Fitness Assessment for Travelling
​High Step
Elbow Plank
Turbo dog
Rotary Stability
Hip and Straddle Lift
Shoulder Symmetry Test

List of Fitness Assessment Exercises

We have about 60 different exercises we use during the Fitness Assessment.  On average, we’ll utilize 6-14 exercises from the following list.


About Paul. Personal Trainer

Paul Bio PictureView my Bio | Email me  | Newsletter
BioMedical Engineering - Johns Hopkins University.
Juris Doctorate - Rutgers.
Yoga, M|WOD, CrossFit Level II, 3DMAPS, FMT, FMSII, YBT, RKC, TRX, PN.

Paul has trained over 3000 clients and more than a 100 personal trainers over his 10 years as a mobility and strength coach.  He emphasizes safety and corrective exercises in all programming (strength, weight loss, conditioning, etc.)  His practice focuses on improving flawed movement patterns to prevent injury and improve skeletal-muscular function.  Paul employs a balanced approach in training utilizing his training Yoga, CrossFit, Powerlifting, and Movement Courses to systematically strengthen weakened muscles and mobilize joints and muscle tissue.  Move Better ... Train Better.

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