Every year, right before summer a lot of people who have taken a long time off exercise decide to get back in. As a personal trainer I witness this influx first hand. Because of their long time away from exercise, I have to assess their fitness levels before any work can begin.
In this post I will discuss some of the important measurements I take, if you work out from home you should pay particular attention.
Your resting heart rate is a good overall indication of your fitness level, the lower the better, it means that the heart is more efficient at pumping blood. This could mean that blood flows more smoothly through the arteries without being clogged up, thus the heart needs to work less or due to higher concentration of oxygen in blood cells .
Though, some over the counter medication can affect readings; aspirin thins blood which can artificially lower heart rate. Also heart rate is affected by your meals; you should leave at least two hours after food before taking your heart rate.
Blood pressure is more of an issue for older clients. As a personal trainer this is an important consideration, because many insurers will not cover us for clients with high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is often written as a high number (top number) and low number (bottom number) separated by a bracket such as 129/84 the top number is known as Systolic BP and is the highest reading when the heart beats. The bottom number is known as Dystolic BP and is the lowest reading taken when the heart is in-between beats.
Body fat is important for survival; they are in effect our "batteries" which our bodies use to draw energy from. Though excess fat has become somewhat of a "first world problem" for us. When our bodies store too much fat, it can pose a risk to our heart as it clogs up arteries and disturbs the function of our internal organs. Extra fat is called adipose tissue. Healthy fat levels different between men and women.
Healthy fat levels for men age 20-39: 8 - 19.9%
Healthy fat levels for women aged 20-39: 21 - 33.9%
The female body fat level might seem high, but women have extra fat stores in their breasts and bottoms.
Visceral fat is more dangerous than normal fat which sits under the skin, visceral fat is stored under muscle and in-between your organs including your liver and heart. Excess visceral fat can lead to heart attacks. Visceral fat also contributes to your cholesterol levels.
The calculation of visceral fat is complicated and requires several points of calculations which are a different topic in itself. It can also be accomplished by CT scans for more accurate readings.
The BMI was once hailed the be all and end all of bodyweight measurements. It's a good measure for completely sedentary people or for rudimentary uses such as assessing people for conscription. But as a measure for fitness it's entirely pointless. It gives you a height to weight ratio and basically tells you whether you're underweight, normal, overweight or obese. The problem is most people who fall under "normal" do not feel normal at all. The results are a bit crude too, you can tell as much by simply looking at your body in the mirror.
This is by far the most useful measure for the majority of clients, we do this by starting off with the overall weight and subtracting the body fat (calculated by BF %) and then subtracting the approximate bone mass (based on height, age, gender and race).
Normal skeletal muscle % for men aged 19-39: 33.4 - 39.3%
Normal skeletal muscle % for women aged 19-39: 24.4 - 30.1%
The final measure we undertake is in the gym itself, we measure left vs. right, front vs. rear to find any imbalances. Typically we find that clients preferred side may be as much as 10% stronger than their weaker side.
Another issue we find time and time again is that a client may have preferences to chest exercises over back exercises and their posture is affected which results in back and neck pain. We work with clients to re-balance these issues taking into account their personal goals.
I once had a professional arm wrestling client who competed with his right arm. His right arm was far bigger than his left, and he seemed perfectly at ease with that.
This article was written by personal trainer Abdul Karim who trains clients out of London, England. His weapon of choice when it comes to training is kettlebells, his website is BestKettlebellWorkout.com where you can find plenty of kettlebell workouts.