My career as a personal trainer began back when the years started with a one, 1998, to be exact. At that time, I never imagined that our cell phones would allow us to carry mini-computers in our pockets - let alone ones with high definition cameras - but here we are.
Now that we are in a period where maintaining physical distance is essential for public health and fitness facilities are currently closed, the ONLY way a personal trainer can safely now work with a client is through virtual coaching.
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, especially the ability to work with our clients in person. However, one silver lining is that this disruption creates an opportunity to develop new skills and learn how to deliver personal training sessions remotely through video communications.
There's a large shift in training emphasis right now, which you can immerse yourself in by becoming an online fitness professional.
Working with clients remotely through video chat is very similar to working with them in real life, but it will require developing a new set of skills, including how to conduct assessments and initial fitness consulations.
How to Conduct an Online Overhead Squat Assessment
Assessments are an essential first step in the process of designing an exercise program to meet a client's needs and goals, whether the training sessions occur over video chat or in real life. Collecting information like health history is relatively straightforward.
A client can easily complete an online form that you can review, but what about movement assessments like the Overhead Squat? The good news is that it is indeed possible to conduct movement assessments virtually, but just like in real life, it will take a little practice to learn how to do it efficiently. Here are a few essential considerations when learning how to conduct an Overhead Squat Assessment (OSA) remotely:
- For best results, try using a device with a larger screen, such as a tablet or computer, when conducting a video training session. The larger screens of tablets or computers will make it easier to see more detail as a client moves both during the assessment and workout. Likewise, suggest that the client will be better off using a tablet or computer, if possible, to see you demonstrate the movements you are asking them to perform.
- The client will need to have a way to hold the camera in a steady, level position. All too often, clients attempt to prop the camera up on the floor or chair, which may lead to awkward angles or limit the ability to see the entire movement. One best practice for delivering sessions remotely is to have clients invest in a mini-tripod to hold their phone or tablet. Tripods are relatively inexpensive and allow the camera to remain steady and level throughout the session.
- If possible, the client should perform the OSA in front of a relatively plain wall without too many pictures. Admittedly this may be hard for some clients. Still, the cleaner less obstructed the background, the easier it will be for you to spot any movement compensations caused by muscle imbalances. Just like in the gym, it will be necessary for the client to conduct the OSA in an area where they can provide a front, side, and back view. This will allow you to observe the checkpoints from various angles to identify any possible distortions and imbalances.
- Having the client stand in front of a corner, one side of a door frame or any vertical line can provide a plumb line to help identify imbalances. Guide the client to stand so that the vertical line bisects the body into front and back or right and left halves. Use this use as a point of reference.
- It is best to have the client position the camera far enough away to capture the entire body. However, if there isn't space to have the client capture their whole body in the image, break up the assessment. Start by having the client position the camera so you can observe the feet, ankles, knees, and hips; once you watch those kinetic chain checkpoints, have the client reposition the camera so you can watch the lumbopelvic-hip complex, shoulders, neck, and head.
- Ask the client permission to record the OSA portion of the session. Many apps like Zoom allow for recording. Taking a recording of the OSA will enable you to go back and review to identify any specific distortions during the movement that may have been missed the first time.
Don’t Pitch the OSA as an “Assessment” to Clients
This next one goes for conducting the OSA both digitally and in real life, when presenting the OSA to a client, try to avoid saying that it is an assessment. If a client thinks you are judging how they move, there may be a tendency to be a little tenser and not provide a natural movement.
One technique is to tell the client that you want to watch them move a little so you can help identify some of the best stretches or exercises for their particular needs. "Before we begin, I'm going to have you do a little movement, think of it as a dynamic warm-up. It might feel a little awkward, but it will help me to identify what exercises you should be doing and which you might want to avoid." Positioning the OSA in this manner might help alleviate any discomfort a client feels about being judged during his or her movement.
Concluding Thoughts: Practice Makes Perfect for the OSA
Just like in the gym, it will take a few repetitions of conducting the OSA via a video chat app to become more proficient at it. If possible, ask a longtime client or friend to let you practice a few first before starting with new clients. One thing about COVID-19 is we are developing a stronger sense of community.
We all realize that we have to work together to get through this with our health intact, so clients should have a little patience as you learn how to perform your job in a different format. Think of it this way. Once you do learn the skill of delivering personal training sessions via video chat, it will be another tool in your trainer toolbox and one that you can continue using even after life returns to its normal pace.
If you are looking to learn how to virtually train your clients, NASM has a great online personal training course you can try called the NASM-VCS.