Recently there has been a little bit of discussion on the necessity of assessment. Some argue that if you simply coach movements to look pretty, the need for assessment is nil. As I chimed in last year regarding a definition of corrective exercise, I, in principle agree that great coaching can be highly “corrective” in nature. I thus maintain that failing to coach movement quality is both unacceptable and entirely unprofessional.
This reasoning, however, does not support the idea that assessments are unnecessary if you know how to coach.
Assessments and screens are just as much (if not more) about knowing what not to have a client do that day as they are for telling us what to do. In all of health care, the first priority is to identify contraindications to a proposed solution prior to intervention, and exercise should be no different.
Waiting until your client has a 315 barbell on her back at the bottom of a squat to learn that she has limited hip and ankle mobility or an inability to weight shift that prevents her from squatting with ideal load distribution is simply unacceptable. Waiting to learn your client experiences pain with multisegmental flexion until the end of his first set of deadlifting is equally ridiculous. If you are not clearing basic movement competencies, you’re just ignoring the fact that there may be some underlying issue that prevents safe execution of an exercise irrespective of how great of a job you do coaching and is absolutely negligent behavior.
Failing to assess or screen is akin to a physician handling all of his patients with latex gloves without inquiring into their allergies. Playing the numbers, he (and you) and his patients will be undisturbed most of the time, but it only takes one sensitive patient before somebody is severely harmed even if the execution of the treatment is flawless.
While there is much more than movement quality alone that leads to pain and dysfunction, this does not allow us to dismiss the fact that there are components of movement quality in the overall neurosigniture that must be respected. You can’t coach what’s not there, and the safest way to find out what’s not there is to identify it in the low load, low risk environment of the assessment period.
Protect yourselves, protect your clients. It’s your job.