ROM Measurements Aren't Just For Therapists


So What is a Personal Trainer’s Scope of Practice? 

If you’re a personal trainer, you know that your clients look to you for advice on everything from exercise and nutrition to aches, pains, and life coaching. The scope of practice line can become blurry. That’s why it’s important that you know what you can and can’t do—and why.

The NSCA’s Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ), Volume 11, Issue 4 had an article explaining their position:

Personal trainers are health and fitness professionals who using an individualized approach, assess, motivate, educate, and train clients regarding their health and fitness needs. They design safe and effective exercise programs. 

It goes on to say, “Trainers should have a strong knowledge base in kinesiology, psychology, injury prevention, etc. Because of this, they may share certain roles with other healthcare providers such as dietitians, physical therapists, etc. 

They say that it is within the scope of practice to work with clients who have chronic low back pain, pain in an area that comes and goes, or if it’s a minor, acute pain. 

Outside of the scope of practice is unmanageable pain, inability to perform activities of daily living, and radiating low back pain. 

According to ACSM

The ACSM Certified Personal Trainer works with apparently healthy individuals and those with health challenges who are able to exercise independently…. Conducts basic pre-participation health screen assessments, submaximal aerobic exercise tests, muscular strength/endurance, flexibility and body composition tests.


Let’s talk about scope of practice + flexibility tests.

Flexibility tests are an important aspect of an initial assessment providing you valuable information about which movements are limited and hence, subject to compensations and faulty movement patterns. 

Range of motion assessments are flexibility tests. And they are the best flexibility tests because it is a quantifiable, objective measurement. 

Every industry is moving towards being data-driven. Personal training is no different. It’s no longer sufficient to say that something looks tight. Instead, we can say with certainty that “the normative range is X degrees and you measured less than that.”

Know better, do better. With access to more information, we must hold ourselves and the industry to a higher standard. And it’s not difficult or out of reach for the regular personal trainer to incorporate ROM measurements into their practice. It just takes a willingness to learn something new and practice. 

While we believe every personal trainer should be taking ROM measurements, we also believe that personal trainers should know when to refer out—and we always refer out in the presence of pain. Personal trainers and ROM measurements are perfect in a preventative setting!

Learning to take range of motion measurements will elevate your professional perception, and you can charge for that. But of greater value than perception, when you take range of motion measurements as part of your initial health assessment, you can quantify WHY you gave someone a particular exercise or stretch. And better than that, you can remeasure and validate that your program worked.

Niki Driscoll