A quick chat with Dan John about assessments

Assessments are powerful tools that allow coaches and trainers to identify the big issues holding their clients back.

By arming them with the right information, assessments allow coaches and trainers to develop individualized strategies to efficiently attack the problems their clients struggle with. This allows them to get better results, far quicker.

The problem for many coaches and trainers, however, is knowing which assessments to use, when, and with which clients.

You see, hundreds of assessments covering a range of areas, including body composition, general health, flexibility, mobility, stability, speed, balance, endurance, power, strength and agility are available for coaches and trainers to use.

And for many coaches and trainers—especially less experienced ones—this can be intimidating and confusing.

In his latest book Can You Go, legendary strength coach Dan John explains and simplifies this topic for other coaches and trainers.

If you’ve read his other works, Intervention, Never Let Go or Mass Made Simple, you know Dan has a talent for bringing clarity to confusing topics, and providing clear, simple and powerful frameworks that help coaches and trainers deliver better results with less fuss.

So if you’re confused about where to begin when assessing clients, you may find Dan John’s latest book Can You Go an eye-opener like his other books.

To give you a taste of wisdom and clarity you’ll find inside the book, we recently spent some time talking to Dan about assessments, and we’d like to share some of the insights he shared with us, here:

Dan’s own journey with assessments

Dan: At one time in the late 2000s, I was offering my athletes two full monthly screens and assessments. This took three hours a month, PLUS time for things like the FMS. 

It was great, yet I began to realize I was getting stuck with four insights: we need to do better at the front squat and pull-up, and nearly everyone has hip flexor and t-spine issues. 

My conclusion was to shotgun everyone with those four fixes. But, that wasn’t really getting to it, either. 

What coaches and trainers should assess first

Dan: There are hundreds of assessments. But I think mobility, strength and body composition measurements should be assessed first.

How often you should assess clients 

Dan: Formal assessments should be done almost immediately upon meeting the client. 

Assessment one, if you will, is “what’s your goal?” Some goals, like sports, don’t need further assessment. 

With sports, improvement or lack of improvement is the assessment. 

With everybody else, I would argue that a solid “big” assessment be done at the latest every six weeks. 

Little tests and challenges can be done every two weeks, too. 

An overlooked assessment that changed Dan’s life

Dan: The height-to-waistline ratio is something I never thought of. It stuns me still. 

The waistline, at most, should be half your height. If not, you need to address it. 

Certainly, there are dozens of issues that come up, but this was a great eye opener for me…and it is so simple and obvious. 

There are lots of others, like looking at gaps in training and standards, that really helped, but this one changed my approach to so many things.

What assessments to avoid 

Dan: Anything that “instantly” fixes an issue. 

Wiggle your finger and cure a strength issue or whatever. I will stop there.

What coaches and trainers get wrong when using assessments

Dan: It’s the whole thing, and it comes down to this: Does the assessment tell you what to do next?

If it doesn’t, it is just one more thing. 

It’s like teaching a client to goblet squat with a kettlebell on Monday, and then showing them something new on Wednesday, like goblet squats with a dumbbell. 

That’s pretty obvious, right? It’s just “one more thing.” 

It’s not the tool of assessing that’s the issue; it’s using the assessment to answer “what’s next?”

Mistakes and misconceptions about assessments

Dan: This might sound cruel, but some people get the sense that assessments give us answers, like how to cure cancer. 

Two of my assessments are simply clearances. If you don’t pass them, I send you to a medical doctor. 

I don’t know why you can’t hold a plank, but I’m not going to tell you it’s because your gallbladder is dysfunctional. 

Assessments assess. 

Assessments should lead to “what’s next.” And that is it.

Dan’s 1-2-3-4 assessment method in Can You Go

Dan: The 1-2-3-4 Assessment gives us an insight into how to deal with most people. 

It’s not for elite sprinters, collision sports players, or most kids. Active athletes have a three-word assessment: “Can you go?” 

And, that’s it. 

But, for everybody else, I walk them through the 1-2-3-4 Assessment. 

It takes about five minutes, and I can lay out the next few weeks of training—and maybe habits—after that. 

The 1-2-3-4 Assessment fits seamlessly with other assessments, too. Once you uncover issues using the 1-2-3-4 Assessment, you can use other assessment tools to get a better aim on those issues. 

My assessment might also tell you to skip this or that for a bit, and let’s just focus on the big need right now.


Read a Chapter From Dan’s Latest Book
Can You Go


If you’re a newer coach or trainer confused about which assessments to use with your clients, check out Dan John’s latest book Can You Go.

Inside you’ll learn how Dan helps his clients realize what they REALLY need in their training. You’ll be able to easily figure out what your clients need right now, and what they should be doing next to move them toward their fitness and performance goals as quickly as possible.

Never again be confused about how you should train your clients.

To find out more about what you’ll learn in Dan’s book Can You Go, and to get a free chapter excerpt, click here.


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