What is a Physiological Assessment? (Part 2)

In part 1, we talked about the differences were between a VO2max and a Physiological Assessment, the benefits of each and the importance of analyzing the homeostatic capacity of various systems, not just concentrating on one or two values.

As we stated, there are two major parts of the Physiological Assessment: the resting and the active. These are set up this way as we try to keep in my mind the “Extended Performance Pyramid”, adapted from the Functional Movement Systems concept of the Performance Pyramid.  This concept adds the importance of one’s physical and mental health, which we see as the foundation to build a resilient and consistent person in regards to their performance. Our physical and emotional health need to be assessment and treated if needed, before we even think of how fast we can become or how many goals we can score.  You will always have a fundamental limitation to your full potential if you ignore you basic physical and mental state.

How do we start? It looks something like this:


Health (resting)

Personal history


 We always start with the client’s individual history, using the “HRV Optimization Checklist” I developed for HRVcourse.com as a guide. This checklist goes through major areas of one’s health and wellness: Physical Health, Emotional Health, Nutrition, Sleep and Physical Activity.  However, this is not a conclusive list and is only a way to see which part of the client’s health needs to be looked into further.  For example, has the person been hospitalized for any reason? Have they been in a car accident? Have they had a concussion? Why did they tend to ignore questions about their home life? Is there something that may be going on that they aren’t telling me? By having a full, detailed history of the person you are about to assess is critical, as there may be something they think is a small issue that maybe significantly impacting their health and performance.

 Heart Rate Variability and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

After we have a picture of the subjective information from the client, we then do a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) tests. From here, we can see the current health status of the individual, getting values such as LnRMSSD and HF from HRV, and Phase angle (PA), basal metabolic rate and body cell mass (BCM) from the BIA.  These values allow us to get information about the persons overall homeostatic capacity, acute and chronic stress status, and cellular health to know if a person is thriving, or just surviving.

Movement (active)


Functional Movement Systems

 As the metaphor goes, if you want to optimize your performance, there is no point adding horsepower to a car that has a flat tire. To assure that we don’t do that, we assess the movement of the person to see if they do have the flat tire. They need the basics in order to perform at a high level, assuring there is no major dysfunctions that would limit them from moving to a higher level.  For this, we use the systematic approach of the Functional Movement Systems (FMS), provide objective information about their movement and provide exercises to help assess limitations caught by the screens, tests and assessments of the FMS.

Performance (active)

 VO2 assessment

A VO2 assessment looks at your ability to intake oxygen, which is used to turn into fuel for the body to use. Are you breathing too fast? Breathing too shallow? Are you breathing out almost the same amount of oxygen you are breathing in? This is where your performance starts; can you supply your body what it needs to survive? And at what point does it break?  


Heart Rate assessment

Too many people mistakenly exercise too hard or are not exercising hard enough. Assessing your heart rate, you will know your ideal training zones, you get the most out of every exercise session.  Whatever happens during your physiological assessment, whatever system is limited or compensating, you will use your heart rate as the marker of intensity to work on that system.  For example, if your ventilation rate is the first to significant change at a heart rate of 150bpm, then this value will be used in your recommendations as this is easily measured compared to the other systems.

Muscle Oxygen Monitoring

The MOXY monitor is a part of the new wave of physiological testing. It is a small, non-invasive sensor that utilizes infrared light to continuously monitor oxygen saturation (SmO₂) levels and total hemoglobin (THb) in the muscles while they exercise. It is designed to provide accurate, real time measurements of the percentage of hemoglobin-and-myoglobin-carrying oxygen in the capillaries and cells of muscle tissue, where oxygen is consumed to produce energy. MOXY helps identify optimal training intensity zones and provides feedback on the physiologic systems limiting performance.

From here, it is up to the tester or coach to interpret the results and give you feedback on how to improve on your health, movement or performance limitations.  After these are optimized, the only part left is the skill of the task at hand, whether it’s a sport, movement or activity; meaning, the fun part! Come in and let’s help you find where your limitation is.