Athlete’s Hierarchy of Needs

We discuss this Hierarchy with all of our new clients and athletes.

Why is this hierarchy important?

Because this is how our coaches determine what our clients/athletes need to prioritize to stay injury resilient and crush plateaus! This hierarchy is our bedrock for making informed decisions. Without this process for assessment, we’d be guessing what our clients need rather than making informed data-driven decisions.

When looking at this hierarchy it’s important to know that while we can work on more than one thing at a time it’s built like a pyramid for a reason. The base is the most important layer for building up.

From an injury resilience* standpoint without the necessary or prerequisite flexibility, you become more likely to incur an injury through training. Injury is a broad word that captures catastrophic incidents like a tear or break. Though in training it’s far more likely that you experience a minor injury such as a pulled muscle or a sprain.
*side note- we no longer use the term injury prevention because there are many factors that play into injury and we can no more control or prevent those variables for clients than we can control the weather or what happens when you leave the parking lot. More on this in another blog

From a performance goal angle. Do you know how tall a pyramid can grow? Answer, as wide as its base. So if you are looking to lift more weight/gain more skill having adequate flexibility is paramount and the indicator of potential growth.

Here’s a great example to describe that nagging injury. Bob’s knee hurts when squatting. Working on Bob’s squat to improve his knee pain is jumping all the way to the top of the pyramid (because squatting is a skill) and we missed all the layers below. It’s possible that Bob has stiff or short muscles in the front of his upper leg (quads) as a result of sitting at a desk 8 hours a day for the last 15 years. So, we need to work on Bob’s quad flexibility first before addressing the skill of squatting.

Next, we’ll briefly break each layer down:


A structure, joint, or tissue’s passive range of motion. If I use my left hand to pull my right finger back towards my forearm as far as it will comfortably go I am demonstrating my finger’s flexibility. How far my finger can move = flexibility


That same structure, joint, or tissue’s active range of motion. When I lift that same finger as high as possible without any assistance attempting to follow the same path I am demonstrating my finger’s mobility. How far I can control/ consciously access movement = mobility

Strength Balance

At Fortitude, we work off very real specific ratios to understand how well you produce force in different movement patterns. The more structurally balanced you are the less pain you have and the better performance gainz you get. Win/Win. Below is an example of some of the ratios that we use to determine why someone like you or Bob, from the example above, may get knee pain when squatting.

What we have observed over the last 2 years of implementing this strength balance testing is that the closer our clients are to these ratios in terms of weight, the more injury resilient and less injury prone they are. These ratios allow us to see if someone is squat or hinge dominant, stronger on one leg than the other, or lacking something like grip and core strength (both of which are indicators of longevity).

For example, if you can deadlift 100# and also squat 100# you are squat dominant to the tune of 20%. To improve resilience and decrease the potential for pain/injury we would work on developing strength in your deadlift. We can then extrapolate this data all the way down to your single arm carry and single leg step up. Anywhere that we find a deviation from the goal ratios, we have an opportunity to train. Creating more balance. More balance = more resilience

Work to Rest Ratio

How much are you doing vs how well are you recovering? You do not get fit from working out. You get fit by creating an opportunity to recover. Exercise breaks down your systems, recovery builds it back stronger. Recover = Gainz. Here we look at things like Stress, Diet, and Sleep as intentional recovery strategies.


Skill is defined as the ability to do something well. The air squat, pull up, and deadlift are all complex movements that require practice to get good at. Developing these skills through training is how we help you develop strength, resilience, and become an all around bada$$ out in the real world.

What does it all mean?

Each layer is a piece to the puzzle that allows us to identify how we can help our clients continue to train pain free for life. On day 1 of our onboarding process, we take new clients through a full joint by joint assessment to learn about any flexibility or mobility restrictions that they might have. This information coupled with some simple strength balance metrics dictates how we teach what we teach to new clients. From day 1 we build a custom roadmap of education around each individual in order to set you up for long term success in training.

As new clients progress here at Fortitude Strength we will reassess these things every 6-12 weeks to help them continue moving forward towards their strength and fitness goals while staying injury resilient.

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