In many fields of everyday life we try to skip „some“ steps, thinking that we can reach the goal quicker and easier. However, we often stumble across problems and realize that missing parts are crucial for having a strong and solid base. We simply see that we cannot add more levels to our skyscraper because we digged too little into the ground and our building is at risk of collapsing. Unfortunately, the same situation oftentimes occurs in sports. Missing basic elements such as core stability, joint mobility, flexibility and balance will definitely increase the risk of failure when we want to reach athletic performance of high standards.
One way of explaining balanced and harmonic state of life is to use the pyramid structure, such as the well known nutritional pyramid. Nutritional pyramid gives us a solid example of how to keep a balance in our daily diet. In regards to sporting context, I always try to use the pyramid structure in my conversations with athletes, coaches, physiotherapists and doctors, as it helps to easily understand priorities of the training.
A well known pyramid, but this time based on the functional athletic training, was produced by Gray Cook. Based on that structure, we devide the sport training into 3 levels.
At the base of the pyramid we find „Functional movement“(FM). FM is very easy to explain: it is a variety of motor skills of an athlete that allow him to move freely, to have a proper technique when running, jumping, landing, cutting, squatting etc. When an athlete learns and automatises basic movements and techniques, the second level can be built through improving motor abilities (strength, quickness etc.). Motor abilities combined with the FM compose the level of „Functional performance“. When reaching this level, an athlete should be able to perform strong, precise, powerful, explosive and agile movements. Located at the top of the pyramid is the most important aspect of each sport, representing the integration of the previously named two levels and specific motor skills for any sport; it is called „Functional skills“.
Given the overview of the whole sport training pyramid, and drawing some links back to the building construction example, we can argue that also in sport training the solid base is of the greatest importance. So why is it so important to start training from building a solid base, which is the functional movement in our case?
Several reasons can be named why there is a tremendeous need for movement functionality. In my opinion, prevention of injury is definitely the primary one. Sport injuries very often occur because of inappropriate foot placement, bad knee alignment or core instability. Some of the most severe injuries (such as ACL tear) are primarily caused by lack of functional movement, which should be at the base of training. Functional movement is equal to good proprioception and motor control.
Another reason supporting the training pyramid use is that with proper basic movements and developed coordination, one is able to learn new motor skills easier. For example, in strength training it is of great importance to have a good techinque. If an athlete cannot control his/her body, we cannot expect him/her to be able to do it with any added resistance. Therefore we can see that the second level of the pyramid desperately depends on the first one, the FM.
In conclusion we can summarize that the optimal FM is a base for sport training that prevents injuries, allows the athlete’s motor skills growth and a powerful, strong and stabile body development. Thus, we always need to start from building the strong base before moving forward.
Remember: There is no shortcut to improvement, only a shortcut to injury!
P.S. Here is Gray Cook’s video with instructions on how to perform Self Movement Screen and get the feedback on quality of your own movements! Enjoy!