I have to admit, I love it when coaches and professionals who seek to enhance athletes’ performance (and recreational athletes fitness) make their starting point for the creation of training programs at screening and assessing movement functionality. That brings overall quaility to any training program, namely because it is related to the things I have mentioned in one of my previous articles, which are: motor skills development, motor abilities enhancement, musculoskeletal system stress reduction, injury prevention and mental well – being. So, once again I will write about movement functionality. I think it could be seen as the cherry on top of what I have been writing about several times on our blog. I have been writing many things on „whats“ functionality is and „why“ we need it in our movement. Now, I want to share with you practical suggestions when screening movement and making a specific program for your client/athlete.
Of course, as functional movement screening is just a diagnostic tool, the most valuable part is not the end result of the testing but the things we observe and write down as faulty movement patterns, lack of mobility, stability or strength. Based on those details, coaches can make a specific corrective program for an individual athlete or a person.
Movement screen and assessment
Before we jump to practical suggestions, it is important to know what kind of tool to use when it comes to diagnostics. One very simple tool I have already presented in my first article is the FMS™, founded by Gray Cook. The great thing about FMS™ is that the evaulation scale is simple and clear and the combination of tests gives a broad picture of your client’s status. As a coach you can follow these scoring criteria instructions to learn how to screen and evaluate your client. If you choose to test yourself, take a look at this video tutorial. For detailed information, check out Cook’s brilliant book Movement. Remember, the result is important, but more important to note are all the details you see during the testing.
What to look at during the screen?
1. Mobility restrictions
Body parts that should be mobile by nature are the shoulders, toracic spine, hips and ankles. Nowdays, people don’t tend to move too often and efficently (as it was when man was a hunter thousands of years ago) which leads to a lack of mobility in different body segments. Insufficent mobility, especially in the hip and ankle regions is very often related to severe sport injuries such as ankle and knee sprains. Among the normal population, a lack of mobility in the hip region can be a significant factor for chronic lower back pain.
Feet and knees should be stable for efficent kinetic energy transfer from the lower limbs into the upper body. The core region (abdomen + hips) needs to be stable for lumbar spine integrity and force transfer from upper to lower limbs and vice versa. Shoulder blades should slide firm on the rib cage in order to give stability to shoulders when moving. A sturdy body, especially in the dynamic environment of sport, allows efficient muscle activation. Simply said, all the effort we put in one action gives the optimal end result with no, or minor, energy leaks. Furthermore, when body parts that should be stable become shaky, there is significant mechanical stress (overload) on different body tissues such as muslces, tendons, bones and nerves. For that reason scientists claim that there is a strong evidence for a relation between an unstable core and chronic lower back pain.
3. Strength and faulty movement patterns
Strength is a very important factor for functional movement. Very often we can see some muscle groups being too weak such as hip flexors, hip abductors or foot pronators. We have to find muscle strength equilibrium in order to avoid overactivation and underactivation of different muscle groups. The reason for this is that it can lead to poor motor control and adverse changes to movement patterns. The most important things I look at when assesing motion is the movement of the feet, knees, hips and core.
Creation of the program
There are countless numbers of corrective exercises available to the coach but it should be his or her prerogative to choose the exercises that suit their client/athlete best. Actually, any exercise you do can be corrective, you just have to see your goals clearly. Before I share with you some rules when making a program, I would like to name some of the great experts in the field that helped me not only to find the most useful exercises but also to better understand the overall philosophy of corrective exercising. These people are: Kelly Starrett, Michael Boyle, Gray Cook, Mark Verstegen, Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson.
So, the 5 rules are:
1. Myofascial release
Before starting any corrective program, you should do 5 minutes of self myofascial relase with a foam roller or some other piece of equipment.
If you notice assymetries between the left and right side of the body, especially related to mobility, that should be the first thing to correct before you move on to stability and strength.
3. Mobility before stability
Stability can be built only when the surrounding structures in the body do not have restrictions in mobility. A practical example of this: core stability should only be worked on once the thoracic spine has optimal range of motion.
4. Quality over quantity
A very important rule. Take care to ensure quality during movement. Corrective exercising is all about quality of muscle activation and movement patterns.
Progression is maybe the most important rule of training. Start with simple exercises, once you’ve mastered them, move on to more advanced ones.