We Asked 3 Top Notch Coaches: What's Your Favorite Movement Assessment?
I got in touch with a few strength coaches who I truly respect and asked them some key questions. And of course, I weighted in as well.
Today's question is: what is your favourite movement assessment and why?
Why are movement assessments even important to begin with? They show us where you're deficiencies area - where you're not strong enough, where you're losing performance, and even where you might be likely to get injured. Without knowing those things, it's impossible to design and good program.
The Back Bridge - there are very few motions that reveal an athlete's ability to move their body through space like the back bridge. (hip flexor, t-spine, & shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, upper body pressing strength, etc.)
I have not met an athlete that could perform a proper back bridge that moved poorly elsewhere.
It is very hard to compensate around and maneuver through limitations in this movement. (i.e. I can see if you hyperextend your low back)
Back Bridge Progressions from Coach Carl Paoli
For me, this has evolved a lot over the years. Nowadays, I really just watch basic movements and how I see people moving tells me where to test further. However, one thing I always do is a head to toe assessment of basic joint mobility. Do the joints work like they should, or do other parts of the body compensate and try to do the work instead? This involves basically having the athlete do joint circles or articulations.
For example, most folks have no control or sensation as to what their scapula is doing. Ask them to move just the scapula and they move either their spine or their elbow instead, or maybe both!
I use assessments from many different systems that I've studied over the years, plus a few of my own, but those interested further I'd direct to the FRC system (Functional Range Conditioning) to learn more, as I feel this is the best resource.
Owner and head coach at South Loop Strength and Conditioning.
I use the top tier of the SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) with all of my clients.
This enables me to make two levels of evaluation:
- Are there any major red flags in movement - either painful movements or significantly restricted movements.
- Are there any patterns that aren’t quite “up to snuff” that we can potentially work on and make a change in?
Based upon the top tier SFMA - and also how much time I have with the client - I can spend some time digging deeper into what’s going on.
If there’s a painful issue, I will refer out to some sort of practitioner. We have a good network of physical therapists and chiropractors in Chicago, so I try to get folks in with someone good. Can be tough to create buy-in here, but if someone commits to the process of rehab with a good therapist, can be possible to make massive change.
If there’s no pain, I will usually try to identify either a major mobility or stability issue that could be limiting movement patterns. For example, someone who can’t touch their toes may not be limited by “tight hamstrings” - it happens, but they may also have limited lumbar flexion or a motor control issue in the hips and spine with flexion.
Based upon what we find through the assessment process, I may do some corrective exercise or mobility work with a client as well - mostly exercises and methods borrowed from the SFMA folks, DNS, and PRI.
There are so many great ones, but my personal favorite is as simple as it gets: the single leg step-down test. Obviously, it doesn’t tell me anything about the upper body, but it does give tons of insight into single leg balance; knee, foot, ankle and hip stability; and ability to use the glutes.
All of these things are essential for both high performance goals and general every day function. If you can’t step down from a box properly, what are the chances that you’ll be able to run, hike, jump, walk-up stairs, lunge, or change direction well? Zero.
Sometimes people can mask poor function in double leg movements (squat), but single leg activities will tend to show what’s really happening.
The beautiful part is this: when we rebuild someone’s ability to do a step-down, they immediately improve all the things I just mentioned and more.