The start place for all of our clientele is via an evaluation of certain movement patterns without load, (i.e. weight) and the reason is very simple….as well as movement efficiency, it allows us to assess two main qualities before training commences…MOBILITY and STABILITY. How can a trainer/coach expect anyone to squat , push, pull, lunge or hinge without a good dose of both these qualities? Every action, whether it be running, jumping, hitting or catching a ball, require stability, force production, and force absorption, and these actions are rarely done in isolated movements through the kinetic chain. A whole body sequence must take place, using multiple joints, in different planes of motion.
There are many different products available on the market these days outlining how the trainer or coach should structure these movement screenings. FMS (functional movement screening) is probably one of the more recognisable ones, and you can even gain a certification under the brand. Here at CHP we tend to lean towards Kelvin B Giles’s Physical Competence Assessment Manual, and the use of this manual allows us to optimise the process of screening for individual development.
In this manual, there are over 55 different assessments that can be applied to your athletes covering bracing, pushing pulling, landing and jumping, triple flexion and extension competence and much more. We are not suggesting that all 55 assessments have to be used in a screening as this would take hours….so use your time wisely! Essentially though, a movement screening is about picking out the right drills to establish a starting point for progress, and if done right it should completely negate the excuse of creating a one size fits all approach to programming. We’d also like to point out that assessment shouldn’t just cease once the screening is complete…ALL training from here on in should involve constant monitoring. As Kelvin Giles states in the manual, TRAINING IS TESTING AND TESTING IS TRAINING.
Currently, most individuals we work with are quite often in the early stages of training and so we will apply a set number of tests to assess their movement with the opportunity to advance the screening as we go if a good level is reached early on. It is, of course, entirely up to you which battery of tests you use to establish a well rounded idea of your client’s movement capabilities, thus allowing you to formulate a strategy for effective training.
We like to keep things super simple and as informal as possible during assessments, it helps relax the individual in front of you, which often brings about truer results. That said, all tests have to be performed correctly, and they can often get butchered, bringing about incorrect results.
Below is a list and rationale of each assessment we use with most, obviously these can vary depending on who you have in front of you.
A start point to see if there is anything glaringly obvious with posture. Typical findings may show some rounding of the shoulders, forward head posture, winged scapula, excessive anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, internally rotated femurs, supinated or pronated feet, and so on. Have in mind, many people have postural issues statically, but that doesn’t necessarily show up through movement, but information gathered her can help formulate a picture, and can be often referred back to further into training should problems arise.
Muscle length tests:
We generally look at pec major/minor, lats, upper and lower hamstrings, external rotators of the hip, tfl, quads and psoas major to see where restrictions are. This allows us to implement effective stretching, and or foam rolling advice, and if need be, manual soft tissue therapy.
The ability to dorsiflex at the ankle is super important, and if you want your athlete squatting, jumping, and landing this needs to be addressed with an ankle range test. The photo below gives you an idea on how to perform this simple test. Kelvin Giles’s assessment manual also offers a scoring system to follow as a way of recording for future reference. A good score achieved here is very helpful in terms of knee and hip dominant exercises.
Shoulder lift off:
Good shoulder range is essential for progress in training with all push/pull and overhead lifts, and if throwing or striking actions are performed within sport, it’s paramount. Below is a picture of the test we use, taken from the manual by Kelvin. Anywhere between 15-20cm reach off the floor would be desirable.
Double leg squat with arms ahead:
The squat is an integral part of most training programs and the squat test really tells us quite a lot about movement efficiency. The range of abilities within this exercise from person to person can vary hugely, and a mechanically sound squat can be affected by several deficits up and down the body. Essentially though, we are looking for an upright posture, with head and chest up, heels in contact with the floor, thighs to at least parallel and the hips, knees and feet to be aligned i.e. no knee valgus, or turning/collapsing feet.
This is definitely one of our benchmark tests, and if an individual can hinge at the hips this early on in the testing/training process without too much cuing from us, then we are at a good starting point to progress. Much like the squat, the hinge is often a ‘practice makes perfect’ exercise. A light broomstick is used for this test, and the individual moves from an upright position using a hip hinge to a just above knee position. Back must be flat, shoulders down and back, and heels on floor.
Forward lunge and return:
A unilateral movement efficiency test to establish if the individual has the ability to maintain trunk stability and to assess whether ankle, knee and hip alignment can be achieved. Like many of the tests, it shows us the ability to transfer from one leg to the other, an absolute necessity for good running mechanics.
This test allows us to see the ability to control upper and lower body simultaneously . Good hip, knee and ankle alignment with heels on the floor is optimal, a parallel or below thigh will score well. Upper body needs to have a chest up, stiff posture and arms holding stick need to be directly over mid foot.
We often add in some form of bracing and pushing and pulling to this battery of assessments, and depending on the results of the above tests and therefore the ability of your athlete or client to show a good level of mobility and stability, we will often look at jumping and landing quality. This is vital to assess the ability to produce and absorb force, again essential components needed in life and sport, but a separate blog will discuss this topic.
To sum up, what we have outlined here are some useful assessments to establish possible deficits in your client’s kinetic chain. The key to looking at the results though, is knowing what to do to correct these deficits. As with most things though, the more you do them, the more you learn, and by the re-enforcement of good coaching we are able to improve movement efficiency, and load a variety of movement patterns without the risk of injury. Above all, keep it simple, work with what you see, and remember, we are trainers/coaches and if you come across a problem you can’t solve, outsource or refer to someone who does, rather than pushing on in the hope that whatever you are doing ,works.
Enhance Performance, Reduce Injury!
Rob and Sam