Movement Screening

In the early nineties, we learned how to perform fitness assessments on our clients. The assessment consisted of measuring body fat, upper body strength in the form of a maximal bench press, lower body strength in the form of a maximal leg press or sometimes squat. There was a flexibility test where you sat with your legs straight ahead and reached past her toes (the sit and reach test). There was also anaerobic capacity tests performed with a step or on a bicycle or treadmill. Sometimes we would do a pull-up test or a push-up test, and that was the extent of our assessment. It just felt like something was always missing and as we learned more about the human body and how it moves we realized that it was the quality of human movement that was not being assessed. It was merely how much force can somebody produce or how far can they reach without actually looking at the quality of the reach and it went on this way for many years until the system was created called the functional movement screen (FMS).

The First Movement Screen

The system initially consisted of 12 movements that you would measure the quality of each motion and score it simply zero, one, two, or three. A score of three would be a perfect score; two meant you could perform it but not perfectly, while one meant you were incapable of performing it. A zero would mean that pain was present when trying to perform the movement and the person should consult a medical professional before beginning training. Within a few years, the creators of the program removed five of the movements because they felt that it was perhaps redundant, so it dropped down to seven movement screens. The scoring stayed the same. We used the screening process at the time because it was the only thing that measured how well somebody moved, and from a trainer’s perspective that is more important than how much weight he or she can lift. If the person’s quality of movement is poor and they can still lift a lot of weight, then it is really not a question of if they are going to get injured but more when.

By knowing how well somebody moves gives us a greater understanding of what they are capable of, as well as which exercises would be beneficial for them and which may prove to be detrimental. For several years we used the system, but I have got to say I kept scratching my head thinking that there’s something missing. It is not giving us the information we really want. It was an easy way to give the basic judgment and, based on the score, give a predetermined set of exercises to help correct what we saw was wrong. The problem with this is that it did not give any room for learning. It was merely a robotic response based on certain numbers. The client would not learn, and the trainer certainly wouldn’t need to understand why, just do it. They would just be given exercises based on posters on the wall.

It was not until a few years ago that I found out what was missing and when I looked at the seven movement screens which are: overhead press, in-line lunge, hurdle step, active straight leg raise, torso stability push-up, Rotary torso stability, and shoulder mobility. All seven movements were not familiar movements that people would find themselves performing on a daily basis. They were more artificial and less practical and less lifelike.

I applaud the creators of this system, but there definitely was something left out. Rarely do we have anybody ever hold weight over their head and ask them to sit down or squat. Rarely do we see anyone lie on their back with both legs straight and lift one up off the ground. I do not know too many people that need to balance on a board and lower themselves down into a lunge while holding a dowel against their back. Nor do I find many people having to step up and over a rubber band and bring themselves back again. I understand what was trying to be created, but I felt like it was not giving me a true understanding of what each client is capable of doing. More often it made the participant feel like a failure, which is the worst way to begin a training program. Most people seek out our services because they do not feel at their best.

Rocky’s Movement Screening

The screening process we currently use asks participants to step or reach in many directions in much more of a way they find themselves moving. We want to observe how a person’s body reacts to stepping forward, backward, sideways and in rotation. We also want to observe how their body reacts to reaching in many directions: overhead, side-bending, and rotating. We look at the body in parts (feet, ankles, knees, hips, ribs, shoulders, etc.) as well as how it moves on an integrative global scale. We also videotape their gait pattern, perform a static posture assessment and a hands-on foot scanning procedure. The process is a combination of the Gray Institute’s 3-Dimensional Movement Analysis & Performance System (3D MAPS) and the screening process used by fellow students and colleagues of the Anatomy in Motion – Finding Centre courses, created by Gary Ward.

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