Monday, July 30, 2012

Strong Foundations: Rediscovering the Importance of Including Fundamental Movement Patterns in Health Assessments

               Who knew that training smarter and not harder would take a lot of thought?  The time it takes to think through, design, and put into practice an individualized exercise program may become a buzz kill for those excited to just get moving and sweat off some pounds.  A surge of motivational energy is great to follow up with an immediate workout but it can cause many to overlook the value and effectiveness of taking extra time beforehand to strategically plan workouts.  Strategy is important when we’re involved with something for the long haul, such as living a healthy and active lifestyle.  It is very easy to over train, under train, or get injured without a clear plan in mind.  

               There is much truth to the phrase “everyone is their own best doctor.”  The value of self-awareness and self-examination stands in no comparison to the opinions of others, but there is no reason why external feedback cannot be included in an individual’s bank of personal awareness.  This is a reason why we implement physical assessments in the health and fitness industry.  It is also why we began to use the Functional Movement Screening™ (FMS) into our assessment process with EVERY member of the club.  The FMS™ is not a gimmicky service aimed at further distinguishing trainers from gym rats.  It is part of a well-balanced exercise program that should be as routine as “doing cardio 2-3 times a week.”   

              Movement screenings provide some of the most valuable information regarding strength, mobility, and stability that we do not get from a PAR-Q or 3 Minute Step Test.  Normal gym assessments involve some Q and A regarding health history. These discussions highlight previous injuries, health goals, and any contraindications to exercise.  Aside from that subjective information trainers also obtain objective information through measuring some of the body’s markers for physical conditioning, like body fat.  Trainers may also record results from tests measuring the performance of physical tasks.  All of this data is then compared to charts composed of current national standards.  Even though this information is great to have for recording progress in some ways, it does not cover some other details which are crucial to assessing a person’s readiness for certain types of exercises and activity. 

By and large the missing question is “How well are you moving?”  It sounds like a vague question but standards are being introduced that are just as testable and reliable as waist size.  It is even more important to ask this question if the goal is improving success in activities based on movement and not numbers.  The FMS™ is currently helping health and fitness professionals provide a measurable standard for movement that better enables health professionals to track progress.  Here at LTS we’ve broken down the techniques and tools of the FMS™ to a series of 6 tests combining the most fundamental movements of the human body.  What the tests do is ask the body to move in ways that are completely natural yet have a tendency to become unnatural as it gets deconditioned by the environment and other factors instilling faulty movement patterns (e.g. regularly working on a computer leading to rounded shoulders).   When we recreate these movements through the FMS™ then asymmetries, weaknesses, and strengths are more easily detected by eyes trained to recognize them.  With this information we can design a program that better addresses these discrepancies in order to help the body rediscover its ideal positioning for all sorts activities. 

             To put it briefly, the FMS™ can help us build a good foundation for movement.  More complex movements will become less efficient if they are performed without a good foundation.  The more able we are to perform fundamental movement patterns then the more efficient we will be at performing activities requiring more refined skills.  This is because we expend less energy fighting to use muscles not meant to serve as primary support for certain movements.  Instead we use our bodies as we should by recruiting the right muscles at the right times,  transferring energy to where it is needed, and taking it away from where it is not.  Better movement allows the body to get more benefit from exercise while making it less prone to injuries that can hinder or diminish gains acquired through training.  Performing a movement assessment every programming period (about 4-6 weeks) keeps us up to date on the effectiveness of a program and reveals where changes may need to be made in our approach.  It can reveal where there has been improvement and it can give permission to raise the bar on a foundation proven to be strong enough to support it.  

For more information on the Functional Movement Screening™ go to 

- Noel Poff, CSCS, CPT, LMT, FMS Certified, LTS Trainer

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