There are far too many people in the fitness industry focused on performance through numerical data rather than focusing on quality of life, injury prevention, feeling great, and getting results. To ensure a better quality of life, prevent injury, feel better, and get great results, a movement assessment should be administered before you start any kind of exercise program. I’m a big fan of “starting with why” as I introduce topics/ideas, so I’ll explain why a movement assessment is so valuable and absolutely necessary in your fitness journey, especially when just starting out.
When I first joined the fitness industry, the industry seemed to be all about fitness assessments such as how many sit-ups can you do in a minute’s time, a max press on a stationary chest press machine, a sit-and-reach test, body fat %, and a step test or treadmill. Those assessments served a purpose, there’s no doubt about that, and they provided a majority of people with data for tracking results. In fact, I’ll still use some of these assessments (tests) from time to time with some members or challenges.
The tests were taken from the American Council of Sports Medicine handbook and each test measures a specific component of fitness:
Sit-ups = Muscular Endurance
Max Press = Muscular Strength
Sit-and-Reach = Flexibility
Body Fat % = Body Composition
Step Test/Treadmill Test = Cardiovascular Health (Heart Health)
These tests/assessments surely measure fitness, but what they don’t measure is mobility (particularly in joints like our ankles, hips, and shoulders), balance, stability and core stability (which is much different than muscular endurance), and functional strength (squat, lunge, push-up, etc.). They also don’t measure any underlying issues such as imbalance or dysfunction or even pain in certain movements.
This was one of my first true “ah-ha” moments (trust me, there were many, many more) during the development of my personal training career. I used to be all hyped about the ACSM tests to see where a person’s fitness level was assessed. That way I knew how to create the most bad-ass workout routine around. It was a program full of bells and whistles so when we re-tested these assessments we saw only increase in the scores.
But what about that back pain they talk about from time to time? What about that nagging ankle they get when the run? Or the sore knee after a day of walking? Those aren’t assessed in the ACSM fitness tests and they could be missed during the medical history questionnaire (assuming the coach/trainer is even going through that with a new client/member).
Here’s where most of the growth of a trainer occurs: after 2 years in the industry. I say that because the average personal trainer only stays in the field for 2 years (some statistics are showing 18 months). Once you’re in the field long enough, you start to create a better appreciation for your initial consult with a client because you want to know more about them so you can make more of an impact with their program.
I soon found out about the Functional Movement Screen and the enormous value it placed in my hands as a coach. I became certified through Level 1 FMS which meant I could now screen for mobility and stability (flexibility), core strength/stability, balance, and functional strength (squat, lunge, push-up, etc.) AND identify any potential underlying issues such as muscular imbalance, movement dysfunction, and/or (gulp) pain in less than 15 minutes. This was a GAME-CHANGER for my personal training career. So much so, that I believe the FMS should be administered to each and every individual, active or inactive, to make sure we can be proactive in the development of their health and fitness while simultaneously preventing injury. The best part is that the FMS works for ANYONE and EVERYONE. No matter what age, what sport, background, job, etc!
(Note: if you’re curious or interested in completing a Functional Movement Screen, I would like to offer a free consultation that includes a free Functional Movement Screen, just click on this link and fill out the form.)
The Functional Movement Screen made program design even more personal than ever before and it gave us an indicator of something other than fitness assessments to look at. The FMS created a functional assessment to help people move better and feel better. The FMS also provides a feedback to the client as he/she can feel the results of moving better and feeling better.
For example, if we were to test muscular endurance and you score 40 sit-ups in a minute on your first test and then 46 on your second test, there’s no doubt that you improved your muscular endurance. But what if your back was sore each time you finished the test? What if you couldn’t hold a plank for longer than 30 seconds? Is that really a sign of muscular endurance?
Another example: what if you sat down on the chest press machine and pressed 1.5x your body weight 6x and then you did the same weight 10x the next time you tested your muscular strength. Again, there’s no doubting you gained strength, but does that really matter when you can’t do a full push-up? That fitness test doesn’t seem so cool when you are asked to throw out some push-ups and you can only do a couple before you have to switch things up.
The value of the FMS has taught me a lot on how to assess movement quality and to make personal training programs even more specific, especially when compared to how I used to assess new clients/members. Ironically enough, I’ve seen worse FMS scores come from people who came from training at other gyms who do NOT assess movement quality in their clients. It’s ridiculous! Furthermore, I am not the only coach who has come across this issue as I have several peers in the industry who have noted similar findings.
If a coach truly wants to help better a person’s health and fitness, an assessment beyond a fitness assessment is needed. You are getting a disservice without one. (A reminder: click here for your FREE Functional Movement Screen so you can get assessed.)
I still use a couple of the ACSM fitness assessments from time to time, like for challenges or for additional fitness assessments. I get the most feedback out of a member’s program than I do anything else. I can see all I need to see in the progressions of their workouts and their performance in and out of the gym.
So let’s say you don’t have access to a coach that provides a FMS. That’s OK. I wanted to make sure you at least could do a self-assessment of sorts to make sure you’re not going to do your body more harm than good in the long run.
Below are four key assessments you should do ASAP to make sure you’re doing what’s best for you. For your benefit, the videos also provide feedback responses like what you should be feeling (or not feeling) as well as how to assess and conduct each movement.
Assessment 1: Toe Touch (multi-segmental flexion/lumbar flexion) – Assessing the ability to posteriorly weight-shift as well as flexibility of hamstrings and other muscles.
Technically, this is episode 1 of our project Dynamic Udity Fit.
The ability to touch your toes is far more important than you think. The inability to do so can lead you down a road of pain and limited ability.
Find out more by checking out our first episode on multi-segmental flexion (hip flexion) and why it matters to everyday life and your exercise performance aka results.
Matt Haberl of Dynamic Physiotherapy
Jacob Dorshorst of CrossFit UDX
Unity Fitness La Crosse
Posted by Jordan Rudolph on Thursday, January 26, 2017
Assessment 2: Shoulder Flexion (overhead mobility) – Assessing the ability to press/pull or reach overhead safely and efficiently as well as the flexibility of the lats, triceps, and other muscles.
Episode 4- Stop fighting yourself with overhead lifts!
This week we take a look at shoulder mobility and how this can affect your ability to push more weight or set you up for further shoulder or back injury. Assess your shoulders Now!
Posted by Dynamic Physiotherapy on Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Assessment 3: Prone Press-Up (multi-segmental extension/lumbar extension) – Assessing the ability to extend the torso and upper body without impinging the back (lumbar spine) and as well as the flexibility of the hip flexors and quadriceps.
Here's another episode in our project Dynamic Udity Fit, this time covering the assessment of multi-segmental extension (a prone press up) to look at hip extension.
If you recall, we covered multi-segmental flexion in one of our first episodes so now we're going through the other primary hip movement.
Perform this assessment to check for restrictions in low back, mid back, hip flexors, and more.
Finding restrictions in these areas could lead to future injury and decreased performance. If there's any pain noted, seek a medical professional (like Matt Haberl of Dynamic Physiotheraoy) for assistance!
Next week Matt, Jake of CrossFit UDX, and Jordan are going to start diving into more movement-based and performance-based exercises! Stay tuned!
Posted by Unity Fitness La Crosse on Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Assessment 4: Single Leg Balance –Assessing the ability to balance on one leg with motor control and other key elements of movement. This exercise is particularly important for any single leg exercise you may do, which includes step ups and any kind of lunge.
Struggling with progressing your lunges, step ups or single leg squat exercises?
A key element to these single leg exercises is your balance. If your body is struggling just to keep it from falling over your ability to build strength here is nearly impossible. Additionally this often leads to knee pain which further prevents progression.
Take a look at this short video from @unityfitness @udxcrossfit
Posted by Dynamic Physiotherapy on Wednesday, February 22, 2017
As I previously noted, these assessment are more or less tutorials with a step-by-step approach on what to feel for and how to assess yourself and your movement. If pain is noted in any of these, it is in your best interest (and highly recommended) that you seek a health professional to seek future treatment to rid yourself of pain. Pain can lead to further injury and compromised movement patterns through compensation.
These self-assessments are crucial to your long-term success and injury prevention. I recommend you do them as soon as possible to help find areas that you should be focusing on as well as maybe some other areas to find modifications until a correction is implemented. If you have any questions AT ALL please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or just simply follow this link for a free consultation and movement screen.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, with better information comes a more educated product. Now that you’ve been educated, it’s time to implement and take action on your movement and results!