Why Screen Client Movement?

Whether your client’s goal is fat loss, muscle gain or increased fitness, movement is going to be the foundational principle of any exercise programme you prescribe.

As an exercise coach, your number one provision must always be to avoid injury so before you start increasing your client’s strength and conditioning you must accurately screen their movement patterns to identify their “weak links” and asymmetries, improve their areas of weakness and ensure that you are not simply building strength into their movement dysfunctions.

The Functional Movement Screen, developed by the Physical Therapist Gray Cook, is a simple seven step screen based on observing and scoring seven fundamental patterns of movement.

Two screens look at mobility, the very foundation of movement, two look at stability, whilst the final three look at the “big moves” - deep squat, hurdle step and the in-line lunge.

By screening these seven areas of movement it is possible to gain an excellent understanding of where your client has issues that may effect their training performance, results and likelihood of getting injured in the long run (at Primal Gym, every new member is taken through these screening tests and more).

Shoulder and hip mobility are the priority movements whilst the squat is arguably the most important exercise to screen in terms of movement optimisation and injury prevention. Many clients, for example, get injured whilst performing poorly prescribed loaded squats.

Screening Fundamentals

Each test is observed and the client is given a score between 0 - 3 for their ability to perform the given movement:

  • A score of 3 would reflect the ability to perform the movement accurately and without flaw.
  • A score of 2 would indicate that the movement could be performed but only with some form of mechanical compensation, such as squatting with heels raised.
  • A score of 1 is given when the movement couldn’t be performed, even with compensations.
  • Finally, a score of 0 is given if any pain is felt during the given movement.

What To Look For

The Squat:

Good to Go = Score 3

If the upper torso is parallel with the tibia or towards vertical, the femur is below horizontal, the knees are aligned over the feet and the dowel is aligned over the feet, we can safely say that the client is able to perform the deep squat with good form and so we know we can load that movement pattern.

Satisfactory Movement = Score 2

If the client can perform this movement perfectly as described above but only when they have the compensation of raised heels, we would give the client a score of 2 and know that we can train that movement as long as we work to correct the need for the compensation.

Poor Movement = Score 1

If the movement can not be performed perfectly as described, even with the heels raised, we would give the client a score of 1 and know that we should not load that movement until the client can at least get to the compensation stage. We can provide corrective exercises and coaching to strengthen this weak link.

Pain = Score 0

If pain occurs during any part of the movement screen or the clearing tests, stop the test and recommend the client seeks assistance from a GP, physiotherapist or osteopath. The same system is applied to each movement screen, the criteria for the shoulder and hip mobility screens are described below.

Shoulder Mobility:

Good to Go = Score 3

If the fists are within 1 hand length.

Satisfactory Movement = Score 2

If the fists are not within 1 hand length.

Poor Movement = Score 1

If the fists are not within 1.5 hand lengths.

Active Straight Leg Raise:

Good to Go = Score 3

With the non-moving limb remaining in a neutral position, the vertical line of the ankle stays below the ASIS (pelvis) and thigh.

Satisfactory Movement = Score 2

With the non-moving limb remaining in a neutral position, the vertical line of the ankle resides between the thigh and knee.

Poor Movement = Score 1

With the non-moving limb remaining in a neutral position, the vertical line of the ankle stays below the knee.

What Next?

The client’s final score gives us a good indication of their weak links and how you would factor them into an effective program. We can discern whether the issue is likely to be mobility, stability, learned patterns or even previous injury.

By working on the weak links, strengthening what’s already working and avoiding potentially harmful loaded movements, we can be very effective in building fundamental movement and strength in our clients.

Using this system of screening and re-screening and by learning a series of mobility, stability and corrective protocols for each movement, we can be confident that we are working with our client from a safe, fundamental starting point and measure the effectiveness of our exercise prescription.

Remember - if you’re not assessing you’re guessing!