Why You Should Get a Functional Movement Screen

STACK Expert Chris Costa explains the value of getting a functional movement screen before starting a training program.

You may be a great athlete, but are you anatomically correct? Sure, we are all built with the same basic structure, give or take a few bones and muscles. But even great athletes can experience mechanically erroneous anatomical issues, which can significantly increase their likelihood of injury.

Do you think your body functions optimally? A functional movement screen could prove you need some adaptations.

The NFL has tested its players for movement implications for years. The NHL jumped on board in 2013 during physicals and the rookie combine.

A functional movement screen identifies movement difficulties so strength coaches can make appropriate adaptations. If you're a coach, you may want your players to be screened by a fitness professional—such as a physical therapist—who's qualified to administer the screen.

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The functional movement screen tests a total of 7 movements:

  1. Squat. The movement is incredibly efficient at building a stronger core, hamstrings and glutes, but almost everyone completes a Squat with poor mechanics. This assessment measures whether your flaws fall within certain ranges. I've noticed especially with hockey players that pelvic tilt issues greatly affect their ability to cleanly complete a Squat, specifically in the back and valgus on the knee.
  2. Shoulder Reach. Screeners look for issues that could affect shoulder girdle instability and deviation. What does this mean for a coach? Less likelihood for labral tear and rotator cuff injuries that can sideline a player for three to four months. The shoulder, man's weakest joint, is highly susceptible to injury. An imbalance here can greatly affect flexibility. You'd be surprised how little flexibility many athletes have in their shoulders.
  3. In-Line Lunge. This movement measures the ability to balance and move simultaneously while keeping the core, spine and neck aligned with the hips. The screener looks for hip imbalances as well as occurrences of impingement at the sacral joint.
  4. Shoulder Clearing. The screener looks for flexibility within each shoulder joint from the front. Pain is a clear indicator of a problem here.
  5. Unilateral Reach. Here, the screener checks for unilateral balance. We want to see whether each side of the body is strong enough to support the weight of the entire body. This movement requires an immense amount of core strength and balance. Don't worry—many people fail this test. Most are able to complete what is referred to as alternating reaching: the left arm and right leg fully extend while you balance on your right arm and left knee. A neutral spine can indicate a strong core and lower back.
  6. Push-Up. This movement requires total body strength. You are expected to be able to lift your body weight with arms narrow at forehead height. Many test subjects are unable to perform this movement, but when lowering the palms to chin level, they are able to press into a fully extended Push-Up.
  7. Supine Hip Flexion. This movement tests range of motion in the hip joint. In addition, it helps gauge hip strength and diagnoses possible misalignment of the pelvis, which can be the cause of lower-back pain, poor posture, and hip impingement. Flexion of the ankle is also important. This can indicate whether you have weak or tight calf muscles, which can negatively affect gait.

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