A few weeks ago I participated in my first ever Functional Movement Screen. My guess is that most of you have no idea what that is, and neither did I until a few weeks ago. However, The Screen and it’s tests of movement have forced me to think twice about my approach to personal training and how I design my clients’ individual workouts. Without being overly detailed, The Screen is a tool that is used to identify limitations or asymmetries in movement patterns, designed to identify weaknesses and imbalances throughout the body. It is a simple test that only takes about 10 minutes to perform and when you are done you receive a score on each of the movements, plus a total score for your whole body. The higher your individual scores (graded on a scale of 0 to 3, with 0 meaning that there is pain associated with that particular movement, up to 3 where you are deemed to have performed the movement without limitation) the less imbalance and asymmetry you have, but the lower your score, obviously, the more imbalance and asymmetry you have. Needless to say, my individual and total scores left room for improvement. Some of the issues I have, such as tight hamstrings, hips and calves, I’ve known about for quite some time. But I also discovered that both of my shoulders, especially my right one, have very limited range of motion and were inhibiting me from doing certain exercises properly. After reviewing my scores my eyes are now wide open and my personal goal for the rest of the summer is to focus on decreasing these imbalances with very specific stretches, movements, and exercises that I have learned by becoming certified in the Screening process.
As I stated above, this experience has me thinking about how to change what I am doing with my clients, how to better teach them proper form and technique with their exercises, and how to convince them that little things, such as muscle tightness, immobility in certain joints and limbs, and most of all, pain in certain areas, can be harmful in the long run and can prevent them from exercising properly. When working out, most of us want to do the big stuff (squats, lunges, push ups, sit ups, etc.) without putting in the time and effort to do them properly or focus on the areas that can inhibit and/or help us do those exercises the right way. Well, I’m here to try to help you understand that with a small amount of time and effort, your workouts will be even more effective. So, here are a few things to watch out for when you are exercising on your own and a few tips to work out the kinks:
- Got stiffness? Yes? Do something about it. I’ve always been a huge proponent of stretching before and after working out, but I rarely see people do it unless they are forced to, either by me or because of a particular injury. But stretching, and stretching properly, can have huge benefits, and really, it just feels good.
- Warm Up. Cool down. What’s the first thing you do when you get to the gym? Do you head straight to the weight rack? Hop on the treadmill? Head right to class? Either way, you need to get your body properly warmed up and ready to roll. Ever watch pre-game warmups for the pros, whether in basketball, baseball, football, tennis, etc.? They get WARM. REALLY warm. Sweating-like-crazy warm. Heart-rate-up warm. Do you?
- Are you in any pain? Anywhere? The whole “no pain no gain” thing was all Rocky and Mick, but it doesn’t hold true in the gym. If you have any pain when you are exercising, especially if something has been nagging you for a while, please do something about it. If you aren’t working with a trainer go see your primary care doctor, Chiropractor, Orthopedist, etc., and have a professional determine if you’re in good health. I ask my clients to do this for me so that when they come back to me after seeing the doctor I am armed with more information and I become a smarter trainer, especially for them, because of it.
- Get in front of a mirror and do a body weight squat. What do you see and/or feel? Shaky knees? Stiff hips? Feet turning out or in? Heels coming off the ground? Back arching forward like crazy? Any or all of these can be signs of imbalances and deficiencies, meaning that, like me, you have small areas that you need to work on before you start to do the big stuff. A fellow trainer of mine won’t work with anyone until she deems them able to “move” properly. She’s a smart woman.
- You see that long hard tube laying next to the wall that no one is using? It’s called a Foam Roller. Get on it and go crazy. This thing changed my life a few years ago. Dramatic statement, I know, but I was having major issues with my legs, they would feel almost like dead weight, and I couldn’t run or jog or anything without them feeling dead tired. I started using a foam roller and almost immediately my legs were fresher, looser and more limber, and today they still feel great, tight hamstrings still notwithstanding.
- Balance, balance, balance. Most of the people I see doing balance exercises in the gym are older and I applaud them for that! But my true feeling is that everyone, no matter your age or background, should be doing balance exercises regularly. Not only will this improve your balance, obviously, but you’ll be stronger, more able to tackle the daily grind and maybe even catch yourself during a slip and fall in the winter. A small thing that can keep you healthy!
It might take you 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever, but make a little time to test yourself on some of the items above to see where you could improve. In the end you are only helping yourself, and that’s why you work out in the first place, right? Definitely worth the effort. And if you want to get a quick screen, feel free to let me know and I’ll check you out.