How to Coach Movement Better, Part 2

Our last post, the first in this series, was largely for your own personal knowledge base as a coach. Before you can expect to coach movement better, you simply need to understand it. This post will cover the next step, Assessment, which introduces a new variable -> your client. The reason why we assess our clients is straight-forward: you cannot effectively decide what movement is best for someone if you don’t know where they’re starting from. And no, just saying “any movement is better than no movement” is not good enough. At best, it’s a lower order answer that a professional coach would never give. At worst, it’s dangerous for the client.

A final note before we get into the particulars of assessment: the information gained by you is for you to paint as clear a picture as possible. It is not to ‘score’ the client against an arbitrary rubric nor is it designed to make them feel bad, incompetent, inadequate, incapable, or out of shape. If that does happen it is not the fault of the assessment but rather your delivery and communication of it.

The Complete Assessment:

A complete assessment is not just about seeing a client move or stand on a machine to measure their body composition. It starts with the first lengthy conversation you have with them, the initial consultation. Here is where you gather background information, like biological age, training age, training history, goals, injury history, food habits, sleep, stress, etc. This information, combined with the movement assessment outlined below, will inform and influence your program design. Once that is complete, you’d then move onto your movement assessment.

Since we believe that humans navigate their physical space in five fundamental ways, it makes sense to assess those areas in a way that is easily accessible for the most people possible and in such a way that modifications are rarely, if ever, used rather than the norm. We also design the assessment in such a way that training priorities are not just obvious to you but also the client, so a simple score system is employed. With this in mind, here is how to assess your client’s movement:

Functional Movement Screen:

Quick, effective, and a common language spoken by the best coaches around. Many try and reinvent the wheel, but why? The FMS provides a great baseline and should you ever talk to a physical therapist about your client, their confidence in your professionalism will rise just knowing you do this screen.

The FMS covers seven areas:

  • Deep Squat
  • Hurdle Step
  • In-Line Lunge
  • Shoulder Mobility
  • Active Straight Leg Raise
  • Trunk Stability Push-Up
  • Rotary Stability

For full demo videos, go here.

Fundamental Movement Patterns:

Next we will cover the 5 FMPs. You may be asking, “Why do we do the FMS and these five?” Great question. There are two reasons:

  1. As coaches, the FMS forces us to look at movement patterns in a way that we don’t see much on a daily basis, so it highlights deficiencies quite well. It’s natural to sometimes overlook faults in a squat or a pull movement that we see daily. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach or lazy, just a human. Just as the FMS highlights things well for you, it does something similar for clients. Chances are far greater that new clients are much more familiar with air squats and ring rows than rotary stability, and this lack of familiarity with the FMS helps make the invisible, visible.
  2. Although the FMS helps with what we covered above, we still want to see clients perform movements that they’ll be doing in the gym, hence the five below.

It’s no surprise that the movements you’ll assess in this section are the:

  • Air Squat
  • Deadlift
  • PVC Shoulder Press
  • Push-Up
  • Seated Banded Pull-Down
  • Ring Row
  • Front/rear/side Planks

As you can see we are covering the local pattern differentiators where able. For each movement, you are looking for a handful of specific details pertinent to what is being performed. Below is an example of how your scorecard might look:

Perform Work:

Now that you’ve seen your client move, it’s time to see them do a bit of work. Remember from earlier the importance on making the assessment as accessible to as many people as possible. This means the ‘work’ needs to be simple to do and not intimidating. We recommend the following:

  • 10-Minute Ride on the Assault Bike for Calories

See how simple this is to do, no matter who comes walking through your door? No weights, no targets for wall balls, no worries about rounded back kettlebell swings or busted shins on a box. You could argue, briefly, that a rower would be just as easy, but it’s not. There is far more technique that goes into a rowing stroke than riding the assault bike.

This test gives great insight to a number of things about your client, like their strength, power, and endurance. But it also speaks to their ability to pace, have a strategy, and reaction to a simple modality like being on a bike for 10 straight minutes. Here’s a sample scorecard:

Keep in mind that the goal of every assessment is to paint as clear a picture as possible of your client, so it should be extensive. I also want to point out that you are not teaching or coaching them during this session. That’s what your training sessions are for, so resist the common urge that coaches have to ‘fix’ things at this point.

Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll use the data gathered in the assessment to begin the process of program design through exercise selection. As a sneak peek, chew on this idea: design begins where ability ends.

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