The perceived importance of ‘movement quality’ has exploded over the last few years, but how do we judge movement quality? Do we really know what we’re looking at?
The increasing emphasis on movement quality has led to an upsurge in the use of screening protocols. The principle is that screening protocols assess how well an athlete can complete fundamental movement patterns, such as a squat, and therefore gauge an athlete’s movement quality. But do they?
What’s wrong with screening?
There’s nothing wrong with traditional screening methods, it’s just that they can’t give you the whole picture. Screening assesses an athlete’s ability to perform controlled, fundamental movements, nothing more. Think of it like a like a driving test for movement.
- An athlete should be able to pass it – if they can’t they’ve got problems
- Athletes quickly work out what they need to do to pass and change movement patterns accordingly
Screening can be great for highlighting problems, but it doesn’t tell you that there aren’t any.
You need to break them
To truly assess an athlete’s movement quality you need to push them to a point where the movement breaks down. It’s a theme that really resonates throughout Kelly Starrett’s Supple Leopard book. Surely it’s a better idea for us to challenge movements in the safe and controlled environment of S&C rather than waiting for this to occur in the chaos of sport?
How to break them…
The goal of the ‘breaking down’ process is to find out what movement nuances an athlete defaults to when challenged. I’ve traditionally used five methods to challenge – or break – an athlete’s movement pattern:
- Add load
- Add speed
- Add competition
- Add reaction
- Add variation
Fatigue – what are we scared of?
Reading Supple Leopard has really got me thinking about fatigue – in an acute sense – in relation to training. I think fatigue has become a bit of a black sheep within S&C. It’s something we’ve come to fear and shy away from. Have we become too wrapped up in minimal dose responses and risk reward analyses? Personally I don’t think we have, but it’s an interesting thought! There’s definitely a time and a place to incorporate it.
Fatigue – the missing factor?
So, perhaps we can add a number six to my list of how to challenge movement:
- Add fatigue
It’s something I’ve played around with in my own training recently and started using with some of my more experienced – in terms of training age – athletes.
Sport is king
As S&C coaches we can be doing a huge amount to challenge an athlete’s movement. There’s one aspect we can never really replicate though, and that’s the sport itself. We need to understand how the athlete moves when they’re not thinking about moving. This is where it’s most important.