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Corrective Exercise, Functional Movement Screen

Physical therapists and coaches for professional athletes have not always been ahead of bodybuilders when it comes to building a muscular body. In fact, in terms of nutrition and weight training, the guys of Dave’s competitive years led the charge for today’s athletes. Yet I must say that leadership role has been reversed over the past decade, and these days it’s the strength and conditioning coaches and the athletic PT folks who are making remarkable strides in revamping how we think about our training programs.

What a great time this is to be a young athlete, and what I mean by that is that over the next few years the new generation will get corrective exercise, movement screening and instructions such as daily foam rolling as part of their athletic training. Soon this stuff will be done by coaches down to the high school level, and, as the athletes age, they’ll take this knowledge with them into adulthood. Those athletes have an excellent chance at less pain in their golden years, something the Golden Era bodybuilders unfortunately were not able to demonstrate.

Corrective exercise and movement screening is how this is filtering down to the average weight training athlete.

I’ll give you a brief introduction so when your kid comes home spouting his or her coach’s instructions, you’ll be up on the lingo. Better yet, you’ll start taking note when the terms come up in forum conversations and exercise newsletters, because there are gems in this new work that can truly reverse some of your nagging aches and pains. I kid you not.

The term corrective exercise broadly refers to specific exercise or stretches designed to target a defect in a person’s physical movement. What happens is in our lives, either through our day-to-day work, unbalanced exercise selection in the weight room, lopsided sports activity like golf, tennis or softball, or just plain sitting around too much, muscle groups work at diminished capacity, letting others take over the tasks.

Often the wrong muscles doing the work, or one side of the body working better than the other, will cause a cascade of physical problems, such as back and knee pain. Sometimes the problems have gone on long enough they can’t be fixed without surgery, or can’t be fixed at all, but more often than not, a month of attention to corrective exercise rehab will reverse a future of pain, and with surprisingly little effort.

The guys leading us into this bright future come from two basic schools of thought: movement screening and structural assessment.

Gray Cook, the author of Athletic Body in Balance, and his business partner, Lee Burton, have designed what they call the Functional Movement Screen, a set of physical tests used by physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches and, increasingly, forward-thinking personal trainers. Their philosophy in creating the screen is to test the movement and use the exercises they’ve come up with to correct the faulty movement pattern. The point with the FMS is to fix the problem, not dissect it down to the various causes; to their thinking it doesn’t matter what caused it, just fix it.

On the other side we find guys like Gary Gray, Justin Price and Anthony Carey, who prefer to assess the athlete or client’s structure, discover the discrepancies and prescribe exercises to fix the various issues.

Many of the suggestions will be the same, regardless of the method of discovery. The real problem for most of us in today’s environment is that, while increasing rapidly, the professionals able to do the assessments are still few and far between. Chances of a skilled pro in your town are relatively rare, which leaves us looking at the movement screening for our at-home fixes.

As an aside, I will say if I lived in San Diego, I’d be at Justin’s or Anthony’s clinic in a heartbeat, or if near Danville, Virginia, I’d be over at Gray and Lee’s place as soon as I could get an appointment. Ditto Gary Gray’s in Michigan. Another guy who can help you out in Connecticut is John Izzo of StandApartFitness.com. The beauty of this stuff is it can be as little as a one-time visit—get tested, get your assignment and get to work, so even if you have to make a drive to get assessed or re-assessed, it’s not like it’s a weekly appointment. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Assuming you don’t live in those areas, here’s whatcha do next: Gray Cook took the Functional Movement Screen that he and Lee designed for the pros to use, and dumbed it down for the rest of us. In Athletic Body in Balance, you’ll find five simple tests (don’t read that to be easy tests) you can do at home to determine your weakest link. From there, the book goes on to tell you exactly how to fix it, which exercises or stretches and in what order you should best tackle them.

Gray Cook Athletic Body in Balance

On Tom Incledon’s recommendation, I tested myself when the book first came out in 2003. I failed so miserably I bagged the project, thinking a book for “athletes” wasn’t for me. Failure in movement means pay attention… Get a clue!Unfortunately, I didn’t pick that book back up until a month ago.

This time, however, I knew enough about the corrective exercise movement to know the failures were signposts pointing me in the right direction. I followed the instructions and re-tested a month later, last weekend in fact, and the success of February’s exercise effort was remarkable. Instead of ramming the pvc marker into the doorway, falling over (yes, I’m talking about to the floor) or missing the position entirely, all five tests received a passing grade. I’m not done; nothing was perfect, yet the progress in four weeks was truly outstanding.

Lest this not sound like it’s simply about passing a test, let me tell you a bit about how things feel: My back feels better, my shoulders move better and without pain, my posture’s straighter, and my stride is longer and more athletic. I want more of that and have targeted the exercises suggested for last weekend’s lower-scoring tests.

I want this for you, too, so just go ahead and spring for Gray’s book, Athletic Body in Balance. Yes, I know you don’t feel like an athlete. Just do it anyway.

Late edit to cross-link posts: Finding a local corrective exercise specialist.

2 Responses to 'Corrective Exercise, Functional Movement Screen'

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  1. on March 17th, 2008 at 7:05 am

    […] You can read a great discussion on the value of screening for structural and movement problems on Dave Draper’s Iron OnLine. (Dave will be featured in a future Bodybuilding Greats post.) For the hard trainer, who doesn’t have access to a coach/PT who can do a screen for them, Laree recommends Gray Cook’s Athletic Body in Balance. It’s a great book that gives you a simple set of movements to do and corrective exercises based on how well (or otherwise) you do the movements. You should check out both the article and the book. In fact, my copy is even now sitting on my desk next to me. […]

  2. on February 23rd, 2012 at 11:34 pm


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