Thinking Not In Terms of Just Skills, But Movement, Too…

Physical therapist Gray Cook and his partner, Lee Burton, have designed a seven-movement screen based on neural-developmental patterns that exist from birth. Commercially, this is known as the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The basic premise of the screen is to identify asymmetries in basic movement patterns as these are an indication of either poor mobility or poor stability. Originally produced for athletes, this is now being used in other settings as well. The end goal is to identify those who might be at risk for injury and to work towards correcting the poor movement quality.

The research on the FMS is rather limited. But, from what little is out there, it shows promise. Now, I’m not writing to endorse this product. If you’re interested in it, then go check it out.

So, why am I discussing the FMS? Well, I want to apply the same concept to gymnastics. While we teach “skills,” essentially we’re truly movement specialists. Thus, if it is possible to have poor movement quality with innate movement patterns that have existed since birth, then imagine the wreckage that we can create when we develop poor fundamental gymnastics movements.

While poor gymnastics movement may not be a potential pre-cursor to injury, it can certainly be debilitating in the sense that your gymnast cannot move forward in their skill development. As Gray Cook likes to often point out in his seminars, if those fundamental movement patterns are not corrected in general athletes, then they are continuing to build poor movement habits on top of already poor movement habits. Or, I think I have heard him comment that “you” are building dysfunction on top of dysfunction.

So, what am I trying to say with all of this rambling? Simply put, if you do not spend the time teaching very good fundamental movement skills (i.e. the basics…basic handstand, rolls, glide swings, hip circles, walking on the beam, etc.), then you will continue to build dysfunction on top of dysfunction and your gymnast will most likely hit a lot of frustrating obstacles in his/her skill development. Sure, they may still get the skill that they are pursuing, but it may take longer and it may be far more frustrating than it should have been. Why not spend the extra time and develop the proper movement patterns? Or, if you get an athlete from another club, go back and fix/correct those poor movement patterns before moving forward.

Lastly, I challenge all to keep in mind that we’re not just gymnastics coaches. We’re movement experts. Forget the idea of a “skill” and think in broader terms as you are developing your gymnast. Consider how the patterns of movement that you’re allowing are going to affect future patterns of movement that you are hoping to achieve.

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6 Comments on “Thinking Not In Terms of Just Skills, But Movement, Too…”

  1. Just Another Opinion Says:

    When I hear or read the word “screen” that suggests to me a weeding out process, but that’s not something you’re talking about here, correct? Rather, you’re saying “screen” as a synonym of “identify” for the purpose of trying to correct the dysfunction? As in, are you saying most dysfunctions are even correctable? So when I encounter a girl with “movement X” difficulty, there is something I can do about it, instead of training her without making accommodations and risking injury, or telling her to go play soccer? If this is the case, I would like to know what “movement X” problems are common, and what the corrections are that would help those dysfunctions over time.

  2. Chris Says:

    JAO,

    I am not exactly sure as to what you’re asking, but after attempting to translate it…I would say that you can in fact make significant improvement if you are consistent and spend the time to make that improvement. Additionally, the athlete must be equally as motivated and disciplined to make the change. It may never be perfect as if you had started along an ideal path originally, but I feel that you can significantly improve the dysfunction. In the fitness world, we do what is termed “corrective” exercise to try and fix postural issues, muscular imbalances, range-of-motion asymmetries, etc. It takes time, but improvement does come.

  3. Just Another Opinion Says:

    Two things, one general, one specific:

    The general one you addressed: it is possible to fix problems. I “knew” that, in theory, but can’t say I’ve ever worked with one girl over a long enough period of time to really notice any kind of “fix.”

    Specifically: specifically, and perhaps this isn’t the place (but maybe a separate post…) I was asking for a sort of quick and dirty list of maybe the top 5 most common movement problems, and the corresponding exercises that address them. For example, one of the top five might be super tight shoulders. I can think of a dozen ways to do bridges, but considering they are painful for her (or for some other reason she flat out hates doing them and therefore is not inclined to do them without prodding), is that even the solution, or are there better ways of addressing shoulder problems (I know “shoulder problems” is too general, and there could be thousands of different things going on. But I also know you know what I mean).

    Since I won’t be returning to school to learn everything there is to know about this subject, I was hoping you could provide some workable “greatest hits” model that could help me both identify and repair problems I will likely encounter.

  4. 5centz Says:

    Chris,

    I agree with you that basics should be taught and mastered before moving on to harder skills. If they aren’t performed with good technique, subsequent skills will have problems. For example, if we have gymnasts who are twisting in their hurdles for round-offs, their round-off flip flops will go crooked. If they don’t block simultaneously out of both shoulders in a single front handspring, they aren’t able to perform a front handspring front or 2 front handsprings connected in an efficient manner. Or gymnasts who do free hip circles without shifting their wrists fast enough will never be able to push down enough to get to a handstand. The problem that I encounter is that many gymnasts who come to me from another coach or another gym who have these motion issues either don’t want to fix them or they simply can’t. I run into a lot of impatience on the gymnasts’ part, even though I explain that fixing this movement issue is going to make their skills much stronger in the long run. Movement effects skills in a big way.

  5. Dennis Lehew Says:

    Highly impressed, discovered your blog on Ask.Glad I finally tried it out. Not sure if its my Explorer browser,but sometimes when I visit your site, the fonts are really small? Anyway, love your webpage and will check back.Bye


  6. I was reading something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your position on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read earlier. I am still contemplating over the different points of view, but I’m inclined to a great extent toward yours. And no matter, that’s what is so super about advanced democracy and the marketplace of thoughts online.


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