What Is an Assessment and Why Do You Need One?

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, FMS, PES)

Here at Rockland Peak Performance (RPP) we generally perform an average of 6-8 movement Assessments per week.  New customers often ask “Why is an assessment necessary?” My response is simple…  “Do you want to be the best that you can be?”

Whether you are coming in to train with us for the long haul, coming off of rehab and seeking a training effect (strength training) or coming in for a one-time consultation regarding a particular issue, an assessment/movement screen can be an extremely powerful piece of the puzzle for success.  This is true regardless of whether you are training for your sport or simply wanting to learn how to move and feel better.

A movement assessment can tell us many things about an athlete’s “strategy” or in other words how they get from point A to point B.

Example:

  • Do they stand with their backs in extension, flexion or neutral?

Extension_Neutral

  • Do they rely too much on their lower back to get into a squat position?
    • Back pain
  • Are their abs strong enough to support them in a lunge position?
    • If not, this would cause them to rely too much on their quads thereby placing more stress on the knees and possibly leading to ACL and Meniscus tears (extremely common in young athletes, particularly females due to the Q angle of their hips)
  • Are they getting enough rotation from their T-spine?
    • Shoulder, elbow and back pain

By observing an athlete’s strategy during an assessment, we can better understand his or her weak links in the chain of movement and design a program that helps correct the weakness and allows the client to be more successful on and off the field.  For example, if an athlete complains of lower back pain while squatting it may be that there is a lack of dorsiflexion (bending) at the ankles.  In this circumstance, the athlete may get only ½ way down in a squat position before they have to “cheat” by flexing in their lower back. This would be their “strategy” in working through a weakness.  By exposing this in an assessment we can prescribe mobility drills to help with dorsiflexion and enable them to stay out of their lower back.

Good Posture => Good Movement => Power/Speed/Endurance

Correcting an athlete’s strategy is also paramount in helping reduce the risk of injury on the field and in the weight room.  If an athlete has a faulty lunge pattern, why on earth would you hand him a set of dumbbells and have him perform lunges? This sounds obvious but it happens all the time (not to mention how peer-pressure plays into it in an unsupervised high school weight room).  Gray Cook, a well known physical therapist, lecturer and author, stated it best when he said “don’t add weight to dysfunction”.

Another area in which an assessment can be helpful is when an athlete has a lot of laxity or “loose joints” (common in many pitchers, swimmers and tennis players) or if they are inherently tight or “stiff”. The first condition, laxity, would require very little stretching and more stability training prior to playing or training while the other condition, stiffness, would require more stretching. Below is a video of a band stabilization exercise we do with our overhead athletes with laxity.

 

I can’t tell you how many overhead athletes show us their pre-game warm-up which involves stretching out already loose muscles and creating less stability at the joints.  Performing 30 sets of band IR (internal rotation) and ER (external rotation) drills while cranking your back into extension places an athlete into overdrive before he or she has even started the game!  Here’s an example of the correct and incorrect way to do external rotations with a band.

INCORRECT

CORRECT

At RPP we require that every client, whether you’re an athlete or just trying to be the best you can be, get an assessment prior to starting a personal training program.  This is especially important prior to beginning an off-season program.

No matter what sport you play, exposing postural weaknesses during an assessment and correcting them through an individualized strength training program is the first step in getting bigger, faster or stronger.  It’s never too late for an Assessment.  Get an assessment and work on your weaknesses.  If you get injured you are of no use to your team.  Remember, it is not the team that has the best players that performs at the highest level, it is the team that can keep the best players on the field injury-free all season that has the greatest chance for success.

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