A few years ago I read an article that so nicely described the concept of functional movements, I took it to heart and have often used it as my method of explaining functional movement when lecturing.
Last weekend I ran a course and again used this way of describing functional movement – I have therefore decided to write a short blog to give full credit to the original article. The article is called- Movement Fluency and was posted by Todd Hargrove:
This is the version I often find myself using when describing movement fluency in the form of a new language:
Learning a new skill or participating in a sport is similar to learning a new language, with every function required representing a separate word. Hip, thoracic, and ankle mobility are all different words, and so are scapular stability, proper breathing and gluteal activation. Every functional movement represents a different word, and how well the individual will speak the language of the new movement depends upon how many different words are mastered. Insufficient stabilization or reduced mobility creates spelling mistakes of those known words. Sentences in the new language can be compared with “Functional Movement Patterns” like a squat, lunge or hip hinge, which are all built by the appropriate words (movements). For the language to be fluent allowing the individual to actively participate in more advanced situations there has to be a large number of words (movement vocabulary) that are all being spelt correctly.
Say we move to a new country. We would get away with a limited survival vocabulary as long as we don’t expect too much. Staying at home, reading books from our old-country, making our way to the shops for simpler things and maybe even holding up a simple job could be possible. Similarly people who do almost no physical activities can manage their lives with insufficient movement patterns.
On the other hand, if we intend to maximize our experience in the foreign country we’d better improve our language skills. Participation socially, more advanced work situations, reading and watching media in the new language all require a much greater vocabulary. In the same way, as soon as we intend to be more active and participate in new activities, we need to improve our movement repertoire. As soon as we get into situations which reach beyond the limitations of our language skills, the risk for injury or embarrassing misunderstanding becomes evident.
Practicing the same words over and over again is not going to improve our language vocabulary and equally to improve our movement fluency we need to work on new patterns and skills. A functional movement screen can be equalled with a simple language test which will give good indications of where the existing limitations are. What words are missing and how well are the others spelt? Practising what we are bad at will therefore give the most dramatic improvement. Every new word we learn to master can thereafter be used in many different sentences and greatly improve our overall language skills.
Most children have all the words in the movement language, but unfortunately as we age we tend to lose many of them. The words are often still stored deep within our brains and we just need to recover them again. Once we have recovered all the words we will be fluent again and can manage most situations without getting injured.
So called “Functional Training” systems often expect the participant to make sentences without having learnt the words. There is no point trying to improve language skills by repeating the same basic vocabulary with many spelling or grammatical mistakes over and over again, and expect any improvements. Pronunciation and spelling should be practised separately until mastered and become automatic.
First of all we have to establish that there are no “functional exercises”. There are functional people with functional movement patterns that can perform activities and exercises in a functional way, but there are also a lot of people with dysfunctional movement patterns who when performing the same exercises turn it into “DYSFUNCTIONAL TRAINING”.
There is no point starting the language of eg Cross-fit and Boot-Camp without first learning the words involved. They are effective but very advanced forms of training that require a greater vocabulary than most individuals possess. We cannot make the sentence of squatting without knowing the properly spelt words of ankle, knee, hip, pelvis, gluteal, lumbar, thoracic, core, scapula, and neck stability and mobility.