Do you exercise with 'clean' movement patterns? Here's how to test yourself

Strength training is the bread and butter of any exercise program, but it needs to be “earned” with clean movement patterns. What does that mean? Well, let me ask you a few questions: Can you move side-to-side without losing your balance? Can you rotate without borrowing from the wrong muscles to complete the task?

Here’s a common scenario I see with new clients:

Joe Smith sleeps in a fetal position all night, and sits at his breakfast table to eat with flexed hips, inactive glutes, and a rounded spine. He drives, works, and watches television hunched over with a forward head, internally rotated shoulders. He also sits with flexed hips, inactive glutes, and a rounded spine. So why does Joe go to the gym and do strength training exercises seated on a machine or a bike in the same poor position he has been in all day long?

In order to correct Joe’s movement deviations, we first need to identify postural overcompensations and structural weaknesses pertaining to balance and movement. Then we can tackle his problem areas head-on so that he eventually regains natural mobility. I live by the saying, “If you cannot move well, you have no business moving other objects.”

There are various ways to test the quality of your movement patterns. For example, my clients start every program with a 10-point Functional Movement Screen that shows me if their critical movement patterns can handle extra weight. Clients perform several critical movements including deep squat, shoulder mobility, hip flexion (stepping over an object), inline lunge step, trunk stability, hamstring flexibility, impingement exams, and so on.

Next, we would do a Neurokinetic Therapy (NKT) assessment to see if there are any deeper problems that need to be addressed. Have you suffered from a concussion? If so, a NKT assessment would help identify patterns of difficulty in your “mind-to-muscle connection.” You would then be taught to “turn off” one spot of the body, and “fire up” another using drills like active release therapy.

Once you’ve gone through all of the movement testing, you’d get the “green light” to start a tailored program that is based on your test results.

Every program should consist of phases, using progressions and regressions as needed. The first phase would be mobility work to find a stable or unstable joint. In the next phase, we would activate the major muscle groups of your body using patterning to get you ready for strength training with added weights. Throughout this program, we would also include simple variables like soft tissue restoration to create supple loose muscles open for movement.

After testing, training and retesting these areas using well-developed programs, anyone can regain total-body awareness and stability and, in turn, strength training becomes much simpler.

Steve Massimini is the owner of MASS F.I.T., a movement-based gym in Society Hill. Steve is a NASM certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. He is also a certified FMS movement screening expert.