Adding movement to dysfunction


This is great terminology coined by American physical therapist Gray Cook, referring to the issue of athletes, coaches or trainers adding greater loads or complexities to movements which have not, or cannot be performed correctly at the most basic level. If for example, an athlete, regardless of the context, cannot perform a bodyweight squat correctly, where they maintain:

  • A neutral spine
  • Squat to floor level
  • Maintain alignment through the ankle, knee and hip
  • Maintain contact with the floor through the heels and midfoot

Then they should not progress to, for example, loaded backsquats, as there are clearly mechanical issues with the kinetic chain that are preventing the athlete moving into the desired position.

Gray Cook’s well renowned Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a system which receives its fair amount of heat on various message boards for not addressing this and that, but in my mind, it does its job of identifying the main movement patterns, across all sporting pursuits, where the athlete has mechanical efficiency or deficiencies. The screen places the athlete through seven different movements aimed at identifying deficiencies; some of which include:

  • Unilateral stance
  • Bilateral squat
  • Hip flexion/extension
  • Knee flexion/extension
  • Rotary & Trunk stability


It is ‘less’ common in Australia for conditioning coaches to perform their own screens, generally a Physiotherapist or MD would perform their own screen, however from those I have spoken with, this is generally quite different from the FMS and involve quantitative mobility metrics, structural integrity, motor control and manual muscle testing.

The resulting FMS can often open up healthy lines of dialogue between the athlete, coach, therapist(s) and trainer, as occurred with the below images. In a sense, we were probably all aware of the athlete’s deficiencies from our own observations, but it established common terminology between us to discuss different interventions which could be prescribed for the athlete.

From talking to a few other S&C coaches around Australia, and following the big names of the physical performance world through social media, e.g Mike Boyle, it appears they all have their own ‘spin’ on a screen like the FMS, but perhaps more specific to their own context.

If you are a coach of a team sport, individual sport or in S&C, the ability for your athletes to correctly perform basic movements like the squat, lunge or a plank (and then progressions with added resistance) is essential if you expect them to reach their athletic potential. Context aside, if your athlete is an up-and-coming teenage athlete but he/she can’t do five chin-ups and her ankle mobility prevents her from performing a squat, I honestly believe you should be concerned with this.

Changes to an athlete’s tissue structure, mobility and flexibility takes time, but ultimately, if you can get them to move more efficiently it will be better for the athlete, the team and the results.


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