75 is the number of continuing education classes, conferences, home studies, etc that I’ve completed since physical therapy school.
Though the courses are many, it was probably too much in a short period of time. When quantity is pursued, quality suffers. Sadly, I didn’t figure out how to get the most out of each class until the latter end of my career.
Yes, the content was great, but these classes stood out for a different reason. You see, instead of just doing a little bit of prep work, I kicked it up a notch. I extensively reviewed supportive material, took impeccable notes, and hit all the other essentials needed to effectively learn.
I was prepared, and because I was prepared I got so much more out of these classes than my typical fair. The lessons learned in those courses stick with me to this day.
For the stuff you really want to learn, I’ll encourage you to do the same. Here is the way to get the most out of your continuing education. By the time you are done reading this post, you’ll understand why I now recommend a more focused learning approach and fewer courses.
I recently attended the FMS Level 2 course after rocking the home study. In my quest to take every con ed course known to man, I got into the functional movement people because the idea of improving movement over isolation exercise interests me. I find the way they build up to the patterns very logical, namely because they liberally use PNF and developmental principles; and they do so quite eloquently.
But really, I wanted to go to this class so I could meet and learn from Gray Cook. And his segments did not disappoint. While I may not agree with everything he says, he is a very brilliant man and knows movement.
The only disappointment I have to say about this course was that I did not get enough Gray and Lee. I would say I probably saw them teach 30% of the time, with another FMS instructor just running us through their algorithms. I am sorry, but if you are going to advertise Gray Cook and Lee Burton as the instructors, then I want Gray and Lee instructing me!
A lot of these exercises were review for me, but there were definitely some tweaks that I liked a great deal. I think if you are new to more motor control-based exercises, this course is great for you. Just make sure you are taking it from Gray and/or Lee.
The FMS is predominately used to manage risk and prioritize exercise selection. They look at fundamental movement patterns to rule in/out asymmetries and dysfunctions, which ultimately allow someone to safely train in the weight room. If you are unfamiliar with the FMS, check out this previous post from my review of the Movement Book
Lee Burton mentioned that his goal is to look for 0’s and 1’s; once we get to 2’s we’re good to go. This number ensures we have movement compentency as opposed to excellence, which is a requisite to loading these movements.
One thing I will say positively about this group is that they are all for doing and testing whatever you want, as long as you are consistent. But if you plan on doing the FMS, the research is done in the same manner taught in the home study course and the Movement Book.
Within the FMS model, we choose corrective exercise based on a particular hierarchy. Mobility impairments are attacked first via the active straight leg raise (ASLR) and shoulder mobility (SM) tests. From those two screens, ASLR is first corrected. We go after this part first because developmentally we have leg control before we do arm control. Moreover, ASLR is purely sagittal plane, versus the triplanar shoulder screen.
Once we get good mobility, we then work on developing improved motor control via rotary stability (RS) and trunk stability pushup (TSP); done in that order.
Once these areas are squared away, we go after functional patterns. We first hit the inline lunge (ILL), then the hurdle step (HS), then the deep squat (DS).
The FMS actually started incorporating more movements to look at once you get into level 2, which eerily look like the SFMA. Likely because it is the SFMA 🙂 Here is where to screen next once you get past the basics.
ASLR –> Toe Touch –> crocodile breathing
SM –> Cervical ROM–> Impingement testing –> AC impingement testing –> Seated T-spine rotation –> Grip screen –> Crocodile breathing
RS –> Spinal flexion clearing –> Crocodile breathing –> Upper body rolling –> Lower body rolling
ILL –> Ankle mobility (goal is 40 degrees in half-kneeling)
HS –> Ankle mobility
DS –> Ankle mobility –> Toe Touch
The corrections for each movement progress from mobility, to static motor control, to dynamic motor control, and finally strength. Here were some of my favorite correctives for each screen (Many videos courtesy of the IFAST folks).
Mobility work goes after the hip flexors and performing leg-lowering patterns.
Static motor control involves working in half-kneeling, and dynamic involves patterning from double leg to single leg deadlifts. One of my favorite correctives was utilizing RNT to facilitate the lats during deadlifts.
I also liked the way he patterned the deadlift by using a squat to get into the position
Once you get the deadlifts down, load-up for strength
Mobility predominately went after the t-spine via various rib-rolls and such:
Motor control involved deadlifts again, as well as various drills that involve shoulder packing:
We can progress these drill dynamically to armbars, get-ups, pushups, working toward a press in the horizontal and vertical planes. And of course, don’t forget the beastly real row:
The correctives usually build on from previous one’s the further you go in the screen. Mobility involves rib rolls and ASLR derivatives. Eventually you work toward quadruped and bird-dog activities.
We can then progress to single leg deadlifts, presses, and pulls.
Mobility work involves hip flexors and half-kneeling. We go after motor control via planks, mountain climbers, and quadrupedal activities. From here, we just go into pushup progressions; culminating into various presses.
The big mobility work goes after hip flexors and calves. With the famous brettzel stretches being incorporated here:
Motor control exercises go from half-kneeling building up to lunge variations. Eventually, we will load these patterns.
Mobility work builds further onto previous exercises; leg lowering, ASLR, dorsiflexion. We also go into stride stretches, which are basically mobilizations in a hurdle-step position.
Motor control goes from half-kneeling to single-leg chops and lifts, all the way to single leg deadlifts. The ultimate strength exercise for this pattern is step-ups
Mobility work goes after ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexors, and any SM corrections.
Motor control involves working in tall-kneeling (foam roller behind to cue upright posture) and progressing from deadlifts to squats
Eventually we work toward performing an overhead squat.
Other random exercises
I also liked how Gray added some nice tweaks to the Turkish get-up which you will see below:
“Gray”te Quotes…Get it? It’s funny because I combined Gray Cook with the word great…just read on
“Tightness and fatigue feel the same way.”
“If I could pick four exercises to do, they would be chops, lifts, deadlifts, and Turkish Get-ups.”
“Your people with total hips and total knees should get up from the floor.”
“Stabilizers have to be fast, not strong.”
“Everyone develops differently.” (Haha DNS)
“3 degrees of extra mobility leads to 300 degrees of increased proprioception.”
“The best entertainment you can get is results.”
“There’s a difference between good and bad and good and can’t.”
“We’re not laying down new motor programs, we’re getting old ones back.” (This was from Lee)
“First step in correctives is to remove the negatives.” (Also from Lee)
This is a chapter 15 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
The goal of movement retraining is to create authentic unconscious movement at acceptable levels. We can develop many methods to achieve our goals, but working under sound principles is paramount. Some of the principles Gray advocates include:
Focusing on how we move.
Look to movement to validate or refute your intervention.
Movement is always honest.
When designing a movement program, we must operate under the following guidelines:
Separate pain from dysfunctional movement patterns.
Starting point for movement learning is a reproducible movement baseline.
Biomechanical and physiological evaluation do not provide a complete risk screening or diagnostic tool for comprehensive movement pattern understanding.
Our biomechanical and physiological knowledge surpass what we know about fundamental movement patterns.
Movement learning and relearning follows a hierarchy fundamental to the development of perception and behavior.
Corrective exercise should not be rehearsed outputs. Instead, it should be challenging opportunities to manage mistakes on a functional level near the edge of ability.
Perception drives movement behavior and movement behavior modulates perception.
We should not put fitness on movement dysfunction.
We must develop performance and skill considering each tier in the natural progression of movement development and specialization.
Corrective exercise dosage works close to baseline at the edge of ability with a clear goal.
The routine practice of self-limiting exercises can maintain the quality of our movement perceptions and behaviors and preserve our unique adaptability that modern conveniences erode.
Some things cannot be fixed, but change what you can.
The brain that learns function can learn dysfunction.
This is a chapter 14 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
Corrective exercise is focused on providing input to the nervous system. We are allowing the patients and clients to experience the actual predicament that lies beneath the surface of their movement pattern problem. It is okay for mistakes to be made, for these errors help accelerate motor learning. Minimal cueing should be utilized, as we want to patient to let them feel the enriching sensory experience.
Motor Program Retraining
There are several different methods in which we can achieve a desired motor output.
1) Reverse patterning – Performing a movement from the opposite direction.
2) Reactive neuromuscular training – Exaggerating mistakes so the patient/client overcorrects. Use oscillations first, followed by steady resistance.
3) Conscious Loading – Using load to hit the reset button for sequence and timing.
4) Resisted exercise – Makes patterns more stable and durable.
When you can deadlift that much, most anything is stable and durable.
This is a chapter 13 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
Back to the Basics
Mobility deficits ought to be the first impairment corrected. Optimizing mobility creates potential for new sensory input and motor adaptation, but does not guarantee quality movement. This is where stability training comes in. In order for the brain to create stability in a region, the following ought to be present:
Structural stability: Pain-free structures without significant damage, deficiency, or deformity.
Sensory integrity: Uncompromised reception/integration of sensory input.
Motor integrity: Uncompromised activation/reinforcement of motor output.
Freedom of movement: Perform in functional range and achieve end-range.
There are 3 ways to gain mobility:
1) Passively: Self-static stretching with good breathing; manual passive mobilization.
2) Actively: Dynamic stretching, PNF.
3) Assistive: Helping with quality or quantity, aquatics, resistance.
In order to own our new mobility, we use various stability progressions to cement the new patterns. There are three tiers in which stability is trained:
1) Fundamental stability – Basic motor control, often in early postures such as supine, prone, or rolling.
2) Static stability – done when rolling is okay but stability is compromised in more advanced postures.
3) Dynamic stability – Advanced movement.
We progress in these stability frames from easy to further difficult challenges.
Assisted → active → reactive-facilitation/perturbations
Since stability is a subconscious process, we utilize postures that can challenge this ability while achieving desired motor behavior. We can also group the various postural progressions into 3 categories:
1) Fundamental – Supine, prone, rolling (requires unrestricted mobility).
2) Transitional – Postures between supine and standing such as prone on elbows, quadruped, sitting, kneeling, half-kneeling.
3) Functional: Standing variations to include symmetrical and asymmetrical stance, single leg stance.
This is a chapter 12 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
A Whole Lotta P
When we build our corrective framework, we must take into account the 6 P’s:
1) Pain – Is there pain with movement? Staying away from pain improves motor control.
2) Purpose – What movement pattern are we targeting with corrective exercise and what problem are we addressing (i.e. mobility, stability, dynamic motor control)?
3) Posture – Which moderately challenging posture is the best starting point for corrective exercise that allows for reflexive activity?
4) Position – Which ones demonstration mobility/stability problems and compensatory behaviors?
5) Pattern – How is the dysfunctional movement pattern affected by corrective exercise?
6) Plan – How can you design a plan based on findings?
The goal when designing the correction is to stay in the middle ground of the autonomic nervous system while providing a rich sensory experience. Movement pattern dysfunction is a behavior that needs to be addressed and changed.
This is a chapter 11 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
All exercise affects tone and tension. This influence is the basis for movement. The autonomic nervous system determines movement as threatening or not, which determines requisite tone. It is important to nudge movement towards further nonthreatening yet advanced stimuli.
Proceeding to correct under FMS protocol is determined by screen results and changed via exercise. We first correct mobility, next reinforce stability, then retrain movement patterns. Stability training in particular follows a sequence:
1) Challenge posture and position.
2) Build mid-range strength.
3) Develop end-range stability.
Movement patterns are corrected in the following hierarchy:
The SFMA corrective pathway is nonlinear unlike the FMS. The breakouts will tell you which direction to go to restore optimal movement.
The options are also increased. Often to gain mobility, you would utilize various manual therapies or other modalities. To alter stability, taping, orthotics, braces, or anything else to increase motor control may be utilized.
Movement patterns are corrected in the following hierarchy:
This is a chapter 10 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few
When we are talking corrective exercise design, people often make 4 mistakes:
1) Protocol approach: Exercise based on category.
Problem – 1 size fits all.
2) Basic kinesiology: Target prime movers and some stabilizers.
Problem – fails on timing, motor control, stability, and movement.
3) Appearance of functional approach – Use bands and resistance during functional training.
Problem – If the pattern is poor, adding challenges to it can increase compensation. There is also no pre-post testing.
4) Prehabilitation approach – Prepackaged rehab exercises into conditioning programs as preventative measures to reduce injury risk.
Problem – Design is based on injuries common to particular activities as opposed to movement risk factors.
There are also certain mistakes that are often made when utilizing the FMS and SFMA:
1) Converting movement dysfunction into singular anatomical problems.
2) Obsessing over perfection in each test instead of identifying the most significant limitation/asymmetry.
3) Linking corrective solutions to movement problems prematurely.
The overarching rule is to address these movement deficiencies first, as we do not want to put strength or fitness on top of dysfunctional movement.
The Performance Pyramid
When designing an exercise program, we look for three areas to improve performance: Movement, performance, and skill.
It is important that program design is based on the individual’s needs and has these qualities in a hierarchal fashion. For example, if one performs excellent on functional performance capabilities but has poor foundational movement, injury risk may increase.
When implementing corrective exercise, it is important to provide the correct stimulus amount. We want the individual challenged, but not struggling for dear life.
Too easy – >30 reps with good quality.
Challenging, but possible – 8-15 reps with good quality and no stress breathing. There is a decline in quality secondary to fatigue towards the end of rep ranges.
Too difficult – Sloppy from the beginning and only worsens.
Rarely does increasing difficulty equate to increasing resistance. Oftentimes you may advance the exercise position, decrease the base of support, or add more movement complexity.
You may have to remove some activities that feed into dysfunction from one’s current programming, lest you wish to not change the movement pattern. Often how quickly one changes his or her ability to move depends on how diligent one is with corrective exercise.
Realize that corrective exercise should only be supplemental and temporary to what one is doing. It is supposed to be corrective in nature, not preventative. Moreover, movement scores can decrease with hard training, so continual reassessment is important.
The corrective exercise pathway should proceed as follows:
1) Exercise selection is driven by screen and assessment.
2) A thought out framework gives you the best possible choices.
3) Retest, note positive or negative changes, and then use results to modify next session.
4) Reassess once an obvious change is noted to see what the next priority is.
This is a chapter 9 summary of the book “Movement” by Gray Cook.
While I have broken up these sections into patterns, much of what Gray talks about does not involve the patterns themselves, but are still good points to know. Ergo, much like the book itself, this post may seem a little disjointed 🙂
The Deep Squat
One’s inability to squat is not considered a single problem. Instead, a disconnect is present between the body and the brain in the squatting pattern. Our brain sees things in patterns, and the squatting pattern essentially gets smudged. Before performing the squat as an exercise, we must first groove an optimal movement pattern.
One interesting point regarding the squat is that as an exercise it is often a top-down based movement. However, when we learn to squat in development, the movement occurs bottom-up. So one way to train the squat is by starting from the bottom of the squat and working to standing. This method ensures full mobility to perform a full deep squat.
To relate the SFMA to the squat pattern, Gray is very clear about not training the squat if one cannot touch his or her toes.
Hurdle Step and Single Leg Stance
These two movements simultaneously test mobility and stability of both legs. Oftentimes in these patterns you will see a high-threshold strategy (HTS), in which a hyper-protective core response occurs. Research demonstrates that this stabilization strategy can cause poor motor control to occur. These tests also are basic precursors for stepping, running, and climbing.
In this section Gray also mentions that he does not recommend assessing static postures; namely because posture is dynamic and changing.
The inline lunge is more a test of control and efficiency as opposed to strength. Because we talk about control, we must discuss stability. It is important to note that stabilizers do not necessarily need to be strengthened, as these muscles will never be able to overpower prime movers. Instead, these muscles should be trained for endurance, timing, or quicker action.
Shoulder Mobility Reaching Test
These tests assess reciprocal arm patterns and thoracic spine mobility. The movement is challenging because opposing movements end up borrowing mobility and stability from other segments, thus potentially impairing these qualities.
Thoracic extension is necessary to perform this pattern. However, oftentimes people will compensate with thoracic flexion. This compensatory pattern can rob the scapulae of ground to help stabilize the movement.
Active Straight Leg Raise
There are several necessary components to perform this movement optimally:
Adequate mobility and flexibility of the elevated leg.
Pelvic stability prior to and during the movement.
Another interesting tidbit from this section was that research has demonstrated that one’s ability to perform a sit and reach correlated with arterial flexibility.
The pushup, rotary stability, and rolling patterns all assess core functioning. In particular, the pushup looks at reflexive core action, rotary unilateral and diagonal patterns, and rolling the ability to separate upper and lower quadrants.