Using Warm-Ups To Assess An Athlete’s Movement – by Caleb Krueger

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It has become very common in strength training today to focus on just the “strength” part of the training. Although it is called “strength training,” there are other aspects that are just as—if not more important than strength. An athlete’s ability to move is one of the most overlooked aspects in sports. A lot of strength coaches at lower levels like high school believe that making their athletes strong is their number one goal. However, there are tons of coaches that recognize the importance of their athlete’s movement patterns. Furthermore, many of them will say that they lack the time to correctly and consistently assess their athlete’s movements via FMS (Functional Movement Screen) or SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment). A lot of coaches will say that they do these tests on their athlete’s about once every 4-6 months, but don’t do anything to assess their athletes in-between these tests. If coaches aren’t assessing their athlete’s movement more often, how do they know for sure if what they are doing is working or not?

DWMA, or Dynamic Warm-up Movement Assessment, was developed by Mike Bewley, the head strength coach for Georgia Tech Basketball. It is an effective and time saving way to monitor athlete’s movement between testing periods. Mike has developed 10 specific dynamic warm-up exercises that he uses to assess his athletes. However, as a strength coach for a specific sport, it is important to assess what movements and mobility is most important in your specific sport and generate warm-up exercises that assess those movements.

DWMA also works as a snapshot of feedback for the coach as to where the individual athlete stands on that particular day. If you notice that the athlete has sore or tight hamstrings that day, then you can work on some correctives in order to loosen up that muscle group.

One of the movements that is pretty universal is the “inch worm.” The athlete starts in a standing position and then flexes at the hips and places their hands on the floor just in front of their feet. The athlete then proceeds to walk their hands away from their feet until the athlete is in a push-up position. Once the athlete is in a push-up position, the athlete will dip their hips toward the ground so that their back is in a hyperextended position. This position is most commonly called “cobra” position in yoga. The athlete will then return to push-up position and walk their feet towards their hands until they return to their starting position.

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This movement in particular gives tons of feedback to coaches via several joint segments along the kinetic chain:

• Thoracic extension
• Abdominal extension
• Hamstring extensibility
• Core stability
• Shoulder mobility and strength
• Ankle mobility

The human body has multiple joint segments that work together to make the body move properly and efficiently. Starting the foot, these joint segments alternate between mobile and stable all the way up to the t-spine area:

• Feet = Stable
• Ankle = Mobile
• Knee = Stable
• Hips = Mobile
• Core = Stable
• Shoulders = Mobile

When one area lacks the mobility/stability, it causes disarray throughout the entire kinetic chain. For example, a lack of mobility in the hips (which can be caused by tight hamstrings/hip flexors) puts an immobile joint segment between two stable joint segments (core and knee). This causes a major deficiency in the athlete’s ability to move properly. In the end, this could cause problems somewhere else along the kinetic chain. It is not uncommon to see problems in the low back or hamstrings that originate from long-standing problems in the feet or ankles.

Even though performing DWMA on your athletes will help you to discover problems in your athlete’s movements, it is a completely different ball game when find corrective exercises and correctly implement them to make improvements. The importance of correctives must be explained to the athlete to speak to the importance of improving movement for athletic ability in their sport. A lot of coaches will give good corrective exercises to their athletes to perform, but don’t take the time to explain to them how to correctly perform the corrective and why it is that they are performing the corrective.

As a strength coach, it is very important to keep track of the progress that your athletes are making. Whether it is via FMS, SFMA, DWMA, or a movement screen of your own, keeping track of how your athletes move and whether or not your program is improving their movement is of up most importance. By assessing your athlete’s movements during the warm-up, you can not only keep track of your efforts to improve your athlete’s movements, but also do what all strength coaches strive to do: make the most of the time they have.

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