The benefits of having a movement screen

Craig Yuhas demonstrates an overhead squat incorrectly... — Photo courtesy of Craig Yuhas

What is the singular, most basic element that weight training, tennis, yoga, running, golf, Pilates, and any other activity or sport have in common? Movement. In fact, all the aforementioned activities are a result of our ability to first move freely, meaning they came after we developed our ability to move unrestricted. We created sports and exercise because of our ability to move.

Movement, more importantly, quality of movement, is the foundation of all these activities, or at least, should be. A movement screen — a series of positions done under the watch of a personal trainer — indicates where you are weak and where you are strong. It’s a very effective way of improving performance and lowering future risks of injury.

Without the proper basic movement patterns in place, the more complicated and intense skills such as running, jumping, turning, throwing, swinging, and lifting are compromised, less efficient, and produced off a structurally unsound foundation. One would not build a house on an uneven foundation with cracks, so why does one try to build fitness or technical skills on a questionable foundation?

Next time you are around an infant or young child, take note on how freely they seem to move. They can fully squat down to the ground, they can roll around on the ground and then pop up with ease. Why do we lose these abilities that are so important to our health and performance? There are many reasons, which I will not get into, but the good news is: You can get them back.

Think of your body as hardware, and your brain as software. If we perform repetitive motions, become inactive, or become injured, we reprogram our movement patterns to survive. This enables us to work around pain, so we are able to move from point A to point B or escape problems. It’s a survival mechanism. The problem is the “new” program isn’t meant to be used for a long time, just to get through the threat. We need to get our original program back, and we can. The movement screen will show where our faults exist.

Our body and brain are an impressive team. Hundreds, possibly thousands of reflexive and conscious movements and adjustments keep us moving. The interplay of stability in one area allows for mobility in another, leading to efficient movement. Without stability, you will lose mobility. Without mobility in the proper areas, you will end up losing your stability. This is what a movement screen will show you.

A movement screen involves performing certain primitive movement patterns such as squatting, lunging, and pushing to see how your quality of movement is. It is not an indicator of fitness levels or strength levels but it will help improve and enhance both. The most dysfunctional movement is addressed through corrective exercises. These exercises will magnify your weakness to make you become more aware of it. This awareness is what will help you correct the movement and eventually reprogram your “software” and make it a reflexive movement. It’s not a matter of making this muscle stronger, or that one looser. It’s a process of correcting movement, which will lead to problem muscles becoming more active and responsive while others relax, all resulting in smoother, efficient movement.

We are always focused on quantity when it comes to fitness and sport. Instead of asking each other, “How much do you bench?” or “How far did you run today?” our first focus needs to be on how well we move, then we can focus on how often, how fast, or how much we move.

When movement quality is sound, then movement skills and abilities are more efficient, which results in better performance on the tennis or basketball court, on the golf course, in the studio, and in the weight room, with a much decreased risk of developing chronic injuries.

Craig Yuhas of Oak Bluffs is the co-owner of B-Strong. He has a bachelor of science in physical education and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. For more information, visit