Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Movement Screens: Is Chasing Symmetry a Good Idea?
The jury is out on just how effective these screens are. Some studies show that screening and correcting detected imbalances or "dysfunction" can lower the incidence of injury in a tested population. Some studies show the opposite. Some studies are just inconclusive.
So what's the deal? I'm not going to pick on any one screen in particular, but personally I haven't been impressed with any of the screens on the market nor have I been persuaded by advocates for them. Indeed, after talking to several people who have been screened and heard from them that they still can't get good scores as much as two years later, I'm not convinced that the screens or the corrective movements are worth much. These people have been avoiding exercising like they want to exercise because the screen hadn't "cleared" them. That's just nonsense.
I had one guy send me a video doing the exercise he was not cleared to do and he looked awesome. Either the screen is hooey, the guy conducting the screen doesn't know what he is doing or this guy has screen performance anxiety and tests poorly. (That's a joke...sort of.) The guy might get injured doing this exercise. But the truth is, the screen doesn't promise he won't get injured doing this exercise even with a perfect score. So what's the point?
The truth is, nobody is symmetrical and nobody gets 100% perfectly symmetrical addressing asymmetries. There is no evidence it improves performance and there is no evidence that getting symmetrical will fix existing problems. According to Dr. Mel Siff, "The body and its muscles, tendons and bones are characteristically asymmetric and any attempts to produce greater anthropomorphic and kinesiological symmetry could exacerbate the existing problem or cause new injuries." (Supertraining, pg 239)
Will you really be any better off after having been screened than if you had simply done general joint mobility, some specific stretching and actually exercised within your current skills and ranges of motion?
Siff notes, "...discrepencies as large as 10% do not statistically correlate with a major increase in muscular injuries." 10% is pretty big. Movement screens profess to get your dysfunctions and imbalances relatively even. Is it worth it?
I'm skeptical. Bottom line, a screen is an additional certification a personal trainer can use to sell you more services. Just as fat people don't need a $100 pinch fold test to tell them they are fat and unfit people don't need a $50 fitness test to tell them they aren't fit, if you can't touch your toes or get up out of a chair comfortably you don't need a $150 movement screen to tell you aren't moving well. What you do need is to start moving. With or without a supervised program. Most of what ails you will clear up in just the act of getting more exercise.
Everybody is different and there is no one "correct" exercise technique that fits everyone equally. Movement screens may not be a total waste of time, but to me they fall into the same category of a too restrictive, cookie cutter approach to how people are "supposed" to move. One only has to look at elite athletes in any sport at any time and watch how they walk, run or jump to see that there are many "correct" ways to move.
Optimal is individual.
tonight's training: box squats up to 166kg for a double, 100kg x 10 to finish then pulls from below knee to 150kg. 10 minutes of double long cycle 16kg: 5 cleans + 1 jerk = 80 cleans and 16 jerks for the 10 minutes.