• Chris K

[FOR COACHES] The Best Movement Assessment

Should a Personal Trainer assess the movement of a client?


Yes. It's an essential part of keeping our clients as safe as possible.


But what is the best movement assessment out of the thousands of assessments out there?


Drum roll....

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Assessing how someone picks up or puts down weights before and after a planned exercise.


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Now your mind is sufficiently blown, it's important to remember how people pick weights up and how they weights down can show how people move when they aren't thinking about how they move.


This is an excellent indicator of how someone will move when a lift is too heavy, when they lose focus, or when they are fatigued from high reps. During these times people often resort to how they tend to move outside of the gym where they aren't thinking about technique.


The way people pick up and put weights away can suggest why they are feeling certain pains or why they have one limb miles bigger than the other.


You may spot clues regarding what people may struggle to "get" while you coach them using this assessment method.


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An example of this would be a person who picks things up from the floor by immediately rounding their lower back and keeping their legs straight is more likely to struggle with the positioning of hip hinge movements like deadlifts, swings and Romanian deadlifts where the lower back is required to stay in a solid position and most of the movement come from the hips.


They have a lower back rounding habit so may struggle to keep it from rounding while in training. They will revert to a way of moving which they are very good at as they may have done it for their entire adult life. The body sees it as the best way to move until it's told and understands otherwise.


This tells a decent coach hip hinge movements will likely require more teaching time to nail down, perfect or attain mastery over them.


The bottom line is if you can eliminate a few movement eccentricities, you have a client less likely to get hurt, a client who looks more assured as they navigate the gym, and a client who will see you are going the extra mile to give them amazing gym experiences.


Below, we'll go into some of the ways people move in the gym while putting their weights down after a set or while picking the weights up beforehand.


Common things to see:


Deadlift- Good form during the set, angry cat as soon as the last rep ends


Useful coaching notes:


- Remind client about returning the weight to the floor with a good back position

- Watch how they pick up/put down heavy dumbbells, do they show similar back rounding?

- Check the development of their spinal extensor vs. glute and hamstring development. If the extensors are overdeveloped and the glutes/hamstrings are under developed you have an area you can focus on and get building some muscle. For maximum posterior chain strength we want spinal extensors, glutes and hamstrings to be well developed. Change programming accordingly.



The Dumbbell Heavy Side-Bend & Twist- picking up one heavy Dumbbell at time by using an aggressive side-leaning method



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Useful coaching notes:


- Watch how they unload a barbell too. If they put dumbbells away in an interesting way, it's worth checking what strange habits they have when loading/stripping a barbell

- Check for potential differences in side bending ability left vs right. If one side is very different, address appropriately through communication and programming

- Show them safer ways to get out and put dumbbells away


The post-dumbbell bench press shoulder dislocator- when someone finishes a set, they drop the dumbbells towards the floor and keep hold of them until both arms are way behind their body


Useful coaching notes:


- Teach them the correct way to put dumbbells down after this exercise

- Potentially limit the amount of dumbbell/machine flies as people who do this tend to also go "too low" during fly exercises

- Using cues like "up you get" or "dumbbells to thighs" or something else you feel will work may direct them into a safer way to put heavy dumbbells down after a set of dumbbell bench.


The Dumbbell sideways drop from above head- after a set of overhead press, the person drops the Dumbbell sideways


Useful coaching notes:


- Make sure you always coach people on how to put heavy things down from above head

- Cue the lifter on putting weights down correctly

- If the person is uncoordinated, stick to single arm overhead work


Hypermobility, hypermobility everywhere- the quirky ways hypermobile people may put weights down


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Useful coaching notes:


- If someone is hypermobile they often put weights down in odd ways. I had one client who has a habit of rotating his hands nearly 360° when returning dumbbells to the floor. He didn't know he did this until I pointed it out. Teach the correct form for putting weights down. It will feel patronising but you are doing what you must.

- Be prepared for the amount of movement habits people are completely unaware of

- Watch out for hyperextension knees before and after sets of leg press

- Watch out for the shoulders dislocator dumbbell dismount

- Watch out for them unracking a barbell bench press with an overly extended wrist, hypermobile people can often move their wrists much further than the average person


The look to random place whenever they deadlift heavy phenomenon


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Useful coaching notes:


- If you notice you have a "deadlift looker" they'll only tend to look towards their special place when fatigue/difficulty/effort/RPE is sufficiently high so you have three options: 1) avoid deadlifts that difficult or 2) use a coaching cue practised with the lifter you can remind them of before or during the tough set or 3) don't do anything

- Please choose option 2)


The "yes I always do this lunge when returning my squatting weight back on the rack"


Useful coaching notes:


- Watch out for them doing this after other movements like farmers walks, dumbbell deadlift movements or heavy medicine ball carries or pick ups

- "Finishing a squat to start, starting a squat to finish" when returning a squatted barbell to the rack is worth practising to death to ensure you aren't partially lunging much more than the tissues are prepared for

- Spend time practising how to return equipment to rest

- Check for leg strength/size differences. I'll bet it's their bigger, stronger leg that's forward when they lunge/ split squat the bar back. If this imbalance needs addressing (many don't cause any issues and are 100% normal) removing this habit can help even things out.


There many more I haven't spotted yet, more I've forgotten and others I am missing. Have a think about your clients and see if you can come up with any of your own.


Why is it such a good assessment?


Because it's all about keeping clients safe. If a client isn't safe in the spaces between the exercises you've taught them, injury risk is higher.


Remember to teach your clients how to pick things up and put them down properly AROUND their programmed exercises. Once you've taught them, make sure they practise it.


As you teach your clients this, they will apply the same principles and corrections to the training they do away from you so not only are you making their training safer but you are fostering autonomy too.


Winner winner, chicken dinner.


By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach

Follow me on Instagram @theheavymetalstrengthcoach


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