07 January, 2016

Functional Movement – The Base for Excellence – Part 2

Functional Movement – The Base for Excellence – Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog we defined functional movement and its relationship and importance to athlete development. Part 2 takes this into a bit more depth.

Sport requires a number of movements through running, jumping, catching, kicking, jumping and landing. These activities exert a force on the body, requiring stabilistation and force reduction.

In order to have efficiency along the entire kinetic chain (across multiple joints of the body) and reduce the likelihood of ineffective movement patterns, which may lead to injury, then a coaching and progression of these functional movement patterns is required.

Athletes who have the ability to produce and reduce force, whilst being stable across a range of joints, directions and planes achieve physical competence in functional movement.

In order for an athlete to effectively progress then the relationship between physical competence (i.e. the ability to carry out functional movement skills effectively) and skill development (the specific skills required for a sport) must be understood. 

Where functional movement competence is deficient, then the development of that athlete in their sport is not going to progress as quickly as an athlete who is competent. For example, if an athlete has a poor running technique, which limits their exertion of force, thus limiting their power generation, then they will not reach their true potential in a sport that requires acceleration and speed such as AFL.

The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Model shows that the development of physical literacy at the fundamental stage of training is vital to proceed into the area where talent is fostered and developed. Without physical literacy then the ability to enjoy sport and lead an active lifestyle is diminished. The integration of functional movement skills and fundamental sport skills creates this physical literacy.

Through my discussions with Strength and Conditioning staff at the Northern Territory Institute of Sport, talent identified athletes are presenting with increasing limitations in their movement patterns and these limitations restrict their progression in athletic development. Whilst differences in developmental age and chronological age are going to produce differences in functional screening, the trend being seen is one where the functional movement patterns are not being learnt at a time that is vital for the body to commit this to muscle memory. The result being an athlete not reaching their potential talent due to not being able to develop their body to the required competition level or failing due to injury.

An increased emphasis of functional movement and physical competence, particularly for youth athletes needs to be implemented in sport pathway development programs. The use of functional movement screens is vital for coaches to implement into their training programs to ensure that individual athlete limitations are recognised and can be addressed as early as possible. These tests can and should be conducted alongside athletic tests of speed, strength and endurance.

This is not a secret science or anything new. Rather it is just something that we have forgotten as we chase the new training fads or try and implement quick fixes. Developing athletes is a long-term progression, where getting the basics right should be the foundation of any training program.

© 2019 Paul Mead