Functional testing fast and easy!

Functional testing fast and easy!

In order to build long-term and regular training behavior, one thing above all is important: achievable goals. Not only for your own training, but also to build and maintain a client base as a trainer. The best and easiest way to generate interest in yourself as a trainer or therapist and your own concept is to uncover a deficiency in the client's body. This deficiency can be purely visual - the fatter belly after Christmas or the flabby arms when waving. There are good recipes here: the analysis of the nutritional habits and the optimization of the training, i.e. muscle building and body fat reduction - the little basics for every coach.

In functional training, however, the focus is on something more complex: movement. It is always three-dimensional. This important and decisive fact makes it difficult to analyse and detect an individual deficiency or dysbalance. Here a trainer shows the client how much his body is in (im)balance with regard to its functional mobility.   

Hüftbeuger Stretching auf PATmat |
Functional testing in the group

Functional movement deficiencies should be easy to point out and the client should be able to follow the trainer's instructions. In addition, the test should be authentic and not take up much time. In terms of implementation, it would also be optimal to use equipment that is also used in training. With the following tests, movement patterns can be analyzed quickly, easily and understandably. All that is needed are tennis balls and a sturdy cardboard roll with a diameter of about 9 cm and a length of 34 cm. If possible, you can use a piece of chalk to draw corresponding marks on the floor. 

Shoulder extension test

Here, not only the ability of shoulder extension is tested, but also the elevation of the shoulder blade. Stereotypically, an office athlete has low mobility in the shoulder area due to the mostly sedentary work. Fascial adhesions and muscular restrictions in the shoulder girdle area can be the trigger.
Functional Testing Shoulder 1 |
Functional Testing Shoulder 2 |
Functional Testing Shoulder 3 |
Functional Testing Shoulder 4 |
Functional Testing Shoulder 5 |
  • In the starting position, the client stands approx. 33 cm from the wall.
  • The pelvis leans against the wall.
  • The roller is now positioned against the wall in the lower third of the shoulder blades (Th6-7). To prevent compensatory movements when performing a shoulder extension, an avocado can be held here between the spine and the wall. This is then positioned exactly at the point of lordosis, i.e. where the distance to the wall is greatest. Now the client is forced to maintain trunk tension during the shoulder movement.
  • Now the ball is pressed against the wall with the back of the hand.
  • The free arm goes up and back from the wall below in a controlled movement. The test is successful when the back of the hand touches the wall above the middle of the head with the elbow extended.
  • If the wall is touched with the right hand - as in the picture - but without full arm extension, a restriction is present.
  • If the wall cannot be reached with the left arm - as in the photo - there is a need for therapy and training.
The effect of not being able to touch the wall alone often leads to the question of follow-up: "What can I do now to make this better?" At this point, at the latest, the client is convinced that they need to do something about it. The client now puts further training or therapy planning in the hands of the trainer.

Back activation test

This is not only a test, but also an exercise that every "office athlete" who spends many hours a day sitting should do. You can even give this exercise to your clients as homework; in this way, the client has direct added value.
Test Rücken Aktivierung 1a |
Test Rücken Aktivierung 1b |
  • Secure the roll with both elbows behind your back.
  • Hold this position for 1 minute.
  • If the roll falls on the floor, the chest and shoulder area may have too little mobility and the client may not be able to open the chest or activate the back muscles.
  • Rotate both thumbs as far back as possible.
  • Target: 20 repetitions within one minute, with both forearms in line with the shoulder axis in the final position.
  • Take a longer roll or "lengthen" the small roll by, for example, wedging an avocado between the roll and your elbow.

Test of the ankle joint

This test begins from a free standing position, so that not only the mobility of the ankle joint in forward flexion is tested here, but also the control of balance. Mobility and stability are always tested simultaneously in functional training. This is called "mostability". This test is important for the early detection of deficiencies caused by frequently knee-bent postures, such as sitting. The rear leg structures pull the heel up earlier when mobility is restricted. In other words, the heel of the back leg is more likely to lift off the ground during a step, resulting in a shorter stride length. This problem is more severe when an office athlete pursues running in his free time.
Test Sprunggelenk 1 |
Test Sprunggelenk 2 |
Test Sprunggelenk 3 |
  • Starting position: The roller is secured with the thumbs behind the body; this helps to standardize the test and prevents the usual "rowing for balance" phenomenon.
  • The stance leg is tested, which is in a straight line with the second toe and heel centered.
  • The tested leg moves along the line (the picture shows the "PATmat", the stringer) with the second toe. The maximum value achieved is noted without the heel of the supporting leg lifting off or the foot of the tested leg rotating.
This test is always dependent on the body size or leg length. If the PATmat forms a wave in front of the foot of the playing leg, the client is using too much body weight forward and thus also losing control of the heel contact at the back.

Test of the hip in the knee bend pattern

The squat in the lunge position is the most common movement pattern in functional training. There is hardly any sport that can do without it in this or a similar form. For this reason, this test should be an elementary part of every screening. This movement pattern is multi-joint and complex. In order to keep an evaluation as objective as possible and to make it simple, the test is carried out as follows
Test Hüfte Kniebeuge 1 |
Test Hüfte Kniebeuge 2 |
Test Hüfte Kniebeuge 3 |
Test Hüfte Kniebeuge 4 |
Test Hüfte Kniebeuge 5 |
  • To focus the movement on the ankle, knee and hip joints, the influence of the upper body is limited.
  • The roller is held behind the back with the elbows. This standardization has the side effect that the subject performs the test in a very controlled manner. The roller should not be dropped. In the starting position, the standing leg is seen behind the center line on the outer track of the PATmat (other measuring mats are also possible!).
  • The back leg is also in the blue field, the posture is upright.
  • An optimal test result is achieved when the heel of the front foot does not lift off the ground and does not move to the sides during the flexion movement and in the end position.
  • The knee of the moving leg touches the outside track in the final position.
  • The most common compensation is the lifting of the heel of the standing leg from a certain degree of flexion in the hip joint. The reason for this can be a movement restriction of the ankle joint or faulty control of the hip dynamic musculature (insufficient control of the movement pattern). In this case, the stance leg can be positioned further forward on the outer track.
The pictures show an increased need for space when testing the left stance leg, as the left foot must be positioned far forward to achieve an optimal end position. There is a clear imbalance of both sides here. Some individuals are also unable to keep the roller fixed on the back. With increasing hip flexion here, the increased pelvic tilt seems to lead to kyphosis of the spine. The resulting hunchback pushes the roll out of its fixation - often a clear sign of mobility restrictions in the hip area and immobility in the chest.

The origin of these functional tests

The focus of these four functional tests is a quick and easy evaluation of movements. The tests are an excerpt from the "PATmap Screening", in which movement patterns are made recognizable and measurable in a standardized way. Coaches can give their clients immediate training tips after the screening. In further coaching sessions, the results should of course be used to correct possible imbalances. With this knowledge it is possible for trainers to give direct instructions for training, as these movement patterns can be performed in the same way or similarly in training with the same tools. In training, these principles should always be followed: Control before speed and start with the weaker side first.

Your Patrick

This article was originally published in the January 2019 print edition of Functional Training Magazine.

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