Observing the technique of an athlete is central to what we do as coaches. Our observations lead us to deliver interventions which enhance technique and therefore sports performance. Importantly these improvements in technique also reduce the athlete's risk of injury.
Formalising the process, using objective and subjective criteria to grade the technical performance, is often referred to as movement screening.
Movement screening is common place within elite sport and is typically carried out by the strength and conditioning coach or the physiotherapist in pre-season. Information from the screen is used in conjunction with other fitness measures to determine the athlete's readiness to perform certain training tasks.
For example if the athlete was found to have poor control in squatting movements, it follows that the athlete would need to use alternate exercises to train more intensely while certain elements of squat technique received some developmental attention.
Within the school PE environment there are lots of similar good reasons to include movement screening into your scheme of work.
Firstly, pupils should be able to identify what good and poor movement looks like. As pupils progress through the school and beyond they will train with increasing independence where it is important to be able to correct themselves. For example, when they start going to the gym on their own they should have confidence in their technique and be able to adjust when their technique is lacking (think of that person in the gym doing deadlifts with a horribly rounded back).
Importantly, for those integrating resistance training into their PE sessions it is critical for pupils to be competent in the movements being performed prior to loading. This also includes bodyweight training and plyometrics as many of these exercises still involved relatively high loads that many pupils cannot handle.
This cautious approach to loading does not mean that groups of pupils need to be held back while others progress. It simply means you are able to select more appropriate training exercises for each individual and assign specific work-ons to help them improve. The results is that everyone progresses.
Example of screening the lunge. Different joints require observation either from the front or the side.
Here is an example: If you wanted to programme elements of your session around lunging movements, but your class had varying degrees of movement skill, it would not be appropriate for every pupil to start training with weights or for them to do more advanced plyometrics.
Based on their movement screen you could assign pupils to one of the following groups:
Level 1: Hand supported bodyweight lunge
Level 2: Bodyweight lunge
Level 3: Kettlebell lunge
Level 4: Drop and stick lunge
Level 5: Split jumps
The above groupings are a progression where the pupil first learns to lunge with assistance from the hands, then masters their own bodyweight, and then perfects moving with load before progressing on to plyometric exercises.
Good movement leads to performance and reduced injury risk. Poor movement leads to poor performance and increased injury risk.
Many PE teachers will pick up movement screening easily. Particularly if they come from a technical sport themselves, and like I said before, watching technique is what we do on a daily basis as coaches. Unfortunately however movement screening is not part of every PE teachers training and many will find it challenging.
Research we performed investigated the ability of PE teachers to identify good and poor movement in a teenage pupils performing basic bodyweight strength training exercises. We found that a large percentage of PE teachers could not identify good or poor movement and for those that could, many were unable to identify where the movement was going wrong.
To increase your ability to screen movement, you need to practice, and you could start by screening your colleagues. You will also need a robust methodology to follow. Given a lack of methods out there for schools, we developed one ourselves! We call it the Youth Movement Competency Screen or YMCS for short.
We would love to take you through it so you can include it in your PE sessions.
If you are interested in learning more about movement screening please get in contact firstname.lastname@example.org