Screens are a good idea.
A screen creates a situation requiring a low investment of time and expertise that provides a high return of information regarding potential next decisions and beneficial priorities. The best screens work even when time is short and resources are scarce.
In times of convenience and in the presence of technology, screens are even more important because they keep us grounded in a standard operating procedure based on history and science. It forces the next new ‘shiny thing’ to prove itself against a set baseline. I like the way the book Sway by Ori and Rom Brafman elaborates on this concept and I highly recommend it.
You see, a screen creates direction. It’s not an assessment. It lets us know if we need further assessment in a particular direction. The biggest misconception in the health and fitness world about the FMS is that it is an assessment.
When we think about movement screening, it’s better to think about good screening before considering the specific movements we would prefer to cram into our movement screen. We must protect ourselves from our own movement biases, our own movement methods, our own movement preferences and our own movement abilities.
Simply stated, the only agenda in movement screening should be the question, “does the individual being screened move well enough to enter at the next level?”
“Did they meet movement vital signs?” Yes. Then get on with whatever is next.
If we’re screening human beings, then the prediction of behavior is a very important thing. General behaviors will tell us a lot. Until we know general behaviors, asking questions about specific behaviors may not be the best use of our time. Psychologists know this all too well.
When the movement screen was first introduced, I was hit with a barrage of questions about a screen for soccer or a screen for baseball . . . or middle school or the military? My response: a movement screen should be species-specific, not sport, activity or even age-specific. That is what I have always said. Obviously, we can have different distributions, grades, and assigned values, but movement is movement. We need to do it from the time we’re born until the time we leave.
At some level there should be a baseline for movement that holds our hand across the entire lifespan of movement existence. The FMS may or may not do this job, but the category is needed and proven. Screens across the life span create clarity and direction.
From the time you can recognize letters, you are exposed to an eye chart. As long as you have some degree of vision and letter-literacy, the eye chart can tell us if your vision is acceptable for movement to the next level or if you need a more thorough assessment. If the next level is reading and writing, you may be ready. If you would like to drive a motor vehicle, knowing about peripheral vision and color blindness are helpful and sometimes vital. Want to be a pro golfer? The ability to read distances is also key.
It all starts with the eye chart, every time . . . all the time. Things change and baselines are the best way to apply science and objectivity to get to the truth when it seems unclear or hidden.
If I were developing a psychological screening questionnaire that would predict your basic and general behaviors, I would have to ask simple questions, while creating a situation in which you were forced to answer them honestly. That’s a hard task.
Let’s look at the first dilemma: asking a simple question. A simple question is one that cannot be misconstrued or misinterpreted, regardless of who is doing the asking. That’s the first and most important part of a screen: a question that can be reproduced by people of different skill levels in different situations. A simple question, hopefully, with the intent of improving both communication and accountability regarding the answer to that question, which then creates the second dilemma: the answer to the question is only beneficial if it is honest.
The simplest question I can ask you about movement is, “can you or can’t you?” Regardless of your answer, I should pick a movement and ask you to do it. If you choose, you could always do worse. But if I asked the question correctly, you can never do better than your ability.
When we’re trying to predict future behavior by asking a series of questions, we must decide whether we want to try to predict success or failure. If we follow the laws of nature, nature does not necessarily create success opportunities. Nature offers us non-failure opportunities. With our failures and non-failures, we learn about ourselves and our environments. If we learn correctly, we succeed. If not, we don’t succeed.
We actually learn more through our failures than our non-failures, and that’s why following nature is so important. Some of our failures can have pretty harsh consequences—consequences that may not be deserved. Sometimes they’re not survivable. A little bit of prudence and learning needs to be pre-installed allowing us to gauge our own abilities in different environments.
We might not always succeed, but we can create opportunities where we quickly and clearly learn from failure. It is not necessary to fail the same way (action) at the same task (environment) a second time. Always modify the action or the environment if the desired result is not observed. Remember, modifying both at the same time destroys the feedback loop. Some of the most successful people in the world have a history of numerous failures, but it’s what they did with that information that took them to the next level.
They used a failure opportunity as a feedback loop. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is a study of this learning process—highly recommended.
Next time, we’ll delve deeper into improving the art of screening, the patterns of the FMS and keeping it all simple.
“What’s Behind a Mobility Problem” is my new talk at MovementLectures.com. It’s a good look into how my mind and our systems think about the causes and remedies of mobility problems.