Please Don’t

Please don’t buy my new book, Movement… If—

  • you need a self-help book
  • you need lots of colorful anatomical drawings to hold your attention
  • you believe that knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics will completely prepare you to manage movement dysfunction
  • you are looking for prepackaged exercise and rehabilitation programming
  • you want a quick, short read about movement
  • you don’t feel we need a professional standard operating procedure for movement quality identification
  • you like a physical challenge, but avoid a mental one

Okay, before you get offended, I’m obviously making a joke and attempting to get a laugh. Of course, I want you to buy the book, but it is more important that you get the message. I simply want you to question some things in current exercise and rehabilitation practice. But do not stop at questioning! That just makes you a critic, and critics don’t really make the world a better place. That honor belongs to those who take action.

My contributors and I provide systems well supported by the most current literature and research. We show you how to use the systems and tell you when and where each should be used. We then provide you with examples of how corrective exercise can be applied according to the system.

As a director of physical therapy clinics for many years, I’ve tried to employ a philosophy that states: It isn’t a problem if you cannot present a solution alongside your grievance. My contributors and I try to present a logical case for what is wrong with the way we currently look at movement, and then we offer a solution. Our solution is too complex for some and too simple for others, and that’s just fine with us, because at least we offered something. We gave our peers something to build on or throw darts at, but at least we used logic to expose a problem and offered a systematic solution. Our solution does not take sides because it does not hold up one method of movement correction as the single best solution. We offer a fundamental baseline for movement, and suggest that if you cannot improve the baseline movement pattern quality, you should seek alternate solutions. Likewise, if you can effectively and consistently improve movement quality baselines, you should stick to your current path. The book produces a paradigm shift and we ask you, the exercise and rehabilitation professional, to logically take a look at your professional practice… from the outside.

As you read this, please understand that I’m a very open-minded person, and I reserve my professional passion for two things—

  1. the pursuit of the truthful answers regardless of popularity
  2. higher professional standards based on logic

As exercise and rehabilitation professionals, our future credibility depends on these two points because they will guide all the other actions we debate. If we do not impose better logic and higher standards on ourselves, they will be imposed upon us by others. The point of the book Movement is to take you on a journey through the current state of movement as it applies to exercise and rehabilitation, as well as what we have learned about the fundamental wellspring that binds all the activities we enjoy.

Now back to the points above.

1. …If you need a self-help bookMovement is not a self-help book. It is not an exercise manual. It is a reference text for the exercise and rehabilitation professional. It offers the professional a systematic logic and is intended for coaches, health and safety managers, administrators who direct groups of individuals who participate in athletics, occupations and activities that elevate the risk for injury. It is for trainers and clinicians who are responsible for the way people move and who take responsibility to manage the risks and rewards associated with increasing activity levels. I’ve already written the movement self-help book; it’s called Athletic Body in Balance.

I would be honored if you would use it as a guide alongside your current exercise and training interests. If you have problems with the self-screen in the book or are not able to achieve your goals, you should get with an exercise or rehabilitation professional. Self-help is better used to maintain or prevent problems than to correct them, and if you are experiencing problems, you could probably benefit from professional objectivity.

2. …If you need lots of colorful anatomical drawings to peak your attention—Books with wonderful color images of all the big pretty surface muscles have already be done. They are bright, cool and flashy, but as a professional, I can tell you, these are not considered professional reference material. As a qualified exercise or rehabilitation professional, I need to challenge your credentials if you do not already know the information that has been cleverly repackaged to look more comprehensive. These books are not even close to comprehensive—they perpetuate the same assumptions that created our movement problem in the first place. They suggest, by highlighting certain muscles alongside a common exercise, that the illuminated muscle or group is primarily responsible for the success or failure of exercise competency. These books provide the non-professional a brush with anatomy loosely associated with exercise, just enough information to introduce a muscle by name, without introducing the awesome complexity that supports the action of the muscle on display.

I’ve been fortunate enough to actually dissect the human body. It just doesn’t look like the images in the book. It’s much more impressive. The colorful muscle book implies separateness and compartmentalization, whereas the real human form is amazingly overlapped and wonderfully connected. The colorful muscle books showcase prime movers while they neglect the deep, small and very important stabilizers. These recreational anatomy books provide just enough information to make the user feel more intelligent without becoming anatomy wise. These books do not increase exercise competence; they actually reduce it by conveying a false sense of completeness. They do not introduce new information. They simply introduce superficial concepts in high definition color.

However, these books sell and they are popular, so don’t blame the publishers because in the end, this is a business. Movement was not written to win a popularity contest. The popular vote may not always be the best gauge of quality. Obesity and Wal-Mart are also very popular these days, but are not necessarily good representations of our true potential.

Movement is our attempt to connect movement patterns with the structures and functions of the body, whereas colorful anatomy books illuminate a body part with a single exercise. Our point was to plainly state that we have done a better job with analysis than synthesis. Books that put a few selected muscles in HD color do not move us forward. They don’t improve our ability to evaluate movement. They don’t improve our systems for movement correction or conditioning. They don’t improve professional responsibility or reduce the current level risk associated with exercise and activity.

These books also don’t seem to be on the shelves of the professionals moving us forward. In defense of the full color anatomy books, they do have lots of pretty pictures of well-proportioned people missing some skin, which is cool if you slept through anatomy the first time or did not take it at all. But remember, don’t ever get an anatomy book to learn about movement. Get an anatomy book to learn about anatomy. Get a movement book to learn about movement and then complete your learning with practice. We suggest that you systematically practice looking at movement whenever possible through systematic screening and assessment. We have found that if we focus on movement, the creator of the anatomy does a pretty good job of maintaining it, whether we talk about it and make pretty pictures or not. If you are still interested in pictures, here’s the link to the Frederic Delavier books published by Human Kinetics.

3. …If you honestly believe that knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics will completely prepare you to manage movement dysfunction. I have taught anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics at the college level, and although these disciplines provide an organized way to consider the body and its movement, they fall short of providing efficient and effective corrections for movement dysfunction. With all three subjects, the parts and segments are identified without the consideration of the perception to behavior loop. When we get deep into the map of the body, we forget the map is not the territory—it’s just a simplistic representation of a complex reality.

The human movement system is a self-learning movement memory system. The sensory input stimulates a perception, which triggers a behavior… and this is highly individualized. The whole thing is organized in sensory motor memory patterns that are unique to the individual because they’re based on individual perception. Two individuals can receive the same exercise and instruction, and produce completely different movement pattern behaviors. They can also learn at different rates of progress. Exercise and rehabilitation professionals cannot assume that the same sensory experience will be perceived in the same way. Movement behavior is largely based on perception and since we cannot assume perception, we must categorize movement behavior and consider all the things that can produce and influence it.

The current evidence suggests that we as professionals need to set some movement competency baselines that are based on movement pattern quality. This information, combined with our other information, will help to create clarity as we use exercise and rehabilitation to correct dysfunctional movement patterns associated with injury risk and improved performance. Movement dysfunction can be caused by restrictions to the freedom of movement (mobility), limitations with motor control (stability) or ineffective programming (perception/behavior/memory). All three problems can look the same if only one movement pattern is viewed under the eyes of the critic, however if multiple movement patterns are screened for competency, the dysfunction will have a signature. That signature will provide a specific platform for further testing and a more individualized corrective strategy.

Too often we look to a part of anatomy for the explanation of movement dysfunction, and too often we are unsuccessful at effectively changing movement. We need a movement system that objectively identifies functional and structural problems. For too long we have tried to follow a structural system that assumes movement behavior.

4. …If you are looking for prepackaged exercise and rehabilitation programming. Functional movement systems is not an exercise or rehabilitation program, and you will not get a bunch of exercise protocols in the back of the Movement book. We attempted to outline the structure and systems that can explain the logic behind sound programming and improve the effectiveness of ineffective programming. The systems are a group of decision trees for identification and correction of movement dysfunction.

It should be noted that good programs are better at maintaining acceptable movement patterns than recreating them. This means if you do not have movement problems, a good program can help you maintain a state of acceptable movement pattern minimums, but it may not be the most effective or reliable method to correct individual movement dysfunction. The problem comes when we assume that all movement dysfunction can be specifically improved with a single program. Movement pattern dysfunction is represented differently in different individuals, and movement correction unfortunately cannot be dispensed on an assembly line. One individual with poor hamstrings flexibility will lose the ability to touch her toes, while another will maintain the ability to touch her toes by creating excessive mobility in the spine. The root cause of the problem is the same, but is represented differently. The point is that good programming can keep you moving well if you start with a sound movement base. However, a general program may not be as effective at removing movement pattern dysfunction as the temporary application of a systematic individualized corrective exercise strategy.

Many professional are fearful of going down this path because they feel they will end up doing personal training for a few needy individuals within a group situation. The truth is those individuals will slow the overall progress of the group anyway. It is more efficient to identify problems initially and to impose a specific corrective program where it is needed. This is usually brief and effective, and the effect can be measured in less than a minute. If you work in a group setting, ask yourself one question: Do you want the group to start together or finish together? You cannot have both. You will rarely find a group that is well matched in ability and movement behavior. The goal is not to make everyone move the same. The goal is to make all individuals within the group attain minimal successful competency of movement behavior that will indicate durability, physical capacity and a particular movement skill.

If you want your group to work together as soon as possible, you must spend time in the beginning to identify potential differences and platoon the groups into temporary subgroups with specific goals. Make each subgroup focus on the common deficiencies they share, and soon the group will be back together. My suggestion is to try both methods: Work one group as a group for an entire training cycle and work one group in platoons for the first third to half of a training cycle focusing on their particular deficiencies. Then re-form the group for the last two-thirds or half of training. Before you debate this, please try the suggestion—I have and I can tell you the platoon method is worth the trouble.

5. …If you need a quick short read about movement. Sorry. There is nothing quick or short about Movement: Functional Movement Systems. But in our defense, quick and short was not our intention. Our intention was a comprehensive look at the issues in movement that have not been employed or addressed by our current practices in exercise and rehabilitation. If you are like us, your education considered the components of movement, but left out movement pattern baselines. Our education taught us normal ranges of movement at each joint, and failed to provide a standardized appraisal for common human movement patterns.

Those who work in exercise or rehabilitation, hopefully realize that anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics are pretty static. This means there are not many new discoveries. As far as those subjects are concerned, your job is to responsibly know the fundamental concepts of each discipline that support your practice. However, just knowing that unfortunately is in not enough. That information, just like your professional education, is usually only enough to help you not hurt people. You really don’t start to help people until you start working and become proficient and practical with experience.

Early in my career, I raised the bar on myself. First I raised my clinical standards as a physical therapist, and then I raised my exercise and conditioning standards in my training, coaching and consulting. I pushed myself and my coworkers to think outside the box and to work to a higher standard. It forced us to argue, debate, and eventually to innovate. As we stepped out of our professional comfort zones, we realized we did not lose face… we actually accelerated our growth. Our lack of tolerance with professional stagnation was absolutely necessary to facilitate the invention of a new systematic approach, and that approach evolved into Functional Movement Systems.

In short, we set a simple reproducible movement baseline. The baseline was founded on all the natural principles of movement we could compile. We especially focused on the principles that seemed to be overlooked in accepted exercise and rehabilitation practice. Once we set a movement baseline, we applied exercises to the situations we identified to improve or correct them. We openly accepted whatever exercise or concept proved most effective. We did not fight or argue for exercise methods; we logically applied various methods to a systematic baseline and accepted the results. We let methods justify themselves against a predetermined baseline. Our fruitless debates ended, and our journey began. We guarded our clearly defined principles whenever we tried to break our own rules. If you choose to read our work in Movement, you will learn five fundamental movement principles in chapter one, and from those principles we will build a case for movement screening and assessment. Three-hundred pages later, you will see the list expanded to ten principles, which will add principles for movement correction through the application of exercise. As I stated initially, there is nothing short or quick about these concepts, but in the long run they will save you time and more sharply focus your effort.

6. …If you don’t feel we need a professional standard operating procedure for movement quality identification. Standard operating procedure (SOP) does not mean educated professionals give up their authority or autonomy in the disciplines of exercise or rehabilitation. It actually promotes professional and responsible practice, communication and cooperation. Pilots and surgeons must follow SOPs. Firefighters, military operators and the police trust their lives to their SOPs. Usually, the standards require professionals to follow a basic checklist at the front of most general situations. Once the SOP checklist has been satisfied, it supplies the user with a greater level of clarity and categorization for a given situation. If unique variations are present, professionals must relay on their training to address isolated issues, highly technical problems or special circumstances. However, the majority of situations can be organized and managed by a SOP. This does not hinder creativity and innovation. It actually enhances it by providing an organized baseline for the comparison of different methodologies.

But look at the fitness intake assessment. Look at the testing performed on athletes and the examinations used in musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Today’s exercise and rehabilitation professionals do not follow a SOP for the most basic component of physical exertion, movement. In the book Movement; Functional Movement Systems, we suggest a SOP to organize the initial intake procedure. We have made the professional observation that many professionals do not use a SOP during evaluation, but are actually very rigid and protocol-based when it comes to corrective methods. We ask the user to simply flip this; we suggest the professional practice an SOP on intake and be less rigid or standardized when practicing corrective methods.

To provide an example, we base both movement screening and movement assessment SOPs on ten fundamental principles of movement. We do not suggest that one method of correction is superior to the other, and we expect diversity and creativity among professionals. However as professionals with differing methodology, we must still adhere to an SOP. This is because the SOP is not based on our methods—it’s based on our subject matter, the human movement system.

A good example of an SOP blended with diversity is a comparison of speed coaches. There is significant diversity between speed coaches who may vary in opinion and in methodology of speed development, but all seem to somehow own a stopwatch. They agree on minutes and seconds as standards of measurement. The stopwatch represents an agreed-upon SOP and baseline to chart progress and identify the most effective methods.

Unfortunately, we do not practice SOP for the most fundamental and functional patterns of human movement. Movement screening and assessment are movement standards that support exercise and rehabilitation without a bias toward one method over another. They do not dictate the methods professionals employ to correct movement dysfunction. They simply identify a movement deficiency and call for a corrective exercise that fits the deficiency. An SOP provides a reproducible systematic framework of human movement competency based on general principles of movement.

7. …If you like a physical challenge, but avoid a mental challenge. In Movement we challenge the reader to think and problem-solve at a different level. We all know that when we stretch and work muscles, they adapt and become stronger, and yet when new concepts ask our brains expand and operate at higher levels, we resist the mental workout. To improve your physical capacity, you must move out of your physical comfort zone, and to improve your mental capacity you must read, study, apply, practice and learn—outside of your mental comfort zone. Giving the reader an exercise list might sell more exercise recipe books, but it will never create advanced problem-solving in exercise and rehabilitation professionals.

My contributors and I provided a text that starts with movement fundamentals and principles and then creates a corrective exercise system that is subordinate to what it actually produces. This means we employ a system that continually checks its progress and alerts the user when positive results are not attained. We realize this paradigm is new in exercise and rehabilitation and it challenges old methodology. However, at the heart of most debates in exercise and rehabilitation there is movement. Therefore, you must be as competent in movement science as you are in exercise or rehabilitation science. Movement science demands that we treat movement as a behavior driven by perception.

We push our readers to consider logic and deductive reasoning in the first part of the book. We introduce methodology to screen and assess movement, and then we offer a perspective designed to correct movement dysfunction. We deliberately chose to separate corrective exercise and conditioning exercise into two distinct categories because we feel this separation reduces programming errors on a large scale. Some might be alarmed when they are not provided with the four best exercises for each problem. However, we felt that our goal should be to define the value in developing an individual movement profile before considering the structure and methods used in programming for exercise and rehabilitation. So I guess you can say we made a deliberate decision to raise our own standards and then share those with those who enjoy a good mental challenge as much as a good physical challenge.

If you are an exercise or rehabilitation professional, please consider buying Movement: Functional Movement Systems. Just don’t ask it to do things it was not created to do. If you do get it, and you are still looking for a short read, nice color anatomy pictures, or the workout of the day and you choose to write a bad review—no hard feelings. I’m sure I will survive, but just please remember…

I told you not to buy it… If—


  1. Oh how I just love this post! First open your mind to the paradigm and the seek first to understand . EXCELLENT!

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