How to Test Your Movement Quality

I was 19 and ready to commit to getting stronger.

I had lifted before, but really I was just moseying around the gym bullshitting. This time I was going to do things differently.

I did my research and decided to do Starting Strength. Over the next 6 months, I got significantly stronger.

Slowly, I started experiencing pain in random areas. Eventually, pain and discomfort forced me to stop all sporting activities. Shitty.

I spent the next year troubleshooting my problems. During that time, I began to learn the importance of quality movement.

My hope is to present a case for quality movement and help you avoid the same problem.

In this posts, I go over:

  • Why you need a quality of movement test
  • What movement patterns you need to test
  • How to test these movement patterns
  • What to do with your test results

 

Why You Need A Quality Of Movement Test

Once you have the needed mobility and stability, we need to put these pieces together to produce quality movement.

Think of mobility and stability as qualities you have in different joints or areas of your body. Movement is the use of mobility and stability to produce a  full pattern.

For example, to properly squat, you would need to have core stability, hip mobility and ankle mobility (amongst other things).

Mobility and stability together lay the foundation for quality movement.  Movement lays the foundation for strength and endurance.  Do you get the idea?

Fitness Qualities

 

I go over this in depth in the 7 essential principles of training.

So, we test movement to make sure it’s not the bottleneck. To make sure we are ready to train for strength, power, and endurance.

What Movement Patterns Do You Need To Test

Which patterns we should test is determined by the answer to 2 questions.

  • What movement patterns do we primarily use in our day to day lives?
  • Which movement patterns do we want to train for strength, endurance, and power?

The answer to both of these questions should be very similar.  Because the patterns you use the most in your day to day are the ones you want to train!

However, these answers could differ from person to person based on the goals of that individual.

But in the interest of keeping things simple, I test 5 movement patterns that everyone should be able to do.

  1. Squat
  2. Hinge
  3. Pushing
  4. Single Leg (Step Up)
  5. Split Squat

These 5 test patterns are based on the 7 basic human movement patterns. To learn more about each of these, check out this article.

Because these are the base of movement, these are the patterns you need to test.

How to Test These Movement Patterns

Please keep in mind, there are countless ways to test movement. These tests aren’t the end all be all.

These tests were chosen for the simplicity. I wanted something you could do at home, on your own, with minimal equipment and expertise.

Squat Test

  1. Position your feet slightly outside of shoulder width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead or slightly toed out.
  2. Position your arms directly out in front of you
  3. Lower your hips towards the floor
  4. Stop when your thigh goes below parallel
  5. Return back to the starting position

You are looking to get your thighs below parallel while keeping your back neutral and your knees tracking over your toes.

Squat Movement Test

Hinge Test

  1. Stand up straight and position your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Unlock your knees
  3. Push your hips back as far as possible while keeping the butt, upper back, and head in contact with the dowel
  4. Return back to the starting position by reversing the motion

To pass this test, you need to hinge to a reasonable depth while keeping your back neutral, your shins perpendicular to the floor, and your knees aligned over your toes.

Hinge Movement Test

Push-Up Test

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your hands slightly outside your armpits
  2. Push away from the floor while keeping the back neutral
  3. Lower yourself back to the starting position

To pass this test, you need to complete this entire movement while keeping the back and neck neutral.

Push Up Movement Test

Single Leg Step Up Test

  1. Grab a box, chair or anything with a height slightly lower than your knee that is stable and can support your weight
  2. Place a foot on the box
  3. Drive through the foot on the box and raise yourself up. Do not use your own foot to assist in any way.
  4. Reverse the motion and lower yourself back down in a controlled manner
  5. Repeat test on the opposite side

To pass this test you need to complete this move while keeping the back neutral, hips and shoulders parallel to the floor, and the lead knee tracking over the toes.

Step Up Movement Test

 

Split Squat Test

  1. Find a straight line on the floor or place some tape down to make one
  2. Get into a split stance with your legs at 90/90. Your front foot and toe of the back foot should be on the line.
  3. Drive through the front foot and raise yourself up. Keep the dowel in contact the entire time
  4. Reverse the motion and lower yourself back down under control
  5. Repeat the test on the opposite side

To pass this test you need to complete this move while keeping the back neutral, hips and shoulders parallel to the floor, and the lead knee tracking over the toes.

Split Squat Movement Test

What To Do with Your Test Results

Going through the patterns, you’ll inevitably find some that are quite a bit uglier than others. Those should be your focus.

It’s also important to remember that mobility and stability are precursors to good movement. If you have problems in those areas, you’ll likely have issues with these movement patterns.  You’ll want to address those in order to make progress in your movements.

What should you do? It’s actually relatively easy because the tests you perform also serve as great exercise options as well. This patterns or something similar SHOULD already be in your primary workout, but they can be put in your warm-up as well.

However, some of them may be too difficult for you to perform through the full range of motion, so you’ll have to regress them a bit and build up over time. Here are some quick options.

  • Squat – Perform the squat to a high box  and gradually lower the box height over time or you can elevate the heels to help with range of motion
  • Hinge – Perform the hinge from a tall kneeling position or just work through the range of motion you can and try to slowly expand
  • Push Up – Perform the push up with the hands elevated and gradually lower hands over time
  • Step Up – Perform the step up to a lower box and gradually progress the height of the box over time
  • Split Squat – Perform the split squat by using the dowel in the off hand as assistance. Alternatively, you can just shorten the range of motion by not going all the way to the bottom

For more on progression and regression, I cover it in depth here.

Remember there is no shame in regressing. Don’t try to do anything outside of your capabilities. You may just end up compensating and sacrificing progress.

Conclusion

Movement is a big piece of the fitness puzzle. Once quality movement is in place, you are ready to attack strength, power, and endurance.

Mobility and stability need to be in place to assist with good movement.

Use the test patterns in this article to determine if you have a weakness.  Adjust your training accordingly!