As a fitness professional, functional assessments are a great way to gain an understanding of what to address with your clients’ resistance and flexibility-training programs. The four types of functional assessments typically used are static postural analysis, movement, balance, and flexibility assessments. These assessments help to identify any postural deviations or movement compensations. If any are present, we can suspect that certain tight or inhibited muscles might be responsible. Then, we can select appropriate strength and flexibility exercises to address the deviations or compensations observed. Sometimes these will stem from factors that cannot be corrected through training, but it is still helpful to be aware of these deviations.
This is the first installment of a four-part series examining the four types of functional assessments. In this post, we take a closer look at static postural analysis, which examines the way a client looks while assuming a relaxed, standing posture. Specifically, we observe the ankles and hips in the frontal plane (adduction), hips in the sagittal plane (anterior or posterior pelvic tilts), and the shoulder, thoracic spine, and head positions in several planes.
Looking at the ankle might give you some clues about what is going on with the foot, ankle, knee, and hip joints. While you can work on ankle mobility and stability by stretching and strengthening the muscles of the lower leg and foot (perhaps by incorporating some self-myofascial release); these factors may not be correctible.
Adduction, which is movement toward the midline of the body, is seen when one hip is essentially “hiked up” more than the other (the hip that is elevated is the one that is adducted). Using a plumb line observation or placing a dowel lengthwise along the tops of the hips can help you visualize the levelness of the hips for this assessment.
Anterior and posterior pelvic tilts often stem from a force (muscle) on the anterior side of the body working in conjunction with a force (muscle) on the posterior side. For example, for an anterior pelvic tilt, tightness in the hip flexors may draw down the front of the hips, and tightness in the erector spinae may draw up the back of the hips (or cause the tail bone to lift). Tightness in the rectus abdominis and hamstrings may cause a posterior pelvic tilt.
The first thing to note is that there are TWO joints that make up the shoulder: the glenohumeral joint (i.e., the ball and socket space created where the humerus meets the scapula) and the scapulothoracic joint (where the scapula sits above the ribcage area near the thoracic spine). The glenohumeral joint favors mobility, but is held in place by the more supportive scapulothoracic joint. Due to this arrangement, there are several postural deviations that can occur, including elevated shoulders, asymmetry to midline, protraction, internal (medial) rotation, kyphosis, and depressed chest.
Because of the many hours most people spend staring at a computer or television screen or driving, their heads are often shifted forward, which can cause tight cervical extensor muscles.
Using these five points of reference during a static postural analysis enables you to see if your clients exhibit any deviations at resting posture. However, it might take further analysis of movement to see if there are any tight or inhibited muscles that would affect proper movement mechanics. By looking at the movement assessments, you can determine if there are any compensations that deviate from proper form.