by Jon Torine
Strength & Conditioning Coach, Indianapolis Colts
For 16 years I have had the privilege of working as a strength and conditioning coach in the National Football League, the past 13 with the Indianapolis Colts. My passion for trying to maximize physical performance and increase durability based on science and practical application has formulated the basis of our system, which has led us to become harsh critics with a tough filter for programs. We have no margin for error, and do not have the luxury of trial and error when that may mean the difference in millions of dollars and in wins and losses.
Years ago, in the late ’90s, I’d heard about movement screening. The methodology fascinated me, leading me to study it, and watch and wait and wonder.
A year or two later I met Gray Cook, who put me through the Functional Movement Screen and pointed out my rotary stability pattern as, well… lacking. He taught me proper rolling, made some corrections and asked me to repeat the pattern. I got up and executed the rotary moves almost perfectly, and that’s what put me over the top with the system. During the visit, he explained the neural and the role of human motor development components in stark contrast with the isolated joint and muscle thinking, and a big light flashed in my head: This system will work for us!
And so it did, and so it does. I use the Functional Movement Screen in my work with training professional football players, and you can use it for your work with hearty athletes, personal training clients and rehabilitation patients as well. It’s that versatile, that effective and that appealing.
Gray has brilliantly taken complex neurological and anatomical physiology and broken it down into a simple, usable and practical system that can be applied in any setting. Gray’s method gives us a baseline and a system to check our work. That’s another key I learned from his labor and explorations—how important it is check to my own work. That’s huge; it’s an objective measure, one I just didn’t have with the players before I started using the screen.
In our profession, it’s difficult to measure results. We look at power output in meters per second and watts, speed, strength and movement screens. We verify that players can lift respectable loads, that they have power, individual and position-specific body composition, anaerobic endurance, good movement capability and applied sport nutrition. We teach circadian rhythm and sleep patterns—the factors affecting the game are multitudinous. The movement screens outlined in the book you hold in your hands provides a new kind of measure. It will tell you when you’re on the right track, and it will tell you when to make adjustments. In my mind, movement screening provides the platform for all our other measures. Simply put, it works that way.
In team settings, the screen opens up lines of communication with the athletes at the center and the strength and performance coaches working with the physical therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors, medical doctors and other medical professionals. A medical and performance team is then focused on the athlete’s health, rehabilitation and performance, with each transition seamless whether post-operative, painful, dysfunctional or healthy and ready to play.
Coaches, trainers and rehab professionals can screen for pre-season physicals whether in school, athletics or the military, and then use the data as part of the return-to-play criteria. In sports, we have to keep the players on the field or court—movement screening is our best tool for predicting injury risk before a player gets sidelined. In our training room, it’s used to identify mobility and stability issues and it guides the transition to increased levels of training. When movements aren’t clean, it’s a big red flag that gains our attention every time.
Screening establishes a movement baseline. If our pre-season screening uncovers pain, the player sees one of our medical pros, who then does a clinical evaluation. The system allows pain to split the decision process into clinical evaluation or simple corrective exercise based on the observed pattern dysfunction. The rehab specialist pinpoints the potential problem and clears it, thus reducing the risk of injury. There’s no question that the Functional Movement Screen is a serious biomarker of player durability.
Everything we do at the Indianapolis Colts is built on a Functional Movement Screen base—it’s the foundation of our program.
The fact is, full strength and power is not realized or used without movement efficiency. Being strong doesn’t mean much without fluid, efficient movement; staying strong and stable while being bombarded is what players need in football. The screen has provided this clarity for me. I now have a huge appreciation for movement efficiency… functional and foundational movement. Understanding human motor development, as you’ll learn through your functional movement systems study, clears up cloudy thinking, and healthy, powerful action follows.
You’ll gain insight into motor development and human postures and patterns. And you’ll understand the reality of the core, of posture and of breathing. It’s all in here, and when you get it, it’ll provide a system upon which your rehabilitation and training programs can be checked for movement.
Do what’s best for your people by having a system that creates lines of communication from the medical field to the performance field, one that increases durability, predicts and decreases injury, increases movement efficiency and provides a purpose for exercise while reducing the time spent training.
Enjoy and appreciate the brilliance of a never-ending lifelong journey provided by Gray Cook. I know I and those I work with will continue to reap the rewards.
Strength and Conditioning Coach