How We Screen Functional Movement (Series): Trunk Stability Push Up

How We Screen Functional Movement (Series): Trunk Stability Push Up

And We’re Back…

Last week we discussed the first of our stability screens, Rotary Stability, of the Functional Movement Screen.

Today We Will Discuss:

  • The Importance of Trunk Stability
  • How Core Stability Impacts Daily Movement
  • The Use of Correctives when Training the Core

How Core Stability Impacts Daily Movement

The Trunk Stability Push Up (TSPU) screen evaluates how well our core can react to reducing movement of our spine and pelvis when having to stabilize through the sagittal plane (activities such as running, jumping, carrying overhead and pushing challenge this part of our stabilization system). In other words, it’s the portion of our stabilization system that does not allow our spine or pelvis to overbend or arch when under load. It also allows for energy transfer of our lower body to our upper body, such as when throwing a ball, swinging a golf club, or lifting an object overhead; and our upper body to our lower body, such as with swimming, cycling and running. The TSPU is a measure of our ability to reflexively engage our core, which is extremely important for proper hip and shoulder function.

Trunk Stability Screen

When looking at how this screen is performed, one would think that this screen is a test of upper body strength. While upper body strength is necessary to push yourself up from the ground, we are more concerned on how you push yourself up from the ground and not just on whether you are able to do it or not. During this screen, we want to see our clients maintain a proper plank position with a straight line from head to foot throughout the push up, which demonstrates the ability to maintain good spine and pelvic positioning while under load (provided by gravity during the push up). The most common errors we see during this test is sagging of the lower back and/or rotation of the pelvis when pushing up from the ground, which shows loss of stabilization in the sagittal plane. Limitations of the Trunk Stability Push Up screen can be attributed to poor activation of our core, lack of upper body strength or shoulder blade stability, and/or limited hip or mid back (thoracic spine) mobility.

The Use of Corrective Exercises

While we use push-ups eventually in the corrections for the TSPU, we do not start with trying to correct this pattern with just doing more push-ups, which passes the DIMADS (does it make any darn sense) test. If there is difficulty with doing a single push up correctly from the ground, why would we think doing more incorrect push-ups would correct our ability to properly activate our core? This is important as too often we think that an effective way to correct a limitation is to perform more of that same limited movement, which is typically counterproductive and can come at the cost of compensation, overuse and injury. There are many other exercises that we utilize to restore proper reflexive ability of the core to stabilize, which we will be reviewing in future Instagram posts. We utilize push-ups in our training programs, however we verify that we have restored proper core activation and form to the push up, if necessary, prior to having our clients do push-ups.

Many people associate “core” exercise with such things as sit-ups, crunches and trunk twists. Though, these exercises may help to strengthen your abdominal muscles they are not truly “core” exercises. As we see in the TSPU our core is used to stabilize and restrict motion, not create movement, so it should make sense that the above noted exercises (sit-ups, crunches, and trunk twists) are not going to help improve proper function of our core. In addition, as we previously discussed in our joint-by-joint approach the core is a stable region of our body, so it also makes sense that we should not be training it with more low back mobility-based exercises.

Reflexive stabilization, as screened by the TSPU, is extremely important to many of our daily activities as previously discussed. Therefore it is vital to have an understanding of how well we reflexively stabilize prior to designing an exercise program. This pattern should be corrected and reach a satisfactory level prior to performing any exercises that require pressing activity, especially any overhead presses; running and sled pushes as all of these require a high threshold of reflexive stability. Activities that we need to be cautious with include deadlifts, squats, lunges, and push-up progressions.

What Is Next…

We hope that our continued discussion of the FMS and the trunk stability push up screen has demonstrated the continued strong need for a proper fitness screen prior to initiating a training program. For more information on corrective strategies that we utilize in our training programs to help improve the trunk stability push up, continue to follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook) where we will be posting videos of how to improve and correct trunk stability push up.

Next week, we will be going back to a mobility-focus with our 3rd and final mobility screen, Ankle Mobility, which is extremely important in our functional screens: Hurdle Step, Inline Lunge and Deep Squat, which we will be reviewing in the coming weeks.

Till next time..

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