How We Screen Functional Movement (Series): The Hurdle Step

How We Screen Functional Movement (Series): The Hurdle Step

Welcome Back!

So far, we have reviewed all of our foundational mobility and stability screens. To review, our mobility screens included the Active Straight Leg Raise, Shoulder Mobility and Ankle Mobility. Our stability screens included Rotary Stability and Trunk Stability Push Up. This week we take a closer look at The Hurdle Step.

Today We Will Discuss:

  • The Importance of the Hurdle Step
  • The Challenge of the Dynamic Stepping Motion
  • How the Hurdle Step Correlates to Daily Activities

Our functional screens will all be completed from the standing posture involving many of the underlying mobility and stability requirements that we have already screened in our mobility and stability screens from different foot positions. These screens provide insight into how well we can currently perform proper mobility and stability of our upper and lower body to properly perform tasks required throughout our typical day.

Let’s take a look at the Hurdle Step Screen:

The Challenge of the Dynamic Stepping Motion

As we can see from the picture above, the Hurdle Step Screen looks at single leg stance challenged by a dynamic stepping motion. This motion requires good balance on the stance leg (which we previously discussed requires good ankle mobility for proper muscle activation and coordination, known as proprioception), good hip mobility in both legs (which we already screened for in our Active Straight Leg Raise), good shoulder mobility (which we already screened for in Shoulder Mobility) to get the dowel in proper position, and good core stability (which we screened for in Rotary Stability and Trunk Stability Push Up) to maintain trunk and pelvic positioning which is very important to achieving proper hip mobility to clear the string and balance on our stance leg. As we can see, the Hurdle Step requires many of the foundational mobility and stability requirements that are screened during our foundational screens to be accomplished. Being able to have our foundational screens and the information they provide helps to further differentiate if we need to prioritize mobility or stability in correcting the hurdle step pattern. Remember we will prioritize mobility before stability and stability before movement. For example, if we see a client who was not able to properly perform the Hurdle Step, but also had not been able to properly perform the Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR), we would work to initially correct the underlying hip mobility issue seen on the ASLR, which is required to perform the Hurdle Step, to help correct the Hurdle Step Pattern.

How the Hurdle Step Correlates to Daily Activities

The Hurdle Step pattern demonstrates the requisite mobility for stepping, running, and climbing. We once again see the functional joint-by-joint approach that our body uses to effectively move. Without the ability to proper move or stabilize an area of our body to accomplish this movement our body is forced to compensate which can eventually lead to overuse and injury, especially given the frequency that we must perform this action.

Though many of us may see this screen as only looking at how well someone can step over a string, this double to single leg movement is fundamental to our ability to walk and our walking mechanics. In daily living, the ability to use this double to single leg movement to simply walk up a flight of stairs, step over toys left on the ground, or hike up our favorite mountain trail affects our life choices. Later in life it is critical that aging adults maintain this movement ability for independence, quality of life and reducing fall risk. Can you imagine climbing a ladder without the ability to efficiently perform the single leg stance? Whether it’s a high-level sprinter in the Olympics, a mother quickly returning upstairs to get a child’s backpack, or a recreational golfer stepping uphill on the course, double to single leg mechanics show up in all levels of daily activity and sport.

This screen is extremely important for runners. Given the higher impact and intensity of running, an inability for a runner to properly stabilize on a single leg can have significant consequences. This inability can result in poor efficiency and wasted energy, which can result in a decrease in performance as well as increasing the risk of injury. These movement fundamentals are often overlooked for things like cardiovascular endurance, diet and running mechanics in trying to enhance running efficiency and performance.

Again, it is vital to have an understanding of how well we are able to perform the hurdle step pattern prior to designing an exercise program. Activities such as running and climbning should be limited, prior to correcting this pattern. This pattern should be corrected and reach a satisfactory level prior to adding repeition or load to any single leg exercises, sled pushes, and carries (Farmers, Suitcase, Offset, etc.). Activities that we need to be cautious with include deadlifts and squats.

What Is Next…

We hope that our continued discussion of the FMS and the Hurdle Step 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 hurdle step and single leg stance, continue to follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook) where we will be posting videos of how to improve this pattern.

We will be back next week to discuss the next functional screen, Inline Lunge. Until then, we hope you all have a great and active week!

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