The 5 assessments

For over 20 years I required all my clients to have do a comprehensive clinical assessment with me that measured spinal mechanics, muscles length and core stability with precise tests. These tests revealed posture, muscle imbalances and movement weaknesses from which a customised corrective and high performance programme is designed from.


In an effort to make exercise more accessible (and as safe as possible) I distilled these tests down in to what can be referred to as five gross movement assessments:

  1. Overhead squat.
  2. Forward bend.
  3. Warrior.
  4. Warrior 2.
  5. Revolved Triangle.


These five tests best represent western thinking functional fitness, fascial lines and eastern thinking of yoga, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meridian lines. These tests of flexibility also double as mobility exercises which means we are improving the way we move at the same time we are causing our ability to move, identifying restrictions and prioritising what pose is essential to develop to optimise progress further along the curriculum.


(Please bear in mind gross movement tests are a great indicator of general movement ability, but as you will come to learn the body is very, very clever in hiding/compensating/cheating restrictions when asked to perform a task, especially if the person is competitive or the ego is invested in the outcome.)


You will hear me use the term five animal mobility interchanged with ROAM mobility (they are the same). Each animal represents an element of TCM five element theory according to best match of the animals and elements nature. In other words the symbol of the animal is coded with the complexity of the element.


The movements allocated to an animal also match its nature and the "best-fit" from sources such as:

  • Functional or "Life-movement" patterns
  • Fascial lines (Anatomy trains, Thomas Myers)
  • Infant development patterns (The Wisdom of the body moving, Linda Hartley)
  • Yoga
  • Traditional Chinese medicine meridian lines
  • Natural movement (Methode Naturalle, Georges Hebert)

Please note:

  • "Best fit" facial line means that the more complex a movement the more contribution from other fascial lines are needed. We use these lines and other allocation method to from a structure to learn and a place to build your range of active movement from.
  • TCM is massively complex and would take years to understand and way more space that I care to allocate in this course.
  • There are many TCM schools in China formed 3 500 years before the internet, plane travel and separated by large distances. These geographical distances covered many animal habits and climates and are the reason why there is no definitive animal per element, and why some animals represent different elements.


Use the 5 movement test to determine your tightest pose.

Your tightest movement pattern has the biggest potential for development. Each movement pattern overlaps so development in one pose with improve your range of active movement in all poses.


When you are doing your tests. it is a good idea to video or photograph them to establish a baseline flexibility so that you can compare later on.


Take a note of your most flexible and less flexible pose.


The most flexible we call your "Power animal: the movement pattern that you have the most range of active movement in - meaning the most amount of flexibility and stability, ease and fluidity of movement. If you want to feel good about yourself this is the movement pattern that you are best at (of the five poses).


The least flexible pose we call your "Essential animal": the pose that you are not the best at (of all 5 poses). It is essential to develop the range of active movement in this pose to free up range of motion and ability to move, if not your risk of injury with advance movement will increase, and you will limit your movement potential. Make a note of how well you moved during these 5 assessments.


I encourage you to take a "before" photo of all the poses.

To make more useful "after" photos have the before setup photos referenced:

  • Take the photos with the same background.
  • Stand in the same place
  • have the camera at the same distance away from subject
  • look for natural reference lines to aid in comparison


You can re-test after each series or stretches to see change, or you can retest after consistent stretching of around 30 days for significant change in range of active movement, fluidity and grace of movement and pain and apprehension free movement.

Overhead Squat (TIGER)

Recording your "before" assessment with a photo allows you to compare with an "after" photo and encourage you to do more mobility exercises.


To perform the overhead squat assessment:

  1. Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and your arms in front of you.
  2. Keeping your heels on the ground squat down as far as you can go.
  3. Put you arms by your ears and squat down.
  4. Place your ankles together and your arms by your head and squat down.
  5. Take a "before" photo.


Results:

  • If your squat looks better than mine then you do not need to prioritise squat mobility.
  • If there is pain and to the degree that your picture looks further away from my squat then you need to prioritise this Squat mobility series in your life.


A Tiger stalks through the jungle and pounces on its prey which closely resembles squat ability. The best fit facial lines is the deep front and superficial front lines.

Forward Bend (BEAR)

Recording your "before" assessment with a photo allows you to compare with an "after" photo and encourage you to do more mobility exercises.


To perform the forward bend assessment:

  1. Stand with your ankles together.
  2. Keeping your legs straight bend forward with an aim of touching the ground with your fingers.
  3. Take a "before" photo.


Results:

  • If your bend looks better than mine then you do not need to prioritise bend mobility.
  • If there is pain and to the degree that your picture looks further away from my forward bend then you need to prioritise this bend mobility series in your life.


A Bear draws itself onto its hind legs in an action very similar to a deadlift. The best fit facial line is the superficial back line or posterior muscle chain.

Warrior 1 (CRANE)

Recording your "before" assessment with a photo allows you to compare with an "after" photo and encourage you to do more mobility exercises.


To perform the Warrior I assessment:

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, the right leg forward and the left foot back.
  2. The left foot heels stays on the ground (and unlike yoga the foot is pointing forward) keep the left knee straight.
  3. The right leg foot is also pointing forward, you are encouraged to bend the right knee to 90 degrees whilst keeping the shin bone vertical.
  4. Keeping your arms shoulder width apart, lift both arms overhead (as if drawing a a heavy sword overhead).
  5. Extend the upper back (thoracic spine) backwards as far as you can keep points 2-3.
  6. Perform the pose as best your can according to the video.
  7. Take a "before" photo on each side.
  8. Make a note of which side is tighter.


Results:

  • If your Warrior I looks better than mine then you do not need to prioritise Push mobility.
  • If there is pain and to the degree that your picture looks further away from my warrior I then you need to prioritise this Push mobility series in your life.



A Crane uses its big chest muscles to fly, chest muscles are used to push. The best fit fascial lines are the deep and superficial front arms lines. A crane also stand on one leg waiting to fish to come by then still standing on one leg hinges down to eat it. (we borrow from the frontal and posterior lines in this series also)


Warrior II (MONKEY)

Recording your "before" assessment with a photo allows you to compare with an "after" photo and encourage you to do more mobility exercises.


To perform the Warrior II assessment:

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, the right leg forward and the left foot back.
  2. The left foot heels stays on the ground, turn the left foot inwards 90 degrees so you have the left foot braced. Keep the left knee straight.
  3. The right leg foot is also pointing forward, you are encouraged to bend the right knee to 90 degrees whilst keeping the shin bone vertical.
  4. The aim is to get your front thigh horizontal (shin vertical) and your back leg as back as far as possible.
  5. Raise both arms to horizontal and look down the arm of the the front leg. Hips to remain open as possible.
  6. Perform the pose as best your can according to the video.
  7. Take a "before" photo on each side.
  8. Make a note of which side is tighter.


Results:

  • If your Warrior II looks better than mine then you do not need to prioritise Pull/Lunge mobility.
  • If there is pain and to the degree that your picture looks further away from my warrior II then you need to prioritise this Pull-lunge mobility series in your life.



A Monkey swings arm over arm through the trees in a motion called brachiation. Brachiation uses the large back muscles (latissimus doors) and is the transition from ground to floor in infant development patterns when the baby grabs hold of a chair, and pulls its self via a lunge to standing (the often promptly followed by a wonderfully deep and way more stable squat pattern). The best fit fascial line is the functional line. A monkey moves/hops/crawls along the ground sideway so we include the lateral line in the monkeys movements.


Revolved Triangle (DRAGON)

Recording your "before" assessment with a photo allows you to compare with an "after" photo and encourage you to do more mobility exercises.


To perform the Revolved Triangle assessment:

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, the right leg forward and the left foot back.
  2. The left foot heels stays on the ground, turn the left foot inwards 90 degrees so you have the left foot braced.
  3. Keep both legs straight throughout.
  4. Raise both arms to horizontal and look down the arm of the the front leg. Keeping a neutral spine (ears-shoulders-hips in a line) rotate your arms and torso towards the front leg (right leg).
  5. Keeping you neutral spine lower your torso forward (aiming for horizontal).
  6. Perform the pose as best your can according to the video.
  7. Take a "before" photo on each side.
  8. Make a note of which side is tighter.


Results:

  • If your Revolved Triangle looks better than mine then you do not need to prioritiseTwist mobility.



A Dragon or reptile twists its spine laterally to move. The best fit fascial line is the spiral line. Originally I used the Komodo dragon but evolved to a mystical, benevolent and magical Chinese dragon as it is way more fun to embrace those characteristics over an animal who saliva contains poison.