Sunday, May 15, 2011

Functional Movement Screen and Core Stability show no relationship to performance

I have long been doubtful about the value of core stability in strength training. Whilst I believe that motor control stability of each joint is a must for good health and performance, I have felt that the average personal trainer, fitness professional, and strength coach places too much emphasis on both functional movement and core stability in training programs. Both the strength coaching and fitness industry love gimmicks and many professionals in both industries need or persist in having the latest and greatest to use with clients as if to prove they are well educated, experienced or worthy of the dollars being paid for their services.
Supposed experts support this myth by writing articles in magazines and industry news about these new exciting methods and concepts further driving the professionals towards more varied gimmicks, tools, and exercises. A recent peer reviewed scientific paper (see attached link) goes so far as to say that there is "no significant correlations between core stability and FMS (functional movement screen). Moderate to weak correlations identified suggest core stability and FMS are not strong predictors of performance. In addition, existent assessments do not satisfactorily confirm the importance of core stability on functional movement."

In fact many of these concepts such as functional training, unbalanced training, and core stability lack unequivocal support in both the scientific community, published research, and the industry in which they are promoted. The Bosu, suspension training, Swissball, foam roller...the list goes on, are in fact widely used by industry, promoted by the supplier/manufacturer, and endorsed by industry experts. Yet evidence of the value of these tools does not fully support the wide range of uses and supposed benefits promoted by many of these companies and experts. It seems they have become very clever at suggesting benefits that either can’t be proven or have yet to be proven.

This does not mean I don't see some value in such tools, and must reinforce I see them just as another training tool option that I have at my disposal in my kit of training tools. But when I see such tools and 'toys' being set up or promoted as the optimal training method and certification courses built around these with an expert conducting the courses on behalf of the manufacturer with increased sales in mind, I do doubt the ability of the fitness and strength training industries to truly evaluate such items in an unbiased and intelligent manner. It appears that such concepts and training gimmicks are more readily accepted by professionals than the underlying principles of training such as progressive overload, earning the right to progress, and even sets and reps loading parameters. I am still amazed when I see professionals using such tools with clients who can barely balance on a treadmill during warm up, yet the professional uses exercises in an unbalanced environment to challenge their balance skills. There is now a more readily available list of references providing evidence to suggest that use of an unbalanced environment does not always provide the best gains in strength.

The scientist in me has to be convinced of the value of such concepts and tools and I will pursue ideas and projects to answer the question as to the value of such training methods. The picture surrounding such training is slowly becoming clear and more evidence is required. Don’t get me wrong, the theory behind many such concepts can be and has been founded in grounded and proven scientific principles, it just needs that final step of the implementation and use as an intervention to be proven. I am keen to develop such science and look forward to reporting my research or other research as it becomes available.

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