Posted January 23, 2017

Reviewing the Functional Range Assessment Course

I’ve been in Toronto since Thursday, and attended the Functional Range Assessment workshop for the past 3 days. The FRA is the brainchild of Dr. Andreo Spina, and is the follow-up to the Mobility Specialist certification I took over a year ago and wrote about here.

One of the main reasons I wanted to take the course was to see how the processes and methods discussed in the FRC course could be determined from the assessment, and where else that assessment could point me in terms of how to help a client see improvement, or even reduce the likelihood of some movement issue that would limit their performance. I’ve always found it’s a good idea to see how concepts work together through the entire continuum and gauge whether it would be applicable for all of my clients, a specific sub-set of them, or whether I would have to pick and choose what elements I could use.

I’m very pleased to say this was the first assessment course I’ve ever attended where I could actually see a linear application of the assessment protocol with the program design elements, and that it could be applied to every client I work with, and each step along the process has all the evidence-based research to back up the decisions to use specific interventions over others along the way. It gave a clear delineation between what was a fitness appropriate issue and one that required more treatment or hands-on work from a different professional, as well as a specific blueprint for each of those scenarios, without being laid out exhaustively.

This workshop was less of the how and what, and more of the why. There was time spent on the application of testing and assessing, but in the end, it was more of an expansion on how to use the system, what it actually did, and discovering what the next step should be. The exercise itself is meaningless without the context provided by their assessment, goalset, and abilities. This is a big reason why anyone who asks me “what’s a good exercise to help [insert bodypart problem” my default answer is usually “I don’t know enough about the problem yet, I’d need to do some more investigation.”

I was very happy to see that some of the elements are ones I’m currently involving in my assessments (passive and active table assessments), but was also happy to see that the assessment approach used went much deeper than my own, and also filled in a lot of the gaps to my own thought process on how to go from A to B and get to Z.

One of the main elements that I enjoyed and found immediately relevant is that the purpose of the assessments being used is to provide context relative to the goals of the individual, not merely a standard measure that should be applied to everyone. A baseball pitchers throwing arm is going to have significantly different requirements for mobility, strength and control compared to a hockey player or even an accountant. Their score is relative to their requirements. This measurement gives objectivism to reduce subjectivism. Based on their specific goals and objective measures, you can have a specific heirarchy of needs to work on, beginning with the most pressing for the individual and their goals in front of you.

As I outlined in the FRC course review, these principles go beyond just identifying an aberrant movement and giving 5-10 exercises to help it, but dive into the why and how if it being restricted, with more emphasis placed on evidence of effect versus guru-isms of “this works, just trust me.”

This also expanded on the concepts of red flags beyond simply “pain=bad” and talked about the types of pain you could feel (open joint angle pain versus closing joint angle pain) during movement, as well as differentiation between the feel of things like capsular, neural tension, muscle stiffness, and impingement elements during the assessment, and what could be worked through in a training scenario and what needed specific treatment intervention to help reduce.

Another element I thoroughly enjoyed about the concepts covered in the assessments was the variability built in to it. There a standard measure, but you have the ability to add in or remove what you feel necessary for the specific client in front of you. For instance, you’re working with a highly specialized athlete who has specific positions they need to get into for their sport, but there isn’t a spot on the sheet for that specific movement or position. You can write one in and track it over time, still looking at the comparative ratios of active to passive range of motion and controlled motion within that position.

At the end of the seminar, I mentioned to Dre that this system could become the dominant assessment techniques in the fitness industry within the next 5 years, and render most other movement assessments obsolete by comparison. I stand by that belief, as this course helped to clarify a lot of gaps between many many different assessment options I’ve used over the past 15 years. I’ve become pretty decent at seeing through promises without substance, drawing lines of action between measurements that mean something and outcomes drawn from those measurements as well as measurements that aren’t connected to anything real, and concepts that tell you what you should be seeing versus showing you what is actually there, and this is the real deal. I’m very happy I jumped at the chance to take this one, and will be using the principles on my clients going forward to see how they measure up.

I should mention I have zero financial interest in Functional Anatomy Seminars, FRC, or the FRA certifications. I paid to take the course and would do so again at any point int the future. If you’re a trainer or therapist looking to work with people who move, these courses would be valuable additions to your continuing education calendar, and something that would help check a lot of boxes in your own assessment processes.


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