Functional Movement Test: Upper and Lower Body

Functional Movement Test: Upper and Lower Body

In this article, we present some of the movements you can make at home to identify possible deficiencies or imbalances, and look at how to improve them by means of this Mobility Test for both the Lower and Upper Body.

One of the actions that every trainer carries out with their athletes before starting any training plan is a functional evaluation.

A series of tests, visualisations and analysis of movements in order to identify how the athlete is doing, if there are imbalances, and to have a starting point.

There are numerous tests and exercises aimed at analysing different things: ranges of movement, cardiovascular capacity, lower body strength, flexibility etc…

It could be said that all sportsmen and women present some kind of imbalance, or points for improvement. However, most of the time it’s difficult to evaluate ourselves.

Deep squat

The better we move and the more functional our body is, the less risk of injury.

Where to Start

We coaches analyse many movements and poses that yield a lot of information about the athlete.

From the way you walk, your posture in a resting position, to other slightly more complex movements.

In addition to drawing up an assessment questionnaire that allows us to know the subject’s history, injury background…

All this data is relevant because they make it possible to draw up a training programme suited to the athlete on the basis of the prior correction of any erroneous movement pattern.

Why Do a Movement Test?

I am sure that, when faced with certain unilateral exercises, for example, you feel great differences between one side and the other, and you don’t know why.

You may have a good training plan but suffer from recurrent discomfort somewhere in your body …

Whether due to over- or under-activity, the body and its structures can eventually stop functioning as they should.

Here those imbalances come into play that make us more prone to injury, illness and prevent us from moving naturally.

Squat test

In any case, don’t forget that the ideal is a qualified personal trainer who can enhance a wide range of assessment exercises and show you the corrective exercises for your training programme.

Lower Body Movement Test

Although the squat is the functional movement par excellence, there’s a lot of data that can gives us an assessment.

You can start by trying to do a deep squat, with your arms extended and parallel to the floor, or extended above your head (more complex).

How to do the test

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and facing forward.
  • Lift your arms above your head with your elbows fully extended.
  • Dip until you get to the maximum depth that your body allows without lifting your heels from the ground.
  • Performs several repetitions while observing what happens and you can write down the observations.

The key points of the kinetic chain to be checked are: feet, ankles, knees, hip and shoulder lumbo-pelvic complex.

Points to look at

  • Position of the feet, toe support, are they fully supported?
  • Position of the knees in the descent phase, do they fall inwards/outwards?
  • Does the hip go down or is there discomfort, or can it go down at all?
  • Do the heels rise in the descent phase?
  • Does the body fall forward?

What are we looking for?

Heel elevation

It may be due to the rigidity of the calf muscles, the weakness of the tibial anterior, or the middle and upper gluteus.


The knees if:

  • They fall inwards, it may be due to a lack of flexibility and mobility in the groin area and weakness of the gluteus medius and tibialis anterior, or instability of the ankle.
  • They move outwards, it’s a signal to look for an overactive piriform, minimal gluteus and tensor of the fascia lata with a weak or little active adductor complex.
We explain what a knee valgus is and why it occurs. Visit this link.

Tilting forward

With the arms falling forward it can be a sign of strain through the muscles: the calf, the hip flexors, the abdominal muscles, the dorsal latissimus and the pectorals with a weakness of the tibialis anterior, the erector spines, the core stabilisers and the upper posterior chain.

More here about ankle dorsiflexion and how to improve it.

Asymmetrical weight shift

It identifies many of the same observations as the forward tilt, with the exception that the adductor complex may be tighter (hyperactive) on the same side as the shift, and the opposite side of the shift may show a weakness.

These are some of the observations that can occur. How can these imbalances be corrected? Identifying these deficiencies is already a good start; then we would have to add a series of corrective exercises to improve the movement and patterns.

Some Corrective Exercises

  • Auto-myofascial release: Use a foam roller on the calf, plantar fascia and back muscles to help relieve tension.
  • Foot and ankle strength exercises with a resistance band: flexions, extensions and rotations.
  • Ankle mobility exercises.
  • “Monster Walk” with a mini band for the activation of the gluteus medius.
  • Hip mobility exercises.

Upper Boyd Movement Test

Although in the deep squat with the arms extended above the head, the mobility of the spine and shoulders can be observed, there are other movements that we can use to find out how mobile our shoulder girdle is.

Shoulder test

Poor mobility of our shoulders and shoulder blades will prevent us from doing proper exercises with our arms above our heads, throwing, water sports such as swimming, etc.

As with for the lower limbs, there are many exercises and movements to evaluate the upper limb: like planking in the quadruped position.

But one that I work with the most that demonstrates the great deficiencies at the dorsal, postural level are the wall angels.

Wall angels test

Not only as an assessment exercise, but also as a movement for rehabilitation and improvement of shoulder mobility.

How to do the test

  • Starting position: sitting with the back supported by a wall, legs extended with the tip of the feet up and the hip close to the wall.
  • We’ll put our arms in a 90º position, supported by the wall in the entirety.
  • From that position, trying not to lose the contact of the arm, forearm and hand with the wall, we’ll be sliding them, looking for an extension of the arms above the head.

At first glance, it seems like a very simple exercise, yet a large percentage of the people and athletes I work with have real difficulties in doing it correctly.

What can we observe from it?

  • Does the elbow move away from the wall when extending the arms?
  • Can the arms extend completely above the head while maintaining the proper shape?
  • Do you keep your hands in contact with the wall?
Limitations on shoulder strength and mobility are common and complex in nature. Corrective measures for the shoulder are considered both preventive and rehabilitative.

Hyperactive pecs may cause forward stretching or rounding of the shoulders and decrease recruitment.

Weakening of the stabilising muscles of the shoulder, as well as the mid and lower trapezium, can leave the shoulder vulnerable to injury.

Tips for Performing the Movements

  • Perform the exercises completely barefoot.
  • You can record each of the movements from different surfaces so that you can watch them later.
  • Do a brief warm up with some dynamic stretching before starting.

When to do these Movements?

Include them not only in specific mobility sessions, but in a specific part of your warm-up too. They’re especially necessary before training sessions in the gym:

  • From the point of view of health: to recover the functionality and correct posture and activation of the muscular groups.
  • From the point of view of performance: to improve the execution of the exercises, and therefore to continue increasing their intensity.

Related Entries

  • We tell you How to correctly perform a Squat. Go to this article.
  • Shoulder Pain? We’ve got some solutions.
Review of Mobility Test

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Lower Body Test - 100%

Upper Body Test - 100%

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About Isabel del Barrio
Isabel del Barrio
Isabel del Barrio really loves sport, demonstrating it from a very young age and sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge to this day
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