Movement Assessment

Movement Assessment

Movement Assessment

Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission), 14022-05

Prepared by: Aaron Holt, Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach, Australian Institute of Sport
Evaluated by: Ross Smith, Manager Strength and Conditioning Operations, Australian Institute of Sport
Last Updated: December 2016

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Athlete assessment is an important tool for the strength and conditioning coach, along with skill/sport coaches. Targeted assessment allows the coach to delivery a training program that best suits the individual athlete's strengths and weaknesses and allows the monitoring of progress. It is important that coaches and athletes understand the rationale as to why one would look to undertake some form of assessment. The assessment can include:

  • Identifying weaknesses: This can be a physical weakness (Strength and Power) or a weakness an athlete might have that does not allow for quality for movement (Flexibility/Mobility).

  • Monitor Progress: By consistent use of assessment, the coach can obtain information regarding the effectiveness of the program over the previous training phase.

  • Provide Feedback: Feedback on a specific score provides incentive for the athlete and coach to improve in a particular area that will improve performance or injury risk.

  • Predict Performance Potential: Allows for monitoring of performance over many years, and allows the coach and athlete to monitor the athlete's physical state when in peak athletic condition leading into major competitions.

Testing of your athletes or team provides the coach with a systematic and objective assessment of the progress towards a goal [1].

14024-04Where should athlete assessment fit in the training program?

Many factors can affect the physiological capacities of an athlete. These can include fatigue, illness, injury and varying environmental conditions. Ideally athletes need to present themselves for testing in a similar state for each testing session. It is important that standardised pre-test protocols be followed to allow for reliable testing. Ideally athletes should be familiar with the test battery, with sufficient explanation of the test given before each trial. The recommended minimum scheduled time period between testing in 6 weeks [2].

14022-04Types of Athletic Assessments

Medical and Musculo-skeletal Screening

A thorough medical screening is an important process that the athlete needs to undertake, ideally at the beginning of the season or commencement of the training year. It is important that this screening is undertaken by a qualified medical doctor, and also a sports physiotherapist.

Some of the aims of the screening process involve:

  • Asses the status of known (and identify potential unknown) medical conditions
  • Asses the status of the musculoskeletal system
  • Obtain baseline data for each individual player. This can include muscle strength, joint range of motion.

Whilst much of the screening process is quite general, in almost all cases, sports will have their own specific testing methods that they undertake to look into sport specific measures that have been identified to help performance outcomes, or strength and flexibility measures to prevent injuries.

Another additional component that may be of benefit to the medical team is video analysis of sporting technique, which often can show signs of bad technique or joint overload that can cause injury to exposed areas [2]. 

Movement Screening

Strength and Conditioning coaches can utilise a movement screen as a part of their initial or ongoing assessment of their athletes. The great appeal of these screening tools is they feature many of the fundamental movements required in a majority of sports which include a squat, lunge, push, pull hinge and bracing.

Much of the rationale for a movement screen focusses on:

  • Identifying at risk individuals with poor movement
  • Assisting in program design to normalise or improve fundamental movement patterns
  • Provide a tool for monitoring an athletes progress
  • Creating a movement baseline to build on what they can and can't do [3]

McKeown et al, [4] has developed the Athletic Ability Assessment (AAA) a movement screening method that can be used to monitor physical traits as athletes pass through their sporting pathway, and require increased movement competency under increasing loads.

Other variations of movement screens can be found with Movement Dynamics [5] or the Gray Cook Functional Movement Screen-FMS [6]. 

Anthropometric Screening

Anthropometric profiling is a key tool for assessing and monitoring athletes. Basic measures include height, weight, girths, limb lengths and skinfold measures. More advanced profiling includes the use of Dual X-Ray Absorption (DXA) and 3D Scanning.

Anthropometric measures have four fundamental applications:

  • To identify physique characteristics of elite performers
  • To assess and monitor growth of athletes
  • To monitor training programs
  • To determine optimal body composition for weight category sports

Basic anthropometric measures should be taken by practitioners with ISAK qualifications. Ideally, repeated measures should be taken by the one practitioner as inter-individual technique varies.

Like all other assessments, anthropometric testing needs to be planned and undertaken at appropriate intervals to gain a better understanding of how the athlete is changing over time.

Monitoring can be challenging for some athletes and it is important to use data sensitively and in a meaningful manner.  

Performance Testing

Performance testing can be undertaken in many different environments including field based testing (print/endurance), gym based strength/power testing and laboratory tests on a treadmill, bike or rowing machine.

Gym based assessments for athletes can look at a number of variables including maximum strength, power, reactive strength, and rate of force development. It is important that strength, RFD or power testing is undertaken in co-ordination with other assessments, during a given test week. You do not want the situation of having strength testing immediately following a Yo-Yo test. Tests should be completed in order where fast and explosive tests (reactive power) are completed prior to slower strength and endurance tests.

Table 1 outlines various strength and power qualities and lists some of the common tests that can be used to assess them [8].  

Strength and power qualities and various tests that can be used to assess these qualities


Maximum Strength


Strength Endurance

Reactive Strength

Rate of Force Development


Refers to the maximal force producing capacity of a muscle during concentric, eccentric or isoetric contraction. The athletes ability to apply force rapidly, thus generating high levels of power. The ability to repeatedly develop a high level of force. The ability to generate maximal force in minimal time. A calculation from the slope from the force-time curve.


Repetition maximum tests, isometric tests, eccentric tests Jump squats, Bench throws, unloaded or loaded Strength endurance testing with set load for maximum repetitions Drop/depth jumps  Isometric tests, static jumps 

Further reading and resources


  1. Physiological Tests for Elite Athletes (2000). Gore, C (Ed). Australian Sports Commission.
  2. National Protocols for the assessment of Strength and Power: Developed by National Institute/Academy Strength and Conditioning Coaches/Scientists (2007)
  3. Brukner, P, & Kahn, K,. (2002). Clinical Sports Medicine. 2nd Ed. The McGraw-Hill Companies.
  4. McKeown, I (2013). Power Development and Movement Ability in Junior Athletes. Unpublished: Doctor of Philosophy. University of Canberra. Australia
  5. McKeown, I, Taylor-McKeown, K, Woods, C, & Ball, N,. (2014). Athlete Ability Assessment: A movement assessment protocol for athletes. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. (9) 7. P. 862-870.
  6. Movement Dynamics:
  7. Functional Movement Screen:
  8. McGuigan, M, Cormack, S, & Gill, N,. (2013). Strength and Power Profiling of Athletes: Selecting Tests and How to Use the Information for Program Design. Strength & Conditioning Journal. P. 7-15.


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