Can You Do These Well?

Scott HagnasUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Beginner Movement Assessment

More and more, we see adults who are true beginners to fitness. They have limited body awareness and mobility. We use these tests (and others) to assess and develop a training plan. Give these a shot…the 2 minute Sorenson hold is tougher than it looks!

Posted by Blue Ox Athletics on Friday, April 14, 2017

As mentioned in my article last week, one of the advantages of individual workout programs is that they can be directed at improving your specific weaknesses. Last week, we looked at an intermediate athlete and a few of the assessments I might use to start out.

The most important thing is that the assessments that are relevant to the person and their goals, but there are definitely some standard tests I use in nearly every case.

This week, we’ll look at the second group of folks who decide to do individual programs: the beginner athlete. This person wants or needs exercise specific to them. They usually have been active on and off over the years, but little consistent training. Some were athletes in the past; others never were. They usually have a pretty low level of overall fitness, and have limited body control/awareness and mobility. These folks fall more into the realm of personal training instead of simply program design.

Like last week, I am not going over all of the mobility and movement pattern tests I’d use, but here are 5 tests I look at with beginners. Note that not all of these will be appropriate for everyone!

Some of my standard tests for beginners:


As long as no back injury is present, I’ll use this to look to see how much movement and awareness one has over their spine. I’m looking to see mainly if all segments can move, or if some areas are “stuck” while others compensate with excessive motion. Does your back flex and extend evenly, or are there areas not doing their job?

Side Plank

This test of core/hip/shoulder strength & stability is another one I borrowed from the OPEX folks. I use the wall as feedback to prevent cheating, such as shooting the butt back or tilting forward. 90 sec per side is what I want folks to get to, and within 10% difference between sides.

If there is an imbalance in strength, back injury is more likely – Eg: if you get 90 sec + on both sides, but one side is 1:30′ seconds the other is 2:15′, that’s a huge imbalance and is a problem even though you made it 90 seconds on both. Try it!

Box Jump

This really is more of a movement assessment – I’m more interested in observing one’s basic jumping ability and if the knees collapse inward at push-off. The height isn’t important in this case. Can you take off from 2 feet confidently? Do your knees collapse in at all?


At this level, this is more of a movement & stability assessment. I have little interest in how many reps one can do, but am instead looking to see if they can control their torso, scapulas, and even elbows. In many cases, I’ll do the test on a bar in a rack if one is unable to do a pushup on the floor. Do you sag thru the core? Do you chicken-neck toward the ground? Do your shoulder blades hike up or tip forward at the bottom? Do your elbows flare out wide? Just a few things to look for.

Sorrensen Test

This is a static Back Extension and is a test by noted spine researcher, Stuart McGill. You hold this position for time, with 2 minutes being what I’m looking for here. Note that my back is in neutral, not already hyperextended as is the case when many folks try this.

Failure in this test comes in several ways: the muscles fatigue and you must stop, you cannot hold your shoulders even with your hips any longer, or the shoulders stay up but the low back starts to arch significantly.

Give them a shot and see how you do!

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