Simple Ways to Increase Movement Quality

It doesn’t matter if I am training collegiate athletes, the geriatric population, or any one in between, movement quality is one of the first areas I assess; along with posture and breathing mechanics. Unfortunately quality of movement is often an afterthought for personal trainers and for everyone else who doesn’t use a trainer. Our days are busy and it’s hard enough to squeeze in time at the gym, let alone work on increasing movement quality on top of that. However, I would argue increasing movement quality is even more important than increasing your fitness level. Why? Because, as Gray Cook, the founder of the Functional Movement Screen, often states, we shouldn’t be adding strength to dysfunction (3).

So what does this mean? Simply put, if we are moving incorrectly than we shouldn’t be getting stronger on top of that poor movement pattern. Now, some people will argue that the only bad movement is no movement at all, which I agree with to an extent, and I am not saying we should stop exercising until we become perfect movers. What I am saying is that we should work on improving our movement quality along with increasing our fitness.

Everyone is different, but in general most people with have mobility issues at the ankles, hips, and mid-back (thoracic spine).

Everyone is different, but in general most people with have mobility issues at the ankles, hips, and mid-back (thoracic spine). This is due in part to the excessive amount of sitting many of us do (either at work or home), how we sit and stand, and the types of shoes we wear (many shoes have a huge heel which decreases the ankles ability move the toes towards the shin, among other factors. Having mobility issues at these locations can often lead to pain in the knee and low back because these two areas are supposed to be relatively stable, but if the ankles, hips, and mid-back lack mobility than the body will be forced to find mobility elsewhere during exercise (4) which often ends up being the knee and lower back.

This can result in several issues, but one typical issue is knee valgus (knees collapsing together) during squats, jumps, etc. Another common issue is the lower back taking a brunt of the movement, which is not good, especially since low back pain causes more global disability than any other condition (1,2). It is important to note that this is for educational purposes only, and if you do experience any pain you should consult your physician prior to trying to implement anything new to your routine.

During exercise we should be bulletproofing our bodies from injury, not causing it. Listed below are three simple exercises that you can perform right from the comfort of your home while watching TV, or at your local gym. You can also visit my YouTube channel (just search “Daniel Flahie”) to see several more movement drills and variations.

movement exerciseThoracic Spine Mobility Drill

Start with your knee on the foam roller and arms placed on top of one another.
Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale rotate your arm across your body as far as you can go. Pay careful attention to your knee, do not allow it to come off of the foam roller. As soon as it does that is your end range of motion- do not continue to go any farther. Perform 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps on each side.

Hip Internal & External Drill

For this drill it is important to have shoes off and keep your heel on the ground. Keep a neutral spine and go down as far as you can while keeping your heel on the ground. Gently push on the inside of your leg with your elbow.

Dorsiflexion Ankle Rocker Drill

Again, the heel must remain on the ground at all times. Make sure the band is over the talus bone, and not too high up the leg. Place a dowel next to your pinky toe and push your knee out past the dowel as far as possible while maintaining heel contact with the ground.
This drill can also be performed without a band.


  1. American Chiropractic Association. Back pain facts and statistics. 2018. Retrieved December 2, 2018 from
  2. Hoy, D, March, L, Brooks, P, Blyth, F, Woolf, A, Bain, C, et al. The global burden of low back pain: Estimates from the global burden of disease 2010 study. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 73(6): 968-974, 2014.
  3. Jones, B. Pain, dysfunction and load. 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2018 from
  4. Swinscoe, D. Strengthening your kinetic chain for injury prevention. 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018 from
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