Movement Signature – Measurement or Mirage?


Each athlete has a movement signature, a fingerprint that defines him or her as an individual in regard to their movement patterns, to change that is very difficult and of questionable necessity. We also need to remember when we are screening movement that the body is asymmetrical, to seek symmetry is unrealistic. Proportionality right to left and front to back is a more realistic and practical goal.

-Vern Gambetta

With the video of MiSparta and KU creating a lot of private discussion and debate, the question people have is do I agree with some of the recent talk about therapy and screening. Vern Gambetta does screen, and he uses the PCA, similar to the FMS but in my opinion a better option. The PCA will never get support like the FMS because of marketing, but even the PCA lacks proper scoring and should rethink integration with technology to thrive.

On the other hand, teams are investing massive amounts of money into Eliteform and force plates, and some are wondering what can one get from doing vertical jump testing. I am currently excited that Sparta Science helped drive innovation, but the question is what about the rest of us that don’t have such facilities? Do we need force plates to drive programming? What about Kinect and open source options?

I have used pressure mapping and force plates and I would choose the former without hesitation. While vertical forces are the only thing you can read on pressure mapping, from the looks of the videos the only metric I see is vertical jump data with ground reaction forces. Also no kinematic data is used and Dartfish is a better option if one is going to be serious with video. Apps like Ubersense are poor solutions, and using the regular camera or Video Pix app instead.

So what do sport scientists suggest? Should we all leave the force plates in the lab? I think so. If I was a General Manager for a professional team except for football I would never sign off on a force plate. Other tools are far more valuable and provide more information. I would install 10-15 Gymaware units as one force plate as lining up for one piece of equipment wastes time. Also, the changes in power are slow, and at the end of the day the composition of training is the fingerprint of the program, not just the athlete. While every athlete is a unique snowflake there are general needs by everyone that don’t need GRF data.

Observation of force with objective loads is tricky, but measurable. While technique to olympic lifts may change bar speed, even small differences may not be big enough to help transfer to the field or court. I would suggest using less frequent testing in the vertical jump and use other solutions like RPE, soreness patterns, and HRV.

It’s not easy to create training programs, but the critics of the limits of force plates are right, as it’s better to use in-shoe pressure, video screening, and the good ol eyes then investing into force plates. On the other hand, good jump tests are valuable, and doing simple jumps is better than doing a max effort squat for youth and athletes that may be at risk for spine injuries duet to technique and extreme pathologies.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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