Running and Physical Therapy: Running Analysis Part 5: Overview of The Active Movement Assessment

After I perform the Runner’s Interview, The Qualitative Assessment of Running Mechanics, and The Quantitative Assessments of Running Mechanics, the next step is The Active Movement Assessment.

I have evolved The Active Movement Assessment part of my running analysis over the years, and it now encompasses a range of movements that I have the Runner perform in many different body positions. I’m looking for consistent themes in the Runner’s movement patterns, mobility deficits, and stabilizing strategies across multiple movements, planes of movement, and body positions. The goal of these movements is to first assess the integrated movement patterns of the Runner in standing and weight bearing positions (standing, half kneeling, bridging, planks), then to look at individual joint active movement control with the Runner in non weight bearing positions (supine, prone, or sidelying) .  These movements all load the Runner’s joints and tissues through full ranges of motion and allow me to see how the Runner responds to the simple movement tasks. Two models that I credit for shaping the way I utilize and conceptualize the active movement assessment:

  • Kelly Starrett’s Movement Archetypes Model

  • Gray Cook’s SFMA and “joint by joint” Model

A quick side note, there are two big caveats for the Active Movement Assessment that I’ve learned:

  1. I don’t put too much weight on one single movement task in isolation. I take a bigger picture view and look for consistent movement strategies or compensations. Many Runners will look terrible at a given test, perform very well at other tests that challenge similar areas in a different position (eg. terrible glute med MMT, but excellent single leg stability)

  2. The Running Analysis is always the primary and final deciding factor. If I see a discrepancy between what the Active Movement Assessment is showing, and what the Running Mechanics show, I’ll default to the Running Analysis first and foremost. Running is a complex movement skill, and many Runners will demonstrate efficient, powerful running mechanics while not showing the same movement quality with a single leg squat or lunge. There’s sufficient research to show that Running Mechanics and Single Leg Movements do not correlate or change together.

Those caveats aside, I do utilize an Active Movement Assessment to allow me to gather more data on the Runner’s movement strategies. Christopher Johnson and Nate Carlson at The Runner’s Zone have a nice way of explaining that they are looking for whether a Runner can load a specific tissue during their movement assessments and running mechanics.

Here’s the quick list of Active Movement Assessments by position and weight bearing:


Standing multi-segmental flexion (aka. Lumbar flexion, segmental flexion, forward fold, toe touch)

Standing multi-segmental extension (aka. Lumbar extension with shoulder flexion, back bend)

Standing full body rotation right

Standing full body rotation left

Air Squat

Hip hinge

Lunge / Split Squat

Single leg balance eyes open and closed

Single leg squat (free leg bent to allow knee to go straight down to ground)

Y Balance (which includes pistol squat)

FMS ankle dorsiflexion test

Two leg jump

Two legged hopping

Single leg jump

Single leg hopping

Shoulder Flexion (Overhead Archetype)

Shoulder Extension PVC Pipe Lift Off (Press archetype)

Shoulder External Rotation at 90 degrees abduction (Front rack archetype)

Shoulder internal rotation at 90 degrees abduction (Hang archetype)

Kneeling / Half kneeling

Half kneeling static hold

Half kneeling rhythmic stabilization through arms

Plank + Bridge

Front plank variations: forearms, hands, shoulder taps, and Upper Quarter Y balance

Push Up Fist lift off (Press archetype)

Side plank: both knees bent, bottom knee bent, full, top leg lift off, copenhagen adduction

Double leg bridge > Single leg bridge

Bird Dog: contralateral arm and leg, and ipsilateral arm and leg

Supine / Sidelying / Prone

Active SLR

Active hip flexion

Active hip internal rotation

Active hip external rotation

Active prone knee bend

Active prone straight leg raise

Triple Flexion Static Hold (aka. tabletop position hold)

Gluteus Medius MMT


Looking at the list, that’s a lot of movements! With practice, I’ve been able to perform these movements within a good 15 minute time period. I’m looking for consistent, replicated themes across multiple movements. Deficits in mobility, stability, movement quality, movement quantity, or a Runner’s willingness to load a specific tissue will often appear as I work through the full active movement assessment.

Next up on the blog: I’m going to break down each section of the Active Movement Assessment with details about what I’m looking for with each movement and common patterns I’ll see with Runners.