Whether you are a serious athlete, a recreational runner, or trying to get in shape for the first time, one common goal is shared: you want to maximize your workouts and stay injury free. Maybe you\u2019re training for a marathon, or just planning to walk for charity. Maybe you want to look good in a summer swimsuit, or want to shed extra pounds to be able to run around with your kids. Even the smallest fitness goals require some foresight and planning to achieve.\nStrength and conditioning programs can help you achieve goals, such as:\n\nBuilding muscles\nIncreasing strength\nGetting toned\nLosing weight\/fat\nBecoming healthier\nIncrease flexibility\n\nThese types of programs, whether structured or DIY, can be very beneficial in helping you reach your fitness and performance goals. Preexisting muscle imbalances, however, can lead to injuries or hinder your performance.\nAn assessment by a professional can help evaluate your movement patterns and teach you to retrain your muscles to be more efficient and help you become stronger and healthier.\nFunctional Movement Assessment\nA functional movement assessment (FMA) is a program designed to identify performance issues and help prevent injury. Ron DeAngelo, director of UPMC Sports Performance, explains, \u201cThe assessment can help us uncover any muscle weaknesses that may limit your ability to reach a high level of performance or lead to injury.\u201d\nDuring a FMA the specialist will also evaluate the chain reaction of the area of weakness. Think of the song, \u201cthe foot bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone\u2019s connected to the thigh bone\u201d, etc. The connectivity of your bones means that when you put your foot to the floor, every joint in your body has a job to do and when you feel pain in one area the problem could actually be in a related area.\nThree-step Process\nOur bodies are great compensators that hide a lot. An FMA serves as a baseline assessment to determine how a person\u2019s body is functioning. An FMA is broken down into three separate assessment pieces.\nRon explains the three sections of an FMA and what the specialist will be looking for:\n1. Posture assessment\nIn this section, the trainer will be observing your natural posture. Efficient movement patterns for running must begin with optimal posture. Poor posture can lead to overuse injuries.\n2. Walking and running gait analysis\nNext, the trainer will ask you to run so they can observe your movement patterns and uncover dynamic imbalances. Based on your movements, these imbalances will present as short, tight muscles and long, weak muscles.\n3. Clinical evaluation\nIn the clinical element of the assessment your trainer will measure flexibility, strength, and balance. This section can be customized depending on your sport, so body fat measurements, endurance testing, or other performance tests may be added.\nNext Steps\nAfter the evaluation is complete the expert will develop a corrective exercise program. The individualized program will use exercises focusing on proper movement, strength, and balance to correct areas of weakness or poor movement patterns. This plan may include:\n\nCore workouts\nRelearning fundamentals\nCorrective exercises\n\nRegardless of how intense your fitness regimen may be, it\u2019s important to craft a uniquely-tailored program that works best for your body and your goals.\nFor more information about functional movement assessments, visit the UPMC Sports Performance program online or call 412-432-3871 to schedule an appointment.