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Breaking down barriers

Proper assessment in the short term key to long-term progress

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I was once regaled with an urban legend about the burpee and its origin. If true, the burpee could be the province's greatest legacy -- edging out mosquitoes and Thomas Steen. A particular Winnipeg radio host -- I'll let you guess who -- has a father who was once a physical educator finishing his master's degree in exercise physiology. His master's project was to develop an exercise that was a total body cardiovascular and strength workout. The result of this project was the burpee. This exercise has become a fat-loss fitness-plan staple, and until recently was commonly referred to as a "squat-thrust" outside Manitoba. Training tall-tale or fitness Hall of Fame material? Who knows?

Either way, the much hated and often over-prescribed burpee is popping up so often these days, I was surprised when a red, squiggly line appeared on my computer screen after typing it the first time. Now, don't let me misdirect you; I LOVE burpees, but unless your physique falls in the middle of the morphological bell curve, you are most likely doing your body a disservice by performing an unmodified burpee. It is an exercise built for strong yet mobile, lean but not gangly clients that can support most of their body weight in relatively awkward positions and still be explosive throughout the movements.

So how can you possibly find out if the burpee or any other complex exercise is appropriate for your body and ability? I present to you, FMS.

Straight from their website (, the FMS, or Functional Movement Screen, is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By assessing seven different movement patterns, the FMS identifies possible asymmetries and limitations to training. There are other ways of identifying movement issues, and going through a thorough assessment with a good physiotherapist or athletic therapist can provide you with valuable insight into what type of exercise you should and shouldn't be doing, but the FMS is a well-packaged tool that can be implemented by your certified trainer and provides you with a strategic, set exercise plan on how to correct your personal movement deficiencies.

Johnny Fukumoto, owner and head trainer at Fukumoto Fitness in East Kildonan, is a huge proponent of the FMS. He possesses levels 1 and 2 certifications in their assessment and corrective-exercise processes and implements both procedures with every client that comes through his doors.

"It's a simple yet powerful tool," Fukumoto says. "When you immediately identify movement barriers that a client may have and then get them to address those barriers with corrective exercises, you're giving them more fitness potential."

It is not a quick process built for someone who wants to jump into a routine and lose 10 pounds before their wedding that is two weeks away, but it is extremely effective for those who want to make dramatic, lifelong improvements and are committed to what they are doing. Fukumoto is standing by an old adage in the therapy world: You don't build fitness on dysfunction.

Unfortunately, in the fitness world this principle is ignored in order to obtain a short-term, high-turnover client base. "There are a lot of small boot camps and big fitness facilities out there that just don't tackle this issue due to lack of training and because it isn't cost-effective for them," Fukumoto reasons. "These places throw fancy exercises at you, or allow you to jump into any fitness class you want. This often leads to injury and limits what you're able to achieve."

Despite this time-intensive approach, Fukumoto and his clients have used the FMS to implement an exercise paradigm that could help you progress throughout your life with more insight and fewer setbacks, no matter what your start or end-point.

Go online at and watch our video for more information on the FMS and see what an assessment entails.

We want your questions! Starting out on a new fitness journey or have hit a roadblock in your training? We want to help. Email your queries to and you could be featured in a Q&A article.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 D16

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