Seahawks return to a series of movement tests

Posted Apr 15, 2013

When the Seahawks kicked off their offseason program on Monday, the players started by taking a series of functional movement tests that are the first step in producing a more durable athlete.

The first step in the Seahawks’ offseason program was a stretch. Followed by a bend. And it also included a twist or two.

Monday morning’s welcome-back meeting with coach Pete Carroll was followed by the players going through a series of seven functional movement tests that were introduced last year by Sam Ramsden in his first offseason as director of health and player performance.

“We’re trying to build a more durable athlete,” Ramsden said. “And we’re only going to get better and better and better at it.”

The players are graded from 1 to 21 in each screening, and a score of 14 or lower in any test prompts focusing on using exercises to increase that score – and decrease the risk of injury.

“You determine whether it’s a stability issue or a mobility issue,” Ramsden said. “If it’s a mobility issue, it’s stretching and manual therapy and mobilization. If it’s a stability issue, then it’s getting them to respond to exercises that prompt stability in that body part or that side of the body.

“So by elevating their score, you lower their risk of injury.”

That’s also where associate head trainer Donald Rich and his staff – David Stricklin and Michael Tankovich – work with head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle and his staff – Jamie Yanchar and Mondray Gee – to help achieve that goal.

The reasons the Seahawks are incorporating these tests to launch their offseason program starts at the top with general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.

“This is a vision that John and Pete have for this organization,” said Ramsden, who was the Seahawks’ head trainer for eight years and an associate trainer for five years before stepping into his new role last offseason. “They’ve put me into a position to try to bring it to life.”

The players have embraced the program because the proof of its effectiveness was in their performance last season – when the team posted the third-best regular-season record in club history (11-5), went unbeaten at home for only the third time in franchise history and won a road playoff game for the first time since 1983.

The Seahawks also had their starters miss only 12 combined games because of injuries, and got the first 16-start season of his career from leading receiver Sidney Rice, 16 games played (15 starts) from All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch and 15-start season from Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung (missing one game due to a knee injury).

“I think this program is a great thing,” second-year guard J.R. Sweezy said after completing his screening tests. “Even back in college, I had guys tell me that flexibility is the key to staying healthy. And it’s true, it goes hand in hand. So doing these tests to see how flexible you are and where you stand, the less likely you are to get hurt.”

And that is the bottom line when it comes to these functional movement tests, especially with the offseason program starting later due to the new CBA that ended the 136-day lockout in 2011.

“Our goal, because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, is to kind of take another look at how we prepare our players,” Ramsden said. “We used to have a longer time, so we’d have longer phases where you can get more strength and conditioning in. But that’s not the case anymore. Now we have really two weeks of just lifting and conditioning by itself.”

The two-week Phase 1 includes eight workout days and runs through April 26. Then it’s a three-week Phase 2, which includes 12 days of on-field skill work – but no organized team activities – and concludes May 17. The 10 OTA workouts are included in Phase 3, which begins May 20 and features a mandatory minicamp June 10-12.

“Once you get into the OTAs, that completely changes the way the players lift and the way they train,” Ramsden said. “So realistically, we have to build a more durable player.”

Enter the screening tests which, like the team, are a work in progress – with Ramsden always looking for more ways to enhance what he’s already doing.

“That’s really going to be our focus for us the next decade, is to really understand our athletes on an individual basis better than we ever have before; use really good screening methods to identify those individual imbalances; get smarter about how we correct those; make sure that everyone is doing them; and then lets add a layer of that to see what else we can learn,” Ramsden said.

“Maybe in two, three years, as we continue to progress as a team, not only do we have a really talented team, we have a really durable team. When you get into that situation, you’re giving yourself the chance to be at your best.”