Movement Screening Explained (part one)- What is the FMS?

In my last post I explained why movement is such an important entry point for fitness, health and well-being. I gave an example of how a simple movement screen could potentially save valuable training time while making sure that you, the client, are given the most appropriate exercise program.

Today I want to discuss one simple and highly effective way to screen for movement pattern qualities: the Functional Movement Screen or FMS. Keep in mind that this is just one of the many screens available and it’s a great idea to check out as many screening procedures as possible before you decide which is best for you. The FMS is the best one that I’ve ever used, as it gives us a relatively quick, objective analysis of how well you move. I fall into the camp of people who truly believe in the value of this particular screen, and I’m not afraid to admit that. I will save a detailed explanation of each individual movement tested in the screen for a later date and instead I will give a general explanation of the FMS and why it’s an important step to take before you start an exercise program.

What is the FMS?

-A series of 7 individually-scored movement patterns designed to identify movement dysfunction or painful movement.  It was developed by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and his colleagues.  Cook is one of the top minds in rehab and performance today.


-A scoring system from 0 to 3.

  • Any movement which produces pain on the FMS results in the score of 0 and is cause for further investigation. This could come from a referral to a licensed medical professional such as a physical therapist. This is the most important finding in a movement screen and makes client-coach communication essential. If a pattern is painful, it should be treated as a medical issue rather than a fitness issue, and as such it shouldn’t be part of your typical exercise program. This does not mean you have to stop working out, and doesn’t even mean that you’ll never train this pattern. It simply means that a fitness solution is not appropriate for what is a medical condition.
  • Any movement that is screened to be dysfunctional but not painful receives a score of 1. This is cause for further investigation but the solution can often be found without referring out to a medical professional. We will still avoid loading this pattern (meaning, adding resistance to it), but we don’t have to avoid it all together. If your trainer/coach is good at what they do, they can often remedy this problem fairly quickly without losing out on valuable training time.
  • Any movement that is not painful and not severely dysfunctional, but not quite perfect receives a score of 2. There may be a flaw in the movement pattern but it isn’t severe enough to raise a red flag and we can safely load this pattern. If this is the person’s lowest score on the entire screen we may spend some time addressing this pattern in warm-up or homework, but we wont spend a ton of training time on it.
  • Any perfectly executed movement receives a score of 3. There is no pain with the pattern and no dysfunction present. This pattern is good to go. Since the FMS is done “cold,” meaning the individual is not permitted to warm-up prior to the screen, we don’t even have to address this pattern in a warm-up. We can, of course, but all of the hardware and all of the software is present for this person to perform this pattern essentially right off the street.

-The FMS also includes a series of “clearance” tests which simply ask the client to report any pain with shoulder impingement, spinal flexion or spinal extension.

There you have it.  That’s the FMS.  An objective, unbiased view of movement quality which can be administered within the first 15 minutes of meeting your trainer.  It gives us valuable information about your mobility, stability and motor control and gives us an accurate baseline of your movement health.  My next post will aim to clear up some common misconceptions of the screen and explain what the screen does NOT do.  If you think you could benefit from a Functional Movement Screen and it’s resulting exercise program, contact me with the information below:

Adam Reeder


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