Why We Assess Movement


Let me start this post by saying stating the obvious if you’ve read any of my past writings:  I’m a fan of the Functional Movement Screen or FMS.  All new clients at Paragon Health & Fitness go through the FMS in one form or another before they’re ever asked to go through an entire exercise routine.

That being said, I do not work for Functional Movement Systems.  I do not collect any kind of commissions from them by promoting their materials.  I don’t believe that everything they do is perfect or right.  I do not use the Y-Balance Test or the Functional Capacity Screen.  I do not have any necessary allegiance to FMS, and as soon as I find something better, I have no problem jumping ship.

I am NOT writing this post to defend the FMS or anyone who works for them directly– they certainly don’t need my defending even if I were.  I am not writing this to defend anything that Gray Cook or Lee Burton or any of those guys have said over the last 8+ years since Cook wrote Movement.

I’m writing this because there seems to be a growing “anti-FMS” movement on the internet lately, and I think the majority of those behind this movement either don’t like the fact that Cook and others have found a way to become very commercially successful by branding their methods, or simply do not understand the FMS and how to implement it.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say FMS, I explained the FMS here, and also explained what the FMS is NOT here. In short, the FMS is a relatively simple, 7-movement screen, designed to look at some basic human functions and help us make decisions about the next step in your exercise program.

Recently, I’ve come across several studies like this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502447


Based on analysis of the current literature, findings do not support the predictive validity of the FMS. Methodological and statistical limitations identified threaten the ability of the research to determine the predictive validity of FMS.”

To which I say…No shit.

Maybe I missed something along the way, but I’ve never looked at the FMS as a method to predict injury.  So many of these recent studies really seem to be asking the wrong questions when it comes to the FMS.  To think that a movement test, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, could accurately predict something with as many variables as athletic injury rate is beyond irresponsible.

So…if we don’t use it to predict injuries, why do we use it?

Let me give you an example of the FMS in use.  We recently had a small group of athletes (6 kids ages 13-15) start their off-season strength and conditioning program at Paragon, all of them working out together.  During their first visit, we had each athlete perform an FMS.

We had 2 kids who’s Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR) test looked like this:

Two other’s ASLR looked like this:

The other two kids were somewhere in between the top image and the bottom image.

Now, did we humiliate and chuckle at the kids who fit into the bottom image category?  No.  Did we get our goniometers out and try to measure their degrees of hip flexion and then foam roll their hamstrings until they got to 90 degrees?  Nope.  Did we even address the “issue” with them or try to “fix” it?  No.  Because our our eyes, as long as it’s not painful, this may not even be something that needs “fixing.”  And if it does need fixing, as trainers/coaches, we very well may not be the appropriate professionals to be doing the work.  How do I know that hip doesn’t have some kind of structural abnormality that no amount of core strength + foam roll + stretch will help?  The answer is we don’t know.

What I do know is I am going to treat the kids who look like the top picture a bit differently than the kids who look like the bottom picture.  On top, I have no reason to believe they can’t learn how to deadlift from the floor, power clean, etc. from day 1.  The kids who look like the bottom picture may not learn how to deadlift from the floor day 1, but maybe a Rack Pull (picture a deadlift, but with the bar elevated from the floor), or a kettlebell deadlift from a step, etc. could be an option.

Since it wasn’t painful, I fully believe that we can work with and help all of the above, and over time, I believe that intelligent training will lead to improved movement, which may open the door for the kids who look like Picture #2 on Day 1 to do all of the things the others are doing.  In the meantime, I’m going to put those kids into a position where they can succeed and let them thrive and get stronger in those positions.

Brief aside: What if one of those movements (or any other in the FMS) had caused some kind of shooting pain, tingling sensation, or numbness?  I’m going to work with them on the patterns that aren’t painful, and suggest they go see a health care professional (physical therapist, chiropractor, MD, etc.) to address the painful pattern.  This may seem like I’m being overly cautious, and in most cases I will be more cautious than I need to be…However, and I’m only saying this because I honestly have seen it happen in my career…

How do you know that your client’s lower back is a “tight muscle” or “weak spinal erectors,” and not bone cancer?  Seriously trainers, do you think you’re qualified to answer this question?  You’re not.

Back to the athletes mentioned above– In less than 20 minutes total, I was able to put 6 kids through an FMS and found that none of them had any pain, but two of them had significantly different active hip Range of Motion than the rest of the group.  I was then able to quickly create an initial program for the entire group, with some slight modifications for those differing movement patterns.  I’m not sure how anyone could argue the benefit of such an analysis.  I’m confident that by spending 20 minutes up front to evaluate these things, I’m saving a bunch of wasted training time down the road.

So if we return to the question posed above– if it’s not for injury prediction, what is it for?  The answer is pretty simple to me– The FMS provides us with a road map of where we should go next.  It’s then our choice whether or not we follow that road map.  Just because you don’t follow a road map, that doesn’t mean you wont get to where you’re trying to go, I’d just argue that there is some kind of “cost” associated with ignoring the map.

Can your joints actively get into position to absorb and adapt to whatever stress we’re about to put on them?  If yes— get after it!  If no–either change the joints or change the stress.





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