As a Personal Training Facility that specializes in Corrective Exercise and Post Rehab training we get lots of questions on why we use the FMS as a tool to help our clients. The FMS really has become the standard in the industry of screening movement and we have spent thousands of dollars in our training to learn the system. I was trained directly by Gray Cook the creator of the Functional Movement Screen and since people in Tucson probably don’t move too differently than people in other parts of the country we feel that it is a great fit for our Fitness Facility. I get asked lots of questions about the FMS and why we use it so here is a little article can give you my view of why we use it.

What is the FMS and why can it be helpful?

No one really moves perfectly, we all have imperfections.  Many times these imperfections, coupled with exercise or any activity that is beyond our comfort zone, can lead to injuries. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a tool that can be used to identify these problem areas so that they can be worked on and hopefully improved.

The FMS was developed by physical therapist Gray Cook.  It is a screening protocol that is used to identify specific asymmetries and imbalances in the way we move. The FMS is a series of 7 screens that look at specific movement patterns of the human body and identify specific mobility and stability issues.  The great thing about the FMS is that it allows us to score each movement.  By scoring movement, it allows us to quantify improvement after corrective exercise strategies have been prescribed and practiced. Rather than giving each screen a good or bad rating we can assign a numerical value (0, 1, 2, or 3) to each movement based on movement standards.   Here is a breakdown of what each score means:

0 — Movement was painful, requiring a referral to a healthcare professional.

1 — Inability to perform, or complete, a functional movement pattern.

2 — Ability to perform a functional pattern, but with some degree of compensation.

3 — Unquestionable ability to perform the functional movement pattern.

So what does this all mean?

Someone that is walking around with 1’s in many of their movement patterns is comparable to a car being driven with the emergency brake on. Sure, the car can move, but it is working much harder than it needs to. Eventually it will break down. In the case of the person, many times they don’t even know that they have the emergency brake on.  They just feel slower, or like “something” isn’t quite right, but don’t know what “it” is. If they let it go on for too long, then one day, all of a sudden there is that twinge in their lower back.  From there it seems that a cascade of issues pop up all over the place. If it isn’t a lower back thing then it might be plantar fasciitis or a shoulder issue that comes from out of nowhere. We then sit there scratching our head and saying, “I don’t understand how this happened, I didn’t do anything different than I always do and now my back is out.”  By identifying these issues ahead of time, you can work on key exercises that will help correct the specific mobility or stability issues.

To Stretch or not to Stretch?

Many people often feel tightness in certain muscles and throughout our bodies. Many times our tendency is to stretch that stiffness or tightness out, or better yet massage it out. Usually that stiffness and tightness is there for a reason. The area that feels tight or stiff may not need to be stretched.  The FMS really allows us to see what needs to be stretched and massaged versus what needs to be strengthened and stabilized. For example, a lot of people come to us with the complaint of tight hamstrings. While screening many of these people, we find that stretching their hamstrings is actually furthering their imbalances and not the right thing to do. What we often find is that people with the feeling of tight hamstrings actually need to work on mobility of their hip flexors (the opposite muscles) or they need to work on core stabilization drills.  The FMS lets us see which one is necessary. It is amazing to see the hamstring tightness disappear without addressing the symptomatic area.

One thing we discover through the FMS is that people often feel pain in one part of the body, but the problem often starts in a different part of the body. An example of this is people that suffer hip and lower back issues. Many times we find, through our screening, that their ankles are not moving appropriately. If our ankles are not moving correctly then we tend to compensate with each step we take.  The result is that the hips are not moving how they are supposed to. The ankles are the issue, but we feel pain in the hips.  The person can get adjusted, stretch, and strengthen their hips daily, but until they fix their ankle mobility issues the hip and back issues will continue to pop up. 

These are just a few examples of how the FMS can give insight into what is happening in the body. Many times we can give some great exercises to our clients that can help correct these movement patterns, but as with anything, it takes time and practice. Issues such as core stability and posterior chain strengthening may take a bit more time and training to see the results, but the benefit in the long run is invaluable.