Functional Movement Screen (FMS): Course Review

After 9 years of combined experience in fitness and physical therapy, I finally got around to taking the FMS certification.  Like many of you out there, I had self taught myself the screen a few years after getting my personal training certification.  Back then I thought I knew it all, and as a result I never took the course until now.

On first impressions, I realized how little I really knew about the system.   I am very eclectic with my approach to physical therapy and fitness, so as usual I took some parts of the movement screen I liked, tinkered with some aspects to fit my system and in essence created a debauchery of the FMS and created the Joe Movement System.  Which was not a “bad” thing but probably not very reliable or repeatable or even valid as I will explain.   

The end result was that I had a system that worked for me in order to assess and evaluate my clients and patients.  After taking the FMS course, however I realized that this caused a significant lack of standardization with my assessments.  Therefore, if another trainer of physical therapist was to come train/treat my client/patient there became two problems.  One, they had no idea what my assessment meant and two, they would have a hard time following my thought process because when it comes to exercises everyone tends to use different names and acronyms.  

That was all fixed after taking the FMS.  In essence the FMS creates a standardized language and a specific objective test that is valid and reliable to differentiating risk of injury in a group setting.  As the FMS manual perfectly states, “The screen’s usefulness is in its simplicity, practicality and ability to fill a void in the toolbox we use to judge performance and durability.”

With the screen, FMS has also created an algorithm on how you should handle any dysfunction found during the screen.  So if for any reason I missed work and couldn’t see my patient/client, any one of my colleagues certified in the FMS can observe the scores, determine the asymmetry and injury risk and more importantly will know exactly what needs to be addressed to improve movement and performance.  

As health and fitness professionals, we spend a lot of time learning from each other.  We all have a tremendous amount of knowledge and at times this can be our worst enemy.  When evaluating someone there are a lot of thoughts that go through our minds.  The “glutes are weak, the obliques aren’t firing, the lats aren’t working”.  These are all things I hear, but the screen allows us to try and look at the movement patterns for what they are and not cause blame to specific muscles.  “The screen is not intended to determine why a dysfunctional movement pattern exists.  Instead, it’s a discovery of which patterns are problematic.”  Therefore we are not treating muscles to fix patterns, but rather fixing patterns to re-educate muscles.   


Each of the 7 movement patterns is scored as either a 0, 1, 2 or 3.  

You score a 0 if pain is present during the movement.  The FMS does not assess why someone has pain, if someone scores a 0 they need to be referred to the appropriate medical provider, preferably someone certified in the SFMA.  

A 1 is scored for someone who can not complete the movement in its entirety as described.  Therefore we should wait to load this pattern (i.e. a squat, lunge, press) until we can establish a more symmetrical motion.  

A 2 is someone who can complete the movement but it is not picture perfect.  As Eric D’Agati says “two’s are cool“.  A two is good, it means you can safely do this pattern and even start to load it.  

A 3 means the technique is perfect.  Think of a 3 as if you have to call over your buddy to say “hey man, come look at this,” but in a good way.  

The goal in correctives is not to make everyone a 21 (scoring a 3 on all 7 tests).  It is to get every one to symmetrical 2’s (because remember “2’s are cool”).  We want to correct any 1’s and any asymmetrical scores first as a priority before loading or when creating a workout plan for clients.

In summary, the FMS is a great system that allows us to be objective with our assessments and can create a standardized language between trainers and between disciplines alike.  The best part about the system is that it doesn’t try to make you change your philosophy as a trainer/physical therapist, but rather offer a tool to assess movement patterns and risk for injury and build on those concepts into your current programming.

 Have you implemented ideas or frameworks since you were “self taught” or had a colleague show you the “big things?”  If so what value did you take away from actually attending that course?  Do you feel it made a difference or were the cliff notes adequate?

Until next time, Happy Rehabbing!  




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