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The FMS - What and Why?

The FMS - What is it?

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) was first created by Gray Cook and the team at Functional Movement Systems in the mid-90's. Now, it is used all over the world by healthcare and fitness professionals. 

Great, but what is it?

The Functional Movement Screen is a series of 7 basic movements (straight leg raise, rotary stability, overhead squat, in-line lunge, hurdle step, and push-up) that will test your overall ability to move. Each test is scored on a 0-3 scale, and every test is designed to utilize multiple body areas at once. Based on the results of the screening we can quickly assess what areas need work and attention.

The Functional Movement Screen and Sports Medicine

The FMS has a fantastic place in a sports medicine practice, because in all honesty, good athletes make for good cheaters. Most athletes are able to compensate for poor areas of movement or strength in their bodies and "find a work around" in order to accomplish the tasks we ask them to do. This means that at first glance, someone may look like they can move fairly well while performing their particular sport. However, when we isolate a body part during testing, the athlete's form falls apart and their weaknesses show up. This lets us find dysfunctional areas that may be causing them problems that they don't realize - like limited ankle movement causing them knee pain or hip pain during their heavy squat days for example. 

What I look for when doing the FMS with a client

The biggest thing I look for as a sports medicine practitioner is pain first. If someone is able to clear the screening without pain, the next biggest thing I look for is inability to complete the movements. After that, scoring the "top tier movers" means getting picky about form or small differences or dysfunctions that might be indicators of a future problem. By screening people in this order particularly, we can find out if their problem is one that necessitates medical intervention, or if the problem is one that necessitates changes to their training program or exercise form. 

Why do the FMS in a clinical setting?

Being able to assess a person's overall movement quality means that as a clinician, I may be able to better pinpoint where the source of their pain or problem is coming from. From an athletic performance standpoint, if there are movements that are difficult to perform then an athlete will avoid them. When we fix their movement mechanics, they can train more effectively for whatever their sport or activity may be. Having an FMS score as a baseline also can give us an opportunity to assess what is happening with an athlete when they are going through a heavy training cycle and feeling tight, or they are beginning to complain of pain that wasn't present before. When we re-assess, we may find that a portion of their test results have gotten worse and subsequently they are feeling the effects of it. 


Interested in finding out what your baseline is, or finding out if your pain may be linked to your quality of movement? Find a provider near you who can run you through an FMS test and talk over the results with you. 

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Dr. Paul Harris holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Texas Chiropractic College and a Master’s of Exercise and Health Sciences from University of Houston Clear Lake. He is the owner of Delta V Chiropractic and Sports Medicine and an avid human movement specialist.