Exposing The Importance of The Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

What is the Functional Movement Screen? Why should athletes of all levels get it done? Learn more about this simple method of analyzing movement being used by more and more coaches.


“You can’t put fitness on dysfunction.” – Physical Therapist, Gray Cook

Have you heard of the expression “fundamentals first?” All top-level coaches, professionals, and experts advocate the simplistic approach of having the fundamentals before anything else. One of the challenges today is that many of us want progress to the next level without having our fundamentals down first. This is a problem. In regards to exercise, this is critically important if we want to minimize our risk for injury.

The number one goal we should all have with an exercise program is to prevent injury. This comes before any goal of fat loss, weight loss, muscle building, or performance enhancement. If you get hurt, then none of those goals even matter because you can’t train.

Now that we have our number one goal established, we must have strong fundamentals in our exercise program. Digging down deeper, we must have sound fundamental movement patterns before we put a fitness program on top of baseline movement. I really hope that makes sense because this is so important in exercise progression.

There is a need to appraise “human movement” with a proven system to precede physical training and performance. Without a quality appraisal and determination of whether baseline movement is acceptable and symmetrical, there is risk for injury.

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is the appraisal system. It is essentially a quick and easy way to screen fundamental movement before you train it. If you train with a baseline of a poor quality of movement, the risk for injury is significantly increased. If, however, you correct baseline movement in a methodical corrective exercise strategy prior to advancing performance training, the risk of injury is significantly reduced.

There are three basic outcomes of the FMS:

  1. You will have an acceptable screen after which it is safe to proceed with full activities.
  2. Next, you may have a screen that is not acceptable, but you simply may require a corrective strategy in place before advancing.
  3. Or you may have pain with movement, in which this will require appropriate referral to a health care provider.

It should be noted that just because you have good movement patterns, this does not guarantee you won’t get hurt. It does suggest that the risk is much less than a dysfunctional movement pattern. And, “normal motion” does not mean “normal movement.”


The FMS looks at fundamental movements, motor control within movements, and a competence of basic movement patterns. Its job is to determine movement deficiency and uncover asymmetry. Further assessment can be conducted, if revealed in the FMS. The evaluation is done by a simple grading system, without judgment.

fms, functional movement screen, gray cook, scott iardellaThe system was developed by Physical Therapist, Gray Cook in approximately 2001. The goal was to use the screen to add insight to movement problems that would ultimately lead to the best exercise choices and program design for individuals that would minimize risk of injury.

The FMS is designed for all healthy, active people and for healthy, inactive people who want to increase physical activity. It is designed for those that do not have pain or injury.

The FMS itself is a series of seven different movements and three clearing tests that are combined into a movement screen. By screen, this does not mean it’s a diagnostic tool. The FMS is not diagnostic at all. It is a proven tool that looks objectively at quality of movement. It is extremely objective, reliable, and reproducible. It used by a wide range of fitness and health care professionals.

The seven tests require a balance of mobility and stability. Mobility and stability are the essential elements of the movement patterns in the FMS. If there are limitations in either, the FMS will reveal them.

The purpose of this information is not to go into the details of each of the seven movements, but to explain the practical application and utility in the athletic and recreational exercise population. With the increased desire to be fitter, stronger, and more athletic, people need to realize the importance of having fundamental movements before advancing into higher-level activities. What often happens is people are putting exercise and performance on top of dysfunctional movement, which can impair performance and cause injuries.

There is a saying that “something is only as strong as its weakest link.” The FMS strives to identify the weak link and correct it. The FMS looks at fundamental movement patterns, which are the foundation for fitness and performance.

Once the FMS has revealed a dysfunction, if there is one, an appropriate exercise strategy can be implemented to correct the problem. This is part of the magic of the FMS and corrective exercise system.


I highly recommend getting an FMS for the reasons I mention. The screen may score completely “normal” and that’s a great thing if it does. If it does not, that’s not bad either, as the next step is in building an appropriate corrective exercise strategy, which is easily built into your program to correct the underlying dysfunction.

fms, functional movement screen, gray cook, scott iardellaIf you’d like to get a movement screen, the next step would be to search the FMS website to see where the closest local certified expert is to you to perform the FMS. There are many functional movement certified experts that can perform the complete screen, which will only take about ten to fifteen minutes.

I strongly believe in the effectiveness and value of the FMS. The last thing any of us wants is to sustain an injury while exercising. While the FMS does not guarantee that won’t happen, it does significantly cut that risk. The FMS is a great evaluation tool to reveal a movement dysfunction or asymmetry that could be the crack in your exercise foundation.

In summary, the FMS is simple, but highly reliable and effective.The main benefits for getting a screen include:

  1. Identifying individuals at risk for injury.
  2. Implementing a corrective exercise strategy to improve or normalize functional movement patterns.
  3. Providing a tool to monitor progress in dynamic or changing fitness programs.
  4. Establishing a functional movement baseline for appropriate exercise programming.

The important consideration to remember is that proper functional movement precedes performance and may ultimately lead to an injury reduction. If you haven’t had a screen and you are beginner or experienced exerciser, this is something you should give strong consideration.

Remember, you can’t put fitness on dysfunction. Unfortunately, this happens much too often in today’s fitness climate.

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