What is the Functional Movement Screen?

The FMS, From the Horses Mouth...

"The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a screening tool used to evaluate seven fundamental movement patterns in individuals with no current pain complaint or musculoskeletal injury. The FMS is not intended to diagnose orthopaedic problems but rather to demonstrate opportunities for improved movement in individuals. The screen is designed to place an individual in extreme positions where movement deficits become noticeable if appropriate stability and mobility are not used. Even though individuals are performing an activity or sport at a high level, it has been observed that many of these same individuals are limited in fundamental movement. This leads to the use of compensatory movements in order to achieve or maintain the level of performance needed for the activity. The inefficient use of compensation during movement will lead to poor biomechanics that limit gains in performance and reduces the body’s ability to remain adaptable and durable against the risks of being involved in the activity or sport."

The Screen format

The FMS will take you through 7 functional movement patterns. Here’s what they are, & what they are aiming to screen: 

  1. The Deep Squat. Fully coordinated extemity mobility & core stability with symmetrical hips & shoulders
  2. Hurdle Step Coordination & stability between the hips with asymmetrical movement & load
  3. Inline Lunge Starting stability with continued dynamic load of pelvis & core within an equally loaded but asymmetrical hip position
  4. Shoulder Mobility The scapular-thoracic rhythm during reciprocal upper extremity shoulder movements
  5. Active Straight Leg Raise The initial & continuous lumbo-pelvic core stability, dissociating hip flexion with contralateral hip extension (+active mobility of the flexed hip)
  6. Trunk Stability Pushup Reflex core stabilisation of spine in saggital plane during upper-body symmetrical pushing movement
  7. Rotary Stability Reflex stabilisation in the transverse plane + motor control of mobility & stability in climbing patterns. 

Each movement is scored one of the following:

0: There is pain present and the movement pattern should not be performed

1: The movement could not be performed (This pattern must therefore not be loaded)

2: The movement could be performed, but with some compensation

3. The movement could be performed as instructed.

Thus, in total a ‘perfect’ score would be 21. (but I have never seen this!) It is said that a score of <14 indicates a heightened risk of injury. 

My Two Cents on Using the FMS

Ok, so as an experienced FMS Level 2 Certified Personal Trainer, my informed opinion on the FMS is this.

  • It’s an effective, objective tool that does exactly what it sets out to do –  To identify dysfunctional movement patterns & asymmetries that increase an athletes risk of injury so that an effective training programme can be produced, incorporating appropriate corrective strategies.
  • When executed exactly as taught during the cert, the screen has high validity and repeatability with clear, simple and objective scoring criteria.
  • It’s a great, simple, easy-to-administer tool for screening athletes, teams of athletes and generally-fit ‘everyday athletes’.  
  • The 7 functional movement patterns should all be achievable by all humans, in an ideal world.
  • The bar can be too high for 21st century ‘average Joe or Jane’. It can be inappropriate and disheartening for many ‘everyday athletes’ who have spent years sat in chairs and don’t yet meet a certain baseline movement proficiency.
  • Giving somebody a very low score on a movement screen is basically a great way to make them feel like shit. Yeah, I’m 100% for objectively facing the facts on where somebody is at on their movement journey, but scoring 58 year-old aunt Janice who’s got a ‘dodgy hip’ or 47 year old John who works in accounts on the same scale as the local Rugby team, well, it’s just inappropriate. 

It's a Screen, Not An Assessment

The FMS is a great tool. I can’t really say that enough. I encourage ALL professional or recreational athletes, competitive sports teams and people who are in generally good nick to go get screened, implement the corrective strategies, screen again and then feel all warm and fuzzy inside that they’ve made themselves more bulletproof, more athletic and less likely to get injured. Because all us ‘athletic types’ know that injury SUCKS.

But the FMS is a screen, not an assessment:

‘Screen’ – To select, reject, consider or group. 


‘Screen’ – To shelter, protect or conceal.

Ergo, the FMS precludes or gives the green light to loading movement patterns. It doesn’t replace a good assessment, wherein one can ascertain precisely where to start a trainee on their movement journey by identifying and addressing their weakness – particularly if their current place on this continuum falls well before even getting into the starting position for some of these movements.


In sum.

Whether to do an FMS or other assessment protocol is not an either/or thing. It’s not that one is superior/one is worse. They are all different and many are valid. The FMS is an additional tool alongside other objective assessments to use with generally-athletic types. Assessments, however, are critical for everybody’s programming, and selecting a relevant and applicable battery of assessments is an important first step. For many of my trainees, the FMS is inappropriate, yet for many more, the FMS is a useful adjunct.

Would you or your local sports team like to book in for a Functional Movement Screen in Chichester & Sussex? 

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