Why We Use The Functional Movement Screen (FMS)?


part 1

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a screening tool that looks at seven fundamental body weight movement patterns in those with no current pain complaint or orthopedic injury. The FMS is not intended to diagnose orthopedic problems, but instead an objective screening tool used to identify an individual's weakest link(s) as it relates to fundamental mobility and stability compared to quantitative & qualitative normative data.

The weakest link will always be our limiting factor & the strength of any chain is always determined by the weakest link. 

Why? Because weak links expose us to movement inefficiency or "energy leaks". Basically, weak links make our own muscles work against us rather than work for us to produce movement. 

It's been known for awhile now that the inefficient use of compensation during movement will lead to poor biomechanics which limits gains in training & exposes us to injury.

Poor movement patterns also reduces the body's ability to remain adaptable and durable against any physical or sedentary environment.  


To capture this, the screen is designed to place an individual into challenging positions where movement compensation & left-right asymmetries become noticeable to the human eye if fundamental mobility & stability are lacking.

For example, muscle flexibility, basic strength imbalances, or movement compensation due to previous injury are all acknowledged as significant risk factors for injury. In many cases, the FMS will identify these issues that may be overlooked during standard medical and performance testing.


Even though individuals are performing at a high level in their respective sport or activity, it has been observed that these individuals still have difficulty expressing fundamental body weight movement patterns.  This leads to the use of compensatory movements in order to achieve or maintain the level of performance their activity of choice requires. The presence of these imbalances have been shown to be correlated with higher injury rates.

The FMS has been effectively used to identify these imbalances in both everyday people that just want to exercise to feel good as well as those trying to take their bodies to the next level of performance.

Given its practical & scientific credibility the FMS is one of the tools we use in our movement wellness service to carry out Core Principle 2: "Move Well. Move Often"


part 2: History, process, & evidence

Interestingly enough, the screen started out being used with high school athletes. Because of its systematic process & scientific respect it was adopted into elite professional organizations such as the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), the United States Military, and now in The English Premier League (EPL) Soccer organizations in Europe like Manchester United.


Within the FMS, there is a systemic process for addressing the stand-out movement asymmetries and restrictions identified by the screen. Built into the FMS process there is a hierarchy checklist which prioritizes which fundamental movement deficiencies should be addressed before others. Once the priority movement(s) have been objectively identified, we can be more focused and specific with both our corrective exercise & activity modification suggestions.

An often overlooked principle of the FMS process is Core Principle 3: Protect. Correct. Develop. You can read more about it, but the bottom line is:

When trying to optimize any aspect of health we first need to remove negatives before trying to add positives.

A good offense starts with a solid defense.

Just know that improving movement quality is not all about giving people a list of stretches & corrective exercises hoping that it will undue poor lifestyle habits like poor sleep, hydration, exercise choices, or questionable ergonomic setups.

This is discussed in further detail as it relates to pain in "Pain to Wellness- Is it You or Your Environment?"

We've found that sometimes the most powerful "corrective" is eliminating an unnecessary exercise or two.

Recent scientific evidence is consistently suggesting that if movement risk factors -mobility & stability deficiency - can be identified and addressed using the FMS system, then decreases in non-impact injuries and improved performance should follow assuming that training is being executed appropriately. 

Recent literature has also shown that individuals who do NOT demonstrate significant asymmetries and movement deficiency in the FMS are LESS likely to miss work, practice, a game, or training due to pain or a non-impact injury when compared to those with significant movement deficiency.

If you dive into some of the research that questions the FMS's "injury prevention" ability, some studies found that athletes with better scores actually had a higher injury rate. How? The simple answer is that the better players move better and played more thus had a lot more exposure to playing time. The FMS is only a piece of the puzzle and just because you move well by the FMS standards doesn't mean you are injury proof.

Let's clarify something that is often misunderstood when injury prevention research is discussed: the concept of Correlation vs. Causation. The research is telling us that these movement risk factors are correlated to people missing out due to non-traumatic injury. So, your chances are higher if these risk factors are present. It is NOT saying that these movement risk factors are causing the injury.

We obviously can't prevent all injuries, for example the injury rate in the NFL is 100%, yet the FMS helps to take basic movement limitations off the table as a contributing factor - you can use the term "injury management" instead of "injury prevention". It is very difficult in medical research to prove a "cause and effect" relationship especially when variables like more exposure to game play situations complicate the research. 

This is similar to how we can't say that you're going to get a heart attack just because you have high blood pressure & high cholesterol, even though these risk factors have been strongly correlated to heart disease. 

It basically comes down to identifying and professionally managing risk factors that have been highly correlated with certain health problems. 

A common question we often get about the FMS is:

"what if an individual has pain during the screen?"

We will then simply proceed into an Orthopedic exam & The Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). The SFMA is a whole body diagnostic system designed to provide an efficient process for systematically breakdown movement patterns to find the cause of the client's complaint. This provides us with insight of both a medical & functional diagnosis.


For more information about the Functional Movement Screen visit www.FunctionalMovement.com


Ramez Antoun