The Functional Movement Experience

May 14, 2019

By: James Goodwin, PTA, CSCS

Do what you love…

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with movement, starting as a young athlete from New Hampshire to playing D1 athletics at Syracuse University and later pursuing soccer professionally in Norway. As my playing years ended, I continued my pursuit of the human body as a physical therapist assistant, performance specialist, and top tier soccer coach. Movement assessment is not only my passion but an integral part of my profession. I recently attended a four-day certification course in Boston called the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Here, I learned a system that helps rehab and performance specialists identify movement dysfunction and multi-directional asymmetries.

The FMS began in the mid-90s where Gray Cook (co-founder) and Lee Burton (co-founder) wanted a better way to rate and rank movement patterns in high school athletes. Over the years, the information gathered by Gray Cook and colleagues broadened our scope of corrective exercise, performance training and rehabilitation. This system is now used all over the world for both the general population and various sport settings including the NFL combine and Liverpool Football Club in England, one of the top soccer organizations in the world.

Movement Assessment 101

  • Need an organized system to assess movement
  • Must have a starting point and system of measuring movement
  • We don’t need an injury prediction tool or return to activity outcome scale
  • We need a system that helps guide our programs
    • Clear up confusion
    • Confident and individualized programming
  • Our goal is to optimize movement, so we need to establish a baseline

What is the FMS…

The FMS is comprised of seven movement tests that require a balance of mobility and stability. Each movement provides valuable information such as imbalances, weaknesses, asymmetries and limitations that can be used as a tool in the overall assessment of one’s movement. They are scored as follows: 0 = pain, 1 = unable to perform movement, 2 = able to perform movement with compensations, 3 = able to perform movement without compensations. The entire screen takes only 10 minutes to administer.

Deep Squat

Hurdle Step

In-Line Lunge

Shoulder Mobility

Active Straight-Leg Raise (ASLR)

Trunk Stability Push-up

Rotary stability

*In addition to the seven tests, there are three clearing tests involving the shoulder and back (extension and flexion) which are scored with a negative (no pain) or positive (pain).


These basic movement patterns are broken into two groups called the BIG THREE (deep squat, hurdle step and in-line lunge) and the LITTLE FOUR (shoulder mobility, ASLR, trunk stability push-up and rotary stability). Dysfunction in the little four is the vocal point of every screen because these movements directly contribute to the performance of the big three. More specifically, the big three are functional patterns while the little four are divided into mobility (shoulder and ASLR) and motor control (trunk stability and rotary stability). This is important because when we look at the corrective strategy algorithm, we use the following: Mobility à Motor Control à Functional Patterning. Once we work from the bottom à up, we then load to “lock in” the optimal movement!

The purpose of the screen

The body tends to take the path of least resistance which may not be the most optimal. The FMS looks at fundamental patterns within the stages of human growth and development that do not come from exercise or athletics. The screen stablishes a foundation of movement health, symmetry and function – setting a baseline for fundamental movement competency. The primary goal is not to just set a baseline, but to quickly identify pain or limitations that need to be addressed accordingly. If pain is present, then the client is appropriately referred to a healthcare professional such as a skilled physical therapist to address and evaluate the root of the pain. Pain changes our biomechanics (how we move) and should NOT be overlooked. Here at FPTS we have a strong network of highly experienced physical therapists that can properly evaluate and diagnose the cause of the pain, helping you get back to your fabulous self! Once we find the greatest deficiency or asymmetry (i.e., score of 1s or 2/3s, respectively), we can then design an individualized program that gets you off the path of least resistance and onto the path of optimal movement.

Let’s clear up some myths

The FMS is a screen, NOT a single assessment that tells why a dysfunction or faulty movement


pattern exists. It is a tool to quickly and efficiently measure someone’s movement competency – how well they move in functional patterns.

The FMS is NOT an injury predictor. Coupled with appropriate orthopedic or functional assessments as well as the Y-Balance Test, however, the FMS is a great tool to see the BIG picture when assessing movement.

Another common myth regarding the FMS is the concept of symmetry. It is true that we are all asymmetrical in nature and trying to reach perfect symmetry is not possible or desirable. Many might think the FMS seeks the latter, however, “symmetry” sought in the FMS is a symmetry of score not precise measurement. According to the Functional Movement Systems, “Individual variance is built in to the FMS.” In other words, one might be off a few inches or degrees within a movement on either side but still receive symmetrical scores of 2’s or 3’s. We are looking to optimize movement not strive for perfect symmetry.

Who is the FMS for and what FPTS can offer YOU

The screen is recommended for those who are finishing up physical therapy, coming off an acute or chronic injury, or those looking to return to their daily lives or sport activities. The FMS provides an efficient, practical and reliable picture of how well you move. We can then use results from the screen to design an individualized program that not only corrects your imbalances but develops your strengths. Remember, your body will take the most efficient path which is generally not the most optimal. The FMS helps us spot these common compensations and guide you down the correct path. Family Physical Therapy Services not only offers the FMS but also provides FREE injury screens by skilled physical therapists as well as additional assessments to provide a complete approach to how we assess movement. So, if you are looking to return to the gym, lift your granddaughter up again, or return to your desired sport, then give us a call today! We can help you achieve the BEST you!



“Functional Movement Systems.” Course Manual. 2018.



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