Functional Movement Screen

by Dan Cenidoza, CSCS, RKC, AKC, CK-FMS

"The Functional Movement Screen is the foundation of our program. Everything we do builds off of it. We couldn't imagine not using this program." - Joe Torine, Head Strength Coach, Indianapolis Colts

Part of every initial assessment I do with personal training clients is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS was developed by Gray Cook, MSPT, OSC, CSCS and Lee Burton, PhD, ATC, CSCS. The best way I can describe the FMS is physical therapy test and protocol adapted to coaches and fitness professionals. It is designed to look at primitive movement patterns and identify any imbalances and asymmetries. It is also a tool to deem if people are fit for progressive strength training.

The FMS consists of 7 simple tests that every healthy human being should be able to do. It is not designed as a diagnostic tool and it is not meant for people with existing injury. It is designed to determine whether an individual should seek medical attention before commencing training. If any of the 7 movements cause pain, it is my responsibility to refer them to a sports medicine professional.

Pain in any of the movements result in a score of zero, otherwise it is a 3 point scale - 1 they were unable to do the movement, 2 they could do the movement with slight modification or compensation, 3 they could do the movement perfectly. Most healthy trainees average a score of 2. It is my understanding that the teams that employ the Functional Movement Screen in the NFL (Colts, Giants, Raiders, Bills, Bears, Packers) do not let players on the field unless they score a 2 or better with no asymmetries.

Asymmetries are most important in the FMS. Imagine what one tight hamstring or inactive hip flexor could do to the functioning of the hips over a long period of time. Your pelvis is going rotate and tilt to one side to compensate for a faulty movement pattern. Your pelvis is the base of your spine and the foundation for all of your vertebrae so it won't be long before your back is affected by your dysfunctional hips. Unbalanced hips could also negatively impact your knees, which could ultimately lead to ankle problems. Asymmetrical hips cause problems right up and down the chain which is why Brett Jones, CSCS, Master RKC calls the hips a "bad neighbor."

Of course functioning of the hips is just one aspect of human movement that the FMS Specialist looks at. We are trained to look at how the body moves as a whole. When it comes to personal training this perspective is invaluable. It is my responsibility as a personal trainer to address the needs (not just the wants) of my client. I know better than they do and I will do everything I can to help an individual reach their fitness goals but not at the expense of potentially injuring them.

"Prehab" is a popular term in fitness training these days. Instead of re-habilitating an injury most trainers seek to pre-habilitate their clients (probably because they are not qualified to rehabilitate). Unfortunately most attempts at prehab are shotgun approaches with cookie cutter exercises that may or may not be right for the client - a good guess at best and at worst a waste of time. The FMS allows the trainer to cut out the guesswork and prescribe the appropriate exercises and programming developed by individuals smarter than themselves (like I said, physical therapy adapted to the fitness professional).

The program is virtually idiot-proof with a near 100% success rate after you have spent the time and money to learn and practice it. Those individuals who are qualified to perform the movement screen can be found at and I would encourage anyone who is committed to health & fitness longevity to get screened. For trainers who are committed to providing the best service for their clients it is also in your best interest to get certified. I cannot speak highly enough about this program and what it has done for me and for those I train.