Functional Movement Screen

By Optimum Strength on June 29, 2015 - Category: Assessment , FMS , Movement , Screening

The Functional Movement Screen, or FMS, was designed by physiotherapist Gray Cook and colleagues as a simple method for appraising fundamental human movement quality, determining areas of limitation, deficiency, or asymmetry which require further assessment, and separating painful and non-painful positions.

At its simplest the FMS asks: Can you get you’re joints into the optimal position to be able to produce and absorb force?

It makes up a big part of my new client assessment, and helps to guide my programming choices.


The FMS is comprised of 7 basic movements, which require a balance of mobility and stability in those particular patterns.

4 fundamental movements:

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Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR) – Shoulder Mobility (SM – Rotary Stability (RS) – Trunk Stability Push Up (TSPU)

And 3 higher level movements:

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Inline Lunge (ILL) – Hurdle Step (HS) – Deep Squat (DS)

You get 3 attempts to complete each movement, and your proficiency on each movement is given a score out of 3.


A score of 3 is a flawless test. Perfect, good to go.

A 2 indicates a completed test, but with some level of compensation. This is the minimum standard required for you to train that pattern effectively, if you can get symmetrical 2’s across all of the moves, you are good to go.

A 1 is a warning sign, the participant could not achieve the correct joint position, or there was too much compensation. This means we need to do some more investigating to determine what may be causing the limitations: is it a mobility restriction: the joint can’t access a desired range of motion? Or is it a motor control issue which requires the right positional and sensory input? And then set about correcting these issues.

A score of 0 on any movement is a red flag, meaning there was pain experienced in some part of the set-up or movement. In this case the participant would need to consult a physiotherapist or appropriate health professional for deeper evaluation of the causes of the pain, and appropriate treatment.

What to do once you have a score?


Do you have the movement competency – being at least symmetrical 2’s? Then progress through learning the technique – deadlift progressions. Then train your capacity in that pattern – add plates to the bar, add reps, or make it more explosive.

If you were to score a 1, then further investigation would be needed to determine if it is a mobility, or motor control issue. It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t train, it just means you need to be smarter about your programming, work on addressing the weak link while still training non-related patterns.

The importance of these movement patterns shouldn’t be underestimated, as they evolve into any of the movements you will ever perform, not just in training but in life:

Active Straight Leg Raise – Hip hinging, deadlifting, explosive kettle-bell and Olympic lifts.
Shoulder Mobility – Upper body pushing and pulling movements.
Rotary Stability – Locomotive movements, like crawling > walking > running > sprinting.
Trunk Stability Push Up – Anti-extension movements, which covers just about everything.
In Line Lunge – Decelerating while walking and running, lunging, single leg supported stance movements.
Hurdle Step – Accelerating during running, getting up stairs or hills, single leg unsupported stance movements.
Deep Squat – Squatting patterns, even the rowing machine at the gym falls into the squatting pattern.

Do you have the competency of these fundamental movements to then train, add capacity, and progress to developing advanced skill movements that the body is capable of?

As the above performance pyramid illustrates you need a “buffer zone” of available movement, to then build performance and skill on top of.

So you may love deadlifting, or doing pull ups, or running. But shouldn’t you check to make sure that you can competently assume the requisite joint positions to know that you are not relying on compensations to get around any issues? Because any compensation is costing you, whether it be in reduced performance output, or increased nervous system demand, and hence increased recovery time, or deteriorating structural elements potentially leading to injury, perhaps serious.

The FMS is the first level of screening. If you can clear, pain free, symmetrical 2’s for all of these basic human movements, then it’s time for performance testing, quantifying your output capacity, and assessing your skill/technique proficiency. Next performance outcome goal and habit setting. Then, it’s time to get to work, developing your fitness capacities and specific skills, all while maintaining and expanding your movement competencies.

Gary Cook has famously said: “First move well, then move often.” Perhaps we could then add, move faster and stronger.

If you would like to know more about the FMS, the screen and the principles behind it, or to book in for a consultation and screen you can contact me here.

To find out more about Functional Movement Systems visit