The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) has, for some god-known reason, become a contentious topic in strength and conditioning. This week, social media has been full of comments in a relation to a master’s thesis published in 2014 that reported higher FMS scores in injured runners, ridiculous comments like ‘another nail in the coffin for the FMS.’ If that doesn’t statement doesn’t scream confirmation bias then I don’t know what does. It’s disappointed me that many of these narrow minded comments have come from peers in the industry for whom I have massive respect.
Do you even know what the FMS is?
If you know me, you’ll know that I dislike the FMS. However, at least I’ve given FMS the respect to try and understand what it is and what it does. How many of the people berating the FMS for not being able to predict injury or performance can say the same?
Seek to understand before being understood
Listening to an IronRadio podcast last week, their guest Nick Tuminello said something that really speaks true here.
“If you’re seeking to debate with someone, you need to understand where they’re coming from…”
“…you should at least be able to summarise their key point or argument”
Can you state what the FMS claims to be or what the FMS claims to do?
What is the FMS?
As the FMS is the baby of Gray Cook, he’s probably best placed to tell you what the FMS is and what it claims to do. Here’s a link to the first part of podcast double-header he featured on with RDella training and to his book, Movement.
Here are some of my key take-homes from Gray Cook…
As outlined in Movement:
- The FMS aims to provide ‘a standard operating procedure for movement-pattern appraisal.’
- It’s an ‘objective system to rate and rank problematic information.’
- It is proposed that you ‘Screen movement patterns before for you train them. Training poor movement patterns reinforces poor quality and creates greater risk of injury.’
From the podcast:
- FMS is about ‘checking a non-failure box’.
- Establishing competency at one level is the best way to reduce the risk of failure at higher levels. My example – most employers will ask for GSCE’s in English and Maths to evidence literacy and numeracy skills. This doesn’t make you any better at doing the job, but should ensure that everyone meets the base level that will be required.
- The FMS ‘score’ is irrelevant – it just means you can categorise and prioritise.
- The FMS is not a test or an assessment, it’s a screen. Gray’s example – recognising a fever is a screen, measuring a fever (i.e. temperature) is a test, diagnosing where the fever came from and what to do about it is an assessment.
So, the FMS is a movement screen
I guess that the clue is in the name, isn’t it? The point of the FMS is to determine if an individual is able to perform certain ‘fundamental’ movements without dysfunction. If their movement patterns are good, do we need to go down the ‘rabbit holes’ of testing mobility and motor control? Probably not. However, if movement patterns are bad then we probably should be. As mobility tests are pretty reliable, we can then either rule in or rule out mobility as a problem before then attempting to address motor control if we need to.
It’s a common language
If you had to name a movement screen, I have no doubt that the FMS would top the list. Therefore when we need to centralise and pool athlete data, rightly or wrongly, the FMS is the natural choice. Research suggests that the both the inter- and intra-coach reliability of the screen is pretty good too.
What isn’t the FMS?
- The FMS does not claim to be a predictor of injury
Just because you score a 10 on the FMS, it doesn’t mean you’ll get injured. Just because you get behind the wheel of a car three times over the limit, doesn’t mean you’ll have a crash. I still wouldn’t fancy either though…
- The FMS does not claim to be a predictor of performance
I can’t think of any sport where the technical execution of a fundamental movement pattern is key determinant of performance. In the presence of dysfunction athletes will work out a way of getting the job done even if it’s not ideal or the most effective strategy.
- The FMS does not claim to be the only way you need to ‘screen’
I’ve touched on this before in my ‘break them down’ article. Once competency in fundamental patterns has been established, you need to move on and challenge these patterns.
So why don’t I like the FMS?
- I write my own material
The FMS is a pretty nice catch-all movement screen that should cover all types of athletes and general population clients. It’s a bit like a bland ragu sauce designed to not offend anyone’s taste. If I’m formally screening then the recipe I create will be tailored to their pallet. Sure, I’m probably going to have a ‘soffritto’ style base of onion, carrot and celery (i.e. squat movement, single leg movement, etc.) but I’ll make it in a way that suits my style of cooking and hits everything my athlete needs.
- It’s not efficient
The FMS, on its own, is seven screens… and then you have break-off screens. This takes a decent chunk of time, particularly if you’re working with a group of athletes. Naturally, not all of these tests are appropriate for everyone. There far are more efficient ways of formally screening. The closest I’d get to an ‘industry recognised’ screening process would be the NASM’s overhead squat and single leg squat protocol. Having worked and contracted for a number of large organisations, I’ve had to do FMS screening en mass on far too many occasions and takes away precious time when we could be training.
- Training = screening
Yes, formalised screening definitely has its place (something else I’ve written about!), but all training should be thought of as screening. I feel that people have become too reliant on the FMS as the only tool by which to assess movement dysfunction.
FMS has become a brand and brands need to make money. Therefore, if you want the branded FMS screening kit it’ll set you back over £100. That’s £100 for some plastic planks, rods and tubing. This annoys me greatly. Especially as you don’t need equipment to do a movement screen.
There’s my two cents worth on the FMS. It’s important that we at least understand something before we make a decision whether or not to disagree with it. Hopefully you now understand enough about my views on the FMS to work out whether you disagree with them or not!