Coastal Connection Blog

Langley, Walnut Grove and Surrey's constant source of quality information in the Personal Training, Fat Loss, Strength and Conditioning, Fitness and Nutrition fields.

What the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) Can Do For You

by Andre​w Heming

Want to burn fat, build some lean, defined muscle, get in shape and feel great? Who doesn't?! To get to these results, most folks just hop right into things. As a result, many of them end up like Sarah.

Sarah's Sad Story

Like most folks, Sarah didn't get a Functional Movement Screen before she started training. Instead she just jumped right into hard training. Like most people, Sarah had some issues with her movement, but everything was fine – at first. However, what Sarah didn't realize was that her body was compensating for her movement dysfunctions.

Her first issue was with her squatting. Sarah was smart and knew that squats were a great exercise to build lean, attractive legs. However, what she didn't know was that her ankles didn't bend forward properly after years of wearing high heeled shoes. Her body was smart and knew that since her ankles didn't bend all the way they should, she could get the extra knee motion from lifting her heels off the ground and shooting her knees forward. As a result, every rep of squatting she did put extra and unnecessary stress on her knees. She soon had to give up squatting due to knee pain.

Sarah also had issues at her hamstrings. Despite the fact that she religiously stretched them, her hamstrings were chronically tight. What Sarah didn't know was that the reason her hamstrings were tight is that she lacked stability in her core. Her body knew this and to deal with her body locking up her hamstrings to try to create stability for her. The more she stretched her hamstrings, the more her body locked them up. This gave Sarah problems with here kettlebell swings. She knew this was a fantastic way to burn fat and sculpt her glutes and hamstrings. However, she was getting back pain because her low back had to bend to make up for the lack of hamstring range of motion.

Now, Sarah is frustrated. She knows the exercises she needs to do to reach her goals. However, she can't squat because of knee pain and she can't swing because of back pain. She now moves on to less effective exercises, but still struggles because she has never addressed her underlying movement dysfunctions.

The sad thing about Sarah's story is that it happens all the time in gyms all over the world. People just want to burn some fat, and get in shape but keep getting hurt on the best exercises to build the bodies they want. The good news is that this story doesn't have to be your story.

Here at Coastal Fitness, we are committed to providing you with the most effective training programs to help you reach your goals. Part of our process is to do a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) on all new members and to re-screen as we take you through your fitness journey. Our philosophy is simple – first you need to move well. Once you can move well, then you can safely and effectively crank up your training and build the body you always wanted.

FMS 101

The Functional Movement Screen presents you with 7 basic human movements (and three clearing tests) and checks to see if you can do these movements.

FMS is a time-efficient, research-supported screening tool that allows us to quickly place you into one of the following 3 categories:

  • Acceptable Screen - Cleared to be active without increased risk
  • Unacceptable Screen - potentially at risk for injury unless movement patterns are improved
  • Pain with Screening - currently injured, requiring more advanced movement and physical assessment of potentially underlying orthopedic health issues and should be checked by Darren our Athletic Therapist.

I'm already strong, fit and athletic, so who cares if I do not do well on the FMS?

It doesn't matter if you are strong and fit but you can't train because you are hurt. Many fit, athletic people have an incredible ability to compensate. As a result, they perform at a high level despite their dysfunctions. However, when you compensate, you put extra stress on certain areas of your body that will likely wear down and get you injured.

How long will it take?

A screen takes about 10 minutes.

Why are the tests so weird? (e.g. squat with toes straight ahead, lunge with your feet inline)

These movements are not trying to replicate exercises we do in the gym or sports skills. Instead, these movements put you into even more challenging positions to help catch problems that might be hidden in easier positions.

If I have issues, does that mean I can't train?

Issues with the FMS does not mean that you have to feel like a physiotherapy patient for the next 6 months. Instead, it simply means that if you can't do a movement, we work on fixing that movement pattern before we load and train the movement pattern. For example, if you can't squat, but you can lunge, you can still use lunges to train your legs while you work on your squat issues.

Does improving my FMS score mean I will have better performance?

In theory yes, but this is not validated by research. It may improve your performance, or it may not. The key thing about movement is it is your foundation. If you move well, you can safely do the training you need to do to improve your performance.

Do I have to warm-up first?

No! Do not warm-up, foam roll or stretch first. FMS should be done cold. You want to see where your body is naturally at. You can however re-do some of the tests to check the effectiveness of your warm-up, as a good warm-up should improve your movement quality.

What do I wear?

Non-restrictive athletic clothes and athletic shoes.

What do the scoring numbers mean?

0 = pain – this means we send you to therapy for further orthopedic assessment (yes, you need to be honest with us and let us know if you experience pain during any of the movements).

1 = cannot do the movement – this means we have some corrective exercise work to do.

2 = pass –this means you can do the movement – with some compensation. 2's are okay, but there is room for improvement, but we can train 2's.

3 = rock – this means you can do the movement properly.

What is a good score?

The FMS is scored out of 21. Research shows that a score lower than 14 may have a higher likelyhood to get injured. A good goal is to get no 0's, no 1's and no asymmetries (i.e. different score on one side of the body vs. the other) – all of which increase your risk for injury.

Has anyone aced it?

Yes, but that is not necessarily the goal.

How do I get a better score?

We will integrate the necessary corrective strategies in your program to improve your FMS score.

In Conclusion

I'll close with a quote from FMS co-founder Gray Cook: First move well, then move often.


This material has been adapted from the FMS certification courses and related DVD's by Functional Movement Systems.

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Disclaimer: Specific results may vary from person to person.