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Why We Use The FMS Movement Screen At Shaping Concepts

If there’s ever a downfall with a fitness trainer it’s the moment he or she thinks they’ve “got it” and stops striving to learn and get better at their profession.

Part of that process is questioning your own preconceived beliefs that may have been established in the classroom or from a certification text book.

If I’ve learned anything over all the years I’ve been in this industry it’s that in the “real world” things don’t always fit nice and neatly into a box. There’s simply no replacement for hands-on experience in the trenches working with people.

This isn’t to negate what we’ve been taught, but rather being open to challenging what we “think” we know. After all, the objective of any fitness professional should be to help others improve the quality of their lives.

When working with clients who have pain or movement limitations in some way, we want to avoid the temptation to isolate the muscle(s) we feel may be the “problem” and instead focus on function and movement.

This is exactly why we’ve integrated the FMS Movement Screen into our client screenings at Shaping Concepts.

More after the jump…

To preface this discussion, I want to give credit where it’s due to the coach who opened my eyes to the FMS Assessment and helped me to see how the Shaping Concepts TEAM could improve as a whole with its use.

I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to Joe McDevitt for all his leadership and work, not only integrating the FMS Movement Screen into our protocols, but also with selfishly sharing of his extensive knowledge and insight with myself and other team members.

What follows is some dialogue in an email to me where I feel Joe does an eloquent job of putting this in “big picture” perspective.

Instead of myself trying to expand on the benefits of the FMS Movement Screen, I figured I’d simply share this, as in all humbleness he communicates it better than I’d ever be able to.


I was going through some stuff tonight and came across this excerpt from Gray Cook’s book “Movement.” I thought I would share it with you and that you could pass it along to the rest of the team as it is some food for thought during training.

“Function versus Anatomy”

The FMS is a functional approach to movement rather than an anatomical approach. The anatomical approach follows basic kinesiology and is often complicated by assumptions in isolation.

We understand the assumptions. For instance, if knee extension is less than optimal in some movement patterns, we can target the knee extensors with exercise, giving isolated attention to restore the knee extension function.

Once restored, it will be incorporated automatically into the lacking movement pattern. The same could be said for isolated training of the rotator cuff with hopes of improving overall shoulder function. This is basic kinesiology, and it is clean and logical.

But what is basic about movement? Movement is varied and complex. A basic kinesiology approach to the knee extension problem fails on many levels as demonstrated by science and growth and development. Our simplistic observations may mislead us to handy solutions.

- What we view as weakness may be muscle inhibition.

- The weakness in a prime mover might be the result of a dysfunctional stabilizer.

- Poor function in an agonist may actually be problems with the antagonist.

- What we view as tightness may be protective muscle tone, guarding, and inadequate muscle coordination.

- What we see as bad technique might be the only option for the individual performing poorly selected exercises.

- What we see as low general fitness may be the extra metabolic demand produced by inferior neuromuscular coordination and compensation behavior.

Strengthening, stretching, extra coaching, and more exercise will not correct these problems. Making decisions on the surface observations is the medical equivalent of treating the symptom and not the cause.

Many professionals appreciate function and yet insist on an anatomical approach to exercise, training body parts instead of movement patterns.

We need to focus on movement patterns, letting body parts develop naturally, instead of zeroing in on body parts and expecting natural movement patterns to spontaneously emerge.” End excerpt.

Reference: Gray Cook – Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies

Here’s a link to the book from

The following is Joe’s comments and thoughts…

“The anatomical approach (or as I call it the Kinesiology 101 approach) is all to commonly relied on when exercise and fitness professionals (and even rehabilitation professionals) begin working with clients who are in pain or appear to have dysfunction (tightness, lack of mobility, lack of control/stability, weakness, etc.).

We immediately begin to make assumptions that this specific muscle (I will use the rotator cuff as an example as it seems to be very common) must be weak and therefore needs some strengthening exercises.

We know the cuff provides stability to the shoulder so we simply need to strengthen it (using the kinesiology 101 approach).

So we resort to our internal and external rotations using a theraband and may even throw in some shoulder raises in the scapular plane, because we know that the rotator cuff internally/externally rotates and abducts the shoulder when these muscles concentrically shorten.

We run with this approach for a few weeks and may even see some improvement, but this is usually temporary as we have failed to identify the initial problem.

The bottom line is that we cannot make assumptions with movement. It is simply too varied and complex.

If we think about the growth and development years of a baby and how baby went from a stage of little to no control movement to the point where it is walking and balancing on one foot, we can see how we learned to initially move.

The baby did not have coaching. The baby did not have specific sets and reps. The baby did not have clean exercises that focused on strengthening specific muscle groups and even specific movements.

Likewise the baby did not gain stability through holding planks for time or balancing on BOSU balls. The baby used natural progressions to establish control beginning at the head and moved its way through the core then extremities.

The baby went from being flat on its back to rolling into a prone position. He or she then went from prone on elbows to quadruped and from quadruped to kneeling and eventually went to standing and walking.

Within each of these progressions stability/control and strength were gained and allowed baby to advance. At the same time though, the baby also experienced failure with new progressions and went back (regressed) to what was already mastered until it was ready to progress again.

The baby went from a state of very little function to complete function all without isolating specific muscles with clean cut exercises and 20 different verbal cues. Baby initially learned to move on its own without the help of a movement professional.

Now I am not saying planned exercise is not necessary, as it is especially with sedentary individuals. Nor am I saying we should never isolate a muscle because that does have its place.

What I am saying is that when we are in the process of helping a client who moves poorly to move better we need to remember how we first learned to move.

Going through natural progressions with movement will keep us from missing important clues (list from excerpt) and becoming victims to the assumption game.

Also using these various developmental postures provides us a means of determining whether we are dealing with a mobility or control/stability issue as we further investigate the source of dysfunction.

This is where the Functional Movement Screen helps us as it allows an opportunity to appraise movement using a functional approach and keeps us from initially zeroing in on specific muscles that in most cases are actually the victims (not culprits) of poor movement.

At some point in our lives we all moved well, so it has already been programmed into our CNS. All we have to do as the fitness professionals is re-educate these clients. They have already learned it, we just have to help them find it.”

My comments:

I think this is spot on which is why I wanted to share it. While we’ve committed to the FMS Movement Screen at our Charleston personal training studio, I highly recommend other fitness professionals who are reading this post to investigate it and reflect for a moment on how they provide “corrective exercise” to their clients.

And of course let’s remember there are certainly situations where we should refer out to other health and medical professionals. After all our scope of practice doesn’t extend to being an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist.

Having said that, we can certainly help our clients by focusing more on movement and function, and less on isolating muscle(s) in attempts to “fix” problems.

Finally, I highly recommend reading anything you can get your hands on by Gray Cook and digging up whatever videos you can find. He’s a sharp guy who certainly knows his stuff when it comes to helping individuals move better and improve performance.

Keep learning and getting better ya’ll. We have the ability as fitness professionals to make significant positive impacts on the lives of others. That’s cool stuff and worth getting excited about when getting out of bed each morning.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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