Functional Movement Screen - Friend or Foe?

Written by Robb Roger M.Ed., CSCS, MSCC FMS

The Functional Movement Screen has gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of years.  Many people have embraced it whole heartedly while others have disregarded its use and effectiveness.  Much of the concern is due to miscommunication and misunderstanding of what the screen is, the concept behind the assessment process and the key principle applied in the correction process. 

The screen is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.  The Functional Movement Screen is designed to uncover flawed compensation patterns in movement as people bend, rotate and extend in the basic movements of everyday life, the same movements as those used in everyday movement as well as competition.  That reason alone is why the screen is done when the client is not warmed-up and is also why the individual is coached to line up the hips, knees and ankles in many of the tests.  In Gray Cooks’ words, “this (joint alignment) takes the slack out of the system” and allows the flawed compensations to become more readily apparent. 

The concept behind individual assessment before beginning exercise prescription is an application of a principal that is universal when addressing the needs of today’s population, whether it is a competitive athlete, a desk jockey or a soccer mom.  The training and preparation of clients and athletes has fundamentally changed.  If the weaknesses in rudimentary movement patterns are not discovered, how can we accurately address the needs of the individuals we are charged with training and rehabilitating?  If improper movement patterns are allowed to continue, then all the training in the world will not overcome basic movement flaws.  Remember, practice does not make perfect – only perfect practice makes perfect.  The athlete or client that is unable to execute a quality squat and is allowed/forced to continue to squat will become a strong, crappy squatter.

The key to the entire process/concept is the prescription of individualized corrective exercises in order to enhance muscular strengthening, neuromuscular activation, neural recruitment patterns and/or muscle suppleness via stretching and mobilization.  For some individuals this may be only 10-15% of their training/preparation program.  For others, this may be up to 50, 60, even 75% or more of their beginning exercise prescription.  In the case of acute post-surgical patients this may even approach 100% of their training.  These exercises, done as part of the warm-up routine or in addition to or in place of the normal training program will allow the client to re-train, rehab and re-awaken the body’s normal movement patterns.   This will lead to better quality movement, decreased chance of injury as well as improved performance.  

As you learn more about the screening and assessment process and begin to apply the concept of functional movement evaluation to the training and rehabilitation process, the need becomes readily apparent for such a tool.  After screening as few as 50 people, the practitioners’ eye becomes more keenly sharpened, quickly aware of the common movement maladies that strike our mostly sedentary population.  Over a few short weeks of applying the corrective exercises, the ability to catalogue and correct symptoms such as pain, soreness, tightness and stiffness becomes second nature.  A coach or personal trainer may utilize the Functional Movement Screen upon first meeting the client, while the athletic trainer or physical therapist may apply the screen post rehab in order to assess return to normal function. 

As the concept begins to take shape in your system of training and rehabilitation, it is easy to use the following table as we examine the movement patterns of our clients and athletes. 

  • Pain = Send the client/athlete for further diagnosis/evaluation/rehab
  • Can not cleanly execute the pattern or assymetrical = Corrective Exercises
  • Can cleanly execute the pattern = Train the Pattern

Pretty simple concept, yet profound in it’s’ application. 


Robb Roger M.Ed., CSCS, MSCC

With over 25 years of coaching experience Robb is an authority on performance training.  From club sports to professional teams, Robb has coached athletes of every level.  From the University of Missouri, Southern Cal and Baylor University to the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, Robb has enjoyed many varied experiences.

Robb is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA Weightlifting and is a Certified Master Strength and Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.  He has received the Training & Conditioning magazine Comeback Athlete Rehab Team award, the University of Southern California Football Spirit Award and been honored by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as the 1996 Southwest Conference Coach of the year and the 1996 National Coach of the Year. 

Robb’s been published in numerous journals and magazines and is a member of the Perform Better Seminar Team.  Robb is also involved with, a free web based education site.  He has presented at national conventions, business meetings, camps, clinics and seminars since 1985 and was most recently strength coach to the 2007 Hula Bowl.  Robb’s home base is St. Vincent Sports Performance, the Midwest destination place for performance training, in Indianapolis, IN.

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