What is the Functional Movement Screen?

Want to perform better, move effortlessly, and prevent injuries? For anyone active, these seem like ideal goals. The Functional Movement Screen is a series of movement screens that assess how your body moves when not injured. It demonstrates opportunities for improved body movement with training.

The Functional Movement Screen screens seven different fundamental movement patterns. FMS places individuals in extreme positions where deficits in stability and mobility become apparent. Suppose you are an individual performing an activity or sport at a high caliber. Often, regardless of level, there are limitations in fundamental movements holding you back from taking it to the next level.

Why does it matter if my fundamental movements aren’t great?

To be able to perform at the top of your game or participate in activities, you require a certain amount of movement from your body to be able to complete tasks. If you are limited in your fundamental movement, you compensate by using muscles not meant for specific tasks. This type of muscle compensation is called compensatory movements, and this can lead to poor biomechanics, limitations in performance, injury, and body breakdown. The best way to stay injury-free and healthy is by using the correct muscles for the right jobs.

The seven-movement patterns and what they are screening:

  1. Deep Squat – This movement pattern challenges the stability and control of your entire body. Core, hips, knees, and ankles to perform your squat and your shoulders for overhead movement.
  2. Hurdle Step – This movement pattern challenges the step and stride mechanics that makeup locomotion and acceleration. It tests the stability of single-leg balance.
  3. Inline Lunge – This movement is excellent for assessing spinal stabilization. The positioning of this movement pattern is similar to deceleration, rotation, and lateral movements.
  4. Shoulder Mobility – This movement looks at the rhythm of the scapular-thoracic region and assesses the shoulder range of motion for thoracic spine mobility.
  5. Active Straight Leg Raise – This pattern screens how well the lower extremities can work together in different motions while maintaining core stability and control. 
  6. Trunk Stability Push Up – This pattern screens core stabilization. It looks at how well you can stabilize your spine.
  7. Rotary Stability – This movement pattern is complex and requires coordination of the upper and lower extremities to provide stabilization when weight shifting. 


To pass the screenings, you must perform the movement patterns without any compensatory movements noted. Pain, poor mechanics, or the inability to perform the movement pattern are all causes for loss of points in the screening. When the person proctoring the FMS test notices deficits in movement patterns, they prescribe specific training exercises to improve the movement pattern and help to prevent injuries down the line. Once the movement patterns are corrected, additional testing and training can be established.

Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.