What is the Functional Movement Screen?

The Functional Movement Screen is a screening tool to help you move better. Comprising seven movement patterns placing the individual in extreme positions where movement deficits become apparent to the trained therapist. The FMS screen does not diagnose orthopedic problems; it demonstrates areas of the body that, with improved attention and work, could be performed with greater efficiency and less compensatory movements. Those seeking a Functional Movement Screen do not have any current pain or injury but are looking to become stronger, more flexible, and move with greater ease. What’s your Functional Movement Screening score?

Most high-level athletes are taken through the FMS multiple times throughout their careers. Even with functioning at a high level, fundamental movement patterns can be missing that may lead to altered or compensatory movements. While the individual may be able to “get by” for the time being, continued and prolonged poor biomechanics may lead to injury and limit the performance of the individual.

Scoring the FMS

The scoring for the FMS is broken down into a simple scoring system, where the higher the score, the better the movement. The top score, a 3, indicates that the individual can perform the movement without compensation according to the criteria. A zero, the lowest score, is given when the individual has pain during any part of the movement. Throughout the screening of the seven movements, a perfect score would be 21, considering both the left and right sides. A score less than 14 indicates a higher risk of sustaining an injury due to poor body mechanics and movements. Let’s find your Functional Movement Screening score.

The 7 Movement Patterns

We will now go through the seven movement patterns of the FMS screen.

1. Deep squat

The individual is asked to perform a deep squat with arms overhead, holding a long dowel. This movement pattern looks at full body mechanics. To perform the deep squat, there needs to be stability and mobility of the pelvis, core, hips, knees, and ankles. At the same time, the dowel overhead requires stability and mobility of the shoulders and thoracic spine.

2. Hurdle step

This movement pattern asks the individual to step over a hurdle while steadying a dowel behind the head. This pattern examines stability and motor control in the pelvis, core, hip, knee, and ankle throughout locomotion and acceleration. It even challenges motor control while demonstrating single-leg balance.

3. Inline Lunge

The individual gets into tall kneeling and places the dowel vertically behind the back. The placement of the body in this test recreates the natural reciprocal body demands and stresses during rotation, lateral movements, and deceleration. This screen helps to shed some light on the body’s ability to slow down, such as in sports like basketball and tennis, or activities, such as gardening or getting down on the floor to be with children.

4. Shoulder Mobility

Testing shoulder mobility requires the individual to try and touch fingers behind the body, with one arm coming from on top and the other from the bottom. The thoracic spine and shoulder/scapular region must work well together in this position to allow for shoulder mobility. Shoulder mobility is critical to many daily activities and sports performance. If both sides are not moving well, it can affect everything from your running efficiency, tennis game, or even injury susceptibility when lifting weights.

5. Active Straight leg raise

This pattern looks at flexibility and core stability. The lower extremities have to work separately from one another on this screen. With this screen, the individual lies on the floor and lifts one leg to see how far it can go while maintaining form. Like many daily activities, our bodies need to be able to perform single leg movements independent of one another.

6. Trunk stability push up

A push-up is performed for this screen. Core stabilization is key to this screening. The individual must lift the body as a whole from the floor, and grading criteria are based on body alignment when performing the screening movement. Good trunk stability is key to many daily movements and popular gym workouts such as kettlebells and lifting. Improper core stabilization may lead to compensatory movements.

7. Rotary Stability

The screening movement for this is a more complex movement that requires both the use of the upper and lower extremities. It requires high-level neuromuscular control and the ability to move limbs independently of one another. In this screen, you are quadruped (on hands and knees and moving the same side upper and lower extremity into a flexed position.) Being able to control and move the limbs is key to high performance on this movement screen.

The Results of the FMS

What’s your Functional Movement Screening score? After completing the screen, it is time to analyze the movement data. Five patterns require bilateral testing; the side with the lower score is recorded for that movement. Three screens also have clearing tests associated with them that are pass/fail. They look at specific movement patterns and if the pain is present when performing the movement. If the individual fails a clearing test, they automatically receive a zero for that screen.

Working with a therapist to improve your scores after the screening is essential. Any score under a perfect 21 means there are areas to improve mobility and stability. Focusing on areas not moving well can help reduce the chance of injury and compensatory movements. Each movement involved in the screening examines different areas of the body. Depending on what caused the reduced score for the movement during the screen, it can be addressed with flexibility or strengthening exercises specific to the individual’s needs. It’s like going for a scheduled oil change or a yearly check-up with your doctor. You don’t go in because of a problem; you go in to keep everything running efficiently and prevent problems.

Looking to find out how well your body works and where there is room to improve? Call and schedule your Functional Movement Screen with our FMS-certified physical therapists. Take the first step in helping to prevent injury and pain down the road and move more efficiently.​

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.