Functional Movement Screening

The Functional Movement Screening was created in order to help identify areas in which an individual can improve their movement patterns. The screening involves 7 seemingly simple exercises that place an individual in somewhat exaggerated positions in order to expose limitations or deficits that could lead to injury or simply hinder performance.

If you are thinking about starting a weight training routine, then you might consider first completing a functional movement screening or FMS. However, even if you’ve been lifting weights for years you can still benefit from analyzing your personal limitations and movement patterns. Many elite and professional athletes are unable to score perfectly or even highly on all of these screenings. The goal of the screening is to establish the areas in which improvement may be needed the most or where an athlete may benefit from improvement the most.  

These screens are not meant to diagnose injury and should not be used on an individual currently in pain.  

The 7 Movement Patterns Are Further Broken into 3 Categories:

  • Functional Movement
    • Deep Squat
    • Hurdle Step
    • Incline Lunge
  • Fundamental Mobility
    • Shoulder Mobility
    • Active Straight Leg Raise
  • Fundamental Core Stability
    • Trunk Stability Push Up
    • Rotary Stability

For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the 3 Functional Movement Patterns.

  1. Deep Squat

The Deep Squat is performed with the instep of your foot in line with your shoulders and your toes pointed straight ahead. Using a dowel, place the dowel on your head and grip the dowel in the place where your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Push the dowel straight up overhead so that your arms are straight. Perform a squat as deep as you can go.


3. If you are able to perform this test, exactly as described above then you score a 3 and you are good to go!

2. If you were unable to complete the above, then try the same movement pattern, but with a small lift under the heels such as a two by four. If you can complete that then you have scored a 2. Produce with caution on your exercises and consider working mobility into your routine.

1. If you were unable to complete the deep squat with the compensation or had pain then you score a 1 and you should likely avoid loading this movement pattern until you can make mobility or stability improvements. Consider adding some of the exercises below to your routine.

Possible Implications:

It’s possible that if you are struggling to achieve the Deep Squat movement pattern you may have limited thoracic spine mobility, limited ankle dorsiflexion, poor knee flexion, or poor hip mobility. You may also struggle with stabilization or control.

Try These:

  • Open Book Thoracic Exercises
  • Ankle Circles
  • Toe/Heel Walks
  • Heel Slides
  • Knee to Chest Stretch
  • Core Strengthening
  • Reverse Patterning Squat
  • Work on Mobility with a Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer

2. Hurdle Step

Hurdle Step: Keep in mind that this photo purely depicts form and in order to truly complete the test you will need a rope to step over and a board.

Begin by measuring the distance from the floor to the tibial tuberosity (or the bony point just below the knee). Then an rope should be placed at that height with a board directly below the rope. Stand with your toes touching the board. Place a dowel on your back, and hold it like you are able to do a back squat. Then, flex your toes and lift your knee so that your leg goes up and over the rope. Tap your heel on the over side of the rope and return. Complete that 3 times on each side.


3. If you are able to do the above as described, then you score a 3 and you are good to go for single leg exercises. (Keep in mind that you may score differently on each side, and you should observe the side with the lower score).

2. If you can complete the above, but with some difficulty, wobbling, or slight deviation or the hips or heels to the side then you score a 2. If you score a two then proceed with caution and include more stability and mobility work in your routine.

1. If you are unable to perform the test, you fall, have pain, or cannot lift your leg over the rope, then you score a 1. You should avoid get up exercises or loaded single leg work.

Possible Implications:

If you struggle to perform this test then you may have limited single leg stability or limited mobility in the hips or knees.

Try These:

  • Half Turkish Get Ups
  • Half Kneeling Exercises
  • Single Leg Stance Work Unloaded
  • Double Leg Stance work on Unstable Surfaces
  • Hip Flexor Stretching
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Visiting a Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer for more evaluation

3. In Line Lunge

In Line Lunge: Keep in mind this photo purely depicts form and hand placement. For a true test you need a board, and to measure the distance between your feet.

Ideally standing on a board (such as a 2×4). Then, taking that same measurement you have from the floor to your tibial tuberosity, step forward so that your back toe and your front heel are that many centimeters apart. Your toes should be pointed forward. Then, reach back for the dowel behind your back. The dowel will be parallel to your back, touching your head and sacrum. If your left foot is in front then your left hand will hold the dowel on the bottom and your right hand on the top. Finally, bend your back and front knee so that your back knee touches the board. Complete that 3 times each side.


3. If you can complete that exercises exactly as described without your knee falling inward, the dowel leaving your back, your toes moving or falling to the side, then you have scored a 3 and you are good to go.

2. If you perform the exercise with difficulty, with slight movements, or knees falling inward then you have scored a 2. Proceed with caution, and spend time working on your mobility and stability.

1. If you cannot perform this movement pattern or experience pain, then you should avoid loading lunges, full get ups, or split stance work until you can reach the 2.

Possible Indications:

If you struggle to perform this movement then you may be lacking mobility in the knee, ankle, and hip, you many have poor stability or core stability, and you may have more thoracic mobility.

Try These:

  • Cat/Cows
  • Thoracic Open Books
  • Half Turkish Get Ups
  • Ankle Circles
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Hip Circles
  • Core Strengthening
  • Unweighted Split Stance Work
  • Working with a Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer to address imbalances

Things to Remember:

These tests do not indicate whether or not you are a good athlete or good at your sport. You may be exceptional and still struggle to conduct these tests. Scoring poorly on these tests does not mean that you are incapable or never able to have certain exercises as a part of your routine, but rather these tests will identify an area that you can improve in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s