FMS Screening and Physical Limitations

We often get screening questions from people who have clients who can’t do a test because of a physical limitation. For example, there was a man on my Facebook page who asked about this; he couldn’t do the rotary stability test because his stomach got in the way.

What if someone is missing an arm? What if somebody has a deformity? What if somebody has a large, protruding belly and is unable to do one of the tests?

Let me make it really simple: You’re the professional. Modify the program, not the screen.

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This means don’t obsess on adjusting a score. If somebody can’t do the quadruped diagonal pattern because the belly is in the way or because the upper body is too tight, it doesn’t matter. The score is the score. The screen is blind.

The screen only says a person cannot move in a pattern. The reason doesn’t matter on the screen, but it should matter in your programming. Modify your programming with the things you know that none of the rest of us can know about your client.

with alwynWe go into this in great detail in the forthcoming Future of Exercise Programming DVD Lee and I shot with Alwyn Cosgrove. The DVD is due out in October.

You are the professional on the ground, and you need to work with the information available to you. You can choose to attack one of the patterns the screen exposes to be deficient, or choose not to. Don’t keep trying to modify the screen or make the screen see things it wasn’t designed to see.

The reason we screen is we’re going to be giving exercise suggestions. If your quadruped diagonal pattern is limited by your belly and mine is limited by my flexibility, let’s agree that if the pattern looks like any of the exercises we’re planning, there’s probably going to be a lot of compensation.

The reason you compensate or have difficulty doesn’t matter at the screening stage.

Don’t try to modify the screen or throw people scores they don’t deserve. The reason they may not be able to change that score could be a structural problem, or something else. Let the screen expose the movement profile. Let it be what it is, and modify your programming to match.

I see patients with certain movement patterns that, because I have knowledge outside of the screen, I may choose to ignore one of the patterns. I continually check to see if it changes, but there may be a total joint replacement, a previous surgery or another reason for limited potential of improvement in one pattern.

whatifI take it off the grid in the programming, but I still let the screen say what it says. That’s really the advice I give. We waste a lot of valuable time asking ‘What if? What if? What if?’

We have personal trainers working with clients who have had strokes. These people are often considered disabled in some way, especially if they have an assistive device or walk with a serious gait deviation. You’re welcome to screen on them. What are the first two tests we do? Active straight leg raise and shoulder mobility. You may not want to do anything more than that.

When we have an evaluation that has been done for a medical limitation or a structural abnormality, it trumps whatever the movement screen says. If the movement screen in some way disagrees with a medical diagnosis or evaluation, there’s a good chance you used the screen inappropriately.

Most people who are severely limited yet wish to exercise or participate in an activity are  going to have difficulty just getting a score of ‘2’ on the active straight leg raise or shoulder mobility. You have plenty of programming right there. You don’t need to take a stroke client through a deep squat. It’s not even close to the weakest link.

Don’t expect a test to modify itself to every situation. You choose and modify the programming to accommodate the other information you should collect in addition to the movement screen.

glutemed Now let’s consider the next question we usually get: How important are body proportions as a factor?

Let’s use the example of the overhead squat. Maybe the way one person is built, he needs more ankle flexion and has more of a forward lean in the deep squat than another person. Because he leans forward more at the hip, he wants to know if he needs more thoracic extension or more shoulder flexibility to keep the bar over his feet.

This is where the person asks if we can  cut a little slack if the stick isn’t over his feet or if his upper arms are over his ears. Is the screen self-adjusting or does he just have to work a little harder?

Look, I cut no slack, but just to make things fair, I don’t cut myself any slack either.

I’m always going to struggle with a perfect overhead squat. I’m 6’4” and weigh 250 pounds. I’ve broken both ankles twice. I’m pretty long-legged compared to torso length. If I invented the screen and I’m not going to cut myself any slack, I’m sure not going to dole it out to anybody else.

Here’s what I will tell you… again: It’s simply a screen.

This is probably most important point you’ll ever get from me when it comes to the Functional Movement Screen. There’s perfection; there’s imperfection; there’s dysfunction.

fms scoring
A score of ‘3’ on the movement screen demonstrates close to perfection. I would want to use you for a textbook demonstration of what this pattern looks like at its best.

A score of ‘2’ means an imperfection. You passed the test, but there’s room for improvement. You may have an anatomical proportional reason or a training or other problem that keeps you from the ‘3.’

Continue working on it because if I were able to improve the deep squat at all, you have to admit there’s room for improvement. Letting you blame 100% of your lack of overhead squatting ability on your proportions in anatomy absolves you from exploring corrective strategy and trying to improve it.

Will I be able to promote you as the best overhead squatter at Cirque du Soleil in Vegas? Probably not. Would you have about 25% improvement potential if you were to do some of the corrective strategies? Maybe!

But don’t obsess over that squat if you don’t have ‘2s’ on everything and no asymmetries anywhere in the screen. The squat problem is demonstrated further down the developmental chain, maybe in your active straight leg raise or thoracic spine mobility. Many people want to peg a ‘3’ on the squat without preparing the body for the squat.

The squat is the last thing that we fix.

Finally, we come to dysfunction. That means you have a ‘1’ somewhere on the screen.

If you get imperfection across the board on the Functional Movement Screen, I don’t consider you dysfunctional.  Don’t consider ‘2s’ as failure. A ‘2’ is average. Because of your proportions, training and previous injuries, a ‘2’ may be the pinnacle you’ll reach.

However, if you have a ‘1,’ that’s dysfunction. Whether you have a lot of excuses or none, it’s a potential risk factor even if you do exercises perfectly.

Let’s recap. You don’t have to be perfect on everything. You can be imperfect and still not be at an elevated risk of injury.

Then there’s dysfunction. There are too many people splitting hairs about perfection versus imperfection while dysfunction walks by and gets on the pec-dec at the gym.

Where I see a lot of the other assessments and functional tests nitpicking the differences in perfection and imperfection, my life’s work has been, ‘Please, before you throw exercises and load at people, identify those who have true dysfunction.’

FMSscoresheet The people who need your help the most, the people who train and are still obese, and the people who work hard and still get injured are probably walking around with a couple of ‘1s’ on their movement screens. They haven’t met the person who cares enough to intervene.

You have some imperfections in your overhead squat. My first thought is I bet it’s not your only imperfection. Look at the rest of your screen, honestly look. See where you have asymmetries and dysfunctions and clean those up to ‘2s on everything with no asymmetries before you squat.

Then start working on your squat. If you improve it 25%, you can’t blame anatomy and proportions for a poor score. You had some room for improvement, which is my whole point. Will you ever achieve perfection? No, it’s not even possible—what is perfection in movement? But there’s probably room for improvement.

There is enough of a buffer zone built into these tests that allow for body proportions such as a longer-than-average femur length. There are enough other segments that can do a little more or a little less elsewhere in the body.

Remember, the American Medical Association has produced goniometric measurements referring to the degrees each of the joints should move. Not one test on the Functional Movement Screen asks more than that.

Most of the debates people get into about the Functional Movement Screen are about perfection and imperfection, while dysfunction gooses through everywhere. Check for a dysfunction first and you’ll be a better trainer.

I could split hairs in the gym all day long and not make a difference. Once I started following the FMS model, I could change lives. It’s the most rewarding thing in the world.


Lee and I go into this in great detail in our two-day Perform Better FMS Workshops, coming up in Rhode Island, Los Angeles, Chicago and Charlotte, NC.
You can also learn on your own by reading Movement. In fact, I encourage you to read Movement before attending an FMS workshop. You’ll get more out of it.

I also talk about this topic in the new audio lecture, The Three Rs, available on

Walk the Line

Since the Exploring Functional Movement: (DVD), (Digital) project I did with Erwan Le Corre of MovNat, balance has been a major topic at my Perform Better Summit appearances, where I have about an hour to help people learn to balance better. In the hands-on workshop, people walk a balance beam, then get to a hurdle-like obstacle and have to step over it. We see a lot of faltering early in the session.

EFMdvdBalance and stability are an integral part of almost every sport or activity. A concept I use to describe stability is ‘motor control,’ which might better define the subtle adjustments we make with the stabilizer muscle groups while the larger muscle groups propel us forward, turn us, or slow us down. That stability can easily be analyzed or even trained in a balance situation.

One of the mistakes we make in training is to go right into training single-leg stance. Single-leg stance is a great test for balance; you see it in the Functional Movement Screen with a hurdle step, and you see it in the SFMA with a single-leg stance test.

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We have many variations, and we always compare the left and the right sides. We look at single-leg stance with eyes open and eyes closed. There are different ways to break down single-leg stance, but when it comes time to train, it’s sometimes better to give the brain a little more meaning.

In the Exploring Functional Movement video, we found all kinds of opportunities to get on a beam or a pole or to balance on a line. That’s where the title Walk the Line comes from.

Instead of putting clients in a doorway to challenge single-leg stance, a beam provides purpose—single-leg stance, one side, the other side, and then walk the beam. When we do things to juice balance, people can walk up and down a beam, and can practice that.

In our physical therapy clinic, we work with different levels of balance. We have a piece of Trex board, which is synthetic decking we ripped down to a four-inch ‘beam,’ although some people feel more comfortable starting with a six-inch width.

photo98Beam walking is something we superset in fitness, say after a hard set that makes you tired. You’re going to need a rest break before the next set of walking lunges, front squats or kettlebell swings. Why not walk a beam while you’re recovering? It’s sensory motor engagement. It’s not high demand, but it does require a stabilizer reset, and doing that may actually make the next set of lunges, squats or swings tighten up a little.

Walking that beam barefoot or in minimalist footwear, whether the ‘beam’ is elevated off the ground or flat on the ground, is a self-limiting activity because it provides quick feedback. But I don’t like to see intense concentration. I don’t like to see you looking at your feet; I don’t want to see you flailing your hands.

At the recent CK-FMS, I coached people through a little gauntlet of balance beams. We use it in the rehab setting at the clinic, all the way to a fitness setting like CK-FMS, and it doesn’t have to be an exercise of itself. It can be a superset to complement another exercise. Here, have a look.

When trying to improve balance, the first pre-requisite is to check for mobility. If you can’t pass the hurdle step test, we may want to grab some mobility before we challenge balance. If you have restricted ankle dorsiflexion, your hips are extremely stiff, you can’t touch your toes, or you can’t even break parallel on a deep squat, you may be running up against a mobility problem that’s hurting the sensory feedback of the balancing activity. You’re going to balance better if we get you a little more mobile before the next balance challenge.

If your FMS score has a bunch of ‘2s,’ and you don’t have a lot of flexibility problems, you could probably get after some pretty good balance challenges to feed the system. You have enough sensory information coming in to probably get better motor control, and then you can refine it.

Listen carefully to what I said. If you have ‘1s’ on the movement screen, attack the mobility the screen asks you to attack. You will save time. You will get greater stability by opening up that mobility, because that will change the balancing experience.


More proprioception provides more and probably more correct information. When walking a beam with a locked-up ankle, you’re not receiving the benefit that ankle and foot are prepared to provide. Your body unconsciously and reflexively knows how to level the pelvis and use the glutes as an advantage, not a disadvantage.

If you see people struggling, looking at their feet, flailing their arms and using unnecessary trunk movement, is this a motor control problem or a mobility problem?

My way to answer that question is if there are ‘1s’ on the FMS, get the mobility fixed first, and then attack stability. If there are ‘2s’ on the FMS, do some of these balance drills.

One question I get along these lines is about my recommendation of bear crawling to regain reciprocal balancing with better stabilization. As a matter of fact, we do bear crawling on a beam. You can determine how wide of a beam, or you can just do bear crawling on the ground.

What if you can’t do bear crawls?

Let’s all be honest here. We have clients, or recovering patients, or perhaps older golfers who because of fitness levels can’t comfortably do enough bear crawling to get the balance benefit.

photo96Did you ever think about walking with sticks or dowels in hand? We get the reciprocal gait we get from bear crawling, without the unnecessary stress on the upper body. We get less of the unfavorable blood pressure changes people sometimes get when they get in a quadruped position.

Imagine watching a guy on a low balance beam who has sufficient mobility, yet has a very hard time balancing. You decide to regress, but don’t hand him one stick. Hand him two dowels and get him to do a right-left reciprocal action. Have the dowel handgrip adjusted at a nice walking height. When the left foot advances, he advances the right dowel.

Have him grab the ground with the dowel, not too far in front of the stepping foot. Make sure the dowel has a nice push so it’s complementing extension. Think about it—he’s engaging the right lat and the left glute at the same time. That’s not a bad concept, is it? That’s what we do in bear crawling, but we can do that upright without bear crawling, and the brain still benefits from the reciprocal activity.

Using sticks is a quick way to juice stability when mobility is adequate. First of all, make sure your clients use reciprocal gait with the sticks; make sure they get the rhythm down.

Put them on the beam with the sticks. Then as soon as they get confident, have them drop one or both sticks and continue on the beam. What you’ll usually see is until they start thinking about things, they’re great. The instant they start turning, walking on a balance beam and thinking about the exercise, they’ll probably falter.photo97

It’s important to realize human balance is almost a reflexive activity. We should train it between exercises as a reset—as a stability reset. Introduce a balance beam instead of just single-leg stance exercises. It’s more functional, and it will have more carryover into other activities.

In sports where we have to shift weight with crisp precision, walking a balance beam can change the workout. Put it between sets. Use little things like mobility drills or the stick drill for certain people to juice stability. If you have a group of younger people, do a few bear crawls between each balancing activity. You’ll see crawling juice that stability as well.

Look at we did with Erwan Le Corre in Exploring Functional Movement. Watch the video, practice some drills and enjoy getting your balance!

To order Exploring Functional Movement: (DVD), (Digital)


Breathing is probably the most simple and yet complex thing we do. It is a conscious thing if we choose it to be, but the instant we stop thinking about it, it continues on its own. One of the biggest questions we have is when it continues on its own, how do things work? When we do a breathing drill, did we reset it in any way?

single-leg-bridgeThink about the current popularity of muscle activation, say… activating the glutes. Almost everyone with a little knowledge of isolation and hip extension can say they activated the glutes, but when you stand up to leave the session, are your glutes doing something better than they were when you entered?

Simply because we run the circuit and create activity in a temporary, isolated situation, does that activity carry over into the other things we do? Heck, that’s my definition for function! If you do this one thing and it carries over into many other things, it’s functional.

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If you do this one thing and just get better at it, we call that specific training—specific activity training, specific sports training, the specificity of the task.

Just like any other exercise, this is also true with breathing. When we do an exercise, we must ask ourselves if the exercise only improves itself in the single act we’re participating in, or if it has carryover into other activities.

In the discussion of breathing, breathing efficiency and breath training, as a healthcare professional my first responsibility is to start with health, not necessarily performance or fitness.

The first consideration largely overlooked is whether there is a structural problem. Is there an airway obstruction? Is there a deviated septum? Is there a closure or an anatomically small airway?

Think about this for a minute. When a person has horrible posture with an anterior head, rounded shoulders and a sunken chest, what if that happens to be the posture where the anatomical airway is the largest? When you stand totally erect in a perfect military or actor’s posture and your airway is compromised by 30 or even 50%, what is the motivation to stay in that position?

The first thing—before we start giving postural cues—is to recognize if there’s an obstruction. That’s a health problem and the person probably needs to get that checked out.

First we take the anatomical airway problems off the table. If you’re working with a client and this just created a bunch of questions, or if you’re a rehabilitation professional in physical therapy and chiropractic and breathing is not your specialty, a quick history can guide you. Just ask!

Do you have seasonal allergies? Are you congested? Do you cough? Have you had episodes of bronchitis? Do you wheeze when you breathe? Do you find yourself on exertion going right into mouth breathing? Do you have a constantly dry mouth (another sign of mouth-breathing)?

These are things that might beg us to do further investigation before we assign an exercise to improve breathing.

gray-aslrSecondly, many of us try to activate muscles. I can make your glutes fire, but if you lack full hip extension, you will not use your glutes efficiently in gait or other activities.

Let me state that again: It’s no problem to make you bridge and your glutes will fire. Yet when you stand up and get into that end range of extension and your joint capsule becomes tight, you fire your hip flexors a little to stay out of the end range—to not sort of bang the joint against its end.

You will inhibit your glutes in many situations because you don’t have the available range of motion in the hip. It’s not because the glutes can’t be fired, but it would be inefficient to fire a glute near the end range because micro-trauma and damage of the joint could occur.

Lie on the ground and activate your glutes all you want, but did it carry over when you stood up?

The same is true for a breathing exercise. We can lie you on your back and rehearse crocodile breathing, see-saw breathing or a motor control activity to have you fire the circuits that allow your intercostals, diaphragm, abdominals and other breathing contributors to work. But what if there’s a mobility problem?

We should probably have a neck, shoulder girdle and ribcage that freely move, but the pelvic floor and diaphragm also work in sync, so having pelvic and hip mobility is also advantageous. If you’re going to try to train or coach breathing, you have to discover if there are significant mobility restrictions on board.

The first two things we look at in the Functional Movement Screen for their influence on breathing are shoulder mobility and the active straight-leg raise.

Shoulder mobility is more than looking at range of motion of the shoulder. It lets us know if you actively extend the upper spine. It lets us know if there are restrictions in the ribcage.

It’s the same with the active straight-leg raise. The symmetry and ability to lift a leg in an unweighted situation tells us quite a bit about the pelvis, the core and the way the hips work together.

Restrictions from the neck through the pelvis can interrupt and restrict the natural rhythm we authentically use in breathing. If there’s a restriction, you have to pick another path and use an asynchronous breathing or an inefficient breathing pattern.

gray-cook-mobilitybeforeAs I’ve always said, mobility then motor control, or mobility then stability. The first order of business: Mobility must come first.

If mobility is clear—and it doesn’t have to be perfect—we can move on. But huge restrictions in the neck, thoracic spine, pelvis, hip and shoulder mean if you’re doing a breathing exercise to sink the diaphragm or not to use the upper chest as much, you’re missing the whole point of why the breathing is bad in the first place.

Take the big mobility restrictions off the table first. I’ve helped many endurance athletes by improving active straight-leg raise and shoulder mobility, not because I improved oxygen transport at the cellular level, but because we made the mechanics of breathing more efficient.

You can fatigue the breathing muscles, especially if you’re using the wrong ones. The biggest limiting factor in your next run may not be the endurance in the quads or calves. It may be the endurance in the breathing muscles used inappropriately and inefficiently around poor upper body and trunk mobility patterns.

Now, let’s say mobility is not the problem. You’re going to take Brett Jones’ and my advice in the video Secrets of the Shoulder and do crocodile breathing, or you’re going to use see-saw breathing from Feldenkrais.

In medical observations, see-saw breathing is probably a problem when we see the diaphragm going up, the chest going down and then reversing. This probably means an infant maybe has an airway obstruction or another problem. What we like to see is everything moving together. Obviously, we want belly breathing, but we want a gentle contribution of the chest as well. If we see one significantly more than the other, it could denote a problem.

But in our sedentary society with the stress levels and emotional issues that accompany a fast-paced, sedentary society, we may have to reset breathing. Yes, you can be fast-paced, stressed-out and completely sedentary. Think about darting in and out of traffic…not really doing anything, but the emotional engagement is way up there.

We have to remind the brain of its options. If mobility problems are not the reason breathing is out of sync, maybe breathing is out of sync because breathing has not been used authentically in quite some time.

Practice is like meditation, like the use of the breath in yoga and martial arts. If you think about it, some of the oldest forms of exercise start with the breath and some of the newest fads in exercise don’t even consider it. Today’s coaches often just think if they get you winded, all good things will happen. I don’t know if that’s the best way to approach this.

Think about that. The wisdom of the ages tells us to start every exercise or movement with attention and efficiency in the breath, because that fuels everything we do in every other movement we make. Do we do this? Nope. We want to grow those pecs, shred those abs and activate those glutes.

Oh, and just breathe however you want.

As we look at opportunities to re-coordinate or reconnect breathing, what we’ll find is that see-saw breathing is a way to de-emphasize chest breathing and improve abdominal breathing.

Crocodile breathing is another way to do that, and gives a different sense of feedback where the belly expands both side-to-side and pushes into the floor, lifting the low back, or the sway we normally have in the low back when we lie on our bellies. We see the back going up and down, which looks much like a crocodile lying on its belly and breathing.

We have some amazing techniques to reset or reconnect authentic breathing to remind the brain of the options other than upper chest breathing. Think about the restricted areas first—the low back, the chest, the ribcage, the abdominals, a lot of tightness in the pelvic floor region and definitely in the neck.

FMS8_22_09_068Look how many people are swinging kettlebells who still think the neck is the core. They’re totally engaged across the anterior neck muscles, not breathing right and the other things go from there. If the breath is out, we have problems.

Take it one step further. If you’re dealing with somebody with a history of breathing problems, there could be an anatomical obstruction. There could be a compromised airway. There are many, many things that can be done for this, but I wouldn’t start with exercise.

We have to be responsible when we talk about breath. We have to make sure there’s no anatomical obstruction. We have to make sure there’s mobility in the breathing regions of the body. Remember how much of the chest the lungs cover. The lungs cover the area from almost under the traps all the way down to below the ribcage, so any restriction in that area can interrupt natural breathing.

If the restrictions are taken off the table and there are no obstructions, some of these breathing coordination exercises are absolutely awesome at resetting breathing. Once you reset, take the new breathing into your activities because these are, in fact, corrective exercises.

Corrective exercises should be a temporary measure so you can pull the new thing you gained into activities. You’ll breathe better the next time you run. You’ll breathe better the next time you hike. You’ll breathe better the next time you lift. You’ll breathe better the next time you cycle.

We follow the same rules with breathing as we do with every other body movement.

Functional Dysfunction

A long time ago some of the guys I worked with and I found what we thought was a hole in the continuum of training. We were working in rehab, working in fitness and performance, and decided there was a problem with how we made decisions and did programming.

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I was inspired to look at things in a different way—from a functional standpoint.

ScreentestassessScreening always comes before testing, and often testing comes before assessment.

An assessment means assembling the data you have, putting it against your expertise, and coming up with a professional judgment. In most situations, an assessment comes after screening tells you if there are problems, and after testing defines those problems.

In the assessment you take your educational background, your professional wisdom, the particular situation, the time constraints, other historical information like a medical history or previous problems…and put all of that together. That’s an assessment.

I wanted to see those three stages applied to making people move, whether it’s making people move from a performance standpoint, a fitness standpoint or even making them move again after rehabilitation.

We saw holes in the continuum because assessments and testing weren’t used in a systematic way. There was nothing like a Functional Movement Screen until we came up with it. So we came up with a movement screen, and now we have a movement screen to put people into categories.

One of those categories is dysfunction—not just imperfection…dysfunction. If you have a ‘1’ anywhere on the movement screen—whether it’s symmetrical or asymmetrical—if any of your scores contain a ‘1,’ we consider that dysfunction.

That’s a movement competency problem.

And now we can at least discuss the words ‘function’ and ‘dysfunction’ with a baseline. Somebody has to set a baseline before we can have actionable discussions about dysfunction. Without that, our dysfunction levels or gauging of dysfunction are judgment calls.

We couldn’t build houses if an inch wasn’t an inch and a foot wasn’t a foot. It would be really hard to read x-rays if we didn’t agree on what constitutes a fracture. We need to have a gauge and a baseline for function.

That’s what the Functional Movement Screen is, and here’s the rub: We often find people who have dysfunction, yet aren’t plagued by problems.


So, what does dysfunction really mean? Are these people exceptions to the rule, or did we make the rule wrong?

We call this functional dysfunction.

I don’t really like talking about body parts; I’d rather talk about movement patterns. But when we talk about a limited active straight leg raise test, people often see that as tight hamstrings.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s talk about tight hamstrings, even though we agree there’s more going on in the leg raise test than tightness in the posterior chain.

Here we go.

Your tight hamstrings allow you to run a fairly respectable 5K. They have allowed you to get a kettlebell certification, and to enjoy skiing the slopes in the wintertime, all without a major problem. What’s happening is you’re partly relying on that tightness, because maybe that tightness is covering up another problem.

This is the most important information you can get from the Functional Movement Screen. The first thing you need to consider is that unless the person is plagued with issues, when you uncover a dysfunction on a movement screen in an otherwise apparently happy, healthy person…before you try to change it, hold yourself back. Remind yourself to wait a second.

The person is leaning on this problem, whether it’s tightness or an asymmetry. If it’s not causing readily visible problems, the client is in some way using the low back stiffness, the upper body asymmetry, the anterior chain tightness or the hip flexor tightness.

It’s part of function.

If you put this person on a corrective path and take that dysfunction away, you could actually complicate things.

Let’s go back to our tight hamstring example. We often find tight hamstrings coupled with tight hip flexors and weak glutes. If we were to stretch hamstrings and create some mobility, we don’t just send people out into activity with 15 degrees of extra hamstring flexibility. That would be inappropriate, because everything has been leaning and relying on that tightness.

LengthPart of the corrective algorithm we have is, when you make some length, add some strength.

Once your active straight leg raise comes out of dysfunction and when your toe touch is considered normal, we take you right into deadlifting.

Deadlifting requires you to lengthen your hamstrings to a respectable point and makes you engage your glutes, probably far more than you would in a squat where you may have learned how to squat with other muscle groups.

We try to build into every one of our corrective strategies not just a way to undo that which is wrong, but to realize those dysfunctions are being used. We always consider things like that, and that’s a very important path to follow.

CrutchDon’t kick out that crutch without replacing it with something else.

It is not uncommon to find people who are operating at a certain level and still have dysfunction. Maybe they’ve never had an injury and aren’t really concerned about injury risk. What other professional principle would I need to lean on to say we still shouldn’t remove that dysfunction?

Here’s what I’ll tell you: The other reason you want to get that dysfunction off board is because if people plan on changing their exercise or they want to improve in any way, they’ll be going outside of their current abilities.

If they want to be exposed to a new experience, if they want to increase the speed, distance or cadence of their runs, if they want to press more, if they want to do something completely different like stand-up paddleboarding, MovNat or another similar activity, they could have a problem.

Those dysfunctions not only increase risk, but they also reduce adaptability—the ability to easily learn and move from one activity to another while the body molds itself in a new direction.

When we see people with dysfunctions, we think two things right off the bat. It may explain some of the injuries they’ve had in the past, but also, if they’ve never had an injury it means they’ve probably learned, perhaps unconsciously, how to work around the dysfunctions.

If people are very satisfied with everything in their lives and we find a flaw on the movement screen, the responsible thing is to say, “This is a dysfunction. It puts you at risk for injury and it reduces your adaptability, but if you’re never going to do anything more than you’re already doing, probably your best defense right now is never change anything.

“However, the minute you expect your body to do something different, to go a little further, enjoy a weekend hike or do something that’s not natural and routine, that new function will help you continue to grow and help your body move in a different direction.”

It’s absolutely true: You can be dysfunctional and still function. Just don’t plan on changing too much because your body has spent a long time getting to that function.

That’s the big irony in the Functional Movement Screen. We see dysfunctions in people who are moderately fit. We see dysfunctions in the world’s best athletes. We see dysfunctions in people who have been sedentary.

As long as those three groups never want to do anything different, the dysfunctional injury risk and the limitations to adaptability probably don’t play as importantly as they would if they were going to try to get more fit, perform better or switch up their routines in some way.

We’ve seen groups with low screens and high screens. When people with low screens get injuries, it takes them longer to get back to normal activity…if ever. This is simply because there are other problems on board that affect rehabilitation.

That’s my spin on two rehabilitation and fitness terms we’ve tried to help define by using a consistent baseline.

Gray Cook's new book, Movement
If you haven’t already read it,
the Movement book is the next step
in your movement screening education.

MovNat Drills at CK-FMS

I always like to take the opportunity when we’re doing some type of movement to create a lesson or an experience. At CK-FMS we used some MovNat drills to demonstrate how scalability can allow us to create a safe experience for a large group.

But in contrast, I also demonstrated how each person in the group could have gotten more out of it had we known a little bit more about how each moved.

Some in the group got better balancing just through cuing. Others in the group got better by going into a more primitive pattern that required both reciprocal movement and significant amounts of core stability. The third group actually benefited more from mobility work.

Even though the entire group benefited from the group experience, had I given each of the three groups a little more of what made the biggest difference in their abilities to move better and balance better,  we would have observed even more progress in the same amount of time.

So the lesson in this experience is to always use good observation of your group and scale activities according to individual abilities and safety requirements.

However…whenever possible, knowing a little more about each person in the group can still allow them to work as a group, but we can also work in smaller groups on specific deficiencies or dysfunctions and come back to the group to demonstrate their improvement together.

Ponder these things as you watch this clip.

This will be my focus at the Perform Better Summits beginning next weekend in Providence, later this month in Chicago and in August in Long Beach. For a longer look at the drills, check out the DVD Erwan Le Corre and I did, Exploring Functional Movement.