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Why I Don’t FMS Anymore & How To Assess Your Own Movement Capacity

(How’s that for a wordy title?)

You Should Read This Article If:

  • You’re interested in learning more about assessments
  • You love the FMS and want to disagree with me
  • You dislike the FMS and want us to be friends
  • You’re familiar with the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692

Gasp! Blasphemy!

The Athletic Trainers, Physical Therapists, Personal Trainers, and all the People in general, being so much inraged and incensed against us by the Delusion of the Devil, which we can term no other, by reason we know in our own Consciences, we are all Innocent Persons.


John Proctor Sr. (Written July 23rd, 1692 while imprisoned in Salem for witchcraft.)

Okay, so maybe I took a few liberties with that quote. Did you know that I’m related to a wtich?

Seriously, look up Martha Carrier. She was arrested on May 28th and hanged on Gallow’s Hill on August 19th, 1692. A few things to note here: first, how could our criminal justice system possibly process a death penalty trial that quickly?

Second, she was referenced as a “rampant hag” and “possible Queen of Hell.” I guess those were the best insults they could come up with back in the day.

Before we even start, what is the purpose of assessment? As fitness professionals, assessments serve a few purposes:

  • Discover initial health issues
  • Establish baseline statistics for the measurement of progress
  • Observe current ability in order to program appropriately

The Functional Movement Screen (or FMS as it will be referred to from here on out) is perhaps one of the most famous of all fitness assessments and with good reason. It provides a simple framework to identify current movement capability, discover faulty movement patterns, and measure progress.

really like the FMS.

When added to static posture assessments,PAR-Q-style questionaires, and strength & endurance tests, we create a comprehensive assessment system that would benefit any trainer, therapist, or coach.

My Beef With The FMS

But the FMS is not without it’s issues. Just to name a few:

  • Almost nobody can perform the rotary stability test. It got to the point where I was telling people, “this isn’t a joke” as they performed it.
  • Many folks have a hard time performing push-ups, never mind FMS-style press-ups where the hands are close together and above the head.
  • Almost nobody can perform the hurdle step without hiking their hip and tilting the dowel.
  • Most people can’t even get their hands over their heads, never mind perform a deep overhead squat.
  • The overall presentation of the FMS test can be long and drawn-out while the explanations are convoluted.

(A quick side note: the large majority of my clientele are non-athletes in the age range of post-college to already retired.)

Typically, assessments are scheduled in 45-60 minute blocks, just like sessions. In that time, we (as trainers) have a priority to develop a relationship with the client, uncover internal wants, desires, emotions, and motivators, learn about existing health issues, and perform multiple other baselines tests (e.g. body composition, blood pressure, heart rate, circumferences, etc).

I typically extend my assessments out to 90 minutes in order to “move around” on the floor and get a few sets in of something that resembles training.

But even then, adding a 20-30 minute FMS procedure just isn’t practical. Additionally, I found myself performing additional movement screens once on the floor with clients. These included, but were not limited to:

  • General posture
  • Shoulder flexion
  • Toe touch
  • Ankle mobility
  • Actual push-up ability

Additionally, I perform a quick test to determine possible involvement in witchcraft. This allows me to snake out witches and wizards, which is pretty cool because wizards can point their wand at you and say “Rictusempra” and tickle you. It’s not very useful in real life, but it’s cool nonetheless.

The Quick Fix

Here’s how I assess now:

I always start with the simplest movements and work to the most complicated. This means toe touches before squats and floor-based movements before standing ones.

Many of my tests are Pass/Fail. Either you can do it or you can’t. If you can’t, we’ll work on it together.

I enjoy diving into specific, biomechanical assessments in order to discern between motor control/stability deficits and actual mobility deficits.

Here’s the order:

  1. General posture observations
  2. Shoulder flexion (freestanding and back-to-wall)
  3. Tredelenburg stance (noting balance and overall position)
  4. Toe touch
  5. Straight-leg raise
  6. Birddogs (a regular birddog, not the crazy same-side one!)
  7. Pushups (kneeling first, then to full)
  8. Shoulder mobility (including additional screens to determine possible impingement)
  9. In-line lunge (sometimes regular split squats work just as well)
  10. Overhead squat (including additional screens to determine ankle and hip mobility)

The first four tests only take a total of five minutes, if that long at all. The rest take an additional ten-ish minutes, bringing the total to 15. Add this to a 20-30 minute goal-setting discussion, some other baseline tests, and little movement and we’ve got ourselves a full 60-90 minute session!

How To Assess Yourself

Curious to see if your movement standards are up to snuff? Try Josh Mavilia’s DIY Movement Capacity Screen. Or JMDIYMCS, it rolls right off the tongue either way.

Start here:

  1. Shoulder flexion (It will be analyzed with a back-to-wall shoulder flexion test. If your low back, head, and thumbs can contact the wall at the same time, you’re good.)
  2. Toe touch (Easy, can you touch your damn toes with slightly bent knees?)
  3. Straight-leg raise (Stolen from the home FMS screen, lay down on your back with your hips next to a doorjamb. Does your ankle reach the doorjamb when you raise your straight leg?)
  4. Pushups (Men should be able to complete 10 full ones. Women should complete 1. They should all be perfect!)
  5. Split squats (Can you do them? If so, you’re good.)
  6. Overhead squat (Do you femurs reach parallel with your arms overhead? If so, you’re good.)

Give yourself a Pass/Fail grade for each one. Even setting aside anatomical discrepancies, you should have 6/6. If not, you probably have a mobility/coordination/stability/motor control problem somewhere in the kinetic chain.


Assessments are important for a number of reasons, including gathering baseline information on health and capability. They allow us to get a general idea of a person’s osteo- and arthrokinematic tendencies, which in turn allows us to develop a program that adheres to the idea of “do no harm” and helps to improve current shortfalls.

And when a program addresses kinematics and movements, we can be more consistent and take a long-term approach to health, performance, and body composition goals without needless gaps due to injuries and pain.

I believe the best words to sum up this article come from the late Mary Esty,

The lord above knows my Innocencye … as att the great day win be known to men and Angells. I Petition to your honours not for my own life for I know I must die, and my appointed time is sett but the Lord he knowes it is that if it be possible no more Innocent blood may be shed …”


Mary Esty (written September, 1692 while imprisoned for witchcraft)

Okay, maybe that was irrelevant. But did I mention that I’m descended from a witch? Pretty cool, huh?

I’m a wizard, Harry.

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