Research recently published shows how to improve scores in the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), but it’s probably not how you think…
Being a lead instructor for FMS since 2006 and having used the system extensively with thousands of clients, I have seen many misinterpretations of the system and heard many ways in which it is misunderstood. This latest research project was better than many that I have seen, most importantly because the researchers seemed to have a good understanding of the FMS screen and how to gather accurate scoring data.
The study was published in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation and the interesting slant that these researchers took was to see the effects of having the only intervention be a standard protocol of popular core exercises and seeing the impact it would have on FMS scores.
The results showed a relatively significant positive impact on scores in healthy collegiate athletes, especially in those showing poor scores upon initial testing (below 14). The following exercises were prescribed for a 8-week supervised protocol:
Some interesting observations come from this, some of which debunk common misconceptions about the FMS:
–The FMS is not a “flexibility” test. It looks at not only mobility, but also neuromuscular coordination, reflexive motor control, proprioception, dynamic stability and lastly, but certainly not least, the presence of pain with movement.
–Many issues that present visually as flexibility or mobility issues are really stability/motor control issues in disguise. When someone can’t stabilize reflexively with their intrinsic stabilizers, the prime movers will kick into hypertonic overdrive and serve as secondary stability, causing them to appear stiff and immobile. Once some motor control and stability is introduced and sequenced properly, these prime movers begin to let go, and the apparent “tightness” disappears
-The results are great but are only based on total score. The total score in the FMS is great for creating generic cut points for large groups and research, but shows to have minimal impact on programming for the individual. If someone has a total score of 14 and has an individual score of symmetrical 2s in each screen it is a very different case than someone who also scores a 14, but has asymmetries, 1s and/or pain present.
-What may seem obvious, but was proven by the study, was that the greatest improvement was found in those individuals with poor initial scores. People who move poorly have the most to gain from intervention and depending on their motor learning ability, will often see relatively rapid improvements. If the subjects who had higher test scores initially didn’t improve as much, not only did they not have as much margin for increase, we also probably wouldn’t have invested much time in “fixing” them anyway. If someone presents a score of 2, that demonstrates satisfactory movement competency and at that point, the training focus should be shifted to their actual training goal. After implementing the system with thousands of individuals, NO ONE has ever come to me with the primary goal of improving their FMS score. The screen is simply a means to an end, providing a baseline and filtering out any cause for clinical intervention or modifications in their programming based on specific deficits found. There is also no data that shows an increase in performance or reduction of injury risk when improving scores from a 2 to a 3. Do not let perfect get in the way of good!
-Being a true minimalist in my programming, my question immediately goes to which of these exercises may have had the most impact? Are there other drills that would have been more effective substitutes?
-Applying this same process of “minimal effective dose”, what exercises could have been removed and created the same result? Could we actually have had even better results without certain exercises? I have actually had clients improve their score by doing no additional corrective exercise at all, but by simply “removing the negative” and eliminating activities or habits that were counterproductive and/or harmful.
-If specific exercises were prescribed based on individual scoring, would it have been more impactful if it matched apparent deficits shown in the scoring and the programs were unique to the individual?
-The use of a crunch/sit-up exercise doesn’t in my mind fall under the category of core stability. It may be semantics, but if you are stabilizing the core/trunk, it is generally not referring to simultaneously creating flexion,extension or side bending. We’ll save that argument for another post at another time…
Here is the information on the article and a link to the abstract:
The Effect of Core Stability Training on Functional Movement Patterns in Collegiate AthletesArticle in Journal of sport rehabilitation · February 2018Bagherian, Sajad & Ghasempoor, Khodayar & Rahnama, Nader & Wikstrom, Erik. (2018)