Functional Movement Screening - worth it?


Original Post
Rich Farnham · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2002 · Points: 278

Does anyone have experience with Functional Movement Screening (FMS)? As I've been reading around about training, I'm curious whether this would be a good way to make use of my limited training time.

I know what I need to do as far as basic climbing training - there's plenty of resources for that. But I'm interested in staying injury-free, and addressing lurking problems that I may not be aware of. This recent article on Black Diamond's site did a good job explaining how injuries may be caused by issues in an area other than where it's painful.

It sounds like FMS tries to screen the whole body to identify incorrect movement patterns and muscle imbalances. It seems like lots of people are certified to give the test, but it might be more tricky to find someone who really knows what to do with the results.

I can do yoga, and all sorts of extra exercises, and might fix my issues. But I don't really have time to do it all. I'd like to get some help assessing where I really need work so I can focus on the things that will be most effective.

I'd be curious to hear from anyone that has experience with the FMS (good or bad) or anything like it. There's a few threads about this ( here, and here ) but not many people have commented.

If anyone has a recommendation in the Denver/Boulder area, I'd be interested to hear it.

Thanks!

Long Ranger · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 75

I wouldn't pay for anything like this, unless I was trying to get into 5.13 grade climbing honestly - or going like: pro. Both of which I am not.

Instead I'd ask a buddy if anything I'm doing looks really weird, and just do a self-assessment (film yourself and see if YOU see anything that looks weird). I would wager a lot of climbing-related injuries - outside of bad falls, are from over-use. I would ask myself if my climbing fits into that category of problems.

I played around with the idea that since I'm a little bit serious about running, I should get a gait analysis and a running form coach - and all that. But in fact, I know what I need to work on, and I can really do that myself. And if I'm really honest with myself, I'm not THAT serious about running, I just want to feel that I'm, I dunno: special enough to need a gait analysis and running form coach.

Other people find coaching useful, and worth it. I guess there's no wrong answer. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect, as they say.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,116
Rich Farnham wrote:whether this would be a good way to make use of my limited training time.
I doubt it's worth your time.
For soft-tissue injuries from doing advanced rock climbing moves, there isn't much useful data with a sound statistical basis. And there never will be.

Just because some motion configuration doesn't "look right" doesn't mean it's ever going to cause an injury. And the way soft tissues get injuried from repetitive-use stress in climbing is likely tricky to understand. And most people's understanding of the physics of most sophisticated sport motions is over-simplified. The unconscious neuromuscular control computations of elite athletes is beyond what the conscious rationality of most humans can handle.

I suggest that the best way to spend your time (and money) is to purchase Dave MacLeod's book Make or Break -- and digest it carefully. MacLeod is pretty careful to stick with advice that really has a semblance of scientific basis -- so he's a lot more restrained than what some climbing coaches or therapists claim to "know".

The human body is very adaptive. With careful progressive training-practice of a move, the muscles and tendons can get strong to handle it without injury, even if it "looks obviously dangerous" to an unsophisticated observer.

I'd be afraid that from FMS you're going to get two or three over-conservative "diagnoses" for things which might possibly cause a climbing injury -- based on somebody's theory which lacks any sound statistical basis. Then spend lots of time working on things that are unproductive.

That's the history of most "good advice" I've seen written for the past twenty years about preventing climbing injuries.

In addition to the MacLeod book, I suggest:
  • do scapula-retraction exercises
  • have a friend take a video of you climbing, then view it together and see if you notice anything obvious strange -- then compare with advanced climbers doing similar moves, and make sure it really is strange.
  • learn to listen to your body, and back off (and rest), when something hurts the wrong way.

Ken
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310

I'm going to go against the grain and say that it may be worth your time, but ONLY if you have a pre-existing movement dysfunction that you already know is limiting your climbing. That was the case for me: I have very poor hip and thoracic mobility, leading to an inability to properly get my hips on the wall and generate force through my posterior chain.

I was doing deadlifts on the side to aid in this, but kept getting injured despite using what I thought was perfect form. A FMS assessment showed that my dysfunctions were preventing me from good form and I shouldn't have been doing these lifts in the first place!

Basically, if you're interested in moderate terrain, this isn't worth it. If you are more performance oriented, this could definitely be worth your time. I think we will see more and more emphasis on full body mobility, despite the prevailing notion that strong fingers are all that matters.

That being said, the correctives take 45 mins+ of your time every single day, and if that is replacing climbing time, you'll probably not make the gains in your climbing you may be wishing to see.

Haha, just realized all your links are me bitching about my old man body!

Jon W · · Longmont Colorado · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 95

I'd spend a hour with Chris Wall (BRC) or Justen Sjong (Evo).

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310
Jon W wrote:I'd spend a hour with Chris Wall (BRC) or Justen Sjong (Evo).
I do in general recommend spending an hour with one of these guys, but the two assessments are very different. The FMS is not a climbing specific movement assessment. I did actually spend an hour with Justen, and it was completely worth the money. For instance though, he told me that I climb very stiff in the hips, and should use more "play" with hip movement. I thought that was something I just needed to be more mindful of, but after the FMS, I realized I actually had a true movement dysfunction that was limiting my hip movement. As good as Justen is, he couldn't tell me why I was climbing with limited hip movement.

Again though, unless you know there is something in your mobility patterns that are limiting you, this probably isn't worth the money (and especially) the time. I think there is enough information out there about antagonist exercises and such to keep most overuse injuries at bay. I think you'll know if you have some serious issues -- it was glaringly obvious for me.
Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30

I have worked extensively with FMS. I have taken the basic certification courses plus have had the privilege of some very small-group hands-on training by some of the biggest names in the industry. I have used it on over 100 personal training clients.

Just like anything in life, there are pluses and minuses. As a fitness professional the validity of the FMS is one of my favorite things to debate. I could go on and on for hours about different aspects of the screen.

My main complaints are the lack of conclusive research. There is just as much against it as for it. Also, the entire model is based off of movements that are supposedly tied to human movement in it's most infant form. It's barely even close.

Now, the positive. One thing I've learned about climbing coaches (I am not attacking anyone, this does not apply to everyone) in general is that a lot of their movement theories are straight out of the 1990's. They'll talk about antagonists, scapular retraction, and activating your rotator cuff. These are all great things if you have clean movement. If you have developed faulty movement patterns these things will only work as temporary "band-aids". The FMS can help pinpoint the underlying cause and set a system to prioritize certain actions.

A lot of fitness trainers are forced to preform the screen on their clients against their will. If you can find someone that truly understands the screen and knows how to design an effective program based on the results, I believe it is better than most any other option that is available to most people.

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30
evan h wrote:That being said, the correctives take 45 mins+ of your time every single day, and if that is replacing climbing time, you'll probably not make the gains in your climbing you may be wishing to see.
Although I think your experience with the FMS and deadlifting is a great example, 45+ mins a day is completely unnecessary. I am able to do my correctives in less than 10 mins before I climb. As I said above, it is difficult to find a fitness professional that can program FMS systems within an effective training program.
Wilburn · · Cheyenne, WY · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 350

Look up Jared Vagy at The Climbing Doctor

He has an e-book that addresses a lot of functional movement at a cost that I presume is less than a face-to-face screening.

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310
BCarver wrote: 45+ mins a day is completely unnecessary.
Well, I only have my experience to speak from. I have about 8-10 mobility and stability drills to do daily, and that's about what it takes to do them justice. It may just be that I have more areas to address than is typical (?).
djh860 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 110

I believe that there is a highly valid argument to be made in favor for this type of review but I think you're going to have a hard time finding a skilled practitioner.

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 869

Rich,

I have not gone through a formal screening but have done enough research and self evaluation to recognize that my overhead reach was restricted. There are consequences to this including potential injury during repetitive hangboard training, compromised movement on overhanging terrain, etc. I have mostly followed Eric Cressey's correctives to address this problem and incorporated several exercises to my warm-up routine. The mobility drills to address thoracic issues take about five minutes out of my 30 - 40 minute warm-up and I have seen a significant improvement in the past 2.5 years [1)reaching overhead without going into lumbar extension and 2) thoracic rotation].

There is a lot information available online in the strength, conditioning and rehabilitative fields (as well as on this forum) some of it conflicting so use some common sense and a healthy degree of skepticism as you embark further.

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30
evan h wrote: Well, I only have my experience to speak from. I have about 8-10 mobility and stability drills to do daily, and that's about what it takes to do them justice. It may just be that I have more areas to address than is typical (?).
The glory of the FMS is that you should only be addressing 1-2 areas at a time. One of the claims the creators of the screen make is that if you address and fix your weakest area, your scores on other movements should automatically see improvement as well. Also, whatever daily drills you do (based off of FMS principles) should make an immediate improvement in your score. That doesn't mean its going to stick for a day or even 5 hours, but the effects from those drills should at least last the duration of your workout.
It's highly unlikely that 8-10 drills are required for 1 or even 2 weak links. My guess is that either you are doing the wrong ones, or that you are doing them incorrectly.

You said it perfectly above, 8-10drills/45 mins automatically undermines the entire nature of a training program. Where did you get your drills from?
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310

BCarver, sent you a PM to take my specific case offline. I got my assessment and correctives from a practitioner in Denver.

Rich Farnham · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2002 · Points: 278

Wow! Thanks for all of the replies! Given the limited discussion I'd found so far, I was hoping for 1 or 2 replies...

Lots to think about here. I don't have time for a long reply at the moment, but I really appreciate the thoughtful replies.

To clarify, I don't really have an injury at the moment. I've gotten pretty good at managing the typical tweaks that come from climbing. But at 42 y/o I'm noticing that I don't have the same general fitness and flexibility I used to have without really trying. I know this trend will continue, so I want to try to manage it before it becomes a problem.

I feel like I might have similar issues to "evan h" (tight hips and a weak posterior chain) and have considered adding deadlifts to my training. Evan - you are on both of those threads, and I appreciate you sharing your experience. That's what prompted me to look into this more.

BCarver - it sounds like you work in this field. "...it is difficult to find a fitness professional that can program FMS systems within an effective training program." Is that what you do?

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30
Rich Farnham wrote: BCarver - it sounds like you work in this field. "...it is difficult to find a fitness professional that can program FMS systems within an effective training program." Is that what you do?
Yes and Kind of.

The amount of trainers that really understand the principles and procedures are very small. Most gyms will make their trainers preform the screen on potential new clients to help build value and sell training even though the trainer is doing everything wrong. I used to facilitate in house workshops and examinations to a team of 33 "high end" trainers. I'd say about 2 of them could actually use it to design an effective program.

I wouldn't say it is "what I do", but I do use it as part of a large strategy to improve the health and fitness of my clients. So, yes, I guess.
Luna Luna · · New Haven, CT · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 55

as bcarver stated there are pros and cons to FMS, however, if you can find an experienced provider in your area it may be worth your while.  Look for a DC or PT.
I suggest asking yourself if throughout your life you have had repetitive strains or injuries in the same area of the body.  If the answer is yes, you may have developed habits and patterns that alter your movement patterns. Athletes have amazing coping mechanisms to compensate for muscle weaknesses or existing injuries.  A GOOD FMS specialists can help you identify these areas and move past them.  If you are successful in this venture it could help you in more than just your climbing.

best of luck

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply