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How to Assess Your Athletes by Using a Functional Movement Screening.

Athletic development is a popular topic among researchers.  As strength coaches, our goal is to build a perfect athlete.  It is very rewarding when you start working with an athlete and see improvements and accomplishments.  For athletes, sports can be demanding on the body and we need to prepare the athletes for the grind of a season, no matter the sport.

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The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a popular tool for screening athletes of their strengths and weaknesses before the preseason starts.  In my personal experience, having a FMS before, during and after the season has been very effective.  A big reason why strength coaches and personal trainers do this is to see whether the athletes have any impairments that could lead to an injury. The FMS is not intended to diagnose orthopedic problems but rather to demonstrate limitations or asymmetries in healthy individuals with respect to basic movement patterns and eventually correlate them with outcomes (McKeown 2014).

How to Do an Injury Assessment

Before we even start a FMS, we need to make sure they are medically cleared to exercise or play the sport.  This can be done by going to the doctor to get a physical.  Next, we need to know their injury history or if they are currently experiencing an injury. If the athlete is experiencing an injury there are some steps that we need to take care of before they start exercising. The steps that we need to take are:

  1. The most obvious question we can ask is “where does it hurt and what does it feel like? There could be a number of ways you can go about this. Is it a sharp pair or a dull achy pain?  Is the pain in one spot or does it change?
  2. What makes it painful? Is it painful only when you do certain movements or does it hurt all the time?  Asking them if it hurts right away or after a certain amount of time during an activity?  Does it hurt when you wake up in the morning?  If it is hurting in the morning, this can be an inflammatory issue that make need ice and/or anti-Inflammatory medication.
  3. Do they have any weaknesses that need to be looked at? Your FMS will help you find those weaknesses.
  4. Is this injury due to them being tired or fatigued?  Are the muscles around the injured area weak and need to be developed?
  5. What are their coaches have them do in practice and what is their current training program?  Are they eating right, lifting weights, sleeping right and/or taking any supplements?

After we have recognized and hopefully improved the athletes injuries, next we can move on to the Functional Movement Screening.  Our goal is test if the athlete has any imbalances and or weaknesses by using stability and mobility.  What has been effective for strength coaches is giving the athletes tests that involve similar movements that they will see in their sport or in the training program. It is very important that you have an understanding of the bodies body mechanics.  If you really pay attention to their form and fix their flaws then you can decrease the chances of injuries for these poor movement patterns.

When you score an athletes test:

0=There is pain during any part of the test

1=Below average form

2=Average form

3=Excellent form

There are 7 Functional Movement Screening Tests that we can do with our athletes or clients:

1. Overhead Deep Squat

The objective this test is examine the stability and mobility of the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and thoracic spine extension. You will need pole or broomstick for this test.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Your feet should be shoulder width apart
  2. Push your shoulders and the bar up as high as you can and your arms spread out past shoulder width.
  3. The bar should be aligned with your heels
  4. Tighten your core
  5. Keep your chest up
  6. Lower your body slowly down by bending your knees and kicking your butt back
  7. Keep your weight on heels (your whole foot should be on the ground)
  8. Squat down as far as you can while maintaining perfect form
  9. Push through your heels and return to the starting position.


1=The knees and shins are coming too far past your toes and/or the knees are collapsing in, the chest is leaning too far forward and the lower back is rounded.

2=The knees and shins are vertical, your knees are aligned over the feet, the chest is up and the upper torso is parallel but the heels are coming off the floor.

3=The knees and shins are vertical, your knees are aligned over the feet, the chest is up and the upper torso is parallel.

2. Inline lunge

The purpose is to test your stability and control of your hips, knees, ankles and core.  You will need a light pole or broom stick and a thin board  that will fit your foot. You want to take a short stride and hold that position before starting.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Place a mark a foot’s length from the end of the board.
  2. Measure from your knee to your foot and the is the distance behind that you will need to put behind the first mark.
  3. Place your front leg toe on the first mark
  4. Hold the bar behind your head one arm up and the other arm down
  5. The bar should touch your head and upper back
  6. Place your heel on the second mark
  7. Lower your back knee down while keeping your core tight until it hits the board
  8. Lift your body up by straightening your legs back to the starting position and switch legs.


1=The person is unable to keep their balance.

2=The pole is not in contact with head, shoulder blades and low back.  The chest is coming too far forward.  The feet are pivoting and the knee is not in line right behind the heel of the front foot.

3=The pole is in contact with head, shoulder blades and low back.  The pole and chest is vertical. The feet are in line and the knee is in line right behind the heel of the front foot.

3. Push up Trunk Stability

The purpose of this test is to the level of stabilization in the spines anterior and posterior planes of motion. For men their hands need to be aligned with their chin and women have their hands aligned with the collar bone.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. You lie on your stomach
  2. The hands are placed shoulder width apart
  3. Your feet should be together
  4. Bring your elbows up
  5. Lock out your knees
  6. Keep your core as tight as possible
  7. Push up from the floor as a unit with no lag in the lower back
  8. If to easy move hands slightly forward


1=Unable to do perform one rep.

2=You can raise your body with a straight spine.

3=You can raise your body with a straight spine with your hands place farther in front of you.

4. Shoulder Mobility

The purpose of this test is to test the mobility of the glenohumeral’s internal rotation with adduction and external rotation with abduction. You will need a measuring stick.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Make a fist with your thumbs tucked in
  3. Take one hand and put it above your head and place it below your neck
  4. Take the other hand and place it behind your lower back
  5. Reach both hands while still in fists to try to make contact with each other
  6. Measure the distance and repeat on the other side


1=Fists are more the one and a half length away

2=Fists are one and a half length away

3=Fist are one hand or less away

5. Active-Straight-Leg Raise

The purpose of this test is to perform a movement while maintaining stability in your torso.  This tests the flexibility of the gastrocnemius, soleus and the hamstrings.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Lay on the floor with your head and back flat on the floor.
  2. Find the midpoint between the anterior superior illiac spine and the midpoint of the patella
  3. The poll is placed vertically from the ground next to the thigh.
  4. Lift the leg that is being test straight up with your foot in dorsiflexion and your knee flexed
  5. The opposite knee should remain in contact with the ground
  6. Lift as far as they can while maintaining position and measure


1=The ankle is the below the joint line

2=The ankle is between the midthigh and joint line

3=The ankle is between the midthigh and ASIS

6. Hurdle Step Test

The purpose of this test is to assess trunk stability, mobility of the hips, knees and ankles as well as gluteal strength and balance ability of the lower extremities.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Stand up tall with feet placed shoulder width apart.
  2. The hurdle string is placed at the height of the tibial tuberosity
  3. Place the poll across the shoulders below the neck
  4. Step over the hurdle and touch the heel on the opposite side while maintaining an extended knee of the leg that did not step over
  5. Repeat on opposite side


1=Loss of balance and/or you hit the hurdle

2=Alignment is off between the hips, knees and ankles. Moving too much in your lumbar spine. Poll does not stay level

3=Minimal movement and everything is level.

7. Rotary Stability Test

The purpose of this test is to test the neuromuscular coordination of the torso.  It focuses on stabilization and shifting of weight without rotating.

How to Perform this Test:

  1. Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders and hips at 90 degrees
  2. Ankles is dorsiflexion
  3. A board is placed in contact between the knees and hands
  4. You raise your leg and hand 6 inches off the floor
  5. Your elbow, hand and knee should stay level with the board
  6. Then you bring your elbow and knee back to touch together
  7. Repeat three times then switch


1=Unable to keep balance

2=Can attempt one correct rep with everything inline

3=Can attempt one correct rep on both sides

When I played sports, we were given a weight lifting program on the first day. I wish we would have had a Functional Movement Screening, maybe this was a big reason why we led the league in the injuries.  These tests have worked well for me and there are many other tests that you can do.  Take your time with your athletes, having a testing period throughout the offseason, preseason, during the season and offseason could be the difference between a healthy athlete and an injured one.

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  1. Rather, L. J. (1971). “Disturbance of function (functio laesa): the legendary fifth cardinal sign of inflammation, added by Galen to the four cardinal signs of Celsus”. Bull N Y Acad Med 47 (3): 303–322. PMC 1749862. PMID 5276838.
  2. McKeown I, Taylor-McKeown K, Woods C, Ball N. Athletic ability assessment: a movement assessment protocol for athletes. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Dec;9(7):862-73.