Does being “functional” really make you a better athlete? Survey says, “no.”
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) has become quite popular in the strength and conditioning and physical therapy scene in the past few years. But while some say it can predict the athletic ability of an athlete, others, bolstered by a recent study concluding that FMS does not have precedence over strength and speed testing in athletes, believe it has nothing to do with athletic ability. So what’s the deal? Does the FMS actually predict athletic ability in athletes better than normal strength and speed testing?
Before bashing the FMS, you must first know what it entails. The Functional Movement Screen was created by Gray Cook, a very well known physical therapist. The FMS was designed to both diagnose improper movement patterns in athletes, and offer corrective exercises to fix these imbalances before injury occurs. Athletes participate in seven tests, each of which yielding a score of 1-3 (3 being the best for their ability to perform the exercise). Each exercise is a bodyweight task, each having a specific purpose for testing the joints of the body. This is the quick and dirty on the FMS, though there’s much more to it.
Now that we’ve an FMS overview, let’s talk about the FMS’s ability to predict athletic ability. The FMS does not test running speed, strength, or acceleration, but does test one’s abilityto control their body in space. If an athlete cannot control their body in space, it doesn’t matter if they can squat 500lbs. Sportsare dynamic, with numerous changes of direction requiringelite body control. If flexibility or coordination is compromised, you’re more likely to become injured, especially in a non-contact fashion.
However, the FMS represents but one tool in the toolbox. While the FMS and the corrective exercises should, just like the power clean or the addition of an agility program, be used as a tool to better athletic performance, they’re not the end all be all many would have you believe.
I add corrective exercises to the end of workouts, which are specific exercises for each athlete depending on their needs. Otherwise, if you’ve a team-wide problem (hip tightness in soccer players), you can add corrective exercises in at any point during the workout.Remember, it doesn’t matter if you can squat 600lbs and run a 4.3 40 if you can’t stay healthy, and thus why flexibility must be emphasized.
As for predicting athletic performance, all of the tested exercises do show some type of athletic ability, even the FMS. The only problem is that many athletes are monsters in the weight room and quite the opposite on the field, while other athletes are atrocious in the weight room and amidst the elite of their respective sports. It just happens.
All of which is to say proclaiming a sole predictor of athletic performance is short sighted. While large squat numbers can indicate a high correlation between speed, strength, and overall power, they do not mean you can catch a ball or change directions. On the other end, just because you’re agile and flexible doesn’t mean you can hold your own at the D1 level.
Which is why, if you’re serious about becoming a better athlete, work on all aspects of your training to truly achieve the results you’re looking for. Even if you aren’t top of your class in the FMS or squat, the athlete who performs well on both tests has a much greater chance of on-field success.