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A Personal Trainer’s Guide to the Functional Movement Screen

A Personal Trainer’s Guide to the Functional Movement Screen

Assessments are key to developing the best training program for your client. The functional movement screen is one such assessment that is growing in popularity among personal trainers. Not sure yet on what all it entails? We’ve got you covered with the necessary details to make sure you’re in-the-know on assessments that may offer value to your clients.

What is the Functional Movement Screen?

The functional movement screen is a systematic review designed to help screen individuals for compensations that may put them at a risk for injury. The screen tests different areas such as mobility, flexibility, balance, and stability. Over the past several years, the functional movement screen has gone from just a way to prevent injury to also becoming a way help with athletic performance. 

For a fitness professional, knowing the best methods to assess a client or athlete is key designing a proper corrective exercise program. The result they uncover will help clients in achieving goals faster without the risk of injury. In addition, it can also help clients with their day-to-day activities, reducing compensations and making movements easier.  

Benefits and Importance of Functional Movement Screening

Seven tests make up the functional movement screen. These tests give you an idea of where your client is starting and what sort of injury risk they may be at. Once you’ve taken your client through all seven tests, you’ll be able to assess the results and apply the proper corrective exercise program to get them moving in the right direction with their fitness program. 

Tools and Resources for Functional Movement Screening

In order to perform the functional movement screen efficiently, it is important for a trainer to have the proper equipment, such as a measuring device, hurdle, and measuring stick. 

The functional movement screen has a specific scoring spectrum that trainers use to score a client and understand the levels of compensation they may have. Once a trainer has taken a client through the functional movement screen that is when a trainer can then create a corrective exercise training program to help correct their imbalances. 

Elements of Functional Movement Screening

When it comes to conducting a functional movement screening, these are seven essential tests you will use to assess clients. 

Deep Squat

The deep squat, also referred to as the overhead squat test, is very simple. The client will lock out their arms over head, generally holding on to something such as a PVC pipe. The client will squat down and back up. This allows the trainer to assess their squatting form. 

This test assesses bilateral, symmetrical, and functional mobility of the ankles, knees, and hips. At the same time, it also assesses the stability and mobility of the shoulders and thoracic spine.

Hurdle Step

The hurdle step test tests the asymmetrical stepping ability. People step side to side and over things in everyday life, so this is a very functional test to use when screening a new client. 

Set up a dowel from the functional movement screen kit and have your client step side to side over the dowel. The main areas you’re reviewing here for imbalances are the ankles, knees, and hips.

In-line Lunge

The in-lune lunge test is performed by placing both feet in line then lunging down without the feet moving. While this is happening, the client will hold a dowel or pvc pipe behind the back. This will help show the trainer any compensations or imbalances. 

This test looks at thoracic spine, ankle, knee, and hip mobility, as well as the client’s balance.

Shoulder Mobility

The shoulder mobility test is an assessment for scapular mobility and thoracic spine mobility. While these movements don’t generally show up individually in day-to-day activities, they work together and will have an impact collectively. For example: reaching for an object, grabbing something overhead, or even putting on a jacket. 

For this test, the client will make a fist with each hand and simultaneously bring one hand behind the low back bending at the elbow reaching as far up their back as possible and the other hand above over the shoulder reaching towards the middle of the back as far down as possible. They will then repeat switching arm positions to test both sides in both positions. 

Active Straight Leg Raise

This test is a flexibility and mobility test. The active straight leg raise looks at the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and IT bands. These are all areas where individuals who sit at a desk all day are going to experience tightness. 

This test may be the simplest of all of them. Have the client start by laying down flat on their back with the legs firmly against the ground, arms by their side, and shoulders in contact with the ground. Then have them keep one leg straight, raise it up as high as they can while keeping the other leg flat on the ground and the shoulders and arms on the ground. Then repeat on the other leg. 

Trunk Stability Push-up

The trunk stability push-up is often thought of as a strength-based test, but in actuality it is a core stability test. 

For this test the client starts face down on their stomach bringing their arms up so hands are in line with the forehead for men and the chin for women. From there, on the toes and hands, the client should press up the body into a push-up position, keeping the body as rigid as possible. 

Rotary Stability

The final test of the functional movement screen is rotary stability. This is another test of stability of the core and the trunk. 

For this test, the client should start on their hands and knees. Like a bird dog exercise, they will extend one arm out in front while extending the opposite leg straight back. Then they will bring in the same arm and leg that are fully extend in to touch elbow-to-knee under the core. Remember, this is a stability test not a strength test.

Adding to Your Personal Trainer Toolkit

The functional movement screen can be a very valuable assessment for personal trainers to use with their clients. It is just one of many options to assess a client. In order to take those results and provide a corrective exercise program you should have education in corrective exercise. Coupled together, these tools can you provide the most well-rounded program possible for your clients to reduce risk factors and move freely through physical activity without limitations. 

Interested in learning how to develop training for corrective exercise? Enhance the personal training sessions you offer with the ISSA’s Corrective Exercise Specialist program.