By Jared Woolever of Smart Group Training
Does the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) work with kids?
Both Steve and I were lucky enough to attend the IYCA Summit (International Youth and Conditioning Association) recently. We have been to the past three now, and we are pleased with the direction this organization is heading. This year, however, we were lucky enough to have a booth set up. We were able to talk and interact with all the coaches, trainers, and educators. The question we heard the most has to be about the FMS and its application to children. Does it actually work with kids?
The answer is YES! The FMS works incredibly well with kids. We use the FMS with a heavy majority of the kids coming in to train with us. The information you can get is extremely important and guides you in finding their strengths and weaknesses.
The cool thing about using the FMS with children is the corrective strategies. After identifying a dysfunction, applying the corrective strategy tends to clean up the issue, and FAST.
The majority of the time, when working with our youth athletes, we are able to clear up movement issues relatively quickly. Since they are younger and haven’t been dealing with dysfunction and compensation for years and years, youth athletes tend to clear patterns very quickly. We still take the same approach we always do to fix patterns, but the adaptations tend to happen a little quicker when dealing with youth instead of adults. Here is a rundown of what we do from start to finish in developing each program:
1. Screen each athlete and get medical history – We only work with middle school and up, so as long as they are mature enough, we will run them though a functional movement screen. We also want to use the medical history to find out if they have asthma, previous injuries or surgeries, etc…Feel free to add in some performance based measures if you like as well. Strength, power, body awareness, balance, and coordination are also key factors we’re looking for in our youth athletes.
2. Analyze Screen – After taking the time to run the screen, use it with your programming. The screening process should have given you insight to what the athlete’s limitations are. Now base your program around correcting those weaknesses or dysfunctions.
3. Apply Red Lights – This simply means we eliminate all exercises that can potentially cause harm. If we know the athlete cannot perform a certain task, we will take out any exercises that will only set them up for failure. We want to empower our athletes with a sense of accomplishment, so using the screen to restrict certain things is a vital part to the programming. If they can’t squat, DON’T SQUAT.
4. Apply Correctives – Like I just said, if they can’t squat, DON’T SQUAT. Applying the red light means we take it out. No need to train a pattern that is dysfunctional, so taking it out is the first step. Now, in this portion, we’re going to apply a corrective strategy. Without getting into too much detail about the hierarchy of what we fix first, we find the appropriate corrective strategy to build the athlete and get them to squat. The corrective portion is where we are going to work the limitations found and begin to improve overall movement and build a solid foundation to work from.
5. Strength/Power/Endurance – Does the athlete lack strength, power, or endurance? After identifying the weakness, exploit it. I’m going to train an overpowered athlete different than an underpowered athlete. The strength and stability demands are going to be different athlete by athlete, so base your program around what they need to address most. Again, this all comes back to proper screening and testing.
6. Rest/Recovery – This portion is often overlooked. The kids nowadays are overworked and lead stressful lives. I want to address this in my programming. It’s beneficial to know if your athletes are working off of little sleep, getting slammed for midterms, or taking multiple honors classes. These little things can lead to a buildup of stress. These little stresses can indirectly effect what we see in the movement screen, so we need to address this. We work them hard, so ensure you focus on rest and recovery as well.
The FMS is extremely useful in youth populations. We use it with great success and will continue to use it while designing our programs. This simple screen allows us to gather a deeper look into who we’re working with and what we can do to help them get better. The screen is a great tool from young to old. After all, it’s just movement we’re looking at. The screen was designed off fundamental patterns we learned as we developed, so the principles are the same. We need to push, crawl, reach, squat, lunge, etc… So essentially, FMS is good for just about anyone…young to old.
It bears noting, just because someone can’t do something on the FMS that doesn’t mean the exercise is contraindicated. For instance, a deep squat is difficult. If someone can’t do it give them their toe touch progressions/deep squat progressions, but you can still introduce squats to parallel and if that’s not possible then TRX or Gravity Machine modifications. Better to teach a progression than cut something out entirely. And if they just don’t know the mechanics, better to teach them then to say “you can’t.” How is it empowering anyone to tell them they can’t do an exercise?!
Do you allow a patient to incorrectly do an exercise over and over until they develop an injury? Never. But you teach them how to correct their form until they can do it, whether it be with different equipment or none at all.