Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

A Survey of Functional Movement Screening Applications in the Military

“Most Marines have training methods that are simply inappropriate, archaic or a bit of both,” he said. “That’s really an important thing for us to change. When you’re young and resilient, you can do a lot of things you may not be able to do as you grow, and it’s not always an age thing, it’s kind of a mileage thing” -Dr. Charlie Weingroff, DPT, Lead Physical Therapist Marine Corps Special Operations Command

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Corps recognized the need to shift away from programs based on training for the Physical Fitness Test (pull ups, crunches, 3 mile run). Even before the first shot was fired in the Great War on Terror, leadership in Marine Corps physical readiness programs knew that distance running and calisthenics, while important, were inadequate to fully prepare Marines for the physical demands of modern combat. Lessons from the current wars reinforced the value of “functional fitness” as it became readily apparent that urban combat did not include three mile run courses that one could complete in running shoes, T-shirts, and shorts. Unfortunately, in both in the military and civilian circles, much of functional training eventually degenerated into anything some creative mind could throw together that looked superficially “functional” and created a good burn (or even better, a good puke). If “functional” training programs were indeed effective at improving “function” we might not read about the latest statistics on the increase in musculoskeletal injuries in our troops. (“Gear that Protects Troops Also Injures Them”; http://www.military.com/news/article/gear-that-protects-troops-also-inju...).

Many injuries classified as “overuse” result not from the amount or intensity of use but rather from the failure to detect whatever imbalance made the individual more susceptible to breaking under the load. A greater load certainly narrows the margin for error but an underlying movement deficit is often the root cause. Any program that touts itself as “functional” can’t really claim that distinction if it doesn’t offer adequate preparation for the physical demands imposed upon the body. The good news is that progressive thinkers in the field of military physical preparedness have recognized the value of balancing youthful vigor with intelligent training methods.

Before Dr. Weingroff took his current position with MARSOC, the FMS had found its way to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and into US Air Force Pararescue Indoc. Formal studies in both schools have confirmed the predictive value of the FMS to screen for injuries in their populations. It may take a few years for military training to faithfully honor the basis in developmental kinesiology that underlies the FMS framework, but recognizing the importance of screening for movement patterns is a significant step in the right direction. The military has long recognized that a good, old fashioned obstacle course is one of the ultimate tests of overall movement ability. If the military hierarchy commits to using the FMS to guide screening and assessment, follow up training must prioritize quality movement. The screen must not merely serve as another layer of medical clearance to allow people go back to doing whatever misguided training created a high risk of injury in the first place!

Progress by the military in this direction is positive sign for civilian training. The boot-camp craze was very much inspired by what people observed in military training (and the military certainly borrowed many elements for civilian coaches as well), but along with the “boot-camp” mentality often came an approach that had virtually no framework for movement assessment. No matter how many positive elements a program offers, it takes only a slight error to ruin an athlete’s career. Hopefully civilian training will follow the positive steps being taken by some of the military’s most elite units with the integration movement screening and assessment to enhance physical readiness.


The Functional Movement Screen at Marine Corps Officer Candidate School http://www.functionalmovement.com/newsletter/oct2010/FMSPosterFinalQuant...

Army Medical Guide http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/prr/PT_BCT_Guide.pdf

The Functional Movement Screen at the Orange County Fire Academy http://www.myinjuryrisk.com/cms_files/file/FirePoster_Final.pdf

Marine Corps Special Operations Performance and Resiliency Program http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2011/02/marine-wellness-marsoc-perr...


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