FMS Case Study: Improving Shoulder Mobility

FMS Case Study: Improving Shoulder Mobility

What is the Functional Movement Screen? 

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) helps us capture 7 fundamental movements to determine the greatest areas of movement deficiency, limitations or asymmetries, and eventually correlate these with an outcome to help our clients reduce the risk of future injury.

As stated above, the FMS is comprised of seven movement tests that require a balance of mobility and stability. The patterns used provide observable performance of basic, mobility and stability movements by placing clients in positions where weaknesses, imbalances, asymmetries and limitations become noticeable by our trained health and fitness professional.

Furthermore, the screen is not a training tool, nor is it a competition tool. It’s purely an instrument for rating and ranking movements.

Why is it important to get an FMS screen?

The FMS tells us what to protect, what to correct and sets our baseline for moving “well enough” to move on and get to the training we love.

So, first step is once we have identified the weak link through screening it is up to the movement screening professional to have corrective strategies to “filter” the problem and achieve a good movement solution.

Second, the FMS screen is not intended to determine why a dysfunctional or faulty movement pattern exists.

Instead, it’s simply a discovery of which patterns are problematic, dysfunctional or painful—or both—within basic movement patterns.

Additionally, we know that many people are able to perform a wide range of activities, yet some are unable to efficiently execute the movements in the screen.

Those who score poorly on the screens are using compensatory movement patterns during regular activities.

If these compensations continue, sub-optimal movement patterns are reinforced, leading to poor biomechanics and possibly contributing to a future injury.

FMS Shoulder Mobility Screen

The shoulder mobility (SM) screen checks the coordination of the thoracic spine, scapula, and control of the shoulder and upper limbs.

We then measure the left hand to determine scoring criteria. My clients hand measured 8 inches.

Scoring Criteria:

3-hands withing a hand length (8 inches)

2-hands within a hand length plus a half (12 inches)

1-greater than a hand length and a half (greater than 12 inches)

Next, I had my client stand with the feet together and hands making a fist with thumbs inside the fingers. He then simultaneously reaches one fist behind the neck and the other behind the back. The goal here is to bring them as close as possible to one another.

During the test, the hands should move in one smooth motion and should remain fisted. We then measured the distance between the two closest points of his hands to determine his symmetrical reach.

Left Side: 28.5″ distance

Right Side: 17″ distance

As you can see, his hands were well above the 12″ cutoff making it a 1 out 3 for the shoulder mobility.

On top of that, his left side was 28.5″ and right side 17″ making this a big asymmetry.

Why is shoulder mobility important?

Upper body mobility and control are fundamental to many movements.

For example, the reciprocal movement of the upper extremities is part of gait and locomotion, as well as many movements/activities.

In sports the upper body reciprocal pattern is fundamental to a number of throwing, striking and swinging movements. The opposing action of the arms in the tennis serve, javelin throw, or baseball pitch allow for accurate and powerful movements.

Walking and running are also reliant on the reciprocal pattern and even jumping is influenced by the coordinated use of the upper limbs.

In daily life our ability to carry, push, pull, reach overhead, and even walk is influenced by the upper body reciprocal pattern and upper limb mobility and control.

Reach for something high up in your cabinet, put on your shirt or carry the trash outside and throw it in the garbage can. You’ll find your upper body will be quite active in all these activities.

Corrective exercises used to improve shoulder mobility

Below are 5 exercises we used to help improve shoulder mobility.


  • Trunk Stability Rotation Knees Flexed and Seated Floor Slides are exercises that help work on scapular stability,
  • 90/90 Breathing w/ Core Engagement to help reduce muscular neck and chest tightness,
  • T-Spine Rotation w/ Rib Grab & Brettzel 2.0 to improve mobility.
Shoulder mobility after corrective exercises

After 4 sessions of goal oriented programming we were able to get his shoulder mobility score to improve significantly.

We went from 28.5 inches to 16 inches on the left and 17 inches to 15 inches on the right.

After Left: 16 inches

After Right: 15 inches

Learn how you can get your FREE Movement Screen from one of our coaches!

Looking to step up your fitness game? Get your FREE Functional Movement Screen to optimize your performance!

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