True Confessions

Last month, in my column entitled Move Well, Move Often, I extolled the virtues of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and it’s ability to assess risk of injury as well as provide a baseline for competency in seven different functional patterns that we see in exercise as well as activities of daily living.

I ended the column by posing an obvious question: If I took the FMS course and got certified in 2014, why have I taken so long to write about it and begin to use it as a tool for helping the Practice community?

I have to confess: I was afraid.

  • First, I was afraid it would inject too much change into the studio too soon. In 2014, we were still known for teaching mostly Pilates and my instructors, who had devoted a lot time and resources to getting trained in the full STOTT Pilates repertoire, were really hitting their stride.
  • Second, I was afraid of the potential legitimacy crisis that it might create for staff and clients. Even though we have taught other modalities in the studio, such as weight training, TRX, and yoga, I worried that providing an assessment platform and a set of correctives that were clearly not Pilates might somehow negatively impact the bread and butter of our business, creating an impression that “Pilates is not enough.”
  • Third, I was afraid that I didn’t have the expertise necessary to successfully implement it with clients and teach it to the staff.

 In the ensuing five years a lot has changed.

  • Our staff is more diverse and open to learning and incorporating different modes of training.
  • The industry is diversifying. Merrithew, the parent company of STOTT PILATES, now offers brands that include Total Barre, Halo, CORE Athletic Conditioning, Fascial Fitness, and Zenga. These brands are addressing different aspects of the fitness continuum for different types of exercisers. I was just up in Toronto 2 weeks ago and took a workshop called: Assessment and Warm Up for Foundational Movement, which is an explicit acknowledgment of the need to provide our clients with some measure of objective baseline and tools for ensuring that their fundamental movement patterns are sound and strong.
  • Our clients have needs and wishes have evolved over time as they’ve aged, making “moving well” an increasing priority.
  • With continuing study and practice, including taking the FMS courses two or three times, I know more and I can see more than I could five years ago.

When it comes to ensuring that you can move like your fifty until you are eighty – and yes, I am actually going to say this – Pilates alone is not enough. Nor is yoga, weight training, TRX, nor even FMS. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses. For example, in Pilates, we spend a lot of time horizontal, which isn’t very functional unless you are sleeping or sunbathing. FMS correctives can help us build functionality in our movement, which is important to have as a foundation, but it has less to say about performance or skill acquisition. Strength training is great for building necessary muscle and power, but often favors isolating muscle groups and even muscle fiber types over whole body integrated movement patterns. Yoga is excellent at increasing flexibility, balance, and mind-body awareness, but sometimes runs the danger of weighing in too heavily on the mobility end of the stability-mobility continuum.

Another way of expressing this is that they are each right, partially. Each has an important contribution to make to your well-being and well-moving, provided that you are operating with a baseline, a minimum standard, of movement competency. The Functional Movement Screen and its correctives provide us with this.

Once a functional movement foundation is established, we can then draw upon the strengths of any number of movement modalities in the service of achieving the quality and quantity of movement that you want or need.

It’s important, however, to note that without establishing the minimum standard of movement competency, diving into intermediate and advanced levels of Pilates, yoga, weight lifting and other modes of training can be a recipe for injury. This is something that I can’t, in good faith, allow. If you want to do the the advanced work, then show me your functional baseline and if one or two aspects of it doesn’t yet meet the minimum standard, then we will first work toward that end.

How we establish this baseline and use it as a springboard for increasing your movement literacy, in a way that is not only fruitful but also fun, will be the subject of my columns for several months to come. Again, stay tuned!

Best wishes,


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