Using the Functional Movement Screen in Groups

“Sorry, but I can’t afford that.”

It’s a phrase that many trainers have heard before from people wanting to work with them one on one.

The high price of one-on-one training, which can range from anywhere between $40 per session to over $250 per session for in-demand trainers, can be prohibitive to many who want to work with a fitness professional.

This prevents many from making the health, fitness and lifestyle changes they so desperately need to make. And it also means trainers miss out on reaching a large percentage of people who need their services.

Enter Group Training

With the high price of one-to-one sessions posing a barrier to many, group training has become an affordable and popular alternative for those looking for fitness instruction.

It’s not just a more affordable price that has helped group training grow in popularity.

Group training has become increasingly popular because it includes an important component missing from traditional one-on-one fitness instruction: social interaction.

In group training sessions, people are encouraged to push themselves harder in the presence of others. They’re made to feel like they belong to a group of people who all to make a positive change in their lives, and they’re given the chance to socialize with people in their class before, during and after sessions.

All these not only help people get better results, but can also make exercise more enjoyable—both of which encourage people to continue attending the classes.

Despite these advantages for fitness businesses and clients, group training does have its pitfalls.

In traditional group training, the same program is prescribed to everyone, regardless of their individual needs, ability levels or pre-existing issues.

This can increase the risk of injury and outweigh the benefits of group training sessions.

But is there a way of harnessing the benefits of group training while minimizing its pitfalls?

Yes, there is.

Finding A Better Way Of Training Groups

Mark Snow is the Co-coordinator of the Human Performance Major at Midland University and co-owner of CrossFit Solaria.

Mark has been highly successfully in using the FMS to deliver group training sessions that cater to the needs of each individual group member.

In the following section from Mark’s lecture, Using the FMS Screens in Groups, Mark discusses how you can use the FMS  to harness the power of group training while still individualizing the sessions to the needs of each individual member.


Mark Snow: Using the FMS Screens in Groups


I started out as a Certified Athletic Trainer working part-time in a physical therapy setting and part-time doing an injury prevention and care program I created at the University of Vanderbilt Orthopedic Hospital. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Boston to attend a Functional Movement Screen workshop.

I came back with my life turned upside down. Everything I thought I was doing right in training, rehab and personal training, was wrong.

I then started applying the functional movement systems and ended up getting great results, in things I never even thought were possible.

From there, I learned about the Russian Kettlebell Challenge program through Gray Cook and discovered how to use kettlebells to get clients the results they wanted. Kettlebells also turned out to be a great tool for improving movement scores on the Functional Movement Screen.

I was fortunate enough to find a local RKC, Master RKC David Whitley, who started teaching me the different RKC methods. What was even better was that he had just returned from the first CK-FMS.

As I was training to get ready for the RKC, I spoke with a lot of different RKCs who had attended the first CK-FMS or had FMS experience.

I was extremely curious to find out how they were using the FMS in the group fitness setting.

The overwhelming majority said they didn’t.

They loved the FMS program and thought it was fantastic for personal training, but they just didn’t see the benefit of using it in the group class.

I was baffled because I thought if anybody needed something like this, the group-class setting was where the FMS should be applied.

So here I’d like to show you how you can use apply the FMS to group training sessions to really help your clients train more effectively and more safely.

Step 1: Conduct an individual screening session

The best way to perform an FMS on a person who’s going to attend your group class is to set up a time for a fitness consultation. During the consultation, you’ll go over the person’s goals, do your measurements or whatever you want to do, and then spend an extra 10-15 minutes performing a Functional Movement Screen.

From the beginning, in this one-on-one situation, you’re establishing yourself and building a great rapport with your clients because you haven’t even taken them through a workout yet.

You just want to know how they move. If they ask, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

You just want to know how they move as individuals, and whether there are any asymmetries or imbalances you can improve to help them get the most out of this program.

Step 2: Review the results with your client and dive straight into some correctives

Next, review the results of the screen with the client.

At this point, you’ll then dive right into some correctives. It could be one to two drills. Basically, it’s a way to show you know what you’re doing.

Take some time and find a drill that helps to improve the score.

While you are taking them through the drills, verbally reinforce the improvements they’re getting from doing the correctives. This helps get ‘buy-in’ from the client, shows you know what you’re doing and why, and demonstrates to them that you can help them get results.

All these things build rapport and trust with your client.

For example, you can say to them, “Grandma Betty, nice job. You just improved your shoulder mobility from ‘2’ and ‘1’ to ‘2’ and ‘2’ just by breathing better and doing the rib pull. Now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to do this first thing in the morning and then the last thing before you go to bed. The next time you come to get started in class you’re going to be better off and you’re going to really take off in this program.”

Step 3: Go through with your client what they can and cannot do based on the results

This is another way of establishing yourself as an expert and another way to show you’re providing some individualization even though they’re participating in a group fitness class. You’re individualizing the program just for the specific client.

Not only are you providing a way to improve on the movements and getting more out of the workout, but you’re also preventing injury.

The FMS basically gives you a body map of how well your client moves, and therefore, what they should focus on, and what they might want to avoid.

Let’s say they get a ‘1’ on the squat. You know in the class that they definitely shouldn’t apply a load to that squat. You might start off by doing hip hinges or different types of movement to help improve the squat. You can de-load the squat by using a TRX, rings or some type of assisted maneuver to help.

Basically, you’re staying away from that ‘1’ score. That’s your red light.

A ‘1’ score tells you the person does not have the body awareness or the mobility, stability and strength to perform a proper squat. So for now, you just can’t load it.

If you find any asymmetries elsewhere, such as shoulder stability, with a ‘2’ and a ‘1,’ you know you definitely don’t want to do any overhead work.

If we have someone who is a ‘2’ and a ‘1,’ we don’t want the person doing getups all the way up to standing. We don’t want to do any overhead pressing.

However, there are other methods and different things we can do for the client.

Step 4:  Find out what you need to emphasize in your classes

Now you have the screens. You’ve screened everybody in class. You’ve set aside some one-on-one time of about 30 minutes for each client. You have all of these scores and pointed out the lowest scores. You’ve established yourself as a fitness expert. You’ve established yourself as providing individualization with those people. You have your red, yellow and green lights of what you can and cannot do with each of these clients.

What do you do next?

The first thing we like to do is take an overall look. We’ll take a spreadsheet and enter all the scores. You’ll be able enter them online on the FMS website in the future, but for now you can take a look and get a picture of what your typical client is like.

We’ve found some important information doing this. We’ve found that most of the women entering our gym have some type of trunk stability issue. So we’ve applied that information in our class. We make trunk stability and emphasis throughout our classes.

We’ve found that men usually have issues in the shoulder mobility and active straight-leg raise. So we might spend more time before and after with the men doing foam rolling and soft tissue work to free up mobility.

Again, let the scores guide you. We spend a lot of time looking at the lowest score and working to improve that.

However as a whole, we want to know what common issues our clients coming in, have so we know what we need to emphasize in the classes.

Let’s now talk about how to apply this model in a group fitness class.

Applying the model: #1—Adding drills into the session

When we first started applying the model, we basically only did FMS in the beginning and at the end. What we found when we re-measured was that people were making some type of fitness progress. They were losing some fat. They were getting some results, but the scores showed they basically stayed the same or they got a little worse.

We then started to incorporate the active FMS rest breaks, putting the drills in with different circuits. You would not believe what we saw when we were watching our clients. Their output just started going through the roof. Their technique became more beautiful. Their scores started improving by a mean score of two points when we started measuring progress. We knew we were on track.

We do supersets if we’re doing strength training for group class that day or we’re just doing circuits and giving them three or four exercises to work on.

You can apply specific FMS drills—the drills that really make a huge difference with each client. Have them do that within their exercises.

Let’s say we have two or three non-competing exercises, maybe a goblet squat and a one-arm row. They’re going to do 12 goblet squats and 12 one-arm rows per side. Then they’re going to do their FMS drills and they’re going to repeat the strength exercises. They’re going to do that for a certain amount of time.

This has worked really well for us.

Applying the model: #2—Keeping track of scores in a group setting

We only have up to 15 people in class, but it’s still a lot of scores to track.

We’ve tried using cheat sheets and that worked pretty well. Every one of our staff members will have a cheat sheet showing everybody their lowest score in case someone can’t remember the assigned corrective exercise.

Often new people will need a review of what they need to work on.

Another thing we did was pin two huge white boards on our walls. One is for the workout and the other one is to keep track of everybody in our class.

Applying the model: #3—Creating sub-groups within the group

We put them into one of four groups—shoulder mobility, active straight-leg raise, trunk stability pushup and rotary stability.

Sometimes there will be people who are outside of one of the basic groups. They might be in a squat group, hurdle step group or the in-line lunge group. Nine times out of 10, they’re going to be in that bottom four, which makes it easy to work with them.

We have the names and the exercise that’s the most challenging for each person, as well as the one that gets them the results they need first.

We might then add a couple of extra things once they start getting into the program.

For example, someone has a shoulder mobility issue. We first establish some breathing, some foam rolling to the thoracic area and some rib pulls. The person starts getting on to that and gains an understanding of how that works. We try to be as simple as possible.

Then we might work into some type of kettlebell arm bar or thoracic rotations, providing a lot of feedback. Just as long as it improves the score, we keep it in there. We’ll recheck and maybe, “Wow, that really made a big difference. Let’s keep that in there throughout the workouts. When we get into your FMS, these are the things I want you to work on.”

Step 5: Conducting a Follow-up Session

Next is following up with your clients. Every four to six weeks, we get our clients on a type of auto-responder e-mail where we remind them, “Hey, it’s time for you to perform another Functional Movement Screen. Let’s schedule a 30-minute one-on-one time to work on some things.”

We do this with every client.

They really love this. This is a chance for them to celebrate their scores and review their goals.

We can take measurements. We can get testimonials from them. We can get a lot of good out of this.

At a cost of between 30 minutes to an hour every month or two, we’re spoiling our clients a little with this.

If a person comes in and the shoulder mobility went from a ‘2’ and a ‘1’ to a ‘3’ and a ‘3,’ you can celebrate. “Your shoulder mobility is so good that now we can teach you how to do the kettlebell snatch,” or, “Now we can show you some overhead stuff you can do that’s just going to take your program through the roof.” We can say, “You went from a ‘7’ to a ‘13.’ This is fantastic. You’re on your way.” This is a way for us to celebrate with them.

As we review the scores, we see how our programming is working. Is what you found from the beginning scores with and what you found a few weeks later changing? Are the scores getting worse? Are the scores getting better?


For More Information On The FMS and How To Apply It To Groups


Mark Snow : Using the FMS Screens in Groups [Lecture]


This article was taken directly from Mark’s Using the FMS Screens in Groups lecture. However, you’ll find other information not covered in this article, including—

  • How Alwyn Cosgrove of Results Fitness uses the FMS to help his clients lose fat even faster.
  • The average score Mark’s clients get on the FMS the first time round
  • What to do if your client scores a ‘0’ on any of the FMS tests
  • How to get more clients by building strategic alliances with medical professionals with the help of the FMS

If you are serious about incorporating the FMS into your group sessions, you’ll find the rest of the lecture helpful.

To download the Mark Snow’s full lecture, Using the FMS Screens in Groups, click here.


Mark Snow: Using the FMS in a Fitness Business [eBook]


Mark has also written a 81-page eBook detailing how to use the FMS in a private, semi-private and group setting.

It covers—

  • Using the FMS to guide your semi-private programs
  • Using the FMS to guide your group class programs
  • Incorporating FMS drills into active rest and using super sets
  • Establishing green, yellow and red lights for your clients
  • Choosing the right exercises for your clients
  • Proper nutrition
  • Using the FMS to accelerate fat loss
  • Establishing a quality referral network of medical professionals that you can send and receive clients from
  • Medical referral template forms you can use when establishing a medical referral network

To get Mark Snow’s eBook, Implementing the FMS in Your Business, click here.


Gray Cook, Alwyn Cosgrove & Lee Burton: The Future of Exercise Program Design [DVD]


In The Future of Exercise Program Design, Alwyn Cosgrove, owner of the highly successful gym Results Fitness describes how he uses the FMS to design more effective training programs.

In it he goes through how he uses the FMS results to shape the programs he writes, using real examples from his own gym.

If you’re serious about implementing the FMS in your own practice, this is a great resource for helping you move from principles to real-world implementation.

In it, he also touches briefly on how he uses the FMS in group fitness classes.

To find out more about what’s covered in the The Future of Exercise Program Design, click here.


Alwyn Cosgrove: Designing Semi-Private Training Programs [Lecture]


If you train small groups, also knowns as semi-private groups, and want to learn how to use the FMS to better inform your semi-private program design, Alwyn Cosgrove has a great lecture called Designing Semi-Private Training Programs.

In the talk he tells how he uses the FMS to create effective semi-private training programs for his clients.

Click here to Alwyn Cosgrove’s Designing Semi-Private Training Programs.


Gray Cook: Movement [Book]


If you’re unfamiliar with the FMS, you can get learn about it in depth in Gray Cook’s Movement book. Inside he outlines his Functional Movement System, and goes in depth into the Functional Movement Screen and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, and how to use the screening and assessment results.

Click here to find out more about Gray Cook’s Movement book and to get a free chapter excerpt.


Tap Into the Brains of Some of the World’s Leading Performance Experts

FREE Access to the OTP Vault


Inside the OTP Vault, you’ll find over 20 articles and videos from leading strength coaches, trainers and physical therapists such as Dan John, Gray Cook, Michael Boyle, Stuart McGill and Sue Falsone.

Click here to get FREE access to the On Target Publications vault and receive the latest relevant content to help you and your clients move and perform better.