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Mobility and Stability

Do You Move Well?

Functional Movement Screen CalgaryThe buzz today is all about moving well and moving often. So how do you know if you move well? You may have heard of things like the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA).

Even if you haven’t heard of them, these are assessments you can go through to try and judge how well you move. The idea being if you can spot movement problems early and correct them, you may prevent injury as you increase your activity.

Here is some background info on what these movement assessments look at your movement.

Joint by Joint Approach

Experts in the exercise and rehabilitation world such as Gray Cook and Mike Boyle have created movement models based on mobility and stability. This is also referred to as the joint-by-joint approach and refers to the body’s integrated system of movement.

Briefly, for efficiency and proper movement, the body should be thought of as a stack of joints alternating between areas that are supposed to be mobile and areas that are supposed to be stable. The following table looks at the body on a joint-by-joint basis from the ground up:


Primary need





(Dorsi- and Plantar flexion)





Lumbar Spine



Thoracic Spine

(Rib Cage)


Scapulothoracic joint

(Shoulder Blades)


Glenohumeral joint





Here is a pictorial description of the same model:


The idea being if you mess with that formula, movement is altered and the system has to compensate. For example, lets say you take an area that is supposed to be mobile like the hips and stiffen them up. How does that happen? Maybe you do things repetitively that build up over time to create reduced mobility (e.g. sitting at a desk/computer, in the car, on the couch, etc.). If the hips lack mobility then the body has to gain movement somewhere else in order to help you keep moving. Typically the neighbouring joints such as the knees or low back pay the price.

Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

The FMS was created as a baseline approach to evaluating movement in the clients of non-clinicians that are not in pain. It is a series of 7 tests that evaluate your bodies ability to move efficiently. This should NOT be considered a physical examination like what you would go through by a health care professional. It is a screening and scoring tool to try and spot movement dysfunction. It is not designed to zero in on why the movement dysfunction is present. It is also not designed to assess or diagnose injury.

Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA)

This is a more detailed evaluation, typically performed by a health care professional such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist. It has top tier tests built into it to spot movement dysfunction, similar to the FMS, however it has breakout assessment tracks that are more suited to determine why a movement dysfunction is present. It is also designed to handle painful dysfunction and injury. This still should not be confused with a physical assessment you might receive to diagnose an injury. A qualified health professional will be able to determine from the results of the SFMA whether further investigation into a problem area requires additional diagnostic work up.

What do the results mean?

The results of the FMS or SFMA are designed to guide appropriate corrective exercise. They also act as a benchmark to refer back to on future re-assessments to judge the effectiveness of your corrective exercise regime(s).

What do I do?

Mobility vs. Stability

Many have heard of and understand the importance of Stability exercises such as Core Stability. Our experience is that unless mobility dysfunction is addressed first, your stability exercises will meet with limited success. Remember, if you are stiff in areas that are supposed to be mobile, your body will automatically try and gain mobility in the neighbouring area(s). We can’t stress this concept enough! Good luck achieving adequate core stability if your hips or mid-back (thoracic) regions are tight. Always start by addressing mobility issues first. You will likely find that increased mobility in these areas will automatically lead to enhanced stability in the neighbouring areas.

The main areas we find that lack proper mobility include the ankles, hips and thoracic region. Here are some fundamental mobility routines to address those areas:

Ankle Mobility Routine

Hip Mobility Routine

Thoracic Mobility Routine

For additional information you can check out:


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