Response to Gambetta- Movement Screen Measurable versus Functional


Mike Boyle send me this rebuttal to my post on the Functional Movement Screen. It is good and though provoking. I still do not agree, but it is good to have diversity of opinion – Vern

First let me state that one of my best early sources of education was Vern Gambetta. Vern was a man ahead of his time and was one of the early proponents of what is now called functional training. With that said, let me now politely disagree with Vern’s stance on Gray Cooks Functional Movement Screen.

Gambetta states ”The tests in the screen do not give much information that I can translate to actual athletic movements. They all seem to be ends unto themselves. I know many people are putting a lot of stock in this, but I want to ask the obvious question, What are you doing with the information that you derive from the tests? How can you interpret that information and take the identified deficiencies and derive a truly functional conditioning or prevention program?”

I would like to pose a few rhetorical questions:

  1. I’m not sure how familiar Vern is with the FMS. I would doubt that someone who does not feel the screen has great use has ever done the screen and I would guarantee that they have never been to a Functional Movement Screen course.
    I feel like this would be analogous to a writer reviewer reviewing a car he has never driven or a tool he has never used. I think the key to writing reviews is to be an expert in the area and to test or test drive the product. Although Vern is a training expert, I don’t believe his area of expertise is evaluation. My recommendation to Vern would be to learn the screen and then take a group of athletes through the screen. I can guarantee that you find things you would miss simply looking at movement. The reason for this is the reason that I think we need to be careful with the whole “functional training” thing. In my experience the better the athlete, the better the compensation Elite athletes always find a way to perform a skill and often make it look easy. In Vern’s terms “the red flags disappear”. The red flags don’t disappear, they just go into hiding. I have found that the only way to analyze the motion of an elite athlete is to slow them down and look at static postures, active ranges of motion and stability. The red flags hide until they become a full blown injury. Then we are forced to back up and attempt to fix what is now broken. The approach of many of the ‘experts” in strength and conditioning is that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. In other words, wait until it breaks and then go ask guys like Gray to fix it. The problem is, with a tool like the FMS we get to close a few barn doors before the cows get out.
  2. I am very curious as to how someone can say that the tests in the screen don’t “translate to actual athletic movements”. In Gambetta’s case this seems odd as Vern has been a huge proponent of single leg training, beginning when it was viewed as heresy. How can things like lunging, squatting or stepping not “translate to actual athletic movements”? They are in fact the essence of athletic movement. Gambetta recommends a series of screens. “I believe that you must have a screen that is specific to the sport or at the very least for categories of sports”. This is a wonderful suggestion. I look at this proposal and think “wouldn’t it be great if they could make a car that drives like a Mercedes, has four wheel drive, gets forty miles per gallon, and room for 6 passengers.”. Nice but unrealistic. The beauty of the FMS is in the simplicity. A coach who works with a wide range of athletes, as most do, can use one simple screening system.

The key to understanding and using the Functional Movement Screen lies in realizing it is just what the name implies. It is a screen. A basic tool to look at patterns of movement and bilateral imbalances. It is not meant to be a program design system. I have found that the FMS is a great way to begin a program. The FMS and the results create an immediate bond between the client and trainer or , the athlete and the coach. Even if the program is not individualized in any way, the athlete or client feels that there own unique concerns are now being addressed. To learn more about the Functional Movement Screen go to

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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