Performing and Scoring the Top Tier SFMA

When it comes to learning everything you can about how a person moves, the SFMA Top Tier is a great place to start.  Performing the entire Top Tier only takes a few minutes and it really gives you a lot of information.  Over the past few years, I’ve been using this in conjunction with the FMS, and it’s really opened my eyes and I’ve started to look at movement a little deeper.


I can knock out the top tier and the entire FMS screen within about 10 minutes.  By doing both of these, I’m gathering a ton of information about how they move globally.  After you get a little experience by doing a bunch of screens and assessments, you’ll start to see exactly where you want to look and dig deeper.  Adding some simple breakout assessments on top of the top tier and FMS, you’ll have the exact roadmap of where to go with someone.


This will be the first segment in a series to show you how we, as fitness professionals, can use a tool like the SFMA (pieces of it…not the whole thing) and get better overall results.


We’ll get started with the assessment.


Cervical Flexion, Extension, & Rotation:

Shoulders, Patterns 1 & 2:




SL Balance:


As always, I highly recommend taking the certification courses provided by the Functional Movement Systems.  They’re fantastic and really help you understand movement.  You can learn more by visiting their website at


You can also find a free SFMA Download over at


Start looking at these patterns and we’ll show you how to break them down a little deeper in the near future.

Techniques for Improving Rolling Patterns

Rolling patterns are one of our absolute favorite exercises to add into a corrective strategy or warm up.  These patterns do a great job of getting your inner core to fire quickly to promote stability…and with good stability comes improved performance.  I had a great question about rolling from one of our interns, and after thinking about it…I knew I had a resource for him to help give him answers.  I thought this was on our blog, but after digging through my resources, I realized this little gem was filmed for the Elite Training Mentorship.  For a couple years, we did monthly in-services for ETM, and this was one of them.


In this in-service, we dive into upper and lower body rolling patterns. We’ll show you common mistakes your clients will make and and give corrective strategies to help fix them. If you don’t want to watch the video, here are some of the highlights:

As we begin losing the ability to roll properly, you’ll notice the primer movers tend to move first so it’s important to always check the timing of the soft core muscles. The push up is a perfect example; if your client has a little hitch on the way up, it’s a good idea to check out his or her rolling patterns. Rolling patterns also serve as a great assessment tool for this reason too.


Here are a few ways to tell if your clients need work on their rolling patterns:

  • They’re using momentum to try and fling themselves over
  • They get “stuck” as they try to roll
  • They’re using other muscles to get the job done


You can quickly check for other compensations by placing your feet underneath theirs as they roll. This allows you to see if they’re digging into the ground for stability.


Here are a couple tips we often use to help our clients:

  1. Kick a Leg: This one’s quick and easy. We can tap the heel to of the long leg to help engage the core as the client rolls.
  2. Resistance Band Assistance: Place a band around the down leg and shoulder. Start with a 1-inch band to give your client assistance and ween him/her off from there. This one is great for a group setting because a client can do it on his own.
  3. Cook Band Assisted: Add a cook band to the long leg side to help increase stability. This is one of my favorites but is probably a little better in a personal training since you’ll have to hold the band at about a 45° angle.
  4. Add Props: Use a yoga mat, Airex pad, etc under one side of the body to shorten the range of motion your client has to roll. Eventually you can begin weaning him off by lowering the elevation.
  5. Targets: Using small targets like your hand, a ball, or a nearby object can help influence reaching and the separation we’re looking for.  This is a great external cue and gives them a visual object to chase after.


We use rolling patterns daily in our gym to improve push-ups and rotary stability but to also prevent future injuries. I know that’s a lot of info to digest so be sure to check out the video and feel free to save it for later.


If you’d like more in-services like this one, be sure to check out the Elite Training Mentorship.  They offer a 30 Day Trial for less than 5 bucks, so it’s totally worth checking out.  This is one of the best training resources out there.  Not only do we have a ton of in-services, case studies, and other resources, you also have years of quality content from people like Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson.  To learn more about the Elite Training Mentorship, be sure to check it out here.


PRI In-Service (Part 2)

frau blst einen roten luftballon auf

If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out here:

In Part 1, Nancy, a PRI physical therapist in our network, covers what PRI is and how she uses it to help reposition her patients.  Repositioning is an essential part of a well-rounded program.  In all of our programs, we’re trying to get our clients as close to neutral as possible before we train them.  Watch Part 1 first, and then move on to Part 2 next.

In Part 2, Nancy shows us a couple exercises that do a good job at repositioning.  If you haven’t tried these out, I highly recommend giving these exercises a shot.  Watch the hands-on portion of our most recent in-service done for our trainers below.