Hard and Soft: A New Way at Looking at the FMS

If you’ve been following Smart Group Training for any time whatsoever, I’m sure you already know we’re all about the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and the results it can deliver in your training programs.  We use it on a daily basis at our gym and we’ve had a TON of success by using this screening tool.  Honestly, without the screen, I’m not even sure where I’d begin with developing an individualized program anymore.  I hate being reliant on a tool, but the FMS is one tool I don’t mind hanging my hat on.

There are several reasons why I love the FMS, and the improved communication is towards the top of that list.  If I’m trying to discuss a training program with another professional, using the FMS’s scoring criteria drastically helps create an understanding of what’s going on with an individual.  If we’re talking and you’re able to tell me a client of yours has a 1/1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise and has another pair of 1’s on the Rotary Stability screen, I’m going to have a much better idea of what’s going on with that person. For those of you unfamiliar with the scoring criteria of the FMS, it’s pretty simple.  All the movements are scored somewhere between a zero through a three.

0 = Pain with the movement

1 = Major Limitations and Dysfunction with the Movement Pattern

2 = Acceptable Movement Pattern.  Performed w/ some compensation.

3 = Perfect Movement Pattern.  Zero compensations present.

Understanding the scoring criteria is the first thing you need to do when it comes to the FMS.  I’m not here to go over what’s a one, two, or three with this article.  We have that covered in our Performing and Scoring the FMS section on our blog.  You can find out how to score the FMS here. However, I do want to discuss the clients that score a one on any given movement pattern.

Since my return from the Perform Better Functional Training Summit in Chicago this last June, I see at the people scoring 1’s on the screen in a whole new way.  Charlie Weingroff, a huge believer in the FMS, helped paint a picture in my head that makes perfect sense.  During his presentation, he talked about something he called hard and soft.  If someone scores a one on the movement screen, he wants to know if the score is hard or soft.

Hard or Soft?  What the hell does that even mean?

Let me explain by giving an example.

John and Jane are new clients coming in to work with you.  You performed the FMS and found that both of these individuals have a pair of one’s on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  Sweet.  You found the weakest link…now what?

If you’re using the FMS and having great success, I’m sure you’re well aware that there are breakout screens/assessments that can help identify why the dysfunction is there in the first place. After performing these breakouts, you can usually find out if the dysfunction is a true mobility issue, or if the problem lies in stability or motor control.

Let’s get back to John and Jane.

John got a pair of 1’s on his straight leg raise.  After doing the breakouts, we found out that mobility was his issue.  He had a dysfunctional straight leg raise, so we had him try to touch his toes while standing…he couldn’t.  He then could not touch his toes while sitting on the floor.  It looked identical to the standing toe touch.  Finally, we checked his passive straight leg raise by doing a simple “hamstring stretch” only to find out that passive versus active were identical as well.

This is what we would call a hard 1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  If you’re a hard 1 on the screen, this simply means there is something going on in the body that is preventing full range of motion or inhibiting the movement pattern.  It could be one, or a combination, of multiple factors leading to the mobility issue like: soft tissue restrictions, trigger points, scar tissue, bony restrictions, and structure of your joint capsules.  Some of these things can be changed, while others are never going to change without surgery.    The important thing to know is that there is something going on in the body that’s limiting the pattern.    When you get a hard 1 as a trainer, a good physical therapist or chiropractor can be your greatest friend.


Now let’s look at Jane.

Remember, Jane also scored a pair of 1’s on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  Being that both her and John had the same weakest link, we did the same breakouts we did w/ John.  However, the results were different…

John wasn’t able to touch his toes, standing or seated.  Jane, on the other hand, could.  She was able to touch her toes both standing and seated.  When we checked John’s straight leg raise passively, it was the same as his active straight leg raise.  When we checked Jane’s, it was substantially different.  She was able to go another 20-30 degrees passively.

After doing these simple breakouts, we were able to find out that Jane is what we classify a soft 1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  She’s still a 1 on the screen, but her training and corrective strategies are going to be different than John’s.  If we’re working with John, we’re going to need to address the tissue restrictions and joint limitations before training.  Maybe we can’t change something.  Maybe John has a spike in his leg that he has to get surgery on (true story).  Cool.  We just need to know this because now we can program around that.   If we’re working with Jane, we may take a different approach.  With Jane, she has the freedom of her joints and body to move in the way we’re looking for.  She just doesn’t have the stability or motor control to translate that into good movement.

We’re in the process of building out a section on the blog that covers these breakouts in depth.  You can check out the breakouts and determine if someone is a hard 1 or a soft 1 on the screen.  Understanding this truly helps separate yourself from the rest of the pack and will dramatically help improve your results.

Check out the one we did on the Active Straight Leg Raise here.

Hope this helps!  It’s been pure gold for me!

Best Kettlebells for Group Fitness Training

I’ve often said my most prized material possessions are the computer I’m typing on right now and my collection of kettlebells. I love kettlebells. I have kettlebells in my gym, basement, sunroom, and living room. At one time during my training for the RKC, I actually put a face on kettlebell and carried everywhere I went. It’s name was Ron. I have 3 kettlebell certifications just because I liked spending my weekend around people that loved them as much as me. I met my fiancée because of our shared obsession with kettlebells. I considered getting a tattoo of a kettlebell on my leg. I own over 100 kettlebells in various different sizes from various brands.


Meet Ron, the Face of Kettlebells


My point is that I’m qualified to talk about kettlebells, lol.

Today I want to talk about the best kettlebells I’ve seen for the money and why they are extra neat for group training. These bells are by for the best I’ve laid my hands on and are half the price of the other great brand.

Check these out….

That's a beautiful pair!
That’s a beautiful pair!


These new Perform Better Kettlebells are awesome, and here is why:

Texture: Some bells are rough so they tear up your hands, and if they are smooth they end up chipping. These bells are smooth and don’t chip so will last forever.

Size: They are the perfect size for fitness and strength training. The handle is a great fit for anyone yet still a great grip challenge.

No more rubber piece: I didn’t like that piece of rubber that was on the old PB bells. I don’t like the screw in the bottom that would sometimes come lose. We have rubber flooring so this was more of a hassle than a benefit.

Color Coded: This is one of the best parts!! I just bought a bunch of different color electrical tape to wrap around the handles of my kettlebells so clients could more easily identify the in hurry in group training, but this looks so much better and is more permanent and professional. As you can see each logo is a different color that represents the weight of the bell. As you know I’m really into color-coding systems. (Think bracelets and posters)

Sexy: These bells just look and feel awesome. Or maybe I’m just a little weird?

They may not have skull faces, cut outs, or any other fancy pants add ons, but in my opinion I like a clean, functional, intelligent, classic kettlebell and the Perform Better Kettlebells are the definition of all of that.

Check them out here:

Perform Better First Place Kettlebells


– Steve Long


Sitting is the New Smoking

Mobility issues are very common in the world today. We live in a world where most people sit WAY too much. Sitting in a flexed, rounded position for hours upon end can wreck havoc upon your body. I remember listening to Gray Cook, co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), tell a story years ago. In this story, he had a guy that goes by the name of  “Mr. Turtle.” You see…Mr. Turtle is the guy that wakes up in the morning and goes to the dining room, sits down for a nice breakfast and starts his day off by sitting in a rounded and flexed position. From there, he gets in his car to go to work and sits for another 20-30 minutes during his commute. After he arrives at work, he then goes to his office, sits at his desk, and starts to get to work. Mr. Turtle stays there answering emails, making calls, and getting his work done until he decides to take a lunch break. He sits at lunch. He then comes back to work to sit for the remainder of his workday. Mr. Turtle sits for his commute to his local gym, sits on the exercise machines, goes home for dinner only to continue sitting, and finally makes his way to the living room to relax by sitting on the couch and watching his favorite TV programs.
Turtle at a Desk

Mr. Turtle is a typical American, so I’m sure this story can relate to many of you out there. The vast majority of the people reading this article are not going to be like my friend Mr. Turtle, but there are probably a handful of people like him in your life. Mr. Turtle’s lifestyle is going to wreck havoc upon his body with all the sitting he’s doing. More often than not, Mr. Turtle is also going to have a lot of mobility restrictions limiting him from achieving full range of motion in many of his joints. The lifestyle of sitting tends to lead to a lot of dysfunction, so if we want to help our friends like Mr. Turtle, we’re going to have to address some issues.


So how do we go about addressing those issues in a progressive manner?


First, we need to start to address what’s going on in Mr. Turtle’s day-to-day life. As a trainer or therapist, one of the best things we can be doing is taking the bad out of someone’s life versus always trying to add more, even if the additions are positive. You’ll have much more of an impact on his movement and the way he feels if you can find strategies to cut his sitting in half. So, start prying in on your clients and what their typical day looks like. If you’re finding out that you’re working w/ Mr. Turtle, or one of his friends, think about his lifestyle and what you can do to make a positive impact by reducing the amount of time in a flexed, rounded position.  This could be something as simple as having Mr. Turtle stand up every 20 minutes, take a few steps, and then sit back down and get to work.  Small interventions like this can go a LONG way!


After you’ve started to address some of the lifestyle issues that may be holding Mr. Turtle back, you’re going to have to start addressing his programming. You see…Mr. Turtle has been under the impression that since he’s going to the gym and working out on a regular basis, he’s taking care of himself and the limitations he’s finding in his movement will eventually go away. However, after years of trying on his own, he’s starting to realize his tight hamstrings never seem to budge. Mr. Turtle is now seeking out help to address the limitations he can’t get rid of, so where do you begin with his programming?


Mr. Turtle can’t touch his toes. He can barley raise one leg off the ground before he starts to quiver and shake. His shoulder mobility stinks and he can barely touch his back. Needless to say…Mr. Turtle is a mobility nightmare.


So where do you begin?


Should he be squatting and deadlifting?


Should he be running?


Should he be doing a lot of push up’s and overhead pressing?


If you’re familiar with any of our work, or follow the FMS and their belief system, the answer to the above would be NO. Personally, if I were training Mr. Turtle, a heavy chunk of his programming is going to be done on the floor initially, and then we’ll start to move up from there. Here are a few concepts to help build up the foundation and get Mr. Turtle moving well again:


Start from the Ground and Build Up From There

The concept of building a program from the ground up should make sense to a lot of you. When you’re on the floor, you’re in the most stable position possible. Gravity is taken out of the equation and stability is at its highest point when you’re on the floor. There are also fewer joints involved, so the ability to control a movement is much easier on the floor versus standing up. After we’ve started to develop some progress with the exercises on the floor, we can start to transition into a more upright posture; however, we don’t take someone straight from the floor to standing typically. After we’re gaining progress on the floor, we’ll move to the next position, which is quadruped. Being on all four is still a pretty stable position, but now gravity will start to have an effect on posture and body control. Kneeling would be the next position we’d want to train, and then we’d finally move into standing exercises. Start Mr. Turtle on the ground. Build a foundation and develop good body awareness and motor control in each position before you start to progress to the more advanced positions.


Make Sure Breathing is Addressed in Each Position

Breathing is a hot topic in the fitness world nowadays, and it is for good reason…because it works! If you’re trying to progress someone and trying to get them to move better, and more efficiently, breathing has to be addressed. When I’m working with a client, I want them to be able to breathe from their belly versus their neck and shoulders. I want the breath to be initiated from the diaphragm and the air should start to fill their belly. It should also start to fill the obliques and low back as well. Belly breathing is good, but 360° expansion is really what we’re looking for. Air needs to go into the belly, back, and sides to create stability. If we’re not getting 360° expansion, our stability will be compromised and the ability to transfer forces through our core will be diminished. Breathing properly helps improve power, strength, and performance by eliminating potential “energy leaks” by creating a stable platform to perform off of. Simply check the breathing in each position before training. If it’s off, I’d start there before progressing.

I know we’ve shown this video a dozen times before, but it relates to a lot of what we do.  You can find out how we check breathing in each position by watching this In-Service we did at our gym a few years ago.  Even though the video is a few years old, the information is still extremely relevant and I don’t foresee this changing any time soon.  Check it out:


Improve Body Awareness and How to Move Without Compensation

As I’ve previously stated, I want to start the training from the floor and progress from there. How do you know when to progress though? How do you know when to take someone from the floor to quadruped, or to simply progress him or her within that position? This is where body control comes into play. There’s two things I’m always going to look at in each of the positions. First, I want to see if Mr. Turtle can move his hips without having to move his spine. A simple pelvic tilt is all that I want to see. I want to see that there’s control there and we’re teaching how to separate our hips from our spine. Check out the video below for an example of the pelvic tilt from the floor.


Next, I want to ensure Mr. Turtle can move his arms and legs without moving anything else. The arms and legs need to be able to move through a full range of motion without needing to compensate through the spine, ribs, neck, etc…I want there to be control. I want there to be a stable platform to perform off of. If you’re not able to move the arms and legs without compensating somewhere, you’re going to be losing performance and stability will be compromised. The Deadbug is a great example of moving the arms and legs without compensating. Try this out and really dial in the form. If you don’t think it’s challenging at all, you more than likely are compensating somewhere. Follow the progressions starting from the floor and make sure you can move your appendages without compensating through the midsection.


Those are three of the things I’m going to look for when I’m trying to work with someone like Mr. Turtle, or anyone for that matter. I want each one of my clients to have a good platform to perform off of, and I’m only going to achieve that if I build a proper foundation first. If you’re looking for a good resource designed to help build up the movement capacity within your clients, you should check out our resource, Building a Foundation. We take you through these progressions and much, much more within this resource. If you’re able to fine tune your clients and athletes and build them a solid base to work from, mobility and stability problems tend to take care of itself. We’ve had tons of success with this foundational work within our programs, so we decided to share what’s working for us. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed 🙂

sgt_foundation_total_mockup 450 wide