Last week I got an email from a physical therapist who was putting together a list of things to screen when he was working with a mountain biker and he wanted to know my opinion on how the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) applied to mountain biking. Since I think that the FMS is the most important screen/ assessment you can have as a rider I wanted to share my response.

But first a little background. The FMS is a 7 point screen that sets a baseline for your movement. Kind of like taking your blood pressure, it isn’t a test of anything specific as much as a general look at something bigger to see if there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

If your blood pressure is off you’d want to know why and fix it before starting your training program and you should feel the same way about your basic movement as well. Trying to train and ride when you have some sort of basic movement dysfunction will decrease your performance and increase your risk of overuse injuries.

Your movement off the bike will also be a good predictor of how you will move on the bike. If you struggle with certain basic movement skills then you will struggle with technical skills that rely on those movement skills.

For example, if you score poorly on the Active Straight Leg Raise part of the screen then you will most likely struggle to lean over at the hips and will instead lean over at the lower back. This decreases your leg power and throws off your balance, holding you back with your skill and fitness progression on the trail.

I’ve screened a lot of riders and this is what I’ve noticed about how their FMS scores relate to specific skills on the trail…

Squat – This is an interesting one as I haven’t seen a lot of direct relation to the bike. As an overall look at how the body can perform the most basic of functions its great but riding isn’t a bilateral sport.

Hurdle Step – I’ve found this directly relates to a rider’s ability to achieve a strong standing pedaling posture and one of the more important ones for them on the bike.

Inline Lunge – A good look at how they can power with their hips instead of overdoing it with the quads (if the come op on their toes to compensate) or their low back (if they lean forward to compensate).

Shoulder Mobility – Pretty easy to see how this one relates to their ability to achieve and maintain optimal shoulder position both seated and standing on the bike.

Active Straight Leg Raise – Like I mentioned earlier, this one directly relates to their attack position when they stand and their ability to hinge at the hips instead of the lower back to lean over when they sit.

Trunk Stability Push Up – Basic reflexive core strength, not a whole lot of direct application to the bike but someone who gets a 1 is obviously going to have a hard time maintain optimal core position and absorbing impacts on the trail.

Rotational Stability  – The most direct relationship here is their ability to ride switchfoot. If they score well here they may not be able to do it yet because they haven’t practiced it much but they’ll pick it up quick one they do. However, an asymmetry here or a 1 on both sides will mean it will be much less table for them and harder to pick up.

I pretty much just use the FMS and I can tell you what kind of rider you are without even seeing you on the trail. Most riders will usually score poor on one of or both of the Shoulder Mobility and ASLR screen so your usually just starting there either way. In fact, for my online Skype Private Coaching clients I pretty much just do that those two at first since I really just need to know which of them I’m trying to address first.

So there you have it, an inside look at how the FMS applies to mountain biking. If you are not familiar with the different parts of the screen then visit this website to see exactly how to perform the screen.

If you haven’t been screened before I highly encourage you to visit the Functional Movement Systems website, where you can find certified trainers. Once you know what your weak links are you can then use targeted corrective strategies to fix the problem, giving you a blueprint for how to improve as a rider as well.

If you have any questions about the FMS and how it applies to riding please leave a comment and I’ll get to it ASAP. Also, please click one of the Share or Like buttons below to help me spread the word on this important subject, more riders need to know how their movement affects their riding.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

One thought on “Applying the Functional Movement Screen to the Mountain Bike Rider

  1. Albert Tijanic says:

    This is very interesting, tried out the 7 movements just by myself and seem to have no big issues with any of them. Did notice some imbalance betw. shoulders so now I have something to start focusing on. Definitely worth trying and seeing what it shows you.

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