Does FMS Methodology REALLY Work?

Ok, I’ve been off the grid primarily for two reasons – updating websites and I’ve been exploring a lot of FMS (Functional Movement Systems) / CK-FMS methodologies.

Now that’s probably a pretty strange statement considering I started this blog 4 years ago to write about my Z-Health experience.

There is A LOT of controversy within the fitness community, especially the RKC, as to which is the better system – Z or FMS.

“Now hold it right there – they aren’t competition!” I can hear some of my colleagues say. To which I say, “Don’t kid yourself.” They’re both chasing after primarily the same market share. And if they weren’t competitors, they’d join forces and conquer the world together. But that’s neither here nor there.

What you should be asking is how come a guy like me who was so outspoken about the benefits of Z now messing around with another system?

The answer I think should be obvious. I want to learn more. There’s a lot of “Z-Snobbery” going on even still and I admit, I fell prey to it. The idea is that Z-Health is far superior to anything in the fitness world, even the world of medicine, for eliminating pain, correcting movement dysfunction, and improving performance. A lot of us involved in Z projected or still project this attitude. I for one did and I was wrong to do so. (Thankfully for me, I have a lot of good friends who tolerated me at the time.) It blinded me to opportunity and stunted my personal and professional growth.

A couple of months ago, I flew to Pittsburgh to visit my good friend, Brett Jones to have him evaluate my hip, since it was bothering me and it pretty much shut down (again). Honestly, I was tired of trying to find the right Z drill to fix the damn thing. Brett has a great handle on FMS and a good handle on Z (Level 3 trainer). I wanted to see what I was missing.

The answer turned out to be stability. Yup, that stuff that isn’t supposed to exist in many people’s worlds now. I thought the same until my weekend with Brett. Well, it turns out that I had done so much mobility work I had literally stripped away my compensations (which were my strengths) and was left with my weaknesses exposed. So, I had a choice – strengthen my weaknesses and get really strong again, or, well, ok, I guess I really didn’t have a choice. What was I supposed to do?

So I started playing around – nope – that’s not the right terminology – how about viciously applying the FMS drills that Brett gave me. I called up Jeff O’Connor and he sent me some of his “redneck ninja” magical stuff to work on, and I created my own drills based on some of Brett’s work. (By the way, if you ever have a chance to go to a Jeff O’Connor or Brett Jones workshop – run don’t walk to it! Their in depth knowledge about how your body works is truly astounding!)

The results have been spectacular.

I can honestly say I am completely pain free and feel, for lack of a better phrase – “Put together.” I am starting to feel really strong again. And I have finally, finally, fixed my right knee after 20 years of dysfunctional movement. That puppy is actually working again 99% of the time.

So, after being one of those guys who said the FMS stuff didn’t work nearly as well as Z, this blog post is my public recantation. FMS works very well. You have to understand a few things first:

  1. Basic biomechanics (yes, and some neurology too…)
  2. How the FMS system works.
  3. How to interpret the FMS based on your knowledge of #1. Obviously the more you’ve studied the body the easier this will be for you.

So where does Z-Health fit in to this?

I’m going to leave that for a future post. 🙂

Let’s just say both serve their purpose and can be used together, but not how many people probably think they should be used together. I think it’s safe to say that Gray Cook, the developer of the FMS, has WAY too much clinical experience to be ignored, so if you haven’t already, you owe yourself to look into his work. It has over 13 years of documented positive proof.

So, do I have all the answers? Nope. Still working on ’em. But I’ll keep you posted on what I discover. But I can tell you this for sure: If you need to identify and correct a weakness, I think the FMS / CK-FMS is a darn good way to go. It’s been working for me great so far. Am I willing to put my money where my mouth is? You bet. Both my wife and I are going to the CK-FMS in October and I’m sending her to the FMS/SFMA in April.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Sorry I didn’t get it to you sooner. And I promise, there’s more on this topic to come…

25 comments… add one
  • PJ Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:27

    BRAVO!! A great read by a guy who doesn’t have a particular allegiance to either school, though I am FMS certified. With the recent use of biofeedback I’ve found that FMS drills test well consistently, where as the Z drills are very hit or miss and I don’t have the expertise to fine tune them. Biofeedback has also got me stretching again ( contract-relax style) and foam rolling again with good results, things I had cut out because of articles posted by Z trainers.
    Keep learning and sharing your wisdom

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:15

      PJ – Yup, I’ve been thinking along many of the same lines lately. It’s amazing what I “knew” before Z. It’s amazing what I “knew” during my Z education. And it’s amazing what I “know” now. There really is a time and a place for everything, based on that particular individual’s needs at that moment. I know of several people Z methodology has not worked for that have had great results with other systems. Frustrated me quite a bit for some time until I figured out why. Keep up your education!

  • Jeff BD Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:48

    Your email promised me controversy!

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:16

      Jeff – Well maybe not for you, but for many!

  • Ron Jones Feb 11, 2010 @ 23:50

    Good post. I plan to do the same in a way–get my Z-Health certs plus the CK-FMS. I got into the FMS when it first started and didn’t like it much. I’m liking the Z and what it is doing, but I have a lot of respect for Gray and need to see how the FMS has changed. My whole spin on ANY system is 1) Does it work and 2) Will people do it when I’m not around…or for that matter will I do it myself?!!!

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:18

      Ron – Respect. Key word there, my friend. Pretty much anything works – for a while. I think it’s good to have a background in both Z and FMS. Z has some benefits and ideas currently missing from FMS as I understand it, and FMS has some key concept and applications that work great that are rejected by Z to its detriment.

  • David Bradley Feb 12, 2010 @ 1:55

    Geoff,

    Nice blog man. Thank you for having the confidence and humility to stir the pot a bit. I think Brett Jones is a great example of putting it all together in a nice Z/FMS/RKC package. Let us find what works best and give permission to not worry too much about ego. The main thing here is to find effective ways to help people get stronger, move better and efficiently. The more tools you have in your tool box, the better. With that in mind, I’ll quote Lincoln, “give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening my ax.” That is part of the privilege of being an RKC, always developing and improving, looking for ways to sharpen our ax… Power to you, Comrade!

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:20

      David – I love that Lincoln quote. Just heard it recently again. Ego is hard to let go of for many – too much time, energy, and money invested for many to admit when they’re wrong or lacking. Life’s too short for that. Live, learn, apply, move on.

  • Russ Moon Feb 12, 2010 @ 9:18

    Controversy…ok

    If the ETK is followed to the nth degree, in my non-certified, hasn’t mastered the proper grip for repetition snatching opinion….I think the exercises would rehab/prevent a very high percentage of the issues diagnoses by either method.

    I go to my sports rehab, chiro, neurological rehab guy (who cares right but there is valid point here I promise)…..and he has been trained in Czechoslovakia on a system used to teach babies born with Cerbral Palsy how to move their bodies.

    Ok, so I was not breathing properly as defined by “Iron Tamer” and Geoff in their youtube video…which I liked alot. Same diagnosis from massage therapist, failing moving to post w kbell in right hand (moving towards my left more inactive side).

    *Would love to see the dynamic Duo both talk off the finer points of the same lift. Say the Iron Tamer snatches and discusses a couple points and then Geoff snatches and discusses the snatch but adds his unique flavor. OR……since you both were asking for it…I’ll send you my video in March and you both can take turns ripping it apart until you get tired.

    Bottomline – The TGU is fixing so many parts of my body simultaneously…..I’m thinking “If this one exercise corrects this much what is the total of the entire ETK regime if it were followed to the letter ?”

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:23

      Russ – Re: ETK – You are absolutely spot on. The problem is that the program looks too simple, too easy – not enough moving parts or excitement so it is often dismissed or tinkered with by those who “know” better.

      You’re very fortunate to have a Czech trained rehab guy – that’s where all the cutting edge info seems to be coming from/ always coming from.

      Both my wife and I have experienced similar benefits from TGU. Your logic for ETK is very sound.

      Keep on keeping me in the loop – love to hear your insights and progress.

  • Jim Ryan Feb 12, 2010 @ 10:57

    Hi Geoff,
    I’m an RKC, Z-R,I,T and have all the Secrets of DVDs. Oh yeah, and I’m a Chiropractor too.

    Without getting too long-winded here, I see a marriage in the future, if not of the parents, than of the children. (if this becomes a billion $ business idea, I want my royalties!) I think the FMS assessments are excellent and the Z-drills act as the best cure for many of the limitations discovered by the assessments, at least initially.

    Sometimes better basic movements are required before many of the FMS remedies are best applied – you’ve seen how crappy many people’s R-level movments are. They’re not ready for the integration drills prescribed in the FMS protocols, in not only my experience.

    In your case, you’ve significantly re-wired your system and now it was time for some thing else; not only more strength, but different strength was needed for your progress. Now you’ll probably be better than before, as your alignments and coordination/integration will be both more solid and smooth. Great post and good luck with your newfound path to re-integration!

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:26

      Jim – Thanks for the encouragement. You’re not the only one who has had those thoughts on the blending of the 2 schools of thought! I’ve got plenty of stories to tell but don’t have time to get into them here. Just keep up all the great work you’re doing for your patients. Thanks for stopping by and posting.

  • Dr. John Sullivan Feb 12, 2010 @ 11:36

    Hello Geoff,
    Great recant. I too have felt this tremendous camp follower insinct or phenomena in the fitness as well as chiropractic scene. Too bad we don’t share and integrate more easily. I am interested in FMS also but was told not to bother with it because Z was so much “more complete”. Z has done wonders for me in so many areas but from what I have heard about FMS, it too is pretty profound. I will be picking your brain about some things in the near future. I am glad your hip and knee are doing better. That has to feel great. I have been maintaining my fitness and have startes some of the Convict Conditioning drill. I love the progressions. Hey How about my Saints?????? Who Dat?? Pretty impressive. I think the game has had a healing effect on the whole country and restored hope to many.
    Peace
    Drj

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:31

      Hi Doc – Long time. Your experience with the Z attitude is unfortunate. Z is not more complete. In fact, it dismisses some observable neuromechanical facts that, if ignored, will come back to haunt the practitioner later on. Yes, I said neuromechanical, not just “neuro.” FMS has a lot to offer, and makes up for some faulty logic promulgated in Z. Ignore it at your own peril. I did. And then paid a price. There is something to be said for repeatedly observable phenomenon.

      Hips and back feeling great. The only thing that doesn’t feel great is having to rebuild! Sometimes I wish I still had my compensations – they were compensation but were strong none the less!

      Saints were phenomenal.

      Talk to you soon.

  • Brett Jones Feb 13, 2010 @ 8:29

    Geoff,
    It’s been great working with you and am looking forward to seeing you at CK-FMS.
    For those of you who got involved in FMS early on please take the time to check into our new corrective strategies and greatly updated information.
    For example – the deep squat is now the very last screen we address and if you got involved early that alone will be a massive difference.
    We have continued to progress – the screens haven’t changed but the way we address them is always progressing.
    FMS doesn’t start with integration drills but rather identifies a weak link to be addressed and how to deal with that (basically isolating then integrating but only in ways that improve the pattern). For example the first stop on a Shoulder Mobility correction would be a basic rib pull t-spine rotation and breath work.

    Russ – are you using the KBs FTGU? The get-up is a self service strategy that can be very effective. FMS is a full service guided tour.
    Also, you are very lucky to train with your Czeck born therapist.

    Drj – the Saints were a great story this year- really amazing.

    Z is not more complete (I have done R,I and S).

    Brett

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:32

      Brett – Thanks for your continued help. You truly are a real Master Trainer. Keep up your great work and your contributions to the fitness/exercise/health communities.

  • Betsy Collie Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:37

    I can’t help but comment. I have thought all along that both FMS, CK FMS, and Z Health serve a purpose. If there was only ONE way we would be doing the ONLY ONE WAY. It may sound unintelligent, but the saying holds true… There is more than one way to skin a cat. And rehabilitationg, stabilizing, and improving your foundation can be accomplished in many ways.
    No controversy here as far as I can see just common sense with exploring great methodoligies in an ever evolving fitness industry.

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:37

      Betsy – There is some truth to your statement, but what you fail to realize is that Z-Health claims to be that ONE WAY, if not overtly promulgated, passively sanctioned by all in the movement, including its leaders. The controversy lies in that claim, attitude, and position. More than one Z Trainer has dismissed CK-FMS/FMS in the past (myself included) and many are still currently doing so. What they fail to see/acknowledge is the documented proof that FMS has collected over the last 13 years.

      Now it sounds like I’m in the “FMS Camp” – I’m not, yet. Not fully. Just explaining what I’ve observed and experienced both personally and professionally over the last 4 years.

  • Betsy Collie Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:43

    Oh BTW I still hold TRUE to what I said when I first learned kettlebell training…. The Get up is my FAVORITE exercise. Must be the dance training in me, but I knew right away how much of an impact the get up would have on my body (and my clients’ bodies) just by doing it the first time. Must be the formal dance training that led me to a path of total body movement all the time with great body mechanics. I hate to say it so boldy but this is nothing new. Dance training is just this…. And the get up is like a well choreographed dance movement. Boy I am sure the guys are loving this comment 🙂 Thanks for letting me express my opinions.

    • GEOFFN Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:39

      Betsy – Yeah, I failed to mention I have one client who Z does very little for. He’s made more progress off the GU and CK-FMS strategies in the last 3 months than in the previous year. The GU is definitely overlooked and underrated.

  • Betsy Collie Feb 13, 2010 @ 11:57

    I know where you are coming from regarding Z Health. I guess for me I just selectively pick and choose those elements I can learn from and apply and don’t get caught up in the politics of it all.

  • Russ Moon Feb 14, 2010 @ 16:15

    Brett – KG FTGU – YES, it was on my x-mas list as “Either buy this for me someone OR I will buy it myself.” Press to Elbow reviewed the DVD prior to this response …my gut tells me you would direct to either pattern work or piece work to shore that up…given I have the text and DVD I will do so on my TGU days OR if you reference a certain piece of your material since I have it I would know exactly where to look.

    Czech – the guy my Dr. studied under has the name “Pavel” but is not the same Pavel of ETK reference. I would not have believed the results had I not continued to witness them, but I can see/feel/perform the difference with each session. Pelvis tilt changed, breathing changed, shoulders sloping down instead of my former overly tight peck minor, hips opened up (that is still tender). I mentioned your work to him and he claims to have shared a training class at some point with Mr. Gray Cook. Can’t substantiate that claim, but he put it out there and I am picky about who I listen to so he is still under my microscope. His results speak loudly though.

    Geoff – the person and this blog are the reason I purchased your material, which I am so glad I did and after only a small whiff of what this movement does I am really intrigued because I know it is much deeper I just don’t know enough to know what all those other benefits are yet. I just know I feel conditioning, opening of the shoulder, different posture, increased hip flexibility, wrist strengthening all at once and it is almost overwhelming…..but I didn’t experience any of this unitl Geoff laid the gauntlet down in Dec. saying Program Minimum Month….so at a certain point I went from naked to weighted and liked it.

    Geoff – I’m a former paratrooper so I relate to the “field stripping” analogy and I like these simple movements in ETK because they are field strippable. I am doing one arm cleans and thinking “gosh at the bottom of this swing as I start the hip thrust it almost feels like my right shoulder is doing a “mini” lawn mower move similar to a high-pull. My left elbow was a little tender, wasn’t locking it and sucking the shoulder into socket enough. Going to drill deeper right where I am at.

    Mid-month – started month with 70 continuous 24 kg snatches then only 12 rounds 15:15 on gymboss w 16kg 7 snatches per round. Now up to 42 rounds of 16kg. My goal is to reach 80 rounds by month end.
    Using my TGU as “active rest” and I just like how is limbers me up and fixes me. Any swings I are on the gymboss set at 15:15 using 32kg two hand for those, made it to 40 rounds. A little goblet squat action, alot of Pavelizer 2 janda’s and that’s about it outside of a once a week “my dip max went up another 10 lbs” verifying the strength increase in a different environment. Going really old school.

  • Jason Jun 29, 2010 @ 19:39

    Geoff – just like to say your post are great. I’m new to your site and all your advice. I’m from Australia and i’m always looking for educated people to learn from.I had a really bad accident 3 years ago smashing my leg/ankle into many pieces.Already being a personal trainer I now have gone down the road of learning more about rehab and balancing the body.I was told i may never walk again but being very determined i’m walking but still have a long way to go before i’m pain free, i would love just 1 day without pain.Any advice or education is appreiciated.Thanks

    • GEOFFN Jul 1, 2010 @ 17:11

      Jason – remember pain is an indicator that a problem may exist, not a guarantee. So, pain may also come to be associated and coexist with certain movements. I’d look up Andrew Read, an RKC in Australia and see if he can help you or give you some pointers locally. Hope that helps.

  • Joe Wood Aug 28, 2010 @ 14:46

    Geoff,

    First in the pursuit of “learning” each method offers some insights into a greater understanding of human motion. Z-health offers the understanding of mobility while the FMS looks at movement under load.

    I think Gray Cook hit on something here in regards to analyzing movement and as a screening tool of where the weak link is. However, in dealing with chronic pain patients I believe there is more underlying patterns that might need to be evaluated.

    Pavel Kolar and his DNS methods I find to be pretty interesting. I also believe more time needs to be spent in understanding the “inner core”. Chi Gung is a GREAT adjunct and probably where things should start.

    Chi Gung IS inner core training of spinal stabilization, respiration and continence. Once Chi Gung is learned then a person can progress to Tai Chi or fluid movement with breath.

    Yoga would also fit into this phase II program after understanding breath or breathing.

    Again, Gray Cook has really hit on something with the FMS and SFMA. I just question where it fits into the clinical picture and other things might need to addressed first such as breathing and posture. Z-health could also be incorporated in this phase or phase I of building a foundation of movement.

    The Egoscue Method could also fit in nicely in the Phase I of rehab as well as Total Motion Release concepts (working the good side to fix the bad).

    There are a lot of things out there and I myself personally am still trying to wrap my mind around these concepts, how they work, when to employ them, etc.

    Keep learning, gain understanding and enjoy the journey.

    Joe

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