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Shoulder Mobility Pattern Breakdown



Welcome back to our series of FMS/DVRT movement pattern breakdowns and how we can make the great philosophies of FMS more applicable to your training as well as seeing synergy is the concepts. Last month, we explored the Active Straight Leg Raise. The Active Straight Leg Raise is the lower body reciprocal movement pattern. This month, we will take a look at the upper body equivalent, the Shoulder Mobility pattern.

Why are we starting with these two screens? For one, they are considered most foundational to everything else we will continue to examine. Looking at other aspects of the FMS screen without addressing these two first will only lead to frustration. They also relate to many of the issues that clients come in presenting. Low backs and shoulders plague most fitness programs and can be the obstacles that prevent us in achieving success in many different fitness goals.

In movement, the Shoulder Mobility pattern works in conjunction with the Active Straight Leg Raise pattern. The Shoulder Mobility pattern is the upper body reciprocal motion pattern, and the Active Straight Leg Raise is the lower body reciprocal pattern as we previously mentioned. In walking, running, and change of direction movements, the two movement patterns function together to ensure the body maintains balance. The patterns work across the body (left arm - right leg; right arm - left leg) and through the core (Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex) to stabilize the spine and allow the extremities to move, as needed. These patterns are reinforced by fascial line concepts such as the spiral line, posterior/anterior oblique sling systems, and more.

Understanding how the body functions allows us to actually create true functional training strategies. These are the most fundamental patterns within the FMS hierarchy. If there is dysfunction, these patterns are addressed first because these patterns are essential to most movements, could you imagine the issues that arise if we don’t care for the natural patterns of the body?

The Shoulder Mobility test creates motion in all three planes of movement. In the top arm, there is shoulder flexion, external rotation, and abduction. In the lower arm, there is extension, internal rotation, and adduction. These aren’t technically isolated as we are performing them in a standing position where we do get influence of the trunk, hips, and lower body in the movement of the shoulders.

Before beginning the Shoulder Mobility test, one must determine the scoring criteria. The FMS dowel measures the length of the dominant hand from the crease at the base of the hand to the tip of the longest finger. Within one hand length is a score of 3, one to one and a half hand lengths is a score of 2, and greater than one and a half hand lengths is a 1. Pain in the movement is a 0, and the client should be referred out to a physician or physical therapist. Any deviation in movement within the pattern is considered dysfunction. Common faults include loss of core postural control, rounding of the shoulders (kyphosis), and scapulothoracic tightness. Once the individual’s scoring criteria is established, the client is ready for testing.

The Shoulder Mobility pattern tests reciprocal motion. Both arms move at once. To begin the test, the client stands erect with feet together and arms extended out to the side. The palms of the hands are facing up with thumbs tucked into a fist. The dominant arm swings up, the non-dominant hand swings down, and both hands stick on the back, as close as possible. Once the arms stick on the back, the arms cannot move. The distance between the two closest points on the hands is measured. The non-dominant side becomes the top side after the dominant side is tested. Each side can be tested up to three times. After each side is tested and scores are compiled, a clearing test checks for pain.

In the clearing test, the palm of the dominant hand rests on the top of the opposite shoulder. The palm must remain in contact with the shoulder throughout the test. The dominant elbow is raised, as high as possible. The tester asks only, “Does this hurt?” If yes, score 0 and refer out. If no, the previous test score stands and switch to the other side. The same standards apply to the non-dominant hand to finish the clearing test.



Once we have a score (truly we are looking at competency of these qualities rather than trying to hit some score) we can start looking at how to address some of these issues. As you see Trey is working on very fundamental skills of integration. Combining specific movements and breathing patterns we can see at the most base level where compensations lie and where our focus needs to be placed. These may need to be reinforced over many sessions and can easily be integrated into a movement prep type of program.

The movement prep arena is not the only place we see these concepts needing to be emphasized. If we deem these concepts important, they should be reflected in our strength and power development as well. One of the reasons we have combined the work of FMS and DVRT is to show a great continuum of identifying and addressing the issues we find in functional movement. The following drills we break down with DVRT have many of the components that we can see in the ASLR and the Shoulder Mobility screen.

Don’t look at muscles, don’t look at joint, look at what each pattern offers and try to see the connection between them. We will break down how they relate and how what Trey teaches in the FMS protocols takes us right into these DVRT drills that continue to reinforce these ideas. One of the reasons that many professionals become frustrated with screening is they don’t apply the information to ALL aspects of their training. We hope this solves some of the most common issues in not just how to measure movement, but then what do we DO with the information!




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    Trey Belcher, CSCS is the owner of Trey Belcher Training, LLC, in Danville, VA. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram @treybelchertraining or at his website www.treybelchertraining.com


    Josh Henkin, CSCS is an international presenter and strength coach who has taught in over 13 countries worldwide and consulted with some of the top fitness and performance programs in the world. Don’t miss his upcoming DVRT educational programs HERE