Gray Cook, FMS & Dry Needling


The true champion will spend more time working on weakness than showing off strength.
– Gray Cook, Athletic Body in Balance

Gray Cook

I’ve taken great interest recently in Gray Cook’s material including the FMS or Functional Movement Screen as well as two books by Gray, Movement and Athletic Body in Balance.  Gray is a physical therapist, strength coach and kettlebell instructor.  Much of his work focuses on identifying our weaknesses and improving our poor movement patterns.  He’s been in the fitness/rehab world for a while and I’ve known of his work for a while but just recently have I really dug into it and I’m finding it very fascinating.

Functional Movement Screen

The FMS consists of several movement patterns: the overhead squat, inline lunge, hurdle step, shoulder mobility reaching, straight-leg raise, trunk stability pushup, and rotary stability pattern.  These movements are fundamental to the way we move.  They combine elements of stability and mobility.  The purpose of the screen is to identify deficient movement patterns, asymmetries (this is a potentially HUGE issue) and pain.  If someone test poorly on any of these tests then we know what areas need corrective exercise.  This is a process of identifying weaknesses and making them strong.

Visit to PT Mike Kohm & dry needling

I wanted to get a first-hand exposure to the FMS and the clinical companion to the FMS which is known as the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA).  (The SFMA is used by physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, etc. to further investigate painful and dysfunctional movement.)  I looked up FMS/SFMA certified practitioners in the Denver area and I selected Mike Kohm of Neuromuscular Strategies.  Mike is a PT and a yoga instructor who has experience with runners and cyclists. When I made my appointment I had nothing much wrong with me.  I’ve had a little bit of right shoulder pain which has improved recently, but mainly I just wanted to see if there were any odd movement issues that I might want to take care of.  A few days prior to my appointment I strained my right hip flexor while running sprints.  Perfect time to see a PT.

I won’t go into every aspect of the assessment but it was a very thorough examination that did indeed expose some less-than-optimal movement patterns.  He ID’d some funny movement at my right tibia and we figured out more about my right shoulder.  We looked at some exercises to improve both areas.  Just a couple of days later and both areas are moving much better.

As for my hip flexor, he did some dry needling on the strained area. This procedure is similar to acupuncture but it doesn’t rely on quite the same method.  It involves inserting an acupuncture needle into a tight, spasming muscle.  Sound like fun?  It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, though it wasn’t any party either.  I felt a stick and then a sudden but very brief cramp and then the muscle relaxed.  Mike used the needle in three spots.  It definitely felt better afterward.  Mike said he thought dry needling could cut down by half the healing time for strained muscles.  Sounds good to me.

FMS Self-Assessment & the Bretzel

Finally, there are a lot of interesting and informative Youtube videos discussing the FMS and corrective strategies.  Here are a couple.  The first is an abbreviated version of the FMS that you can use to evaluate your own movement patterns.  The second is a very useful thoracic spine mobility drill known as the Bretzel.  There are two versions of the Bretzel.  These drills can be quite useful in addressing shoulder pain among other things. Try some of this stuff out and see what happens.

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