Functional Range Assessment (FRA) is a measurement-based assessment system that provides objective measures of a person’s movement capacity for each and every articulation (joint) in the body. While I have used assessments (ex: Functional Movement Screen/other movement screens) in the past to screen for potential movement issues, I’ve noticed several gaps in this assessment style.
First, a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) looks at the body moving as a whole and is more global compared to the FRA, which looks at the body as a sum of it’s moving parts (the joints) and looks at the function of each joint independently AND interdependently. Looking at things globally via a Functional Movement Screen can be problematic because it’s relatively obvious whether or not a participant can do each movement effectively/safely, and whether or not they have asymmetries with each movement, but it neglects to tell the person administering the test “why” the participant may be deficient in some of the movement screens. In the past, I’d applied some things I’d learned in school to the Functional Movement Screen to identify the “why” behind movement issues and it was relatively helpful, however, there were times when I’d felt like I was missing something and that there was room for improvement for assessments. FRA helps fill some of those gaps. Knowing the exact limiting factors behind your body’s movement incapabilities gives me critical information regarding your joint health and allows me to come up with a better training plan for you to improve performance, promote longevity, and live a more pain-free lifestyle.
Second, assessments such as the FMS are mostly subjective and lack objectivity. The FRA is mostly objective (the passive and active range of motion of each joint in the body is actually measured) and some subjective information from the assessment is used as well (watching how the joints move in relation to each other, CARs assessment). Not to say that assessments should always be 100% objective, there is some value in subjective assessments as well, but there are a lot of missing pieces of valuable information with the FMS and other movement screens.
Another thing that the FRA does better than the FMS is that it is individualized to the athlete or participant vs. having every person do the same movement screens with the same requirements to pass the tests. When it comes to sports performance and human movement in general, different people require different ranges of motion in each joint for what would be considered “optimal” for them. For example, the throwing arm of a baseball pitcher is going to have significantly different requirements for mobility, strength and control compared to a soccer player or a receptionist. What would be deemed “functional” for one person could be very “dysfunctional” or not optimal for another. The FRA takes this into consideration and examines what range of motion of each joint is optimal for the person in front of the assessor.
The FMS also presents issues with reliability and validity. There seems to be some unreliability between test administrators ,mostly due to differences in experience, and a lack of validity (Beardsley & Contreras, 2014; Kraus et al., 2014). The lack of reliability and validity that the FMS portrays are a huge problem, as these are some of the most fundamental concepts of science and research. A test is not usable without reliability and validity. For those who may not be familiar with these terms, reliability means that the test can be repeated either by the same person (intrarater) or by different people (interrater) and yield the same results. Validity refers to the ability of the test to measure what it is intended to measure. Thus, if a test is not consistent in results (either intrarater or interrater) and if the test doesn’t measure what it’s supposed to measure, then it wouldn’t be a very useful test… [Side note: I think FMS can be a good starting point for trainers in general. Or really any movement screen…. but just be aware of what is truly limiting a client’s movement versus looking so globally). While there haven’t been any studies on the reliability of FRA per se, the reliability would basically come down to a person’s ability to use a goniometer or other measuring device to assess range of motion (ROM). FRA validity studies have also not been conducted (to my knowledge), however, from a common sense standpoint… when you measure active and passive ROM, you are measuring what you are supposed to measure when determining a joint’s ROM and function.
A Functional Range Assessment also takes into consideration other factors such as training history, injury history (which is one of the most predictable variables for injury reoccurrence), and other important variables that would tell more about the person’s background. While I personally have always asked questions like this during an assessment, the FMS/other movement screens tend to leave these variables out. This is a huge mistake as this is super important information for a trainer or coach to know when prescribing an exercise program.
Overall, the FRA provides invaluable information regarding your joint health and mobility. It allows the practitioner to identify the root cause of what may be leading to achey joints and/or movement deficiencies, and what may be hindering your performance. Once the assessment is complete, then training inputs (typically via Functional Range Conditioning) are able to be directed at the individual’s specific deficits. This assessment and training style is probably much different than anything you have experienced in the past, but it will deliver results and help you live with a higher quality of life, improve your joint health, and mitigate future injuries.
Beardsley, C. & Contreras, B. (2014). The Functional Movement Screen: A Review. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 36(5),72-80.
Kraus, K., Schütz, E., Taylor, W. R., & Doyscher, R. (2014). Efficacy of the functional movement screen: a review. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(12), 3571-3584.