The goal and focus of working with athletes is to keep our best players strong and safe on the field, explosive and conditioned, ready to dominate every play, every down and every quarter. The foundation for this type of program focuses on injury prevention through four parts: movement preparation and muscle activation, individualized mobility drills, dynamic flexibility and static flexibility.
Here’s how we structure our programming at DIAKADI.
1. Movement Preparation and Muscle Activation (MPMA)
On the field or in the gym, athletes typically follow a set series of exercises for movement preparation and muscle activation. Almost every player foam rolls, actively stretches and goes through glute activation. If certain athletes have obvious deviations or imbalances, coaches make an appropriate selection of exercises for that individual.
For example, a player with a history of patella tendinitis might spend more time rolling his/her hamstring, quadriceps and IT band with a tool denser than a foam roller, such as PVC piping or a softball. If you are unable to self-assess your body for problem areas or muscle imbalances, seek out a certified physical therapist, F.M.S practitioner or certified personal trainer who can perform a full body movement screen.
RELATED: Why You Should Get a Functional Movement Screen
Here are our go-to movement prep and muscle activation exercises:
- Tissue Rolling (myofascial release) — pieces of equipment we use with our athletes include foam rollers, PVC piping, tiger tail massage sticks, tennis balls and lacrosse balls.
- Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) — In this technique, developed by Aaron Mattes, you increase your flexibility through reciprocal inhibition. This is where one muscle is lengthened as its opposing muscle contracts. This is more of a dynamic or active stretch, where you take your muscle through an active range of motion, then gently assist the stretch through a short passive hold. In general, I like my athletes to hold these stretches from 2 to 5 seconds, increasing the muscle range of motion with each repetition.
- Mini Band Ab/Adduction and Walks (Front and Side)
- Hip Bridges
- Theraband Shoulder External Rotations
2. Individualized Mobility Drills
Once athletes have finished step one (MPMA), they take themselves through two to five mobility stations, depending on what corrective exercises best suit their profiles.
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Based on self-assessment or a coach’s recommendations, athletes go through two to five general mobilization drills to improve their range of motion. If you’re on your own, this is when you focus on the joints you plan to work during your workout and address common issues, such as hip flexor tightness.
Individualized Mobility Exercises:
- Ankle Mobility with a 41-inch jump band
- Shoulder Mobility Pole Series
- Core Board Hip Flexor Series
3. Dynamic Flexibility
Many teams and athletes fall into the habit of static stretching (i.e., holding stretches for more than 30 seconds) at the beginning of their training. Numerous studies show loss of peak power and an increase in muscular strain using this antiquated method. For dynamic flexibility, we organize our team into detailed lines to execute movements through a full range of motion. We emphasize clean lines, perfect execution and a loud coach co-call at each start whistle.
RELATED: Increasing Flexibility Involves More Than Stretching
Dynamic flexibility exercises:
- Walking Knee Tucks and Ankle Grabs
- Walking Hip Stretch and Knee and Ankle Grabs
- Lateral Lunge series
- World’s Greatest Stretch – x 10 strides
- Side Cross Front Running at Walking Tempo – x 10 per side
- Backward run
4. Static Flexibility
Once we finish our practice, lift or game, the players circle up for team static stretching. Captains lead the series, and the team counts 15 to 30 seconds on each stretch. For team sports, every athlete does every stretch. This is considered more of a cooldown than a corrective strategy.
- Partner Chest Stretch
- Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch (drop knee and pull leg back to butt)
- Down Dog Hamstring/Calf Stretch to Pigeon pose