High school athletes are injured at an alarming rate, and if you dig into the statistics you realize the majority of these injuries are in three common areas:
- The Knee
- The Ankle
- The Hip/Groin/Low Back Complex
Now, why is it so common to be injured in these three areas?
I think these injuries are a byproduct of the way we approach training and can be prevented with proper, what I call, “Pre-Activity Prep”.
Pre-Activity Prep consists of your warm up and any specific drills you do prior to strength, speed, and agility training. The goal behind this is to attack target areas that need attention in order to perform properly.
With my athletes I do a series of six exercises every time they come into the facility. Typically, I have them do this before we get into our dynamic warm up. This way they already have an increased core temperature, glute activation, and the bulk of their mobility work taken care of. This also jumpstarts our dynamic warm up and allows it to be more specific to their upcoming training session.
The goal with these six movements is to increase mobility, add stability, and really focus on injury prevention in these common areas.
The first four movements are based around increasing mobility, while the final two are focused on single leg stability and ankle/knee/hip activation. For the final two, we really want to teach all the stabilizer muscles a proper firing pattern and provide a strong base around the ankle/knee/hip complex. It is vital to remember that quality of movement is crucial for all six of these exercises.
1. Third World Squat
This is a static hold in what is called triple flexion. You’ll want to hold for 60 seconds. This position is greatly overlooked in most training programs, but when you analyze field movements, it’s clear that it is a position the ankle, knee, and hip are often in. This position demands a great amount of flexibility so make sure that you are modifying or gradually increasing the depth on an individual basis for your athletes.
2. Modified Worlds Greatest
Adductor and Lumbar/Thoracic mobility can greatly limit an athlete’s ability to play at a low and explosive level. It also limits their ability to squat to a proper depth. With this movement, we want to perform 10 repetitions on each side and focus on pausing at the end of each movement.
3. Hip Internal Rotation with Static Pigeon
We are directly addressing the glutes and hip mobility with this movement. Having proper mobility in the glutes helps with the athlete’s ability to bend and extend. These benefits cross over to sprint speed, playing with a low pad level, and absorbing an external force. For this movement, we will complete 5 cycles on each side.
4. Rolling V-Sit
This may be my favorite movement, as it combines mobility for the hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and low back. As you finish the movement make sure to focus on getting a big reach towards the toes. You’ll want to do 10 reps.
5. Single Leg RDL to Overhead Reach
Single leg stability is crucial for athletes as they are very rarely on two legs. With one foot on the ground and one elevated, reach across your body keeping both legs static. Once you’ve reached down, stand up tall and extend your arm overhead. Once in the tall position you’ll want to pause for at least two seconds. Repeat 10 times on each leg. This is a great drill to do barefoot or on a stability pad once you gain proficiency.
6. Single Leg Reverse Lunge to Knee Drive
From what I call a ‘block’ position — standing with one knee elevated and bent — you’ll reach back into a reverse lunge. From the lunge position drive back into your block position and hold for a two second count. Make sure that when you are in the block position that you have your ankle dorsiflexed. This will be done for 10 reps on each side. Again, this is a great drill to do barefoot or on a stability pad.
Build Mobility, Stability and Control
It is important to note that these are not the ‘end all, be all’ when it comes to Pre-Activity Prep. They do, however, provide you with a great base that will build mobility, stability, and neuromuscular control within your athletes.
By incorporating these six movements I have seen a great increase in the lifting ability of my athletes. They are able to perform single leg exercises with a higher level of proficiency, squat to depth with a more vertical torso, and achieve better extension during explosive/sprinting work.
Lastly, you’ll notice that none of these movements require equipment. This makes it something that can be done both in a large group setting or while the athletes are at home during an off-day from training.