The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is coming soon (see it live on NFL Network) and every NFL team has the need for speed! And it isn't just the usual speed positions such as running back or wide receiver that require players to be exceptionally fast and powerful these days, but all positions in the NFL. This is why over 111 million people viewed the past Super Bowl in New York.
Here at the Fischer Institute, we are currently preparing some of the best college football players for the upcoming combine. Their ability to produce power and speed is of the utmost importance.
One of the first steps to prepare these athletes is to perform an extensive evaluation of their entire body. This exam includes many things such as blood work, body fat, weight, past medical history, assessment of muscle weakness, strength, proper muscle lengths and joint range of motions to name a few. The importance of this extensive evaluation is to properly and specifically build each athlete to reach their maximum capabilities. Much like with a race car, a thorough analysis of all of the parts of the human body must be performed to ensure success.
Here are just a few tests that we utilize at the Fischer Institute to evaluate an athlete in order to increase their power and speed.
Closed Chain Ankle Dorsiflexion Measurement (Figure 1)
This looks at the athlete's available motion in their ankles to create power into the ground. I often see one or both of a athlete's ankles restricted for various reasons, and many times the athlete has no complaints of pain. In fact, he or she has no idea that they are even restricted. Decreases in this range of motion inhibits an athlete's ability to generate power and may also decrease stride length. Normal values hover around 21 to 40 degrees with the knee flexed and the heel (calcaneus) still in contact with the ground.
To improve your measurement: Stand on a step or curb, and simply allow one of your heels to lower down off the step with the same knee in a relatively straightened position. You should feel the stretch in your calf region. Switch legs and repeat. Also perform the stretch with your knee in a bent position. You will feel this stretch a little lower in your calf than the previous stretch when your knee was straight. Click here for more on these stretches.
Hip Rotational Range of Motion Measurement (Figure 2)
The athlete's capability to have adequate hip internal and external rotation is important for various reasons. First, proper internal rotation of the hips suitably loads the buttock and hip muscles to create power and speed. Second, appropriate internal and external rotation range of motion is imperative for fast change of direction drills such as the 5-10-5 (Short Shuttle) and the Three-Cone (L Drill) Drill to name a few. Normal hip internal rotation is around 40 degrees and for hip external rotation about 45 degrees with the hip and knee flexed at 90 degrees.
To improve your measurement: Lie on your back and gently pull your lower leg/shin across your body toward your chest on the opposite side. For example, when stretching your right hip, pull your right lower leg toward your left chest with your left hand while your right hand guides the right knee toward your left chest. You will feel the stretch in the glute region.
The Thomas Test (Figure 3)
This test basically looks at the flexibility of the athlete's hip flexors. An athlete with tight hip flexors will not only have a shorter stride length, but the tight hip flexors will actually inhibit the athlete's power generating gluteal muscles. A positive test is when the thigh is not parallel or below parallel.
To improve your measurement: Kneel on one knee and gently allow your hips to fall forward without arching your back. Then reach your arms overhead to increas the stretch to the front of your hips. Click here for more on this stretch.
Like a race car, attention to every detail is essential for optimum performance. Proper evaluation and treatment of any abnormal findings can be the difference between a 4.4 second 40-yard dash and a much slower time. So please stay tuned to NFL Network later this month to see some amazing speed and power!
-Brett Fischer is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA; Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.
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