The previous two articles focused on active stretching to effectively prepare the athlete for exercise. The Movement "prep" phase is the next progression in the warmup process to optimally activate the athlete's neuromuscular system. In simpler terms, the nervous and muscle systems are "woken" up as well as increasing the body's core temperature.
Here are a few of the main movements we use at the Fischer Institute to get our NFL players ready:
1. Shuffles (FIG 1)
Have the football player in an athletic stance (knees and hips bent and in a "ready" position). Then instruct them to move quickly in a sideways fashion without "clicking " their heels together for 10 yards and then rotate to face the other direction and shuffle for the final 10 yards. In this drill, the athlete should have moved 10 yards to both their left and to their right.
2. Carioca (FIG 2)
Start the player in the same athletic posture, then have them cross the trail leg in front of the other leg while moving sideways. Instruct them to allow the hips to rotate as if they are "salsa dancing." They should go 10 yards and then face the other direction for another 10 yards so that the athlete has moved both to their right and left.
3. 180/ 360 Degree Turns (FIG 3, 4)
The 180 degree drill will prepare the athlete to go from a forward position to a backward position quickly and effectively. Have the athlete start by running forward and at five yards quickly turn 180 degrees in a tight semi-circle to a backpedal movement. Backpedal for five yards and rotate 180 degrees back to a forward running movement. Perform this 180 degree rotation transformation every five yards in a straight line.
The 360 degree drill (FIG 4) is exactly the same as the 180 degree drill but instead of going from forward running to backpedalling, the athlete will complete a full 360 degree turn every five yards in a straight line and alternating which way they are rotating for the entire 20 yards.
*4. Zig Zag (FIG 5) *
The player will run forward five yards on a slight diagonal then at five yards "cut" or change direction to a forward diagonal run the other way. This "Zig-Zag" drill will change direction every five yards for a total of 20 yards. This will prepare the football player for change of direction. Also remember this drill can be performed completely backwards by backpedaling which is great for defensive backs.
The entire warmup process does take time from the active stretch phase to the movement "prep" phase. But this time is an excellent investment in the athlete. The results will be prevention of injury and performance. And you can't beat that!
-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.