Flexibility & Stretching Zone!

Movement Prep Components 101

By Nick Winkelman

In other parts of this series, we discussed the TEC model and its application to a number of linear and multidirectional movement skills. We discussed the importance of having an ideal technical model representing perfect technique, addressed the need for an error model, which captured the most common technical errors, and provided a coaching model with cues that can be used to correct each of the common technical errors. This approach provides therapists, coaches, and trainers with the skills to identify, prioritize, and correct common movement dysfunction in a sports context.

In the next five segments, we'll discuss the performance solutions for movement skill development and recovery. We'll start by presenting our approach to warming up, or Movement Prep as we like to call it at EXOS. Movement Prep is an integrated approach to prepare athletes physically and mentally for the demands of training and competition through a progressive and specific period. The goal of Movement Prep is to optimize performance while decreasing risk of injury during practice and competition. Movement Prep plays a role in not only preparing the athlete for the current session, but also providing a foundation to develop effective long-term movement patterns.

Movement Prep consists of five components: general movement, hip activation, dynamic stretching, movement integration, and neural activation. Each component plays a role in preparing the athlete for the upcoming training session through a process that progresses movement from general to specific, static to dynamic, slow to fast, and low force to high force. This approach allows the athlete to practice and refine motor skills, providing a learning context for the more complex versions of the skills that follow in plyometric and movement skill sessions.

General Movement

General movement is the glue of Movement Prep. It includes general calisthenics – jogging, backpedaling, shuffling, carioca, skipping – that many of us performed during physical education class. These movements are meant to provide the coach with a general understanding of the athletes' dynamic movement quality (i.e., screening), while increasing the athletes' core and intramuscular temperature. These movements are done at the beginning of Movement Prep and can be used between components to keep the dynamic nature of the session high.

Hip Activation

Hip activation is meant to activate the hip musculature within movement patterns. Hip activation requires Mini Bands, which are positioned around the ankles and/or the knees. This provides hip-directed resistance from a short-lever arm (i.e., around the knees) and/or a long-lever arm (i.e., around the ankles). Movements occur from a straight leg position, bent leg position, or a bent leg split position, and in a linear or lateral direction. So there are a number of resistance, position, and direction combinations available to align with the overarching purpose of the subsequent training session.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching builds on the hip activation component by having athletes move through a complete range of motion using specific dynamic movements. The movements transition from simple to complex across the shoulder, trunk, hip, knee, and ankle, while being performed in a linear, lateral, or rotational direction. These movements can be performed in place in an alternating manner, or they can be completed over a prescribed distance. The key is to select dynamic stretches relevant for the movements that follow in plyometric and movement skill sessions. 

Movement Integration

Movement integration focuses on rehearsing motor skills at the speed, force, and direction relevant to the subsequent session focus. The movements within this component emphasize marching and skipping patterns that can occur in a linear, lateral, or rotational direction. Athletes will be asked to focus on linear marching and skipping prior to an acceleration movement skill session, while athletes will focus on lateral marching and skipping prior to a movement skill session emphasizing change of direction and shuffling.

Neural Activation

The last component is neural activation, which requires athletes to perform short bursts (less than 10 seconds) of movement in a linear, lateral, or rotational direction. Similar to hip activation, these movements occur from a low bent leg position (i.e., half squat), a high bent leg position (i.e., quarter squat), or a split leg position. These movements can be performed in a reactive or nonreactive manner. Coaches can use reactive prompts like a hand movement or a specific directional call to instigate how the movements are performed (i.e., pointing left or right to instigate a base shift), or give the athletes predetermined instructions on movement performance.

Check out the sample program in this article about our TEC Model.

(March 2016)