It’s all in the warm up. Any athlete and coach will understand the importance of a warm up in preventing injury and maximising performance.
A proper warm up before training or competition allows for a number of benefits which include providing a greater range of motion potential when performing physical and athletic skills and also prepares muscles and nervous system for the upcoming activity. This enables greater force on contraction for a range of athletic movements such as running and jumping. During a warm-up, athletes' tissue temperature and blood flow also increases to assist in eliminating waste products.
The risk of an ACL tear is greater than any other ligament and so it is vital that athletes at risk exercise preventative warm up methods.
With a 3-Step Warm that focuses on aerobic activity and flexibility warm up exercises, athletes can take the first steps in reducing the likelihood of injuries, in particular, ACL injuries.
Step One - Aerobic Activity
Perform a roughly five minute low-level aerobic activity such as jogging around an oval or on the spot.
Step Two - Dynamic Flexibility
This step incorporates active movements to stretch the hips and pelvic region targeting hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteus and groin which are important injury prevention areas in sports. Do the following movements five times for each side or position:
- Alternate Toe Touches: With legs wide apart, alternate touching hand to outside of opposite littlest toe.
- Knee to Chest: While standing, pull one knee to chest and hold for a three count. Reverse position.
- Heel to Rear: While standing, pull heel up to your rear and hold for a three count. Reverse position.
- Cradle Walk: Externally rotate leg, pulling the leg up at the ankle. Release and repeat taking a step.
- Lateral Lunge with Twist: Step laterally and lower the body to form a 90-degree bend in the knee. Rotate your torso to the extended leg side. Trail leg is straight, stretching the groin area.
- Leg Kicks: Mimic a soccer-specific kick.
- Round House Kicks: Kick with leg straight, rotating leg outward and around.
- Hand Walks: In push-up position, walk feet up to hands, then walk hands out to push-up position and repeat. Keep back flat.
Step Three - Movement Preparation
These exercises imitate movement-specific activities to prepare the ACL.
- Lateral Shuffles: Arms side-to-side crossing over the body.
- Power Skips: Perform these skips with strong ankle push-off and high knee action.
- Soccer-Style Kicks: Kick diagonally across planted leg.
- Long Strides Backward: Perform long backward strides with an emphasis on heels up and back.
- Scorpions: Lying on stomach (T-position), hands to the side, alternate by kicking leg back toward opposite hand. Hands do not move.
All stages of this warm-up sequence should be completed in a progressive fashion. The intensity of each exercise increases as you move closer to the performance. As the athlete ramps up to the required intensity, their body will become appropriately primed for the activity.
This 3 step warm up will help to ensure that an athlete's ACL and body have been properly prepared for a game or training session.
For more sport science advice and to learn about the benefits of SPT sport technology for athletes, contact our team.
Condition, P. (2012). ACL Injury Prevention 3-Step Warm Up - Performance Condition.