Both exercise and sport encompass several key important features that can be of great benefit to individuals. Research highlights how exercise improves a number of physical and psychological functions. Naturally, coinciding with such rewards lies a couple of potential risks (as with just about anything), which should be considered and appreciated, but nonetheless minimized. With this comes the question, “What can we do to minimize this?”. Specific, relevant and individualised pre-training/movement preparation protocols can make a huge difference to performance measures and injury prevention.
With increased technology and performance demands in elite sport in particular, amplified numbers of serious injuries (and subsequent re-injuries) have become a serious topic of discussion. So, what are we going to do to break this cycle?
Let’s use the FIFA 11+ warm-up programme as clear example for both injury prevention and performance benefits. A narrative review by Bizzini and Dvorak (2015) highlighted the following:
- A significant reduction (up to 50%) of injuries in female players between the ages of 13-18, when the protocol was performed at least twice week
- A significantly lower (approximately 40%) incidence of injuries in young Nigerian male players aged 14-19)
- Significantly better neuromuscular control (quicker stabilisation time of lower extremity and core) in Italian amateur male players after 9 weeks of FIFA 11+ practice
- Improved knee strength ratios and superior static/dynamic balance and agility skills in Asian male players.
The FIFA 11+ programme was designed as a pre-training activation, movement preparation and injury prevention protocol specific to football, hence the consistently significant results it has yielded. It must be noted, however, that awareness of injury prevention, performance enhancement and therefore, the implementation of pre-training protocols within general populations must be considered with equal significance, to ensure the best possible outcomes are achieved.
Further research with respect to this, this time relating to general populations (children), reinforces the benefits of performing specific, dynamic exercises prior to higher intensity activities, e.g. performing drop jump repetitions before exercises which require a high power output (Faigenbaum, 2005). It must be noted that this example, along with the FIFA 11+ research, does relate directly to all who are aspiring towards resistance-, strength- and power-based patterns.
The findings of the research, and ultimately the subject outcomes, emphasize various points about the benefits of pre-training routines. One key variable of absolute importance is to ensure the specificity of the prescribed exercises by tailoring the routine to suit the movement capabilities and current performance level of the individual. The success of the FIFA 11+ programme, for example, lies largely within the specificity of its prescription and the fact that it involves mobility, stability, multi-joint movements and also muscle activation exercises; all of which are directly relatable to the end goal (training/competition performance).
The perception may be held that the implementation of pre-training movement patterns is only applicable to athletic populations, which is a clear misinterpretation. All of the previously mentioned key points are just as relevant to general populations prior to strength training or sport, in order to optimise performance. Resistance bands, isometric holds, active range of motion movements and relevant movement preparation patterns are great ways to utilise mobility capabilities and maximise performance for all populations. As long as prescription is specific and the programme is performed regularly, then training improvements and adaptation will be likely products of change. See above and below this paragraph for two common examples, however specificity is vital so make sure your prep work is guided by an expert.
Whether health and fitness goals are competition-based (sport) or not is less relevant to this topic of discussion than the attainable performance benefits of implementing relevant pre-training exercises. The research clearly underlines injury prevention and performance benefits, and there is no reason why specific warm-up protocols shouldn’t be implemented for all populations, regardless of training goals. Come in to see the elite practitioners at Absolute Health & Performance for a science-based approach to your training, whatever your goals. Injury prevention and performance closely align in our eyes, as do pre-training and performance benefits alike.
Written By Performance Coach Jonathan Stahl
- Faigenbaum, A.D., Bellucci, M., Bernieri, A., Bakker, B. & Hoorens, K. (2005). Acute effects of different warm-up protocols on fitness performance in children. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19(2), 376-81.
- Bizzini, M. & Dvorak, J. (2015). FIFA 11+: an effective programme to prevent football injuries in various player groups worldwide – a narrative review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49, 577-579.