PNF Warm-ups With Young Athletes
By Wil Fleming
Ask coaches what their program should include and invariably the answer sounds like this “Strength, speed, agility, power and oh yeah warm-up“. The warm-up is always tossed in there, but not with much enthusiasm.
All too often our warm-ups occur in singular planes of motion, typically sagittal or frontal, and for certain joints this will not do. The hip and shoulder, in particular require motion that does not only go through these single planes, and in truth requires more than just the addition of motion through the transverse plane.
A great solution to this is to use PNF patterns of movement to truly warm-up the athlete. In using PNF patterns we are able to use patterns that efficiently recruit the most relevant muscle.
PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is commonly thought of as only a type of stretching pattern done by athletic trainers but is actually an entire system of movement.
In the great book Supertraining, Mel Siff described PNF movement patterns in this way “The importance of these patterns cannot be overestimated, since they can enhance the effectiveness of any training session.”
While the unloaded movement of a “warm-up” cannot satisfy all the necessary pieces to be considered PNF the important foundations of PNF which must be considered are as follows.
-The motion must use spiral and diagonal movement patterns
-The motion must cross the sagittal midline of the body.
-The motion must recruit all movement patterns including, flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and internal/external rotation.
To use the techniques of PNF in our warm-up we use a lunge matrix and corresponding “reaches”.
Lateral Hip Rotator Lunge w/ Contralateral Reach
Have the athlete stand perpendicular to a start line, flex at the hip and knee with the lead leg. First internally rotate at the hip, move towards external rotation with the lead hip as they step outward as far as possible. Once the lead foot reaches the ground they will raise their opposite arm overhead and come across the midline of the body to reach the instep of their lead leg, the young athletes should follow this movement with their eyes until completion.
Reverse Lunge w/ X Reach
Have the athlete make a reverse lunge movement (that part is simple). While in this split stance they should reach with one hand to their opposite front pocket, move this arm across the midline of the body to an overhead position and rotate the torso. Again the athlete should follow the movement of their arms with their eyes. Do the same movement with the opposite arm and then reverse lunge with the other leg.
These modifications on traditional lunges will add multi direction skill and a more complete neuromuscular warm-up to your young athletes programs.