Feature Article - March 2006
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Command Performance

Sports performance training offers fitness facilities some room for improvement

By Margaret Ahrweiler


Prehabilitation

In fact, one of performance training's strongest selling points is its emphasis on what pros call "prehabilitation," or injury prevention.

This is particularly important with young female athletes, says Kelley, noting that girls are four to five times as likely to suffer a significant injury, especially to a knee or ankle, as boys.

By teaching proper movement, explaining the physics and mechanics of a seemingly simple motion like jumping, and strengthening all the muscles needed when playing, performance trainers can cut injuries significantly. For sports like volleyball where jumping plays a big role, Kelley teaches athletes not only how to jump, but how to land, where deceleration factors into the process.

He also questions traditional team sports training methods like lengthy runs for many sports, including tennis or football.

"Why do you need to run three miles?" he asks. "You're not even training the right muscles. You should be teaching these kids how to cut properly."

"It's pretty alarming" that most of the young athletes coming to his gym don't really understand how their bodies work and how the "firing patterns" should occur for key movements, McLeod says. As a result, his programs start off at a slower pace, with a lot of repetition, to get proper movement ingrained into athletes' muscle memories before they progress to improving speed or agility.

Emphasis on injury prevention also helped sell Schiewe on sports performance training, having seen a distressing number of girls in her sport with torn anterior cruciate ligaments or mangled ankles.

That philosophy of injury prevention extends beyond athletics, Walmsley notes. People whose daily routines incorporate strenuous movement also benefit from performance training, to prevent injury: chasing and toting around toddlers, for example, requires more complex movement skills and core muscle strength than many sports.