Rebuilding Movement for Active Recovery

By Diane Vives, M.S., C.S.C.S., N.S.C.A.-C.P.T. – September 1, 2014
photo by Brian Fitzsimmons

One of the most overlooked aspects of training is the need to focus on recovery and regeneration.  It is often thought of as “backing off” or “taking time off” from goal-specific training, but the reality is that this is a great opportunity to rebuild movements that may break down.

A functional movement screen (FMS) allows fitness professionals to quickly zero-in on appropriate priorities that help people become more durable and adaptable. If you do not have access to the FMS, you can simply target movements you struggle with when competing or training.

In either case, the objective here is to look at components that can rebuild that movement and provide examples of how these components may benefit long-term success. The elements of human movement are mobility, static motor control (stability), and dynamic motor control (stability). These allow for coordinated movement patterns and give the ability to overload those movements to gain strength and speed.

Here are examples of how to take a targeted movement objective and then give training exercises that work toward rebuilding or fortifying the movement pattern needed to execute the skilled movement. 


Leg Lock Bridge
Purpose: To focus on the mobility needed for full hip extension without substituting dysfunctional lumbar extension. The opposing flexed hip to the moving hip extension stabilizes the lumbar region, allowing the hip to focus on the full range of motion.

– Start by lying on your back with one knee pulled toward the chest so that a small ball or rolled towel can be held between the thigh and rib cage. The opposite knee is bent, with the heel placed firmly on the ground and toes up.
– Keeping the ball pinned in between thigh and rib cage, extend the opposite hip until the knee, hip, and shoulders are aligned.
– Make sure to achieve the full range of motion and finish the hip extension.
Tweak Down: If you have a problem holding the ball in place, assist the position by reaching around your thigh to hold your leg in flexion.



Static Motor Control

Half-Kneeling Side Toss
Purpose: To set the half-kneeling position that achieves a narrow stance with opposing hip flexion and extension in the lower body base of support. Maintain this base without allowing any movement, and challenge static motor control of the hips with a upper body dynamic movement with the toss in the frontal plane (side to side crossing the narrow base).  

– Start in a half kneeling position with the hip and knees at 90 degrees of flexion. Feet should be just inside hip-width apart to create a narrow base.
– Your stance should be parallel with a wall or use a partner to catch and return the ball.
– Load the med ball horizontally at chest level away from the wall, then quickly perform a side toss, releasing so that the ball rebounds directly back to your hands.
– The most important part of this drill is to maintain a still and stable base while performing each repetition of the side toss.
Tweak Down: Substitute a band to load a slight torso rotation in front of the torso instead of the dynamic side toss with med ball.
Tweak Up: Use a split squat stance instead of the half-kneeling stance.


Dynamic Motor Control

Split Squat with Band
Purpose: To apply reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) in order to “pull individuals back into their mistake” so that the body reflexively corrects, assessing needed strength and sequencing to perform good technique and form. This can be used with a common mistake in decelerating the running motion—the front knee is excessively loaded while it caves inward due to a lack of dynamic motor control of the hips.

– Start in a tall split stance, placing the band just above or below the knee.  The resistance should apply tension to the knee’s inside (or medial) direction.
– Perform a split squat by flexing at both hips and knees to drop the center of mass directly down toward the ground.
– Effort should be felt in the hips to maintain ankle, knee, and hip alignment throughout the movement.
– Return to start in a tall split stance with hips and knees extended.
– Make sure the tension created by the band gives just enough tension for a challenge but not so much that proper technique of the split squat can’t be performed.


 Target Movement Skill

5-Yard Stop Drill to Cone

Purpose: To establish good stopping mechanics, which are key to multidirectional speed and agility. This is a common place where mistakes are made, and individuals are vulnerable to injury when there is weakness, lack of motor control, and improper technique. This skill crosses over into multiple sports and fitness activities.

– Place a cone or target object 5 yards away from the designated starting point. 
– Take 3–5 quick steps toward the cone; when you are within 2 steps of the cone, drop your center of mass as you decelerate.
– You should end up in a narrow base lunge position with the leading leg and arm on opposing sides, just as in running.
– Make sure the foot, knee, and hip are facing forward and not turned inward as you stop.
– Torso should be slightly flexed forward but not collapsed forward and touching the thigh at any point.
– Hold the position to establish a proper stopping posture, then back pedal, taking easy and relaxed steps to return to start.
– Perform the drill with both the right and left leg leading at the stopping point. 

This strategy for active recovery allows you to accomplish extremely important work while resting from higher intensity loads. You can take this approach to rebuilding or fortifying foundational movement ability, and the payoff for performance will be well worth the investment in time and attention. Whether a movement screen is used to find specific priorities or generally target key movements, identifying key components will allow your body to better adapt and endure your favorite method of training for performance.

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