Dan is a physio and currently Director at BaiMed Performance, and works as a performance physiotherapist in the NRL. Dan sat down with us and walked us through the areas he looks at when he is working with an athlete to prepare for professional sport and avoid injury.
"Whenever an athlete comes to BaiMed Performance, the first thing we assess is their mobility. The ability of a joint to move about its full range of motion is a key element in allowing the athlete to put their body in the various positions that their sport demands. If they don’t have the required mobility then they are going to have to compensate and try to chase that mobility in joints above or below that restricted area. This places huge amounts of unnecessary forces and stressors into those areas and increases risk for injury in those regions.
"We start at the ground and work our way up, assessing and prescribing personalised mobility correctives for each individual. Ankle, hip and thoracic mobility are three of the main areas we assess, especially in running based athletes which also includes field and court sport athletes. Optimal movement and athletic performance starts with mobility in those areas.
What is one or two movements/exercises that you do with athletes to establish/work on their mobility?
"To genuinely improve mobility, exercise selection is always dependent on the individual. However, our principles of mobility remain the same in where we release the fascial tissue surrounding the joint with foam roller exercises, followed by some dynamic release drills to maximise joint range of motion and finish with an activation sequence of the opposing muscle group to establish control of the joint.
"Following mobility we look at strength. If you are playing any sport requiring any directional change you will need a minimal amount of strength to complete those movements – if you want to excel in those movement patterns the level of strength required increases and if you are not strong enough then you are going to fail elsewhere.
What are one or two movements/exercises that you do with athletes to establish/work on their strength?
"Like mobility, strength training is dependent on the athlete, their level of gym experience and injury status whether it be current or previous. Two of the fundamental movement patterns we prescribe and coach at BaiMed with all our athletes are the squat and deadlift/RDL. Lower body pushing and pulling patterns are a key element in all sports and the ability of an athlete to maximise strength and power is generally a product of hip and knee dominant movement patterns. Once these movements are taught well without weight, then we can load the movement appropriately to stimulate muscle development.
"Once any BaiMed athlete has achieved a satisfactory strength base, it is then about building on that strength for power and force development. Enabling your body to become more explosive – starting simple and progressing to more complex movements. We always aim to simulate and emulate movements that are closer to playing the game itself.
What are one or two movements/exercises that you do with athletes to establish/work on their power?
"Arguably one of the simplest and most effective albeit technical ways to develop and maximise power is with plyometric training. The ability of the athlete to perform jumping, bounding and hopping movements at speed can often require them to absorb and produce forces at 5 times their body weight. Beginning plyometric training at an early age can be a huge benefit if prescribed by an accredited Exercise Physiologist or Strength and Conditioning Coach.
"From power, we look at endurance and ‘energy system development’. With the exception of the historical endurance sports like cycling and long-distance running, most sports are intermittent in nature and require power/explosive movements to be performed over and over again, which has forced us to shift our training regimes to meet the demands of the sport.
"What we will focus on will always depend on the sport you are preparing for – there’ll always be a different requirement of mobility according to what the sport is. The more explosive the sport is, the stronger and more explosive you’ll need to be. Whereas if it’s more geared toward endurance, power comes secondary to endurance and stamina.
"When it comes to going from getting started to taking the field and playing sport – it’s about controlling the rate of change – small changes week to week are crucial to reduce your chance of getting injured. Be prepared to invest months and years rather than days and weeks. Simple programming performed well always wins out on a complicated program executed poorly. The key for us is to establish the athletes needs with respect to all components of mobility, strength, power, endurance and recovery. Once we have this information we can construct a personalized program aimed at making them better athletes with a reduced likelihood of injury.
Dan Lawson, BaiMed Performance