Back to Basics for Better Athletic Performance

Athletes young and old, from high schoolers to those with decades of experience, are constantly looking for ways to optimize performance and improve their natural abilities. They may be unaware that there are ways to make training more efficient simply by changing the basic mechanics of the way their body moves.

Due in part to genetics, improper training, or simple compensations after minor injuries over time, many competitive athletes and weekend warriors develop movement deficiencies that make them prone to further injury or limit their performance ceiling. A training regimen that has long been used by professional basketball players is now accessible to athletes of all ages through the Campbell Clinic Sports Performance Program.

Almost all individuals, whether competitive or not, have natural deficiencies and compensatory movements based on their daily activity. The body is an amazing, well-built machine, and it will compensate when needed if someone experiences pain or injury or overworks him or herself without cross-training.

For instance, a long-distance runner who employs a repetitive, linear motion may use a training program that only activates and engages certain parts of their legs and core. Even though this athlete may be incredibly fit, they can experience tightness on their anterior and posterior side because they simply haven’t been working on lateral (side-to-side) movement when running in one direction for miles at a time. When the body experiences repetitive training that overuses some muscle and ligament groups and ignores or underutilizes others, it will overcompensate to protect the weaker areas, which leads to the potential for greater injury.

Chronic overuse injuries can sideline an athlete for months or end an active lifestyle altogether. The concept of cross-training has gained popularity because it capitalizes on the idea that someone should perform more than static, repetitive movements during a workout.

Campbell Clinic’s Sports Performance Program was recently created with this same goal in mind: to identify unnatural movement deficiencies or compensations and help create diverse warm-up or training workouts with functional movement in mind. The three main areas of focus in any successful functional movement program are stability, mobility, and flexibility. I often equate it to the building blocks of a home. Bricks (large muscle groups) are commonly an athlete’s only area of focus, but their mortar (the key stabilizers) are not ever stressed or activated. At best, this limits an athlete’s ability to perform at a high level, and at worst it creates vulnerability to injury.

When someone lacks stability above and below his or her joints, the joint becomes compromised. For example, if your hips aren’t stable, your knees could deviate medially or laterally, which puts them at a vulnerable position for injury. Instability causes undue stress. Over time this leads to breakdown and possible injury.

A functional movement program puts someone in a sport-specific movement and then loads them so they can go through a proper range of motion and have the correct mobility before they add weight. This complements a traditional strength and conditioning program where lifting heavier weight or moving faster may be the only focus. My goal for athletes is to help them move more efficiently; then they’ll naturally be able to lift harder and run longer.

Our program incorporates a 20-minute visual assessment with a series of common movement patterns looking at joint range of motion, flexibility, and stability. The ultimate goal of the assessment is to identify compensatory movement patterns and overall muscle imbalances. We then develop a daily home corrective exercise program that addresses those movement deficiencies. The home program is completed only a few days a week and takes no more than 20 minutes. After eight weeks, we typically see substantial improvement in basic functional movement that reduces the risk of injury and helps athletes perform at a higher level. The home program is stored on an easily accessible smart phone app and features helpful videos to guide the workout.

By Drew Graham MS, ATC, CSCS, PES, CES

To schedule a functional movement assessment and receive a home program, or to find out more about the Campbell Clinic Sports Performance Program, call 901.759.3180 or email dgraham@ Drew Graham leads the sports performance program at Campbell Clinic.

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