Improve the way you move to improve sports performance and reduce injury risk

Improve the way you move to improve sports performance and reduce injury risk

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Most children learn how to walk somewhere around the ages of 9 to 18 months. It’s usually a case of trial and error and children typically progress through strategies for getting around starting with rolling, progressing to crawling, cruising, toddling and finally walking (sometimes with some bum-shuffling in between). Most parents would probably agree that children’s walking skills are mainly self-learnt and, if you stop to think about it, most of us wouldn’t know where to start in teaching someone how to walk – either for the first time or after an injury.

Nonetheless most of us manage to find a way of walking that does the job.

But as children head to preschool then primary school it can sometimes become apparent that a child isn’t quite making the same strides as their peers. As older children start to take part in sport they might want to improve their speed, agility and physical confidence. Other than lots of practice there’s not much that you can do, right? Well, not quite.

Dynamic Movement Skills 

Dynamic Movement Skills (DMS) is a neuromuscular re-education movement methodology (which basically means it’s away of getting your brain and your body to coordinate better to produce more optimal movement patterns). DMS was developed by Mike Antoniades, Performance and Rehabilitation Director at The Running School and The Movement School. DMS helps develop, refine & improve gross motor skills, coordination, agility & quickness. 

Who is it for?

DMS can be used for those anyone who is not developing as well as they would like or for those who are doing well but want to maximise their abilities. 

It’s suitable for children and adults; whether looking to move more confidently, to improve pain and injury problems, or to enhance athletic performance.

The system has been provided by The Running School as part of training at top professional football clubs including Manchester United and Chelsea and has been used with many professional sportspeople and athletes (including Olympic Gold Medalists). 

Children From age 6 upwards: 

It can help children whose movements are not developing as quickly as others; for example they may have been diagnosed with dyspraxia or autism; or their parents, teachers or coaches may have noticed that they just don’t seem to move as well as their peers or that they shy away from physical activity and sports. 

It can equally help children who are doing well but would like to do better in certain areas. For example we often contacted by parents of children and teens at football academies and professional clubs: as they’ve progressed from school, to clubs, and into academies they have identified that perhaps they are not as quick off the mark as others at that level. Dynamic Movement Skills gives them the edge they are looking for. 

The system is becoming increasingly popular in schools, both to develop foundation movement skills and in some cases as a method of helping children who find it difficult to settle in class. 

At Core we’ve worked with cricket and football academies, with individual children attending academies, runners of all abilities, and many professional sports professionals. 

But don’t we develop these skills naturally? 

Every child develops their movements at different speeds and in different ways and unfortunately those who develop more slowly can sometimes shy away from physical activity which can make matters worse. DMS coaching can help children to increase their physical confidence, enabling them to join in with physical activity and enjoy the many lifelong benefits that brings. 

Children ideally need 3 hours of movement per day (whether playing, walking, running, sport, dance, martial arts or any other activity) however many fall short of this. It is not unusual for kids in their first session of DMS to want to sit between exercises or lean on a wall or piece of furniture (until I advise them not to!). 

Even children who prefer to be more active may have had to sit for much of the day; their muscles and nervous system being static at school, and then they are suddenly asked to fire up in the evenings and weekends. 

For adults too, modern lifestyles can also make it easy to avoid physical activity – like cars, electronic entertainment, a curriculum that favours academic over physical subject. And following injury, when we are in pain, or periods of illness our movements can also be affected – we can lose previous abilities or change the way we move, perhaps to avoid pain or using certain muscles, which can have knock on effects. DMS can be used as part of recovery from injuries and to help both return to activity and prevention of re-injury. 

How does it work? 

Specific gross motor movements of footwork and jumping in multiple directions (depending on your level) are practiced and coached using advanced coaching techniques. These are ‘foundation’ movements that are repeatedly used in all movement of multi-directional physical activity and sports, firstly to develop improved movement patterns including: placement of feet and foot contact, coordination, sequencing, rhythm, lightness of feet, and reduced time spent on the ground. 

The repetition of these movements help develop the patterns through stronger and faster neuromuscular firing patterns and improved activation sequences.  The repeated practice helps the muscles to fire simultaneously rather than individually, creating smoother and faster movements. 

The DMS mat is the best place to perform the movements as it gives focus to placement and direction and adds to motivation. The system can however be performed indoors or outside using track lines, markers or similar.  

What can it help (in short)? 

  • Gross Motor skills 
  • Balance 
  • Rhythm 
  • Coordination
  • Speed 
  • Agility 
  • Acceleration 
  • Deceleration 
  • Power 
  • Explosiveness 
  • Re-direction of forces 
  • Reduced risk of injuries 
  • Reduce amortisation (time on the ground) 
  • Symmetry 
  • Confidence 

What does a DMS programme involve? 

An initial assessment of the foundation movements is performed.

We typically recommend a programme of 6 or 12 weekly sessions, with each session lasting an hour; home exercise tasks are also given. 

Those who have acquired a good level at the end of their first course can then progress onto the running technique programme. 

 I love the progress that I see from kids undergoing a Dynamic Movement Skills programme as they develop movement, coordination, body control and speed. They find the sessions fun and feel great about the improvements that they achieve. Equally, the programme can make a huge difference to athletes and sportspeople of all abilities as they try to improve their performance and avoid injury.

David Brown BSc (hons), Movement Coach (and Occupational Therapist). Certified Running Technique Specialist ® accredited by The Running School.

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