Pre-Activation for training and games – it’s more than just stretching

Sean Sweeney/Boston Sports Journal

FOXBOROUGH — Readers of a certain age will easily remember their tune-ups for gym classes or pre-game warm-ups in high school: standing straight up, crossing your right ankle over left, bending down in an attempt to touch your toes (but heaven forbid if you bent your knees a millimeter), and hold it for a good 30 seconds. Back up and switch it, left over right, back down again. Stretch out the quads with some standing lunges, and then maybe do some jumping jacks to get the blood pumping a little further.

Anton McElhone remembers this, too. The above regimen is called static stretching, and for many years on both sides of the Atlantic, it was a good way to loosen up before doing any sort of physical activity.

McElhone also remembers when he learned a better way.

“Companies in the UK worked with Premier League teams back in the late 90’s or early 2000’s,” the Revolution’s head of fitness said as he invited into the club’s pre-training workout room last week. “They started running courses on dynamic warm-ups: what are the benefits of it versus static stretching? For me, it was 2000 or 2001 where I realized the benefits, and I did my Master’s thesis on dynamic versus static stretching. I wrote what you need to do pre-training to actually make sure players are activated.”

Before a training session or a match, Revolution players go through a series of workouts which help ready the muscles and joints they’ll use.

But while that is obviously important, there are a series of things the players do even before they start their stretching.

This whole process is called pre-activation.

“Pre-activation is physical, to get prepared; it’s injury prevention but it’s also mentally getting ready for training,” Revs manager Brad Friedel said. “Anton was brought over to increase the physical fitness, health, and well-being of our players to a standard that the very, very best in the world have, which we are making great strides on that front, and as the months tick by, it will just continue to improve.”

As McElhone explains, pre-activation starts the moment the players enter Gillette Stadium every morning, starting with a wellness questionnaire: on an iPad, the players answer five questions on a scale from 1 to 5, with five being the highest.

The questions deal with the following: