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Traditionally, athletes have steered clear of gym sessions the day before a match, opting instead for rest and energy conservation. This standard practice, however, has been challenged by recent research, which underscores the benefits of specific training types 24-48 hours before kick-off. Engaging in particular exercises during this critical window can prime your body for match day, enhance on-field physical performance, and decrease injury risk. We call this the Match day Minus One (MD-1) strategy, a cornerstone of KPI's philosophy for athletic excellence.
Unpacking the MD-1 Strategy: Three Key Sections
At KPI, we've structured the MD-1 training sessions into three critical sections: Range of Motion, Fundamental Movement, and Priming. Each section is meticulously designed to maximise an athlete's physical readiness and performance potential.
Range of Motion
The goal of the range of motion (ROM) and fundamental movement sections are to accelerate recovery and prepare the body suitably as a warm-up for the priming section. Within the range of motion, short-term enhancement of mobility through ironing out tight areas of the body (e.g., hamstrings, quads etc.) helps to reduce muscle, tendon, and fascial stiffness, lengthen the muscle at the proximal and distal ends and contract the muscle at length. This is achieved through a mix of foam rolling, dynamic stretching and long-length isometrics. Here is an example of how this might look:
The fundamental movement section compliments the previous section to help prepare athletes for higher threshold exercise through increasing neuromuscular control and joint stability. This section will include a mix of muscle recruitment exercises (mini-bands, squeezes, calf raises e.g. isolated exercises) to stimulate muscles ready for exercise, core stability exercises (anti-rotation, flexion & extension) to increase trunk stability through suitable bracing, fundamental movement exercises (hinge, squats, cossacks) to restore healthy movement through full ROM and stability exercises (drop landings, hop and holds, running mechanics) to prepare the body to withstand exposure to and production of high amounts of force.
Lastly and probably the most exciting and important part is the priming section. The goal of the priming section is to stimulate the neural pathways involved in activating muscles to express force explosively. That way, when you turn up for match day your body is already primed and firing to perform and execute explosive actions such as sprinting, jumping, and changing direction. In a priming session we look to prepare for this through picking power exercises that target the muscles groups and movement patterns that replicate this in games. It is important that these exercises are done with the right intensity to stimulate the muscles and neural pathways but not in a way that will cause fatigue or soreness. This means that volume should be low (e.g., 2 x 3) with plenty of rest between reps and sets, but intensity should be high, meaning you must aim for max effort every rep. To help us achieve this, we would pick or adapt exercises to focus more on the concentric portion of the movement and limit eccentric loading as this is what causes fatigue and soreness. A few example exercises and prescription ideas can be found in the table below:
By addressing mobility, neuromuscular control, and explosive power activation with scientific precision, we provide athletes with a comprehensive toolkit for match day success, reducing injury risk in the process. This strategy signals a significant departure from traditional pre-match routines, promising not just preparedness, but a primed state for victory.