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In my opinion, if there’s one area where the Combine protocol could be immediately improved without shaking things up too much, it’s flexibility testing. Traditionally, five measurements are taken at the Combine: prone overhead, prone behind back, supine low back, seated V hamstring and standing hamstring. I would recommend replacing most of those — or at least starting — with a simpler but more functional movement like the knee-bend flexibility test. This test measures an athlete’s ability to get into the “universal athletic position” and is a useful way to assess composite range of motion. It’s easy to administer, and the only equipment required is an inexpensive goniometer:

Allow 10 minutes for the athlete to warm up and get primed.

The athlete places the feet in a natural shoulder-width stance, holding a dowel rod overhead at arm’s length. Alternatively, the athlete may interlock his/her fingers behind the head.

The athlete squats as low as possible while maintaining balance, keeping the feet flat on the floor and trunk as flat/upright as possible. Measure the knee angle achieved in the bottom position by aligning the goniometer with the midlines of the thigh (using the axis of the the greater trochanter and lateral epicondyle) and lower leg (using the axis of the fibular head and lateral malleolus).

There’s an important anatomical consideration when administering this test. The rotational axis of the knee is a moving target during flexion/extension (while typically considered a hinge-like ginglymus joint, the knee is actually two condyloid joints where the femur glides and rotates as it rolls on the articular surface of the tibia). In general, bony landmarks can be used to determine segmental axes of the long bones, but they correspond poorly with joint axes and should not be used as goniometric alignment criteria.

Rock-bottom for most athletes is usually about 145°-155° (an upright posture or “basic anatomical position” is the zero point). In my experience, 120° or less is the danger zone. If an athlete can’t sit down far enough to get his/her thighs below horizontal while keeping the heels down and head neutral, it’s time to move flexibility up on the priority list. They can’t use it if they can’t move it.

This test doesn’t replace other flexibility indices; in fact, it can be used in conjunction with them to identify specific ranges of motion. Although it doesn’t indicate dynamic mobility, it’s a useful starting point for evaluating general static flexibility.

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