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Why Mobility Is Important for Athletes

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Why Mobility Is Important for Athletes

The confusion between mobility and stretching is a very common one. Both terms are often used interchangeably which makes their differences confusing. So let's have a look at the characteristics of each term.

Stretching is a technique that is used to improve the flexibility of a muscle. There are two types of stretching: static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves holding a muscle in a stretched position for a period of time, usually around 20-30 seconds. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, involves moving a muscle through its full range of motion. The effects of stretching are temporary, meaning that if you don't stretch regularly, your muscles will "stiffen back up" after a period of time. However, if you stretch regularly, the increased range of motion can become more permanent. This is because stretching increases the "stretch tolerance" of a muscle, allowing it to be stretched further without injury.

Mobility, on the other hand, is a fitness attribute that refers to the combination of strength and flexibility that allows for active extended ranges of motion. Mobility is important for athletes and those who regularly exercise, as it allows for better performance and reduces the risk of injury. It is a key characteristic of functional fitness, which is the ability to perform movement patterns that are specific to a person's daily life. When it comes to mobility, the focus is on the ability to move through specific ranges of motion, as opposed to just being able to stretch passively.

Common areas that affect mobility include tight hips, shoulders, and ankles These problem areas can be addressed by incorporating mobility exercises into your warm-up routine, followed by strengthening exercises that target these areas. Examples of mobility exercises include the world's greatest stretch, downward dog, toe walks, heel walks, Cossack lunges, 9090 hip switches, and 9090 hip lift with foam roller squeeze. These exercises target specific areas and movement patterns that are commonly restricted, and by doing them regularly you can improve your mobility and reduce the risk of injury.

It's also worth noting that mobility is not just about increasing range of motion, but also about control and stability within that range of motion. Mobility exercises are usually done with a focus on control and stability, and often with an emphasis on maintaining good posture and alignment. This means that mobility exercises are not only about increasing the range of motion, but also about controlling it, which is key for preventing injuries.

Overall, mobility and stretching are two different concepts that are often mistaken for one another. By understanding the difference between the two, and by incorporating both into your training routine, you can improve your flexibility, reduce the risk of injury and enhance your overall fitness level.

An occasion where we are able to see success in improving an athlete's mobility was with one of our swimming/lifesaving athletes. This individual had very tight hips and struggled getting into a strong position when on the board for the whole race. By incorporating a daily mobility routine that only took about 5 minutes, and some exercises in their strength program that addressed these areas, we were able to see a massive improvement in their performance. The board section is now one of their stronger events and their times/ results have been improving each race. The consistent work over time resulted in more permanent change rather than spending 30 minutes a few times a week working on mobility.

For more information on strength and conditioning for youth athletes and increasing your sports performance, check out our website and podcast (also available on Spotify and YouTube!).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete - Bayside's premium strength and conditioning coaching for youth athletes

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