The Role of Flexibility & Mobility in Sports Performance by Jonte Brown

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[This is a guest blog by Jonte Brown. Jonte is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC with a degree in Sport Management and is currently serving as an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab.]

When it comes to sports and athletics, some important factors for athletes to perform at their highest level during competition has excellent flexibility, mobility, and stability. Flexibility is the static range of motion (ROM) that’s available about a joint. It is needed to perform everyday activities. Having flexibility is just something we need. Without it, performing activities and movements would be very hard. Athletes must be able to generate these movements on their own, which suggests that for improving sports performance it is the active ROM that should be developed rather than passive ROM. One could accomplish this through active movement with the available active ROM and ballistic stretching which can be performed at sport specific speeds. Insufficient ROM can lead to strain muscle risk and other types of injuries. Moreover, the athlete and different sport must have varying flexibility profiles with different flexibility needs to avoid injuries.

Athletes place high physicals demands on their body whether it is lifting weights or in the competition itself. Without good mobility, the body starts to break down and can reduce athletic performance. A person mobility dictates the efficiency and movement disciplines. Also, mobility also plays a key role in athletic performance. Joint mobility is the general maintenance of the body. Major key areas would include shoulders, neck, upper and lower back, hips, knees, ankles, and wrist.

For athletes with good mobility, it helps to remove body aches and pains which are the efforts to communicate with the brain that an injury may be imminent. It brings endogenous energy to joints with lubrication that helps joints heal and regenerate, restores posture, and improves movements as control over the nervous system is reinforced. Furthermore, while in competition, good mobility can significantly boost performance. Your body will experience greater resilience and perform for longer periods of time because muscles can work optimally and not have to compensate for poor mechanics.

With stability, another major factor in athletics, a person’s core strength can also help their abilities once he or she understands that the core participates in both stability and mobility. Many athletes undertake core stability and core strength training as part of their training program due to the lack of a gold standard method for measuring core stability and strength in regards to performing sporting movements. The core is comprised of much more than a 6 pack. It would also include the spine, hips and pelvis, proximal lower limbs, and abdominal structures. An athlete’s strength in the core enables them to maximize power output, while stability allows them to perform full athletic movements that require coordination, balance, and technical skills.

In the end, having a clear understanding of the roles flexibility, mobility, and the specific muscles of the core have would enable for more functional training programs to be implemented. Which, in turn, may result in a more efficient transfer of these skills to actual sporting competition. A good combination of all of these elements is very beneficial for an athlete to keep the body fresh and greatly help reduce the likelihood of injuries.

References:

  • Gleim et al. (1997) Flexibility and its effects on Sport Performance and Injury. Sport Medicine.
  • Maxwell. S: (N.D.). Mobility Training may be the most important factor in Musculoskeletal Health retrieved.
  • Kibler WD, Press J, Sciasia A. (2006) Sports Med. The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function.
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