Child To Champion

Mobility Training for the Youth Athlete

Mobility Training for the Youth Athlete

 Mobility can be described as the range of motion available at a joint. Following this blog you will learn:-How to identify mobility deficits in a youth athlete (screening)-How and why mobility training might differ between youth and adult populations

-Pros and cons of specific types of mobility training.

 Mobility has become a bit of a buzzword in the fitness world in the recent years. Even labelling this article as ‘mobility training for the youth athlete’ makes me slightly uneasy as it implies you need to dedicate an entire training session in order to improve mobility…but this article will also aim to outline why that is most definitely not the case. Before we dive into the how of mobility methods, let’s start with why we should even care.

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 Previously, I’ve spoken about the benefits of calisthenics for improving the effectiveness of something called the kinetic chain. In mobility terms, when mobility is lacking in one area (let’s take the ankle), this will impact further up the kinetic chain (i.e., the knee). 

Entire books have been written on the subject of mobility assessments, so for the sake of simplifying this blog post:

 Effective mobility assessments take us away from a grenade approach of “10 best stretches for” (insert muscle group), to a sniper approach of:

  • Why I am using this mobility method, to address this type of restriction, in this particular athlete, in this specific way?

 Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of a few examples of methods designed to improve mobility:

·Banded distraction (mobilisations with movement)

·Foam rolling

·Static stretching

·Dynamic stretching

Now let’s take a whistle stop tour of these mobility modalities..


Banded Distraction

Banded distraction, sometimes referred to as mobilisations with movement, relates to the use of a band to alter a joint’s position. When a joint is not in its correct position, targeting a specific muscle with foam rolling or static stretching becomes limited. For those athlete’s who spend forever and day foam rolling and stretching and see minimal return on investment, it could simply be that the joint was never in the right place to begin with. If an athlete complains of a pinching sensation, it is likely the joint needs ‘distracting’ back into place before any foam rolling or static stretching will be effective.


Foam Rolling:

 Why might mobility restrictions exist you might wonder? As babies, we were all born with full range of motion…only to overload our bodies with the same repetitive and/or inefficient movement, which can see our muscles resembling something not too dissimilar to a child’s crayon scribble. When muscles become chronically shortened, the brain perceives tightness and can restrict a muscle group’s ability to produce force. Whilst foam rolling can help reduce our perception of tightness and muscle soreness, it is incorrect to say that foam rolling results in any structural changes within a muscle (Behm & Wilke 2019). Reducing our perception of tightness can however lead to a short term, increase in range of motion.

 Since this range of motion is only short term it is imperative that we use these newly uncovered ranges of motion in our training…otherwise we are doing the equivalent of opening a new document only to forget to hit save.

Static stretching:

Static stretching is similar to foam rolling, in that it reduces our perception of tightness, rather than inducing structural changes to the muscle. Static stretching feels good because it increases our tolerance to a stretch, but does not lengthen the muscle per se. Whilst it can negatively impact power, this effect can me mitigated if it is immediately followed by some kind of pulse raising activity. That said, kids spend so long sat still these days, that asking them to hold static positions in training, may lead to boredom and as such is unlikely to be a productive use of what little time kids actually have available to move.

Dynamic stretching:

 Dynamic stretching ticks so many boxes when it comes to mobility work. Several movements can be combined into a series of movements, termed movement complexes. When done consistently, through full range of motion, with a conscious focus on your technique, it can elevate muscle temperature, switch on under-active muscles and look to mobilise key areas.

On a final note, by loading the range of motion achieved in a dynamic warm up, with exercises such as goblet squats, we are letting the brain know that it is okay for us to access range of motion. This reduces our perception of tightness, and can eliminate time unnecessarily wasted on foam rolling, static stretching and other passive mobility modalities. Key Take Homes:·Foam rolling and static stretching only work to reduce our perception of tightness

·Foam rolling leads to short term improvements in range of motion…which must be immediately loaded to lead to longer term improvements·Dynamic stretching and strength training, when done through full ranges of motion, and consistently, improves mobility long term

References and Resources

Behm, D.G. and Wilke, J., 2019. Do self-myofascial release devices release myofascia? Rolling mechanisms: A narrative review. Sports Medicine, pp.1-9.

Bishop, C., Villiere, A. and Turner, A., 2016. Addressing movement patterns by using the overhead squat. Prof Strength Cond J40(7-12), p.6.

Reiman, M.P. and Matheson, J.W., 2013. Restricted Hip Mobility: Clinical Suggestions For Self‐Mobilization And Muscle Re‐Education. International journal of sports physical therapy8(5), p.729.

The Squat bible by Aaron Horschig 

Weightlifting Movement Assessment & Optimization: Mobility & Stability for the Snatch and Clean & Jerk by Quinn Henoch

Mobility myths with Dr Quinn Henoch

About The Author

Todd Davidson is a UKSCA accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach currently undertaking a PGCE through St Mary’s University, with the longer-term aim of introducing athletic development into the national P.E curriculum. Todd\’s current interest on youth athletes was sparked by gaining experience with University, Paralympic and Olympic athletes as part of his internship roles with Durham University, Middlesex County Cricket Club and the English Institute for Sport, with GB Boxing and Paralympic Table Tennis, and speaking to other practitioners as to how this journey can be scaled more effectively to reduce injury risk, enhance performance and improve athletic development in youth athletes.

Todd can be found via:

Twitter: @todddavidson93
Facebook: search Todd Davidson P2P coaching
Instagram: @ToddDavidsonP2Pcoaching

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