Strength training, stability, flexibility, and mobility are inextricably intertwined; an athlete cannot excel at one without the other. Greater stability, flexibility, and mobility ensures that athletes maintain proper exercise techniques and reach their full range of motion in order for target muscles to fire and strength to improve. With stronger muscles, athletes can then perform more complex movements and build even more strength and explosiveness. For example, when an athlete performs a barbell squat, sufficient range of motion through the hip joint is needed for full flexion on the way down and extension on the way up. In addition, athletes need mobility and stability in their lumbar spine to support the weight of a barbell throughout the exercise. Effective strength and conditioning programs incorporate strength training as well as stability, flexibility, and mobility exercises.
Strength training works to improve power and stability to lower the risk of injury and enhance athletic performance. Stabilizing muscles are situated around joints and contract at a moment's notice to support the joint when it is in an extreme position. Training strengthens these stabilizing muscles and the stronger those muscles become, the more control an athlete has in positions of full flexion, extension, and rotation. While strength maximizes power output, stability allows you to perform complex athletic movements that require coordination, balance, and technical skill.
Flexibility enables athletes to create more force when muscles contract and move. By increasing range of movement, vital energy is saved, technique improves, and the athlete is able to compete at peak performance. It also prevents injury, which is very common amongst athletes with poor flexibility. To be maximally successful, strength training should be paired with a dynamic warm up to prepare muscles pre-workout and a static stretching cool down to lengthen muscles post-workout.
Mobility plays a critical role in an athlete's ability to perform. Limited range of motion in the primary joints such as ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders can lead to injuries and hinder an athlete’s ability to perform. To improve joint mobility, athletes should incorporate a couple of exercises for each joint into their warm-up or workout routine.
Elite programs should focus on strength training, stability, flexibility, and mobility exercises with the understanding that they all build upon each other. Strength training and range of motion work together to make athletes stronger, maximize injury prevention, and enhance an athlete’s game-day performance. To learn more about the importance of strength training for athletes check out this article.