Mobility is OFTEN overlooked by many basketball players and athletes in general.
This could be what is holding you back from reaching your explosive and athletic potential.
Here, mobility relates to the ability to command your body’s movements at its joints, through its full range of motion.
By this definition, training mobility is an important part of developing your athleticism.
Why is mobility important?
Training mobility is essential because it allows for controlled movement through an increased range of motion.
This will lead to better performance when working on your body AND in game situations, while reducing the risk of injury.
Increased mobility will improve progress in strength training, as a greater range of motion leads to better technique in exercise. (Like a deeper squat)
We can take the ankle joint as an in-game example:
As mobility increases, you can create a smaller shin angle (the angle between your shin and foot).
This is essential in unlocking explosive speed for that quick first step.
As mobility improves, the risk of injury also reduces.
Muscles can accept forces in a greater range of positions, rather than all that pressure going straight to your joints.
Active stretching vs Passive stretching
Passive stretching is when external forces (equipment or your hands) are used to stretch the muscles around a joint.
For instance: using your hands to pull your heel up to your glutes. (A standard quads stretch)
Active stretching is when no outside forces are responsible for the stretch.
For example: stretching to touch your toes when seated on the floor. (A hamstring stretch)
Although both are useful, active stretching can be more effective for training mobility.
This is because active stretches use only muscles that are responsible for the joint’s range of motion, directly training their activation.
Meanwhile, passive stretches are useful, but can be dangerous when you are unaware of/ignoring the limits of your flexibility.
This can lead to injury if you go overboard.
The bottom line
A lack of mobility is more likely due to a weakness of a muscle within a greater range of motion, rather than a muscle or tendon being “too stiff”.
Here’s what makes training mobility difficult…
It often lies in small muscles around the joint that are under-trained, or muscles we usually ignore when training.
To improve, practice moving your body around the joint as far through its range of motion as you can without external force (your hands, the floor etc).
Here are two focuses that will guide you to becoming more mobile:
- FOCUS ONE: Practice slow controlled movement at the full range of motion
With your toes, draw a circle that is as large as possible while keeping your knee and hip still
“Open the gate” and “close the gate”.
These “gate movements” are standard exercises for athletes that are explained in more detail below:
By practicing these in a slow and controlled manner while using the full range of motion, your hip mobility will improve over time.
- FOCUS TWO: Active stretching
As explained previously, performing active stretches will help improve the mobility of that muscle.
Take a few minutes out of your day to perform active stretches on your legs’ muscle groups.
This will greatly boost your mobility if done CONSISTENTLY. (once a day/every couple days)
Training mobility can seem boring and even frustrating if you feel like progress is slow.
Remember that with mobility training, consistency is key.
But, the beauty of it is that it can be trained almost every day, since it doesn’t really cause any soreness.
That, and the fact that once it is improved, the benefits will be well worth the time you put in.