Why Mobility Training Is Important for Young Athletes

November 17, 2020

The secret meaning behind the word “mobility”? 

According to CA personal trainer Keith Oelschlaeger, mobility really boils down to “mo ability” (mo as in more, for those scratching their heads). 

Mobility training is a key component of the new Columbia Athelete Performance Program (CAPP), which is designed to keep young athletes at the top of their game. 

Mobility may not be as trendy of a term as say, strength or endurance, but it’s one of the most important aspects of fitness for everyone — whether you’re a high school athlete or approaching your golden years. In essence, mobility is how freely and efficiently you can move, and the American Council of Exercise even calls it the cornerstone of fitness.

Below, Oelschlaeger breaks down the basics and benefits of mobility training.

CA personal trainer Keith Oelschlaeger

CA personal trainer Keith Oelschlaeger

Why healthy mobility is important

First things first: While mobility and flexibility are related, they aren’t the same thing.

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch and lengthen, while mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion. 

So flexibility might refer to touching your toes, while mobility is more about being able to move your arms through the full range of motion they’re designed for (forward, backward, etc.). Put even more simply, flexibility relates to the muscles and mobility relates to the joints

It’s common sense that our mobility declines as we age, but why is it so important for young and healthy athletes, you might ask?

For one, out of the some 30 million kids that play organized sports in the U.S., about 3.5 million will experience an injury at one point or another, which can have negative outcomes that span not just their athletic career but their entire lifetime. Whether you’re a teenager competing on the field or a senior citizen completing everyday tasks, proper mobility is essential for lowering your risk of injury. 

It’s also important to note that injuries often happen at the joint, which is why enhanced mobility has a direct benefit on your safety. Knee injuries in particular are a significant concern for high school athletes. Another way mobility training decreases your athlete’s likelihood of knee and lower back pain is by improving their posture (and yes, teenagers have historically had straight-up bad posture, but text neck adds a whole another layer to this issue). 

Plus, it’s no surprise that being able to move more freely and fluidly reduces stress. Poor mobility, however, throws you out of whack because it forces your body to adapt dysfunctional patterns to complete a movement. So mobility training ensures you’re not shortchanging yourself and are performing to your full potential. 

While stretching isn’t the only part of the mobility equation (training the body’s stabilizer muscles is another key component), it does play a big role. Dynamic stretches and warmups (i.e. mobility drills) are essential pre-workout, while static stretching should be reserved for your post-workout.

Oelschlaeger’s pro advice?

“When you stretch, it’s important to unclench your jaw, relax your face, and breathe. When you do, you’ll find that the muscle will relax and your range of motion will increase. View stretching and mobility as more of a nervous system response than a mechanical response.”

Mobility training with CAPP 

The CAPP program is offered at Columbia Gym, Columbia Athletic Club and Supreme Sports Club for athletes ages 12 to 18. There’s two different formats, Maximum Performance (focused on movement quality) and Accelerate (focused on speed and agility), each of which provide tools for young athletes to improve their strength, endurance, power, speed, agility and, of course, mobility. 

Each training day of the week is dedicated to a different focus, which is ideal for developing a well-rounded athlete that will become more prepared for the predictable and unpredictable demands of their sport.  

You don’t have to be a member to participate, so invite your kids to bring their friends or teammates! Learn more about the CAPP program here.

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