Becoming More Flexible

When people think of flexibility they often think of a gymnast doing the splits or a figure skater or dancer who can lift their foot over their head and touch their knee to their nose. That’s range of motion – the distance a joint can move between the flexed position and the extended position. But, its not the same thing as flexibility.
 In their book Fascial Stretch Therapy, Ann and Chris Frederick encourage the use of the online definition from Merriam-Webster for flexibility:  “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.”  Flexibility is about adaptability.
In a webinar with Human Kinetics a few weeks ago Ann and Chris pointed out how flexibility or adaptability draws on all the qualities we associate with athleticism; strength, power, speed, agility, quickness and mobility.
John Kiely, a leader in the strength and conditioning field and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lancashire refers to what he calls “robustness” or a wide variety of options in how an athlete adapts and responds to the demands of training or competition. When those athletic qualities are diminished through injury, fatigue, lack of skill or improper training we loose that robustness, have fewer options to choose from in our response the the challenges of training and competition and become more vulnerable to injury and underperforming.
Mobility is an important factor on that list. As Chris pointed in the webinar we’re talking about functional mobility, our ability move in order to accomplish a task.
Developing flexibility is about integrating all  those factors in an effective way. For example I worked with a collegiate volleyball player this summer who was strong in the weight room and had a better than average countermovement jump demonstrating power. By addressing hip and ankle mobility through a self stretching routine and Fascial Stretch Therapy sessions  and then incorporating specific plyometric training designed to improve elasticity and reduce ground contact time she was able to increase her block jump by over 8 inches. Working on her conditioning and agility she is better able to take that jump where it’s needed on the court and repeat it effectively throughout the match and adapt to the challenges of the game.
Good training produces athletes who are healthy, robust and  as Steve Myhrland has said, “ adaptable not adapted”. A flexible athlete may not be able to touch their palms to the floor but they move optimally in response the the changing demands of training and competition. How flexible are you?
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Mobility For Health And Performance

img_2972Two years ago I met Kelly Quist. Kelly works for the Minnesota Twins as their massage therapist and stretching specialist. She had been practicing something called Fascial Stretch Therapy™ and invited me to experience it for myself. The results were so noticeable that I sent one of the track sprinters I was working with to see her. A strained quad from a year and a half earlier was healed but, tightness in it kept her from reaching top speed and anxious about straining it again. With one session she was able to train and compete with confidence. She continued with FST for the season.

Mobility is a huge issue in both the health and performance of an athlete. Ranell Hobson of the Academy of Sport Speed and Agility in Australia gives an example of the connections in a helpful blog post here https://playerdevelopmentproject.com/football-mobility/ . As she points out, if the hip flexors are tight, the hips are pulled into constant flexion and the gluteals can’t perform their function. There is a loss of power, stability and an increased likelihood of injury. 

img_1666Coaches and trainers will often tell players to stretch and may even take time before or after practice to do it. I know we do. It can help in some cases. But, it tends to focus only on specific muscles and not on the net of connective tissue and muscles that work together to help us move. So the effects while beneficial are limited.

That’s what is so impressive about FST and why I spent time in Phoenix this January getting trained and certified. It is great to be able to bring it back to our Kick-It! Athletes.

While traditional stretching addresses specific muscles, typically in a static way, FST addresses full fascial lines throughout the whole body. Because FST uses a whole-body concept based in anatomy and functional movement, it results in improved flexibility gains over traditional stretching.

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If you watch the NFL on Sundays or you’ve watched the summer Olympics you’ve most likely watched athletes who use FST.

For players who are interested, I’m offering times on Sundays and Wednesdays to come in for half hour sessions to get a quick assessment and begin the process of increasing mobility and flexibility. In the past few weeks I’ve been able to help athletes increase ankle and hip mobility and improve their vertical jump and squat. There is no extra cost or charge for this for players who are currently training with us although there are a limited number of slots right now due to current training schedule.

If you want to learn more about Fascial Stretch Therapy™ you can check out this short video from the Stretch To Win Institute or visit their website.

To sign up just click here, pick a day and time and hit submit.

Looking forward to unlocking speed, strength, and power with FST.

 

Prevention And Performance Are Only Placeholders

IMG_3016It’s easy to segment and divide, put things into categories. Injury prevention over here, improving performance over there. But, when it comes to preparing and developing young athletes the two really belong together.  Good physical preparation takes into account the demands of the game; the the type and nature of injuries involved, and the developmental level of the players.

Our high school girl basketball players are finishing up their pre-season training. We know their game requires them to change directions quickly, often and at a variety of angles and speeds. They need to be able to start, stop, jump, land and resist the force of another player. And, they need to be able to do those things often while performing another skill like dribbling, passing, catching  or shooting.  Players need to give repeated short bursts of intense effort and recover quickly. So they need a strong CP system to give those short bursts and a strong aerobic system to do that repeatedly and recover.

images-4When it comes to injuries, the most common ones are to the head ( concussions ) ankle and knee and we know that most of those injuries occur late in the half or the game when players are more likely tired and the intensity picks up.

Now, given that,  when assessing players or designing their training we can keep the big picture in mind, see the relationships between the demands of the game and injury patterns and work to address both. So, jumping and landing is not just about improving rebounding or shooting but about reducing the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries. It may even help prevent some concussions where a bad landing might have led to the head hitting the floor. Good technique and improved strength work together to improve performance and keep players healthy.

When we plan a conditioning program we have sessions where we  train short burst of 4 – 6 seconds and sessions where we increase aerobic capacity. With in each of those we blend the movements players actually make in a game like shuffling and cutting with running straight ahead.  Conditioning isn’t something we do for its own sake. The purpose of conditioning is , as Steve Magness said, to extend the quality of the performance. If we can help players move well and execute their skills at a high level through the whole game they are less likely to get injured and more likely to accomplish their goals and enjoy the process.

We can’t really prevent injuries any more than we can guarantee the outcome of a game. There are too many uncontrollable variables from the conditions of the court or field to the opponents tactics to just plain bad luck. But, we can reduce the risk by taking a holistic approach to developing young athletes; teaching them good movement skills, developing the strength to support those movements and the stamina to perform them repeatedly and well.

Categories like injury prevention and sport performance can be helpful as placeholders to analyze and learn. They are a way of looking at the same thing from different perspectives. In the end though we do better by the kids we serve when we see how they fit together and design integrated approaches that help our young athletes, stay healthy, play well and have fun.

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