Stability and Mobility in Action Sports

Stability and mobility can sometimes seem like the yin and yang of the fitness world.  One coach says that a performance issue needs to be addressed by stretching and yoga, while another says that the problem is really instability, so targeted strength work is the only answer.  The reality is more complex and, like everything else in the world of athletic performance, solutions are specific to the sport and to the individual.  The fact of the matter is, you need a good balance of stability and mobility to support good movement, reduce your risk of injury, and keep you performing at your peak throughout the season.  Read our latest blog post to learn more about how we address the mobility/stability trade off in our training philosophy.

There has been a lot of back-and-forth in the strength and conditioning community about the appropriate circumstances for encouraging stability over mobility (or vice versa) in a given joint.  Mobility, or “the ability to produce a desired movement”, and Stability, or “the ability to resist an undesired moved, are often at odds from a training perspective.  Generally, an increase in stability in a given joint means a corresponding decrease in mobility.  By the same token, greater mobility usually means less stability.  

This theoretical trade-off is fairly intuitive for anyone with a basic understanding of human movement.  However, as usual, the realities of training and athletic performance are more complex.  Some respected coaches and clinicians contend that certain joints tend to need more stability, while other, typically adjacent, joints need more mobility.  It’s also arguable that some joints should be more mobile in one plane, but more stable in the other two.  The knee is a great example of this, as we want to encourage good mobility through flexion and extension, but promote stability in lateral and rotational movement.

The bottom line is that there are several ways to approach mobility and stability.  At SISU Strong, we believe that the best method is to assess the individual athlete, consider the demands of his/her primary sport, and determine the optimal approach based on those facts. However, we can also make some generalizations based on what we know about the physical demands that are placed on most of our athletes, regardless of sport.   

For example, we know that most of our athletes are exposed to strong, often unexpected rotational forces when they’re performing in their sport.  Whether it’s cornering on a bike, landing a trick on a board, or resisting an opponent’s takedown attempt, one thing we can count on is that the athlete will be called upon to resist some level of torque.  Therefore, we tend to incorporate anti-rotational stability movements into many of our programs.  Exercises like the Palloff Press and its variations help stabilize the trunk against rotational forces, reducing the risk of injury, improving body control, and allowing the athlete to maintain a more efficient position.

The other side of the coin is that action sports are inherently unpredictable.  During an unanticipated event, such as a crash, the forces an athlete is going to need to resist are totally unknown.  In such circumstances, it pays to have a good balance of stability and mobility, as each can mitigate the risk of injury in its own right.  A stable joint is more likely to be able to resist the forces that could lead to injury, while a more mobile joint can potentially absorb more force, also reducing the risk of injury.  

For exactly this reason, we try to cultivate a good balance of baseline stability and mobility in all of our athletes, preparing them for any situation they may encounter.   We do this by teaching good movement patterns.  Every SISU Strong athlete is required to master 4 major movements: the hip hinge, the squat, the upper body push, and the upper body pull.  By learning these movements, the athletes are learning how to move safely and effectively, and how to use the correct muscles to absorb and produce force.  This improves both mobility, by dialing in correct movement patterns, and stability, by developing strength in the muscles that support those movement patterns.  This greater overall efficiency of movement has immense carryover to the bike and board.

To get started with a program that will help you master movement, become more stable and improve your mobility, set up a free consultation.

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