Dynamic mobility is the preferred way to increase an athlete's range of motion and increase sporting proficiency. Repeatedly, as a track coach I see teams come to our track, take a lap, plop down and static stretch for 20 minutes! What are they doing? Are they preparing themselves for the upcoming meet? The same thing happens on countless football fields across America. We need to address this issue of flexibility, but we need not over emphasize it if we already incorporate it in our daily activities.
The Flexibility Issue
We have to be able to control the muscle as it moves through its paces. Flexibility beyond which can be controlled by the muscle can be detrimental to the athlete. A high degree of flexibility, outside of the natural range of motion of the joint, makes tearing much more likely. "Stretching Gurus" have used this knowledge to make a deduction that a longer muscle is a safer muscle. This is far from the truth. What you're doing is actually deforming the muscle and taking away its elasticity that is the built-in protector of the muscle when a stretch reflex occurs.
Dynamic movements, as seen in our defensive backs' movements, are significantly greater than the stress placed on the muscles during static conditions. Mel Siff goes as far as saying, "Soldiers and martial artists are constantly trained to be prepared for a wide range of prescribed and random situations, so why not lifters and any other athletes, for that matter?" We need to have a structured warm up that starts out addressing the general needs of the athlete and ends in a very specific nature.
The common myth, which we need to dispel, is that flexibility measured by static qualities like the sit and reach measures one's true flexibility. This test alone really will not give you any indication of how one will perform under dynamic conditions. We have all heard coaches say to an athlete who cannot touch his toes, "You need to stretch more; your hamstrings are too tight." Research shows that there is no correlation at all between these static stretches and dynamic movements. Matter of fact, bending to touch your toes is more of a backstretch than a hamstring stretch. Prolonged yogic or static type stretches held for many seconds at a time may decrease the ability of the muscles to produce maximal strength for many minutes afterward.
The use of controlled dynamic stretches which imitate parts of the sporting movements, as well as brief, intermittent, progressive isometric stretches are suitable for explosive athletes (Mel C. Siff). Nowhere in the job description of a defensive back does it ask if you can touch your toes. In other words, competition is not based on stretching performance per se. However, getting into the starting position of the required sporting event might be one way to evaluate your DB's level of flexibility. Watching his movement patterns as it relates to the required sport is another way.
Does he move with smoothness or is he robotic? Injury rates might be another way to evaluate the flexibility of the athlete and/or your program. A great program for flexibility should start with a quality strength program. Movements that require a full range of motion are ideal for sports. You need to have a specific joint in mind when working on flexibility. Again, be as specific as possible as it relates to the sport. What range of motion does that joint go through in the actual event? Then attack it. Use many mediums when addressing your flexibility needs. Work in different planes; use your body weight, added weight, similar movements, different speeds and different proprioceptive measures too!
With these things in mind, we can now move forward into our strength/flexibility program. Incorporating the Olympic lifts and their hybrid movements are a great place to start. I read articles daily that describe the many benefits of the Olympic lifts!
Here Are Some Of The Benefits Of Olympic Lifts:
- Teaches one how to explode
- Teaches one how to apply force
- Teaches one to accelerate
- Teaches one how to catch or receive a force
- Similar to movements found on the athletic fields
- Ground based and multi-joint movements
- A high level of proprioception is required
- Fast moving speeds that address the athlete's power needs.
- Learn More About Olympic Lifts, Click Here!
There are probably hundreds of benefits, but few researchers address my favorite benefit: full range of motion! These lifts are unbeatable for this! Full front squats like Coach Davies talks about are great for developing the dynamic qualities of the hips. Full cleans and snatches are also great movements for developing flexibility through a full range of motion.
Of all the exercises in lifting, the overhead squat and split squat or lunge (and some of their variations) rank up there for producing and maintaining overall body "functional" flexibility in many joints, especially if performed with progressively heavier loads. With this type of strength program, you are addressing the flexibility issues as well as advancing your level of performance where it counts the most; On the field.