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Is relative stiffness a good thing for athletes?

Mobility should be looked at as a spectrum, on the far end you have athletes who are way too tight and need a lot of mobility and flexibility work. On the entire other end of the spectrum you have your athletes who possess massive amounts of mobility and flexibility. For both of these athletes on each end of the spectrum they need to be brought back towards the middle.

Athletes that are the fastest are usually never the most flexible, and on the other end they’re usually never the stiffest as well. Having a level of stiffness can be a great advantage for an athlete who needs to be elastic and create speed and power quickly. It’s all about having the appropriate amount of stiffness. To get a better frame of reference lets go to each extreme.

Too mobile?

When looking at someone who is way too mobile, think of someone who can hyper-extend almost every joint in their body. They can usually put their palms on the floor when doing a toe touch, and they have a hard time “feeling it” when performing most mobility exercise. This person usually has a low level of strength and it always seems like they have “one speed” when playing their sport. This is because they lack the ability to create muscle tension when it is needed. Being able to move freely without restriction is important when it comes to sport but being able to be rigid and unmovable at the right moments in sport is just as important. This essentially means being able to create stiffness on command.

What does this mean to someone who is too mobile?

This means that most static stretches won’t do much for these athletes, stretching will probably be more harmful than good for them. You want to perform exercises in their warm ups that require them to go through a controlled range of motion where they are actively going through each movement. Check out their exercises below that would be a great option for someone who as “too much mobility”

1. Standing hip CARS-

2. All 4’s hip CARS-

3. Fire hydrants-

4. Goblet squats with a slow eccentric -

5. Spiderman lunge

6. Forearm wall slide-

7. YTW ISO holds-

8. Fire hydrant complex-

Other thing to consider for the hyper-mobile athlete is their level of strength. The inability to produce stiffness on command is closely associated with a force deficit, or a lack of strength.

Too stiff?

For an athlete who is too stiff, think of someone who struggles to even take their shirt off because of tightness in the upper back and shoulders. This is someone who “feels” almost every mobility exercise you take them through and they’re pretty limited when it comes to performing full range of motion strength training exercises. Usually overall flexibility is limited with these athletes, some static stretches would help these athletes and performing mobility work daily sometimes 2-3 times per day is a must for them. When focusing on strength with these athletes performing them with a full range of motion will be challenging but over time working them up to being able to perform a full range of motion. Squat and deadlift should be a major focus in the program.

When an athlete is too stiff they have the opposite problems as someone who is too mobile. While a hyper-mobile athlete has a hard time creating stiffness and no problem achieving positions in sport, an athlete that is too stiff will have no problem creating stiffness but will have a hard time achieving positions for optimal performance. An example of this would be getting down to an optimal depth to perform a vertical jump or optimizing your stride length to cover the most distance during a sprint.

When performing mobility exercises here are some example of good ones for the extremely stiff athlete

1. Bulgarian hold stretch-

2. V-sit on the wall-

3. Quadhipflexor rocks-

4. Figure 4 stretch hold-

5. Latt hangs-

6. Breztel 2.0-

7. Pigeon hold-

8. Sidelying windmill-

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