Balance and mobility are key tenants for any athletic endeavor. Balance and mobility are also essential to injury prevention, especially as we age. As we get older we tend to have a diminished sense of balance which can lead to falls and injury. Mobility naturally decreases as we age as well. A lack of mobility can also lead to acute and overuse injuries during athletic competition or as we age.
Mobility is a bit different than flexibility. Flexibility is passive, it is your muscles ability to stretch when in a relaxed state. Mobility is active, it is your ability to move your body through a full range of motion. While one does tend to increase with the other, mobility is more important for athletes. Increasing balance and mobility should be a goal for everyone, athletes and nonathletes alike here’s how to achieve that goal.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Yoga and Tai Chi are very slow moving exercises that force you to focus on the quality of your body’s movements, as compared to weightlifting, where you are focused on effort rather than quality. This focus on movement alone increases your ability to balance, and the outside-of-your-comfort-zone poses increase mobility. These exercises also force you to use smaller, less used muscles in your body in order to balance. This establishes a good Neural pathway between your brain and these muscles, giving them a good relationship and giving you more control over your balance.
Mobility is your ability to actively move your body through a wide range of motion. In order to increase your body’s ability to move through range of motion, you need to be stronger. Many weightlifting techniques will force your body to become more mobile in order to achieve proper form. And when you lift weight off the ground your body is forced to stabilize this weight, increasing your ability to balance.
The core’s function is to stabilize the body. The muscles of your core are not designed for too much movement, rather they lock into place when transferring energy from your legs to your arms, or vice versa. A weak core may have difficulty stabilizing your body, leading to poor balance. And if your core is not able to stabilize the energy coming from one limb into another then you will have problems with mobility as well. Core strengthening is also shown to reduce injury.
There are hundreds of mobility exercises that you can perform using bands, a friend and a foam roller. Each is designed to increase the range of motion for a particular part of the body. They can get as specific as ankle mobility exercises.
Good Night’s Sleep
According to a study, sleeping less than seven hours will decrease your ability to balance the next day.