Flexibility for Young Athletes- Q & A with Chris Blake
Chris Blake, MA, LATC, CSCS, YCS
What is the difference between Flexibility and Mobility?
can have two definitions:
1.) The ability of muscle to lengthen during passive movements.
2.) Range of motion about
a joint and surrounding musculature during passive movements.
Mobility can also have two ways of being defined. The
main definition is the state of being in motion. But this state of motion can be looked at within certain joints (subtalar
mobility) or as a physical whole (moving from one position into the next during a run).
Are both important to young
athletes or is one more important than the other?
This is a great question. Both are important for the older athlete (ages
14-18+) as athletes within this age group tend to show more restrictions with both flexibility and mobility, often times once
you take care of the flexibility then you improve mobility. But with the younger athlete (ages 13 and under) I wouldn’t
place much importance on either one unless there has been a certain injury that limits each.
Are there different
kinds of Flexibility, or is ‘bending over to touch my toes and stretch my hammy’ what all young athletes should
There are seven different ways of going about flexibility:
Passive (or relaxed) stretching
I use dynamic stretching (more like an active movement series of stretches) with most of my youth athletes from as young
as 6 years old.
When should young athletes train Flexibility?
As I stated, I use dynamic stretching with most
of my young athletes. But my goal is not to improve flexibility with the younger athletes because I feel that this is not
appropriate. If anything, most children are too flexible until their bones lengthen. I would have athletes start to work with
flexibility around 14 years of age for males, 12-13 for females. But again I feel that at that point in time dynamic movements
and warm-up periods are ideal for flexibility.
When should they train Mobility?
Global Mobility should be
an ongoing part of your everyday programming along with movement preparation.
What is the single greatest mistake
or myth people make when it comes to Flexibility training?
There are actually two mistakes or myths that come to mind.
One is that everyone needs to do static stretches to avoid sustaining a muscle injury. To date there has not been any substantial
evidence through research or scientific literature that suggests stretching prevents injuries.
The second part that
is more of a mistake than anything is having children perform static stretches before athletic contests or games. The contractile
properties of a child’s musculoskeletal system does not work well with static stretching. But knowing this and then
seeing groups of young athletes stretching the way that their coaches did “back in the day” just does not make
any sense. And yet this is still taking place in every youth athletic league throughout this country. Clearly we still have
some work to do to make changes.
About the Author: Known as 'America's Youth Fitness Coach', Brian Grasso spends all his time
training young athletes, children with disabilities and those encumbered with body weight concerns.
He has authored
two books on the subject and was recently featured in Newsweek magazine for his work in youth fitness and sports training.
He has also been named as one of the 'Top 100 Trainers in America' by Men's Health magazine.
Brian is the Founder and
CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association and can be contacted through his website - www.DevelopingAthletics.com
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