Getting athletes to take mobility seriously is often easier said than done. Without any previous exposure to the process, or worse, with previous exposure having been ineffective, there is little you can do besides patiently wait for their minds to change. Making athletes do something they don’t want to do only leads to a stronger aversion to that specific activity.
If you find yourself in the (exciting) position where athletes have a genuine desire to start adding mobility work, the next course of action is to make sure you foster that desire with the right tools in place. Otherwise, that spark of interest will quickly fade if the athlete doesn’t reap the benefits of his/her efforts.
The introduction of mobility training places a challenge on pre-existing habits and routines, and can be frustrating to break if they aren’t conducive to the new demands of training. The creation of new habits, routines, and environments will be necessary for the success of this training program. These strategies will help athletes build habits that support consistent and committed strength and mobility training.
1) Emphasize “Practice” over “Perfection”
When it comes to building a new habit, progress needs to be carefully cultivated. Seeing improvement acts as a psychological reward that helps promote continued consistency, but it can be lost if you only focus on perfect form, or maximum flexibility. Those variables are often overrated and should be the secondary focus in the grand scheme of a program. Each training day should be treated as an opportunity to increase range of motion and strengthen the end range each athlete possess. The end range of one athlete should not be compared to the end range of another as someone might do when comparing flexibility.
Athletes need to take into account his sport, position, etc., and understand why he needs to improve range of motion and strength in that end. Flexibility is not something an athlete should blindly cultivate, however, many novices do not understand that concept. The need for flexibility in athletes is a myth. We can remove the demand to try to complete with others for more flexibility, and, instead, inspire a critical eye within the athlete to focus on the quality of movement. This is fostered well in team environments where coaches understand the value of developing mobility by learning proper techniques or by bringing in a qualified specialist to do the job.
2) Keep a Consistent, Progressive Training Schedule
Routines and schedules are great for managing and organizing your time, and keeping a consistent mobility session in a standard block of time is advantageous to athletic development both physically as well as psychologically. The athlete should expect to attend each training session with a sense of what to expect and the knowledge that the session has been specifically prepared to meet his/her athletic needs. For novice athletes, it can be off-putting if they have the sense that these sessions are considered less important than any other part of their training programs. Training sessions should gradually increase in intensity and give competitors room to build a tolerance to the growing demands of the training.
Pre-season, in-season, and post-season sessions should be designed with
varying intensities according to the goals set by the strength and conditioning coach. Knowledgeable specialists should be able to modify in-session if preparations have been made to attempt exercises that are not tolerated by athletes due to injury, fatigue, etc. Finally, the specialist should plan for exposure out of session to allow for athletes to continually develop a tolerance for increasing range of motion. Daily homework and pre-game or practice warm-up routines should be provided by the mobility specialist to accomplish this goal.
3) The Last Hurdle
The success of a training plan is reliant, lastly, on an athlete performing what is asked of them. The best program in the world fails if an athlete lacks the motivation to see it completed. The adoption of a long-term growth mindset can be challenging, but is entirely possible if the right habits are developed and maintained. Managing your training program and training environment so that athletes can develop the habit of consistent training sets your team on the right path for success.