Being strong, fast, and durable are the qualities many people associate with being a competitive athlete. In general, speed, strength and endurance will help an athlete succeed on the playing field. However, equally as important are mobility and flexibility. These two characteristics help decrease an athlete’s risk of injury significantly.

Most sports put the body into unnatural positions and if the body is used to being in those positions, an injury is less likely to occur. Therefore, stretching and doing mobility exercises regularly is a key component to building a well-rounded athlete. A perfect balance between strength and mobility needs to exist in order to reach peak performance.

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Many people do not realize that stretching is primarily, and mostly, a neuorlogical adaptation. When a muscles is stretched, the muscles spindle (stretch-reflex receptor in the actual muscle belly) and Golgi Tendon Organ (stretch detector at the musculotendinous junction) provide negative feedback to the brain when a point is reached where that muscle has not broken that threshold before. More simply, this is the point at which an athlete feels a pull or slightly painful stretch in a muscle. This is simply the brain telling the body to not go any further or an injury will occur. However, if this threshold is broken a few times for an extended period of time, the brain eill come to recognize that it ok to be in such a position, and therefore mobility will increase at that area of the body. Training the brain and neurological system must be done regularly and progressively in order to see improvements in mobility.

Bryan Miller has had success as a strength and conditioning coach at the Naval Academy for several years. One of the things he is known for is the mobility and flexibilty work he does with every athlete there. His emphasis on mobility makes Navy athletes not only stronger and more durable, but safer and overall healthier as well.

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