To fully understand the importance of mobility and flexibility it’s necessary to understand what they both actually mean. In doing so you will understand how they differ but grasp how inherently linked they are. Furthermore you will learn when you should be focusing on each discipline to help prevent padel injuries.
Mobility is essentially the ability of a JOINT to move actively through a range of motion. Mobility helps sportspeople move more efficiently allowing for ease of movement, increasing performance and reducing the risk of injury. It is important to remember that mobility is both dynamic and active.
Flexibility is the ability of a MUSCLE or group of muscles to lengthen passively through a range of motion. Flexible muscles help improve how well you can move your joints and that’s why it is such an important component of mobility. It is difficult to move a joint through any decent range of motion if the muscles around the joint are tight and thus restricting movement. This movement restriction will lead to compensations elsewhere in the body and increase the likelihood of injury.
Channel your inner Novak
Understanding their relationship and learning how to train for each one will without doubt make you a more efficient mover around the court. A great example of an amazing mover is Novak Djokovic. He is famed for his outrageous ability to almost do the splits to reach a ball and then recover. It makes getting a ball past him so much harder and allows him to stay in points that he has no right in doing so. This ability has not come about by chance. He has trained both disciplines religiously and is a huge advocate of yoga. He is also nearly 40! Let’s use the ankle joint as an example to fully understand their relationship.
The ankle joint – common padel injuries
The ankle joint is mostly controlled by the calf muscles. There is not just one muscle in the calves but a number, notably the gastrocnemius and soleus. They feed into the Achilles tendon which attaches to the ankle. There is more to the anatomy than this but this will help to explain why it’s essential to mobilise and stretch. One of the most common padel injuries or niggles amongst padel players is a pulled calf muscle. Plantar fasciitis on the sole of the foot is also common too. When we play padel a huge load is placed on the ankle joint. We jump and land so create impact through the joint, we also push off from our toes creating a dynamic shortening of the calves as the heel comes off the floor. Immediately before we push off and as we lean forward we place the calves at their greatest length. If you have developed tightness in the calf by not stretching then it will not like being lengthened as tight muscles are short muscles. The tight calves will then pull more on the Achilles tendon which is the connective tissue into the ankle joint. This will then compromise the mobility potential of the ankle joint. The body though will continue to produce movement regardless. As a result compensations occur elsewhere to allow the movement to happen. One of the common knock on effects of a tight calf compromising ankle mobility is that the plantar fascia on the sole of the foot will overwork to allow you to raise your heel. Worse still with all the dynamic load going through these tight muscles is an Achilles tear. Tendons do not have the same amount of blood supply as muscles so take longer to warm up. Mobility prior to playing will drive blood into all areas of the body and allow these areas to move more freely.
How YOU can avoid padel injuries…
All this sounds very bleak but it is quite easy to avoid. Quite simply it is essential to create a mobility routine immediately prior to playing. This mobility routine should include all the muscles and joints of the body that you are going to use playing padel. It should mimic the movements that you are going to have to do and should start gently but increase in intensity. Remember, mobility is dynamic and active. It must start slowly as your muscles will be cold so you will need to gradually increase blood flow around the body. What would be even better is if you did this mobility routine at times when you are not playing padel so that your joints become increasingly mobile. The one thing the body responds to well is repetition. Repetition leads to adaptation which simply means you get better at doing the action.
This is not the whole answer though as we need to include flexibility to allow for longer muscles to allow the joints to move more freely. As flexibility is passive we do not want to do it before a game as we need to be active. We need to do it after a game when we need the muscles to relax. Again, like mobility, it is essential to repeat this flexibility routine at regular times during the week. Your stretches need to be static stretches allowing for the muscles to relax. If you hold the stretch in a comfortable position for long enough your brain will encourage the muscle to relax and thus you can increase the stretch a little more. Generally the static stretch should last between 30-60 seconds. A really great way to incorporate stretching is to attend a relaxing yoga class where you will be guided along the way.
How many of you have mobility or flexibility exercises in your routine? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any questions get in touch with us now!