Mobility is the ability to make movements with great, i.e. optimal, amplitude, which means making the biggest possible deflection of a physical movement. When discussing mobility, flexibility and limberness are important aspects. Flexibility describes the agility of the muscular system, whereas limberness refers to the range of movements in a joint or series of joints. In general, mobility is separated into five categories. General mobility is used to describe mobility in large joint systems (e.g. hips, spine) that is developed sufficiently. Special mobility builds on that and describes particularly good mobility in different joint systems. A goalkeeper, for example, needs outstanding special mobility in his/her joint systems. Additionally, there is active mobility. This refers to the ability to make a movement actively and without external help. When it comes to passive mobility, it is only possible to achieve a larger movement amplitude with help from the outside. Static mobility describes movement in certain positions that can be held for longer periods of time.
Mobility in soccer
Mobility plays an important role in soccer. Just like other conditional abilities, it’s not about trying to achieve maximum mobility, but rather optimal mobility. But what is optimal mobility? Muscular contractions and imbalance emerge frequently in soccer, partially due to different muscles being trained with different intensities. This leads to bad posture in everyday life, which can lead to ineffective movements on the pitch. This, in turn, causes an increase in a players’ susceptibility to injury and limits his/her technical possibilities. For this reason, it’s important on the one hand to train different muscles equally, while on the other hand still increasing the body’s overall mobility. Basic mobility is indispensable for soccer players, for example when a player has to turn and change the direction of movement unexpectedly, experiences sudden physical contact, or for better perception in general in conditionally critical moments. The latter therefore decreases the chance of injury.
Stretching is a method elongating muscles. Here we differentiate between active and passive stretching. Active stretching describes positions that are possible without any outside assistance. Passive stretching, on the other hand, refers to positions that are made possible by outside assistance or objects. Additionally, there is a difference between static and dynamic stretching. Static means holding a position, whereas dynamic means the stretch is achieved through movement. There are receptors in muscles and tendons that recognize changes in length. In order to protect the body from injury, these receptors create tension in muscles when the length changes too quickly. This partially inhibits movement through a passive resistance to the stretch. By stretching regularly, these receptors can adjust to greater lengths and thereby increase the flexibility of muscles.
Mobility training is designed to make the body more agile. As opposed to stretching, mobility training is about lengthening muscles through controlled tension. This means using strength exercises to increase the mobility of muscles and joints. The positive aspect of this method of movement training is that one learns to tense certain muscles even in greater amplitude and can therefore control them better. These days there are numerous exercises designed to increase mobility in soccer. Mobility leads to a better overall physical feeling and prevents injury. Mobility exercises also help to prepare for training or a match. These kinds of exercises should be done after a warm-up in training. After that, stretching exercises can be used to stretch shortened muscles more intensely and get a feel for whether all muscles groups are warmed up sufficiently, i.e. ready for the intense strain to come.
How can stretching be used optimally in soccer? Stretching belongs at the beginning of every training after the warm-up. Shortened muscle groups should be stretched somewhat more intensively in order to elongate them before they are strained. Other muscle groups should be stretched briefly. Players should be able to recognize themselves which muscles are sufficiently warmed up and which are not. If a stretch is too intense, the tension in the muscle can be lost, which can lead to a loss in speed when the muscle is strained. In order to prepare for playing soccer optimally, it makes sense to stretch dynamically and flexibly, which means stretching muscles through fluid movements. This prepares muscles ideally for the elastic movements of soccer. After an intense strain, vigorous stretching should be avoided. In order to stimulate regeneration, players should warm-down for about 10-15 minutes after a match or training session. When it comes to sore muscles, players should be careful and only perform light stretches, as the soreness could be intensified by stretching.