There is no doubt that great swimmers have great mobility. The most successful Olympian of all time, Micheal Phelps, is claimed to be double-jointed due to the fact that his mobility is out of this world. Luckily enough he doesn’t have extra joints, his joints are just way more mobile than average. Do you also want incredible mobility and flexibility? Please read along to get a better understanding of these concepts.
With this impressive mobility, Michael Phelps has a few advantages over the rest. First of all, he can move his body through a greater range of motion which results in an optimal body position for drag reduction and force production. Secondly, his posture is optimized for great body position and rotation in the water, which reduces the amount of drag during his swim. Lastly, by lengthening his muscles he will increase the amount of force that he can produce per stroke, which makes him a bit stronger in the water.
Most swimmers use flexibility and mobility interchangeably. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to passively lengthen and shorten without restriction. And although flexibility is a component to mobility, mobility has more to it. It is the ability of a joint to move actively through its complete range of motion. It also takes into account how far the joint moves within the joint capsule and control of the movement by the nervous system.
Swimming requires a considerable amount of mobility to generate powerful forces over the complete motion necessary for adequate swimming technique. Therefore mobility training shouldn’t be neglected. Mobility training influences swimming performance in the following ways:
1. Range of motion
If your range of motion is limited, the body will start to compensate for this by using less efficient muscles and joints. This will result in misalignments, which will influence your body position causing more resistance and drag in the water, which affects your swimming performance.
Mobility training improves the range of motion of the shoulders and ankles. With every repetition of a mobility exercise, you are sending a signal to the joint asking it to function and to learn to move in it’s complete range of motion. The message should be mild and persistent, and by repeating it often stiffness and pain will diminish and you will increase your range of motion.
Mobility and posture go hand in hand. Most modern jobs require you to remain in the same slouched seated position for extended periods of time, which causes the muscles around the hips, upper back and shoulders to shorten. This has a negative impact on your posture, and your back is more curved, also while swimming. This limits the ability to rotate naturally and increases the frontal drag influencing performance massively.
Mobility training helps lengthen these thigh muscles, which in turn will improve your posture. Better posture will improve body rotation and thus horizontal alignment substantially.
3. Muscle force
Muscles cross over a joint which perform specific movements. During contraction a muscle shortens and brings about a certain amount of force. If mobility is limited the motion can be inadequate to allow the muscle to work in its full length. Simply said, more motion will lengthen the muscle which gives the muscle more distance to contract for acceleration, which will cause the muscle to be stronger.
As the range of motion of the shoulders for instance increases, so does the length of the muscle fibers involved in the acceleration (e.g. the chest, shoulder and back), causing these muscles to create longer and bigger amounts of force, thus making them stronger.
First of all it's important to warm up the complete body and muscles before doing any mobility exercises. When the muscles all are warmed up you can start your mobility sequence. You have two forms of stretching namely dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretches are active movements that enforce your joints and muscles to move through their current range of motion. To extend this range of motion the static stretches come into play. Take in mind that you should at least hold a static stretch for 30 seconds but to optimize flexibility you could hold the stretch up to 2 minutes. Try to repeat the same stretch 2 - 3 times, you should notice that you are able to go a lot farther during these repetitions. And most importantly the stretch shouldn’t hurt but only create tension on the muscle and tendon. For a excellent mobility workout just check out the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyZrCJ0YCdA
Repeat, repeat and repeat until the body will start to respond, and if it isn’t responding yet, just keep asking.