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Mobility vs Stability

September 28, 2009

Anyone who has spent any time around Ultimate knows the prevalence of ankle and knee injuries.  I have even encountered people with both ankles and both knees in braces.  There is a way to reduce the need of these, and it comes from a simple understanding of body mechanics.

I’m going to throw a list at you.  Be patient, I will explain.










Low Back

Upper Back


Starting at the bottom, you want your ankles to be flexible.  Various ankle mobility exercises can be found here. These should be performed often, including before competition.  These will loosen up the tendons around the ankle.  The more mobility, the less likely there will be an injury.  Tendons tear when they are inflexible, so any additional flexibility will aid in prevention.

Next, your knees should be as stable as possible.  More often than not, those who have not experienced some type of major sprain or tear and regularly exercise should have stable knees.  To improve stability, common exercises are as simple as standing on one leg, and if that is too easy, standing on a rolled up towel or some other uneven surface for as long as you can.  You should feel the muscles in your leg flexing in order to maintain balance.

You also want your hips to be mobile.  This not only aids in injury prevention, but will also help pivoting, changing direction, and especially breaking marks.  I started doing these over the past year, and have seen great improvements.  I personally make my team do them as warm-up before practice and tournaments, but I recommend doing them after too.  There are also additional stretches that can be done to improve hip flexibility, including figure four, butterfly, and lunges.

Lastly (for now), your lower back should be stable.  I frequently see people who complain about lower back pain stretching the area in various ways that often look painful.  First thing to realize is that if your lower back hurts, it is often a hip problem, most likely to be the hip flexors tightening up.  They can be stretched by doing lunges and it will often alleviate the problem.  The best way to improve lower back stability is to do full body lifts, including squats, dead lift, and Romanian dead lift.  I used to have lower back problems to the point that I could not sleep at night, and since adding these to my training back pain has almost disappeared.

It’s important to realize that the majority of injuries that occur in the “stable” joints are caused by lack of mobility in the “mobile” joints.  If you have inflexible ankles and hips, odds are you will have knee and lower back problems.  These occur because the knee tries to compensate for the inflexibility, and you end up with a tear in the ligaments.  This is why total body mobility should be at the top of the list of goals for an athlete. Mobility exercises are, in my opinion, one of the single best ways to reduce injuries.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I’ll complete the list soon…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    September 29, 2009 5:03 am

    “I am currently senior Biology and Exercise Science major at the University of Northern Iowa”

    So are you going to cite any literature or just make misleading and inaccurate statements about the loading properties of tendons and wild generalizations about ligament injuries?

    • Jelinek permalink
      September 29, 2009 1:57 pm

      Just rereading my post, I realized how much I left out and how misleading it was. Leslie seems to have corrected my huge mistake (thank you). It won’t happen again. I completely apologize for my lack of explanation.

  2. ultimateperformance permalink
    September 30, 2009 2:57 am

    Chris may be right but perhaps a little harsh. Yes some of these points can be argued. For example lower back pain being related to hip flexor ‘tightness’. I believe, that most of the research suggest that lower back pain stems from tightness in the hamstrings. The posterior chain is all connected, if one part of the chain is tight, then the chain will not work in unison. If there is research suggesting otherwise.. please rebuttal.

    Though one could argue some of this info, in Mr. Jelineks defense I believe for the most part these are all fine points he had made. I believe the take home message from this post should be (without the need of research to back it up)…

    -Dynamic stretching should taken seriously, especially when the muscles and joints are hot and pliable.

    -Mobility training can aid in injury prevention.

    -Perform the core lifts: squats, deadlifts and variations

    A question to the writer…

    Should the Ultimate player, with a limited time to train, spend his time standing on a towel for knee stability… I see you have listed the squat as an exercise in your post … do you think squatting may be more beneficial? In sum, how much time should the athlete really spend working on knee stability and is there a way they can do other than standing on one foot.

    • Jelinek permalink
      September 30, 2009 2:33 pm

      I think I was painfully simple in my post. The standing on an uneven surface for stability is mainly for rehab patients (oversight on my part). Squats would be much more beneficial to the healthy athlete. Really, any exercise that strengthens the leg is going to help. Single leg RDL and single leg squats help tremendously, knowing just from personal experience. They are, however, very difficult to perform in the early stages of starting a lifting program.

      Thanks for the hamstring comment, as it is very true. Another thing I forgot to mention. Next post won’t have these problems.

  3. dusty permalink
    October 3, 2009 4:18 am

    “These will loosen up the tendons around the ankle. The more mobility, the less likely there will be an injury. Tendons tear when they are inflexible, so any additional flexibility will aid in prevention.”

    Are there hundreds (or even tens?) of ultimate players with ankle tendon tears? Isn’t the ATF ligament 100x more likely to be injured than a tendon? Does stretching your ankle tendons have any effect on your ligament stability?



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