By Dustan Lang
Often times I am approached by athletes asking how they can improve their performance. They want to know how they can get faster, stronger, more flexible, or have better balance. My answer is always the same: improve the efficiency of your movement. Athletes that move efficiently are those that are able to plan and sequence their movements in a fluid and coordinated manner. The correct muscles and motor patterns are used rather than compensatory movements that lead to injury.
How does moving more efficiently improve speed, strength, flexibility and balance? Efficient movement will lengthen the soft tissue around the muscles, which improves flexibility. The muscles are also lengthened so that they are able to generate maximum power and strength. When the joints are able to move through their full range of motion, the nerves in the body are better able to help improve balance and stability. As you can see, an athlete that is able to move efficiently will not only perform better, but will also be much healthier and less prone to injury.
In order to improve the efficiency of your movement, you need to work on movement exercises that are specific to your sport. For example, the movement exercises used by a squash player will look very different than those used by a hockey player. In fact, exercises for the different positions in the same sport will look different, because they are required to move differently during the sport. The exercises performed by the hockey forward would look different than those completed by the defenceman. The exercises will mimic the exact demands required for that sport and position. If performed consistently, the body will become more efficient and comfortable, which will transition into improved performance during sport.
During training, warm up, or rehabilitation, athletes should always question whether the exercises will help them return to or excel at their sport. Ask yourself: do I perform any of these movements while I am playing? If the answer is no, then the exercises are likely not the right ones for you. Work together with a professional to get sports specific movement exercises that will improve your efficiency and decrease your risk of injury. Don’t just keep moving, keep moving efficiently.