Mobility Versus Flexibility: Which One Should You Practice?

What is the Difference Between Mobility and Flexibility?

Many people think that mobility and flexibility are the same, but flexibility is just one component of mobility. Mobility indicates how well and efficiently we move and it helps us to prevent injuries. It enables us to perform functional movement patterns like a full squat for example with no restrictions in the range of movement. You can be flexible and still lack the core strength, balance, coordination to be able to do the same movement as a person with good mobility. A simple definition by Tony Gentilcore, Co-Founder of Cressey Sports Performance, is as follows:

Mobility: how a joint moves
Flexibility: the length of a muscle

If you have been wanting to improve your flexibility but don’t have the results you are looking for, it might be a good idea to start thinking differently and work on improving mobility instead. Stretching temporarily improves the length of the muscle but it will return to its original state afterward. It is the health of the joint that dictates the range of motion.

For fitness enthusiasts, we want to focus on mobility instead of just flexibility. Mobility exercises should be part of your lifestyle and fitness regimen to keep you healthy and help you reach your full potential. We don’t want to wait to have injury and pain to address this. If you have a mobility problem your body is not going to move the way it’s supposed to and it will create wear and tear. “Compensation from other areas (generally the lumbar spine) can happen if you don’t have good movement patterns in basic movement like squatting, lunging…”

For example, if you have tight hamstrings and you keep stretching them without improvement, it might be because you have a hip mobility issue. Another example is if you have ankle mobility issues in which case stretching your calves won’t solve your problem. “Did you know that your ability to actively move a joint through a range of motion is not only dictated by the mobility at the joint but by your central nervous system. If your central nervous system does not feel strong through a certain range of motion it is going to show by limiting that range of motion.” Whereas improving mobility will prepare your body for movement, increase overall joint range of motion and control, and translate into improved performance and joint health. To address the mobility problems you need motion/movement.

Common areas that have limited range of movement: hips, shoulders, knees and upper back. There is a lot you can do to prevent injury, speed recovery, and improve performance;

  • Tissue Work,
  • Stretching,
  • Strengthening,

Tissue work: Self Myofascia release can be done using foam roller, balls, Theracane, or even your own body (like the elbow). I even saw people use a rolling pin on their tissue! Be creative, use what you have handy! You can also go see a therapist like chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, to help you if you have the resources.

How to Integrate Mobility and Flexibility Exercises Into Your Workout

Mobility exercises would be best performed before a workout or exercise. They will improve your range of motion so you will be more likely able to reach a full range of motion. This will allow you to move better and keep your joints healthy. They can also be used as warm ups and will help the synovial fluid (fluid in your joints that helps cushions and lubricate) going to reduce joint friction. Joints don’t have blood supply but are nourished through synovial fluid. “Joint salts, or calcium deposits, are also dissolved with the gentle, high-repetition movement patterns of the exercises.” 

Flexibility exercises should be performed at the end of a workout or at the end of the day. It will help you to relax your nervous system. Relaxing your nervous system decreases the ability to produce strength and power; that’s why you should not perform passive stretches before a workout. Relaxing your muscles will help you enhance recovery.

So use mobility exercises as your warm-up and do flexibility work after the workout as part of the cool-down to restore tissue length and prevent long term injury.

I offer a Mobility and Flexibility online bundle make sure to check it out. I also teach a Mobility and Flexibility Yoga classes and I integrate some of theses principles in every classes I teach. Check my calendar and hope to see you in class.

You can also check all the online pre-recorded package I offer that you can do at your own pace and at your own time…

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