October 24, 2021

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What is the Distinction Between Flexibility and Mobility (and Why Ought to You Care)?

Photograph: baranq (Shutterstock)

Flexibility was a easy idea to grasp: if you are able to do the splits or contact your arms behind your shoulder blades, you’re versatile. And in the event you’re not versatile, you need to do some stretches. However lately, the time period mobility has turn into extra in style, and it doesn’t imply precisely the identical factor.

Mobility work includes greater than stretching. You may use a foam curler, or do workouts that construct energy concurrently they offer you a better range-of-motion in your joints. You may do extra dynamic stretches than static ones in the event you’re working in your mobility. And that’s as a result of flexibility is a part of mobility, nevertheless it’s not the identical factor.

Specialists’ definitions range barely, however the consensus appears to be this:

Flexibility is how far you may transfer a joint with out harm. A passive stretch, equivalent to attempting to the touch your toes whereas sitting together with your legs on the ground, will take a look at the bounds of your flexibility, particularly how a lot your hamstrings can passively lengthen. It’s roughly equal to your passive vary of movement.

Mobility, against this, is how far you can transfer a joint. Think about a dancer who’s standing up, and lifts her straight leg off the bottom in entrance of her. If she will deliver her foot excessive up off the bottom, she’s obtained nice mobility. However there’s extra happening than simply hamstring flexibility: She additionally has the energy, stability, and talent to permit her leg to tackle that place.

Why mobility issues

Most issues in life require mobility, not simply flexibility. Whether or not you’re squatting with a barbell, or squatting to select up a toddler, good mobility means you may bend your ankles, knees, and hips sufficient to maintain your toes regular on the bottom whereas holding the burden (the barbell or toddler) securely.

Folks with tight calf muscle groups typically battle to squat to an acceptable depth, and one step towards squatting higher is getting extra flexibility in your calves to enhance the vary of movement that your ankles can transfer via. However there’s extra happening than simply flexibility. A number of different issues that may have an effect on your mobility:

  • The construction of your joints. For instance, some folks’s hip sockets are extra towards the entrance of their pelvis, some extra towards the aspect. The precise place of muscle groups and their attachment factors isn’t all the time the identical from individual to individual. Your physique’s construction determines the vary of movement that’s doable, even earlier than contemplating flexibility.
  • Stability. Typically a muscle must contract to stabilize a joint, and because of this, it may well’t chill out an excessive amount of whereas nonetheless protecting your physique secure and below management. Despite the fact that we typically consider energy and mobility as opposites, getting stronger can typically assist mobility.
  • Extra energy. Typically we could not be sturdy sufficient to maneuver our physique right into a sure place. The dancer in our earlier instance can’t hit that place with solely flexibility; she additionally has to strengthen her hip flexors to have the ability to elevate the burden of her prolonged leg.
  • Whether or not you’re warmed up or not. A heat muscle can stretch farther than a chilly one, so it’s commonplace to really feel stiff at the start of the exercise and have higher mobility towards the top.

The right way to get higher mobility

Step one in working in your mobility is to find out what actions you could do, and why. Then, search a routine or ask a coach for steps to take to enhance that particular sort of mobility.

For instance, we have now some options right here for enhancing your ankle mobility for squats. The primary one isn’t a stretch in any respect; it’s a tip to make use of heeled footwear or plates. Despite the fact that that technically doesn’t make your ankle transfer any additional in its vary of movement, it lets you transfer extra below management, which successfully will increase the mobility of your hips to mean you can squat deeper. Our different suggestions embody stretches and the usage of a foam curler.

Foam rollers are in style for mobility as a result of they stretch your muscle groups on the micro-level with out requiring you to carry out a selected, static stretching movement. After foam-rolling the muscle groups that should be extra pliable, you’ll in all probability discover that you could transfer them extra simply. Because of this, it’s typically carried out as a part of a warmup.

Dynamic stretches also can assist with mobility, they usually work nicely as a part of a warmup. As an alternative of sitting down and forcing a muscle right into a stretched place, you’re utilizing your physique to maneuver actively via a spread of movement. Managed articular rotations, or CARs, are one sort of dynamic stretch that has you progress a joint just like the shoulder slowly via its vary of movement. As you progress your arm in larger and greater circles, you’re warming up the muscle groups concerned, and dealing on energy and suppleness on the similar time.

Static stretches have a spot in a mobility routine, too. Despite the fact that flexibility is just one a part of mobility, it’s an essential half! You could or could not want static stretches in your mobility targets, however incorporating them could be an efficient approach to construct your muscle groups’ potential to elongate.


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