25 October, 2020
Mobility Vs Flexibility
What if I told you that all those endless hours doing stretching weren’t helping you become more mobile?
Mobility vs Flexibility
What is the difference?
Mobility refers to strength in a given range of motion. You can move into these dynamic positions without a warmup.
Flexibility is a passive range of motion. Think of this as static and requiring warm up to achieve.
When someone is unconscious they are able to be moved into positions they couldn't move into when their brain is properly functioning to protect them from getting hurt. When you are conscious your nervous system stops you from moving into ranges of motion you don’t have the ability to control.
The positions you can force yourself into after a warm up are an indication of flexibility.
vs Positions you can control while maintaining tension are an indication of mobility.
Why does it matter?
The problem we come across is that people focus on improving flexibility when what they really need is mobility.
For example if someone struggles to do a squat to full depth and are told it’s because they lack flexibility. So they focus on getting more movement in the joints hoping it will get them into their squat. Of course this will help to get a little deeper, but the challenge in a squat is to control your bodyweight in those deeper positions. Therefore if you have focused on flexibility in your ankles and hips, without working on your ability to maintain tension in those end ranges of motion as soon as you load that newly acquired position you are risking injury.
What can we do about it?
To improve mobility we need to focus on increasing our ability to control tension in greater ranges of motion. Often this will mean regressing movements to find tension and then slowly expanding the range of motion while maintaining that newly found tension.
Using the squat example again, often people struggle to maintain tension as they move into deeper ranges of motion. One way to work on this is assisted squats, for example holding onto something in front of you, while focusing on trying to maintain tension as you get into a deeper position that you are comfortable.
Imagine you are going as deep into the Squat position with tension and control as possible, then imagine trying to get ½ a centimeter closer to the goal position. Hold for 20-30sec, then repeat during the day until you accumulate 2 min. In the beginning that will feel like a long time, but if you practice each day with the goal of building upto 2 min without breaking while also aiming to slightly improve your position each day you will quickly see progress.
As you progress you can remove the assistance you used as a support in the beginning.
Remember though, that this is a principle that can be used with any types of movement.
Tension > Position
Do you want to get the middle splits? Then you need to increase the mobility (strength) in the core and straddle compression. The end position comes with time and focused practise.
In the end if you want to be durable and less likely to be injured focus on increasing your Mobility rather than Flexibility.