When it comes to achieving your workout goals, knowing how to spend your limited time can feel overwhelming. This is especially true when you try and get your head around certain terminology. Case in point: mobility and flexibility. When most people hear about flexibility and mobility, people agree they play a crucial part in health and fitness, but contrary to popular belief, these terms don’t actually mean the same thing.
FIRST UP, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY?
Flexibility is the range of motion available to a person while mobility is the range they have control over. Flexibility is passive while mobility is active. More terminology that doesn’t make sense? Flexibility is the ability of the muscle to stretch whereas mobility involves the strength to hold this flexibility.
For example, if you are able to touch your toes while sitting on the floor with your legs extended out, that demonstrates your flexibility, but to touch your toes while your legs are raised in the air for an ab exercise demonstrates your mobility. You need the flexibility to get into certain positions, like a deep squat, but you wouldn’t be able to maintain the correct form without sufficient mobility.
WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, FLEXIBILITY OR MOBILITY?
Well now that you know that mobility incorporates controlled strength, you will probably go with that, but remember you can’t get that mobility without flexibility… a real chicken or the egg conundrum! You want to be able to maintain strength throughout your range of motion right up until your maximum point of flexibility. Thinking again about the deep squat, someone with equal mobility and flexibility would not just be able to get into that deep position but also lower in and out of it with control while keeping the correct form.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF IMPROVING YOUR FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY?
Besides a cool Instagram pic?
For the average person not having a career needing that level of flexibility (dancer, cirque, extreme yogi), there are no real physical benefits to such extreme levels of flexibility. Without stereotyping, most women need to increase their mobility, while men need to increase their flexibility. Wait, is that why Pilates is great for everyone? Ding ding ding!!! Legs in straps increases flexibility AND mobility! We train stability in joints and elongating the muscle fiber while maintaining the integrity of a movement with the ultimate goal of injury prevention!
It is important to work on your mobility to keep your joints in good order and prevent wear-and-tear. In day to day life, most of us are pretty sedentary. Simply moving from sitting to standing uses a very small percentage of your body’s full joint range. Mobility training, and expanding the movement you do, will ensure these joints are kept moving and healthy. But remember: foundation is key… increasing the “idea” of mobility without the foundational strength is likely to cause injury – so work slowly and build up.
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR MOBILITY?
Pilates Reformer is a great way to increase mobility! But on days you can’t make it to class, try dynamic stretching.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MOBILITY EXERCISES?
The best exercise always depends on what you need to work on – weakness is generally unique. Comment below and we would happily help you out!