Everyone is familiar with the words mobility and flexibility, but can you define them and differentiate between the two? Many people mistakenly use these two words interchangeably. While flexibility is a part of mobility; mobility and flexibility are different.
Flexibility is simply defined as a muscles ability to lengthen.
Mobility is defined as a joint’s ability to actively move through a range of motion. Mobility refers to all of the components, contractile and non-contractile, around the joint. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsule, fascia, nervous system control, etc.
Lower Body Mobility example:
Many of us fall into a category that lacks mobility. A lack in mobility prevents athletes from having the proper range of motion to lift and move properly in a wide variety of movements. In order to achieve mobility, you must train the positions that we struggle with. You can foam roll, lacrosse ball and stretch all you want, but until you repetitively take your joints through the restricted range, the range will not improve.
Following mobility of a joint, we want to gain stability of the joint.
Joint stability is defined as the ability of the soft tissue to maintain and control joint position and movement. Stability is achieved by the coordination of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system.
Upper Body Stability example:
Once mobility is achieved, it is important to build strength therefore increasing stability within your new range of motion. If you are limited in one or more of these areas, your body will be forced to compensate elsewhere increasing your risk for injury.
Once you have gained mobility and stability within said joint, you can now move with controlled mobility.
Let’s take an athlete who is limited in shoulder flexion as an example. The athlete is unable to reach their arms overhead due to limited mobility in their shoulders. After working on muscle flexibility, joint surface articulation and capsule restriction, the athlete is now able to reach straight overhead. The athlete now has adequate mobility in the shoulder, but they have never strength trained in this position before, therefore lacking stability and putting themselves at risk for injury. Next, the athlete must work on strengthening in this new found range of motion, how to properly set and move their shoulder blades and how to control their arm during lifts in order to create stability. Once stability is achieved, the athlete can hold a weight, take the arm up overhead while maintaining proper alignment and complete an overhead squat with controlled mobility.
Written by: Faith Farley one of our Individual Design 1on1 coaches and programmer of the upper/lower body Mobility/Stability programs. If you are interested in doing one of our mobility or stability programs then click the SIGN UP button above or if you are interested in working with Faith 1on1 please fill out this request HERE
-Doctorate of Physical Therapy, B.S. Exercise Sports Science