It’s time to discuss the age old question…mobility or flexibility??? Debated for years, this topic has torn families apart and brought countries to war.
Ok, ok. We’re just kidding. It’s not that serious but there is plenty of confusion on the topic. Let’s start by saying that mobility and flexibility are not the same. Keep reading to see why.
As you may remember from our blog, “What is mobility and why does it matter?”, mobility is defined as how far you can move your joint under control. The goal is to have the largest range of motion and own almost all of it with control. Remember that word “control” because it’s really important here.
Simply put, flexibility is defined as having a large range of motion for a particular movement. Think of a standing toe touch. If someone can easily bend over and touch the floor, we call them “flexible”. However, they’re receiving a ton of help from gravity.
Typical flexibility training is mostly passive, meaning an external force (gravity, the floor, a wall, another person) is helping you into that position. This is called passive range of motion and will only get you so far. It may even set you up for injury.
If you have a position that you can go into passively (with help), but you can’t go there on your own actively (without any help), you have a huge potential problem on your hands. For more on passive and active range of motion, you can check out this blog.
SEE THE DIFFERENCES
This is where the differences between flexibility and mobility come in. Flexibility is only the passive range of motion. Mobility includes active range of motion, plus control. If there were equations for this, it would look like this:
Flexibility = Passive ROM
Mobility = ROM (Passive & Active) + Control
See the difference? Flexibility is a component of mobility but they are not the same. Here are a few more examples.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
You must have control over your ranges of motion and the positions you put your body in, or when you get placed into that position under load or unexpectedly, the tissue around the joint won’t be able to handle it. BOOM, that’s when injuries happen. If you had control there, your chance of overcoming or mitigating that injury would be greatly enhanced. If you’re an athlete, weekend warrior, or someone who does any other form of exercise, having control will help you perform at a higher level because you have a better connection with how you’re body moves.
So what do you do if you’re one of those people who have huge ranges but no control? You can start adding some mobility training into your daily routine. This style of training is unloaded but completely active so you can “OWN” your ranges and build control.
Hopefully this sheds a little light on the topic of “mobility vs. flexibility”. Having big ranges of motion is awesome, but you better control them. Until next time friends, Be Strong - Be Mobile.
ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Level 3 Fascial Stretch Therapist with over 15 years experience in his field. After years of playing sports as a child, Matt gained an interest in health and wellness and decided to pursue a career in strength and conditioning. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Exercise Science in 2005. During college Matt played rugby and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with the football team.
Post graduation, he worked with professional athletes as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for NFL Europe's Berlin Thunder. For 8 years, Matt worked in Chicago, IL at the East Bank Club as a Master Personal Trainer, Performance Coach and Fascial Stretch Therapist helping athletes and weekend warriors achieve their personal goals. Inspired by the overall quality and active lifestyle that California is known for, Matt and his wife Jennifer moved to San Diego in the summer of 2014 and haven’t looked back!
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor