Mobility vs Flexibility

Flexibility refers to the ability of your soft tissue (muscles) to stretchMobility, on the other hand, is an umbrella term for the many elements that contribute to movement with full range of motion, including restricted muscle tissue, joints, the joint capsules, motor control, AND your soft tissue.  Both are important, but they are not one in the same and we need to see a shift in focus in order to keep our bodies healthy!

For example, if I’m super bendy (AKA flexible), but I have inflammation in my joints which prevents me from properly squatting or pressing through a full range of motion, I need to go a little deeper and focus on improving my mobility not just the ability of my muscles to stretch.

For some of us our range of motion (in all or parts of our bodies) is very limited. Improving mobility requires time, effort, and consistency. In other words YOU must put in the work to effect positive change in your own body! At ASF we work hard to incorporate mobility improvement exercises into every class, but that doesn’t release you from your own personal responsibility to work on improving your mobility.

The photo below shows many wonderful torture devices that can aid your efforts. Everyone should have at least one or two of these items at home available to use for 10 to 15 minutes at some point during our day.

  • The foam roller is inexpensive, easy to use, has a large surface area and is somewhat soft!  That means the foam roller is best for large areas of the body such as quads, hamstrings, upper back and lats.  This is the tool of choice if you find yourself saying, “Oh Lawd, my *lats, *hammys, *quads, huuuuuuurt!”
  • The lacrosse ball is best for getting at those trigger-points in isolated areas of a muscle. If you find yourself thinking “I’ve got this one spot RIGHT HERE…” you should be thinking lacrosse ball.
  • The stretch out straps (green band in the pic) can aid in stretching muscle groups like hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, adductors, and shoulders. This is an easy item you can throw in your car, gym bag, or even your suitcase!
  • The compression or floss band (small black band rolled up) can aid in recovery and help improve mobility.  According to Dr. Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD, there are three major effects of compression that help recovery: compression of the tissues increases shear thus freeing sliding surfaces that are “glued” together, compression helps move lymph and metabolic waste products out of the targeted muscle tissue, and the compensatory vasodilation that occurs after removal of the band brings increased blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscle. Check out this video by Dr. Starrett for a primer on how to floss the knee.

Bottom Line: At ASF we are movement experts.  We teach you the proper mechanics of movement.  If you have difficulty achieving full range of motion for a particular movement, you must commit to working on improving your mobility! Utilizing these tools will aid in your efforts!  If you need help or more explanation find a coach and just ask!  It’s that simple!

-Kelly A