Mobility and Flexibility: What’s the Difference

Many athletes confuse the terms mobility and flexibility by believing they’re interchangeable.  They aren’t.  Mobility is not flexibility.  Flexibility is a building block for good mobility but not its only element.  It’s possible to have very flexible hamstrings or quadriceps but lack quality hip mobility.  How?  Flexibility refers to structures in the body that have tension on them (think muscles, tendons and ligaments).  Mobility references the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion properly.

Knowing the difference between these two often confused words is a must for anyone who wants to improve performance and recover from each day’s workout.  Why?  Because if your muscles are filled with adhesions and your joints are impinged (lacking the ability to bend properly), you’ll be putting yourself at risk for injury while also compromising some or all of your efficiency and power.

One of the biggest keys to earning and maintaining proper mobility is to work on it every day.  Many of us sit at desks, in chairs, for extended periods of time.  In addition to unengaged hamstrings and all of the issues associated with poor posture, all this sitting is extra hard on muscles that just completed a morning or lunch hour workout.  By being steadfast in working mobilityon your body for 5-10 minutes two or three times during the work day you’ll help prevent injury and speed healing.  If you wait until you’re suffering with a hot spot, shin splint or pulled muscle, you’ll have a much harder time getting back to the gym than if you had never encountered these problems to begin with.

Want to improve your ability to move safely and fully through the range of motion your fitness routine requires?  Start today!  Check out mobility guru Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD site here and pick up some mobility tools.  Great options for improving your mobility include lacrosse balls, stretching bands and foam rollers.  With each of these in your arsenal you can work to alleviate hot spots, keep muscles sliding smoothly over each other and, after putting in some solid effort, you’ll quickly see the difference it can make on the track, field or court.

Coach Meredith

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