Mobility is NOT Flexibility

Mobility is NOT Flexibility.  Au contraire, these are two different concepts altogether. We probably all have that one friend who is super “bendy” and can put their legs and shoulders in positions that seem “not humanly possible”. For the most part, the people that can do those things naturally are what we call flexible. However, are they able to go through those positions with stability and strength around the joints they are moving about? Probably not.

Quick Definitions

Mobility:  For simplicity sake, let’s say mobility is being able to remain stable and produce force through a full range of motion about our joints. Taken further, it’s being able to do so, for the particular movement/exercise being asked of us :).

Flexibility: This is just being able to take a muscle tissue/it’s surrounding structures and elongating it to some end range.

To get a better understanding, we have to know where movement occurs!

Movement Occurs at Your Joints

Like the title says, we move about our joints. And if this is the case, we have to create stability and full range of motion at that joint to perform the movement.  And really, this can also be taken to mean strength! Think about how much more force you can produce, if you are able to do it through a larger range of motion. If we remember from our physics class, that Force=Mass x Acceleration, then we can appreciate that point. If you can only move your hip joint 10 degrees, there really isn’t much force that can be produced toward much of anything. The same goes for any of your other joints. Try moving something over your head with only 20-30 degrees of range of motion at the shoulder point. Other than the fact that it just wont happen, it would probably impinge the shoulder and also make you feel very weak. AAAH!, don’t even get me started on the spine. If we have an immobile spine, we really can’t move much of anything, let alone your own bodyweight. You get the idea.

We also know that most of the exercises that are prescribed, demand that we have a certain prerequisite amount of joint mobility to perform them. And this spans across multiple joints of our body! To perform a front squat for example, we need:

 

a) Thoracic spine mobility (several vertebral joints), to keep up upright

b) Hip capsule mobility to be able to go into external rotation

c) Shoulder joint mobility to hold your elbows up

d) Ankle mobility to allow you to squat fairly upright, and our ability to squat without our heels coming off the ground

e) Wrist /elbow mobility to allow you to keep the bar racked in the right positions

f) Knee flexion to be able to drop your hips below parallel

 

Just to name a few!

 

If we are missing range at any of these joints, our squat will feel weak and unstable.

 

Moving at the Joint, Means We have to Know What Muscles Move You into the above Positions You Desire! 

When we think about the above front squat mobility prerequisites, we need to understand what muscles need to engage to pull the joint into the right positions we desire. To give you a brief example, let’s revisit our front squat:

 

These are just some of the muscles required to pull the joints/stabilize them in the right positions. Remember your core needs to activate first, before you create any change. And it also affects the stability of all of our joints! Simply put, these muscles must engage appropriately to get into the right shapes required for the squat :).

 

a) Thoracic Spine Mobility- Mid traps, rhomboids, lats, pelvic floor musculature and abdominals

b) Hip Capsule Mobility- Glutes, hamstrings, inner groin musculature,

c) Shoulder join mobility- Posterior deltoid (back of your shoulders), mid back/rhomboids, lats

d) Ankle mobility- peroneals and anterior tibialis/your arches

e) Wrist/elbow mobility- all the wrist extensors and elbow flexors

f) knee flexion- glutes, hams, outside of the calf

 

So , how do we properly perform mobility exercises that allow us to move freely when we want to?

More on this, in our following blogs/videos :)!

Stay tuned!

Best, Sumair

Sumair Bhasin