Flexibility and mobility are two terms that often get used interchangeably, but they are anything but one and the same. As the spheres of physical therapy and physical fitness come to a merging point in most recent history, it is important for leaders and experts of exercise to know the difference between these two terms and know how to appropriately apply the concepts.
To understand the difference in mobility and flexibility, we must first define the term ‘range of motion.’ Range of motion, commonly abbreviated as ROM, is the full movement potential of a joint, or it’s total possible range of flexion and extension. ROM can be tested and measured by degrees of movement surrounding a specific joint or body part.
Flexibility simply refers to the length of a muscle - the passive ability for any certain body part to be in any certain ROM. Mobility, on the other hand, requires movement. Mobility is determined by the ability to move a joint with control - ROM while maintaining tension. It can be determined, then, that whereas mobility measures functional movement patterns without restriction in the ROM of those movement, flexibility does not actually mandate any strength, balance, stability or coordination to perform those same functional patterns. Mobility is an indication of how well we can actually move as humans.
Flexibility is largely temporary. Lengthening muscles in a passive approach such as static stretching lasts only for short periods of time and produces short term results with often little to no long term improvement in terms of performance and function. True mobility exercises require actual movement in order to train the joints, musculature and even central nervous system to experience tension and strength in a certain movement pattern and desired ROM. To fix an issue of mobility, you need motion.
At StrongFit, this understanding of mobility versus flexibility is the core reasoning behind the openers you’ll find on the YouTube channel or learn at the seminars. Mobility is not always glamorous, but it is the sort of proactive work that must be done to perform at high class levels of fitness and ward off injury. Practice mobility often and practice it with intention.