It’s the new year and everyone is trying to get fitter, healthier and stronger. However, how many of us are taking the time to improve every aspect of our fitness. There is far more to improving fitness then just doing cardio and strength. Yes, cardio and strength are very important and will help us achieve our performance goals as well as our health and aesthetic goals, but do you know how important it is to work on your flexibility and mobility.
The first thing you may ask is what is the difference between flexibility and mobility.
Are they not the same thing?
To begin with think of mobility as more of an umbrella term that is used to cover a range of aspects that affect the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion. Simply it is the freedom of a joint to move. Flexibility is one of the terms and concepts that falls under this umbrella. If the muscles that attach around a joint are to tight they will limit the range of motion of the joint. Therefore, it can be said that flexibility refers more the length of the muscle and how it affects the range of motion of the joint.
Under the umbrella of mobility there are many more aspects to consider then just the length of the muscle, there is muscle strength, other joints, tendon or ligament damage. The mobility of a joint is not limited to just one single area, instead it’s how several areas of the body all work together.
Let’s take an example of two gymnasts. The first gymnast spends everyday stretching, sitting in static stretch positions making sure her muscles are loose and long. The second stretches for short amount of time after each practice and spends the rest of her time working on core strength, stability, tendon length and health and basic control of all her movements. Now both gymnasts are asked to kick their leg up in front of the other as high as they possibly can. Logic would say the gymnast that spends more time stretching would have a greater range of motion. However, this is not the case, gymnast one gets her leg up just above 90 degrees, while gymnast two gets her leg up to almost 180 degrees.
You could have amazing flexibility and stretch every day. However, if you don’t have the strength, co-ordination, core strength, stability and flexibility to move a joint through its full range of motion then your performance won’t increase.
So how do we go about improving our mobility and flexibility?
The first rule is that you should only work on areas that are tight and avoid areas that are loose and weak. Figure out which areas are limiting your range of motion or preventing you from doing certain movements and work on them. Rather than trying to spend hours at a time stretching and working every aspect of your body. There is no general rule for everyone with flexibility and mobility training as everyone will have different areas that are tight or loose.
If you are struggling to get low down in a squat for example your ankle, hip and back flexibility could be affecting the position, while the mobility in your lower leg, hips, lower back and core could also be playing a part. However, for no two people will they need to work on the same areas.
For individualized help we would recommend having a full postural and biomechanical assessment done in order to identify your own personal areas that require work.
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