Our natural fitness interpretation of mobility and flexibility

Here we’re going to discuss the differences between MOBILITY VS FLEXIBILITY. 

Our online natural fitness training course for coaches and trainers, has two modules dedicated to full body Mobility, so it feels like a good time to clarify what we mean by that term.

So, the words “mobility” and “flexibility” are often used interchangeably outside of the movement community but when it comes to fitness, there are some subtle differences and we are really referring to two different concepts.

In this article we’ll help you understand the scope of each term and how they can be used to optimize your training and recovery regime.

The Role of Range of Motion in Mobility

Most of our movement is based on the range of motion (ROM) of the limbs around our joints. How well this works depends on a few factors, namely:

How stretchy or elastic our muscles are

The health of the joints and surrounding tissues

Nervous system control of the muscles

We can improve some, if not all of these factors with the right kind of training.

How do we define flexibility in natural fitness training?

First up – FLEXIBILITY. This is the stretch capacity of a muscle, or how long it can become when pulled. 

In flexibility training, athletes stretch and hold the muscle in a stationary position for a number of seconds, there are lots of different protocols out there but essentially it is hold – release – repeat, something generally referred to as ‘static stretching’.

How do we define mobility in natural fitness training?

Then we have MOBILITY – This is the ability of a joint to move comfortably through its full range of motion.  Mobility work encompasses all the elements that limit movement, including flexibility but also recruiting our motor control and stability around the joints, which in turn implies a strength component in the surrounding muscles too. 

Summing it up – mobility as opposed to flexibility

So flexibility – fully stretched, static holds  //  Mobility: moving through maximum range of motion. The former is more about elasticity of your muscles while the latter requires motor control and strength as well.

I think it’s fair to say that static stretching has fallen somewhat out of fashion in recent years as investigations have shown subsequent temporary reductions in muscle strength and performance. I’ll link to all the studies I reference in the description below. 

What role does dynamic stretching play in natural fitness training?

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, does not appear to cause the same problems. Dynamic stretching is the continuous movement of the limb through its full range of motion with active control over form throughout. Research has shown that dynamic stretching can improve muscle power, jumping and running performance.[3]

Mobility for muscle recovery

Numerous studies have shown that mobility work can be a valuable recovery tool. When I think of mobility I’m talking about the tiny pulsing movements we use in our online training course, it is very precise, controlled and focused work. Not especially exciting, more like a form of moving meditation maybe.

That said, many people like to supplement their mobility routine with some soft tissue work, i.e. self-massage with foam rollers, and other purpose-designed torture devices such as lacrosse balls. 

Foam rollers in mobility training within natural fitness

Foam rollers function by using a person’s body weight to apply pressure to the soft tissue in a very similar way to how a masseur applies pressure to relieve tired muscles. 

Experts believe that it relieves tissue stiffness and increases blood flow, although the details of exactly how this works are as yet unclear.

A recent meta-analysis of 21 studies concluded that foam rolling correlated with a small (+4%) improvement in flexibility and sprint performance, as well as reducing muscle pain perception.[5]

So there you go, if you’d like to find out more, follow our channel or visit biofit.io/courses for more details of our mobility modules.

This content was originally published here.