Can you reach your toes?
We have all heard the term ‘flexibility’. But there’s a new term on the block and it’s being used interchangeably with our old friend ‘flexibility’. But is there a difference between them two terms? If so, what? And why is it important to our training?
What is does the term ‘flexibility’ mean?
You might have heard the phrase to ‘flex your muscles’. This phrase refers to a person voluntarily contracting one or more muscles for the purposes of demonstrating how much muscle mass they have. When we contract a muscle we are shortening it.
In a similar manner, the term ‘flexibility’ refers to the potential for change in length of a muscle – usually in reference to how much a muscle can elongate to allow a greater range of movement in a joint.
What does ‘mobility’ mean?
‘Mobility’ in human movement refers to the quality of movement occurring about a joint – usually this is a consideration of the degrees of range of movement available at the joint alongside the stability and interaction of the structures that form the joint (i.e.: muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, etc).
Which is more important – flexibility or mobility?
It all depends on what you want to be able to do. If you are required to load and move heavy weight at the end of your range of movement (for example: a powerlifter – squatting, bench press, deadlift), then flexibility and mobility are important. However, if you don’t expose yourself to heavy loads like this and/or you don’t require great amounts of flexibility to do everyday things in your life, then the more important question is – why do you need to improve either of these things?
In either case, if you choose to increase your joint range of movement it is critical that your body can function efficiently in that position.
Let’s talk this through with an example: ‘Bill’ has a lot of flexibility around one joint – let’s say he has a lot of flexibility (i.e.: he can elongate) his hamstrings. This means that he can flex at the hip and toes his toes. In comparison, his friend ‘Bob’ has less hamstring flexibility – he can’t reach his toes. However, when Bill and Bob compare their hamstring strength in the gym with a Nordic Curl exercise Bob is far stronger than Bill.
- Who do you think will perform better in a deadlifting challenge?
- Who do you think might be more at risk of injury?
Before you set out to ‘improve’ flexibility be sure to ask yourself how this will benefit your day to day movement quality (i.e.: mobility and joint stability), are you increasing your risk of injury, and if so what action are you taking to mitigate it (i.e.: how are you enhancing joint stability and function?).
If you would like to learn how to safely work on joint mobility without compromising your joint health then Move Well Clinic offers Group Flexibility and Joint Mobility Classes at Genetix Gym in Stourbridge.
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