We hear many different goals in the gym such as wanting to increase strength, power, endurance and weight loss. One term you don’t hear as much is wanting to increase mobility and flexibility; but what does mobility and flexibility mean? What is the difference between them?
The definition of mobility is the ability for a body to perform functional movement patterns without restrictions in the range of motion (ROM). The definition of flexibility is defined as the range of motion or degree of extension, in a joint or a group of joints that its tissues are capable of.
On a day to day basis, people get told they are stiff, and they need to stretch more. But actually, to make a difference you need to do more than 90 seconds of stretching. For example, if someone works 9 to 5 at a desk all day, your muscles get used to that position. Even if you do an hour yoga session in the day, but spend the rest of your day at a desk, your body is still more used to being sat at a desk which will make you stiff. Body movement is so important. To undo the stiffness, we need to get up and move about more frequently with more extended tissue length. A good place to start would be to get up and walk about at regular intervals throughout your day and you can even try and do some slow tempo squats to work your joints through a bigger range of motion. Remember your muscles will naturally adapt to the length that they are at for the majority of the day.
Regarding Increasing your flexibility, research states that to actually increase your flexibility you must hold a stretch for 3 minutes to truly optimise the length of the muscle. This just goes to show the time needed to make improvements in this area.
Try these stretches with a foam roller
Overall, research shows that mobility is more important than flexibility because the way our bodies move is very functional. Yes, a muscle can get very tight but we are able to loosen our body out by practising functional movement little and as often as possible to make a difference.