What Is flexibility? Flexibility is the body’s ability to get into a position. If you were to have someone pull your arm behind your back, or bend your leg behind your head; how far can it go? You don’t necessarily have to be a part of this action, but your body just has to be able to somehow get into that position.
What is mobility? Mobility is your ability to get into that position with control on your own. Can you get down into a low squat and come out of that “hole” at the bottom with no assistance? Or reach up to grab something from the top shelf with control? This is where strength and flexibility come together.
Why is it important? Now I want you to imagine that you are in your car and your purse or child is in the back seat. You reach back, but when you pull your arm back, you get a weird pull in your shoulder. Just because you can reach back there (flexibility), doesn’t mean you have the strength or stability in that range of motion (mobility). When you lack mobility and take your range of motion to its limits, that’s where you risk injury.
So why do we need flexibility? Well it’s used to protect our bodies against injury. What happens when we stumble or fall; maybe miss a step? Our ankle’s job is to now basically become jelly and prevent anything from breaking. Its ability to bend and snap back is super important in the protection of that joint. If it can’t do that, we can be looking at a boot for a few weeks, maybe even months.
Now why do we need mobility? Well now we miss the step and end up on the ground and have to get up. What happens here? Are we able to get up off the ground? Sounds simple but we have to maybe roll over, get on one leg, twist, brace our core, push off of one hip, stabilize through the hip, balance on one leg, and then plant both feet. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? This is why we need strength when flexed; say we aren’t stable in that stretched position at the bottom, something very quickly snaps and again ends up in a long recovery.
How do I gain flexibility? This can be done multiple ways and very easily. Start with a foam roller. To learn how to roll like a pro, visit my other blog post from August 2nd. Find those sore spots, usually calves and quads, and hold pressure there until discomfort subsides. After that, stretch out those areas to help tell your body the muscle length tension that you want.
How do I gain mobility? This is done by trying new things. Maybe next time you squat, overhead press, or do a pushup, try lightening the weight, taking it slow, and go through the full range of motion. Go down below 90 degrees in a squat with good control. When overhead pressing, go down to your chest, and up to lock out your arms. In a push up go down chest to floor and up to lock out.
Mobility and flexibility will come with consistency and practice. Take it one day at a time, slowly, and you’ll see improvements in your day to day life before you know it.