Since I started my movement journey, I came across different aspects, concepts and ideas related to what our body needs to move with ease and pain free.
In my head I knew I could move my joints with amplify ranges of motion and no control, which is a characteristic of a hypermobile person. I also knew that I was flexible because of gymnastics, however, I still lacked range of motion in some of my joints and I still felt pain when performing certain movements. So, I started to explore these concepts, what they mean and why do we have to work on both.
Flexibility vs Mobility.
Physical Therapist Joseph Gambino owner of Par Four Performance says that “Flexibility is the ability of a muscle(s) to lengthen”. Think of it like our Pilates resistance band. If you pull both ends and it stretches like any good exercise band should, it’s flexible. We have elastic components in our muscles that allows them to stretch like a band and come back to their original length.
Gambino also says that “Mobility on the other hand is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion.” Now let’s think about our Hip Joint. This is a ball-and-socket kind of joint and it’s design so you can move your leg forward and backwards, side to side and in circles. However if you can’t move your leg in one of those directions (let’s say that you can’t lift your leg to at least 70 degrees) that’s a lack of mobility and this can increase the risk of injuries or other movement issues down the track.
So, flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch and Mobility is the ability of a joint to move.
But there is more happening inside our bodies. There are ligaments, tendons, fascia, bones, muscles, and everything is connected. You see, the way a human body works is incredibly smart. When something is lacking, something else will compensate and here is when the problems and the pain starts.
Each part of our body has and individual role, and if that part is lacking the freedom to perform it work correctly (for example arm completely extended overhead), another part of our body will start to do a job that is not meant to do. That means that something is underworking and other something is overworking.
Cara Ann Senicola, physical therapist with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City says that “Muscles can have good flexibility but be overactive (hypertonic) because they are trying to make up for a lack of stability elsewhere”. “Muscles that cross multiple joints are muscles that tend to move us. Stabilizing muscles tend to cross only one joint. When the stabilizers are not doing their job well – or a person’s posture does not allow them to do their job – mover muscles try to stabilize. But because they cross multiple joints, they end up limiting joint mobility.”
Now, lots of people focus on “stretching” only and here is the thing, it doesn’t matter how much you stretch because the effect it’s only temporary, you need to increase the range of motion of your joints in order to give more space for the muscle to move. This is the reason why you need to combine flexibility with mobility work.
Motion is Lotion. You need to lubricate your joints with movement Every.Single.Day. A lot! Every time you have the chance. The more your work, the more you create that connection with your central nervous system so it can feel safe and allow you to move with freedom.
We do a lot of mobility work in our Pilates classes (good quality lotion!) to prepare your body for the workout ahead. We go through all the joints because they are connected. And you can do this mobility sequence every day, before a walk, when you wake up or before going to sleep. It’s better to go gentle and regularly than just do it a couple of time a week with full-force.
Wanna feel strong and free within your own body? Just keep Moving!