It feels as though everyone’s talking about it at the moment, flexibility, mobility, end range of motion. With so many opinions in the field it’s easy to be overwhelmed. So let’s break it down and answer the fundamental question of WHY these things are so important for the health of our bodies and to your training programme.
Firstly, mobility vs flexibility? Maybe you’re already well versed in this, but just to make the distinction very clearly before relating it to how it impacts us day to day. The clever chaps at FRC – Functional Range Conditioning (for which some of my training stems from) outline the differences below:
“The passive range refers to the angles that are only attainable through passive means (ie. The application of passive, external force)”
“The extent of controllable flexibility across articulations (flexibility plus strength), refers to the amount of USABLE motion that one possesses.”
So here the difference is where we can passively stretch our bodies – e.g. if you were standing up and began pulling one knee towards your chest – passively stretching your hip flexor and hamstring would be your passive flexibility. You being able to actively hold your knee in that position without the aid of your hands is your mobility in the area.
Why does it matter?
In our training we want to have the goal of decreasing the distance between where we can passively take a muscle and where we can actively control it. Where we have flexibility without the stability and the control that mobility brings, we leave ourselves less efficient. We also leave ourselves particularly liable to injury in the range that we can’t control (the distance between the passive and active range). If we were to be inadvertently forced into the range where we lack control. A good example would be if we were to fall unexpectedly. The mobility of the joint would dictate the ability of the body to protect itself from injury.
In sport a good example would be if a rock climber tried to perform an explosive movement on the wall. Perhaps the hold they were trying to get to was slightly out of reach. If the climber here were to explosively try and access an area further than their mobility allowed for, but where they had flexibility in the range, by putting that excess pressure on an unstable joint, the climber would be susceptible to injury.
Learning from Experience
This is something I can absolutely vouch for. A year of so ago I spent a lot of time increasing my hip flexibility in yoga – but not strengthening the range with my mobility training. This proved problematic when I tried to explosively reach a hold, the result of the lack of stability – a hip injury…ouch! It’s still something to this day that I’m working to better. So I’m here to help you skip out that long and unfun process, and keep your ligaments, tendons and joints safe, so you can easily prevent these things happening,
Unsexy and unglamorous to focus on, maybe. But your new found control in your range of motion will not only allow you to be more bad ass in whichever movement field you choose. It will also keep you doing what you love doing long term! Which is basically all that matters!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post dropping next week where we explore HOW to maintain and increase your ROM safely.