Mobility Vs. Flexibility: Clearing Up The Confusion

I know you’ve heard, or at least read, these terms before. But what do they mean, exactly?

They’re often used when discussing how flexible someone is. Or if you’re trying to increase your body weight squat depth, someone may tell you to work on your hip mobility.

The problem with this view is it’s not a ‘this or that’ type of situation because mobility and flexibility are closely intertwined. And you can’t have one without the other.

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Flexibility Explained

When you’re flexible, your soft tissues (muscles) tolerate a stretch more easily than someone who is considered tight.

Think about when you’re standing up straight. Your hamstrings are in a lengthened position. So when you bend over to touch your toes, your current flexibility will determine if you can do so comfortably.

If you ever notice it’s hard to put your body into a position like touching your toes or sitting cross-legged, it’s because the muscles are tense. They essentially “fight back” against the stretch and lengthening. And the tension makes getting into these positions difficult.

Sinking down into a full squat might be hard for you because of tight hips, calves, or back muscles.

As a result, your flexibility limits will cause a lack of mobility.

Understanding Mobility

When discussing mobility, it’s more about how your body moves through space. Body mobility in general includes actions like getting out of bed or off the ground after you trip and fall.

You can also think about it in regards to specific body areas, such as how easily you can flex and extend your arms, legs, or hips through a full range of motion.

The Mobility Vs. Flexibility Debate

Flexibility is often thought of as a ‘passive’ trait. Think about someone you know who can sit down without any warmups and do a full split. You’d say they were flexible.

Mobility tends to remind us of something ‘active.’ Think about how you’re moving for a specific reason, like sinking down into a pistol squat. Or doing the frogger, which requires a lot of hip mobility.

But, you can’t have this mobility without being flexible and vice versa. Because they’re both connected, a better way to think about this is from a practical standpoint. What activities do you need to be doing to achieve your movement goals?

If you need to reach your arms overhead but struggle to do so, it might be that your lats are tight, and you’ll need to work on improving that.

The Right Type of Stretching

With stretching, we have two types: passive (static) and dynamic (active). We recommend both because they work well.

But what you do will be up to you and your goals. When you stretch, there has to be a purpose. Instead of ‘being flexible’ for the sake of it, we’d rather you pick a goal.

If you want to squat with deeper, better form and without pain, what muscle groups are limiting you? The answer will determine how and what muscles you stretch.

Passive stretching is where you get into a stretched position and then hold it for a period of time. Think about when you sit on the floor and bend forward to grab (or try to) your toes. You might hold this for 30 to 60 seconds, slowly easing into the stretch.

Dynamic stretching, where you swing your arms or legs back and forth, or kneel into a lunge position, are also helpful.

The main difference here is the time spent in the stretched position. How many forward lunges would you need to equate to 30 seconds of a static hip flexor stretch?

You’re likely better off sitting into the lunge position for 3 sets of 60 seconds if your goal is to be more flexible.

Don’t Get Hung Up On This Debate Between Mobility And Flexibility, M’kay?

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This also comes down to where you are individually. If your squats are tight, it’ll take you longer to work through all the muscles involved than it would for someone with a better range of motion.

And that’s okay. We want you to know that it’s a process and you can get more flexible over time if you want to.

If you’re one of those people who’s already flexible, you can maintain it quite easily. You only need to perform dynamic movements often to hang onto your flexibility.

Be Wary of ‘Mobility Experts’

If you’re concerned about your mobility, you’re not alone. It’s a common word thrown around. And you’ve likely read about the ‘dangers’ of your ‘stiff’ condition.

But understand this… lots of so-called ‘experts’ prey on your lack of understanding about this concept. And they want to sell you on fixing your mobility and flexibility with a complex technique.

And you better act fast because there are limited copies of their PDF program. 😂

But I’m here to tell you this: there is nothing special or magical about getting more flexible and mobile. It’s all about doing the work on a regular basis.

For example, if you sit in a chair 8 hours per day, your hips are bound to be tight. The solution? It’s not a fancy massager or supplement to loosen up those muscles.

It’s regular, dedicated stretching and exercise that will reverse your stiffness. It’s getting down on the floor and stretching those hips often. That’s what’s going to work, nothing else.

Improving Flexibility And Mobility, The Smart Way

Remember. You can’t have flexibility without mobility. They’re both intertwined and you can’t get one without the other.

Everyone needs some stretching and movement daily. The amount you need will vary based your goals and level of current flexibility.

But we recommend regular stretching and regular movement for just about everyone. And when you follow our programs, you get a good dose of strength mixed in with flexibility work. And those two combined have served thousands of our clients very well over the years.

Build Flexibility That Actually Helps You Move

GMB Mobility is a guided program that improves your total body mobility. You’ll resolve restrictions so you can finally move and perform your best.

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