The fitness community often uses a lot of words that are very confusing, especially for people who are new to exercise or just getting back into it after a while. I have been having a lot of conversations with clients and friends lately about stretching vs. mobility work, and though some of them are regular exercisers, they still didn’t understand the difference…(which is really what prompted me to write this blog and clear up any confusion).
First, let me start off by saying that stretching and mobility work are both great for your body and should really be incorporated as part of your training routine (especially warm-up).
The key difference is that stretching or flexibility refers to the lengthening of muscles i.e. quads, lats, hamstrings; whereas, mobility work focuses on taking your joints through a full range of motion, i.e. making a circle with your arm (shoulder joint), swinging your hips side to side etc.
Let’s look at an example… Have you ever tried to touch your toes?
If you have, and you’re able to, that means you possess both: 1) a highly mobile hip joint; and 2) adequate flexibility of the hamstrings and your back in order perform that movement.
If you can’t touch your toes, it’s okay! You may just be a little less mobile at the hip or experience slight tightness in the back of your legs.
In the event you want to be able to execute a certain movement (and touch your toes for example), you can always train to increase the range of motion at your joints so that they become more mobile, and/or implement flexibility training to get your muscles more loose!
So now you may be wondering…”Why is it important to stretch the muscles and mobilize the joints as part of my training routine?”
Well for starters, mobility is a crucial aspect of being healthy. It decreases your chance of injury by being able to move your joints freely through their range of motion, and it will help you become stronger by performing exercises correctly with unrestricted movement. Not to mention it keeps the joints healthy by bringing blood to its surrounding tissues and keeps them fluid.
Flexibility is especially important for people when some of their muscles are tight and become shortened. For example, people who sit at a desk throughout the day may experience tight hip flexors. By performing some exercises, such as the active hip flexor stretch, it may help them loosen up and prevent future muscle imbalances.
What can happen if we neglect mobility work and flexibility overtime, is our muscles may become tight and shorten, and the joints can turn stiff. This can lead to poor posture, decreased range of motion, suboptimal performance, pain, injury and diminished physical capabilities (inability to run, play golf, raise arm overhead, dance etc.)
The good news is that many muscle imbalances and less-than-ideal joint mobility can be improved with time and proper exercise. But it’s really crucial to take the preventative approach, get ahead and add stretching and mobility into your workout routine, so that you don’t have to deal with the negative consequences and run your body as smooth as a well-oiled machine!
If you’re interested in learning more, looking to improve your health and optimize performance and movement, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org
And to get you started, here is a little flow pattern you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Happy mobilizing!!