People who live an active life or play any sort of sport often use the words, ‘mobility’ and ‘flexibility’. There are a lot of videos and Instagram posts these days talking about mobility training. So if you are using the words mobility and flexibility in the same sense, you need to correct yourself and rightly apply the training.
Understanding mobility and flexibility
Mobility and flexibility are two different things. Let us take an example. You have kneaded a wheat dough to make roti (Indian flatbread). You kneaded them well and made excellent roti but now since you are left with some dough, you put it in the refrigerator. Now next day when you want to make the roti again, you knead the dough a bit more. Really a little bit and then make roti. If you make the roti without kneading, the dough shows poor flexibility and may crack. This is because the dough has poor elasticity and hence to get its elasticity back one needs to rework it, although a bit only.
So here you can say that the dough when fresh was flexible and could move well. The kneading of the dough converted it into the shape you needed. Hence kneading and shaping part is the mobility.
Application of flexibility and mobility
Let us take an example. You want to jump over an obstacle. You warm-up well and then take some strides to gain momentum and jump over. But as you take the jump, your lead leg is unable to reach high enough to cross the obstacle. Such jump needed hamstring muscles to stretch and allow the leg to move up. However, since there was a limit up to which it could be extended, the jump was not successful. The muscle, joints, tendons, and ligaments lacked flexibility although they performed well and had good mobility within the range of motion.
We often say before a walk or a run that we are feeling tight today. What is exactly the meaning of this ‘tight’? Well, this doesn’t mean that you need to start stretching to increase your flexibility but to stretch a bit and work on mobility.
Mobility can be defined within the range of motion of the group or soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, etc. Flexibility on the other hand is all about contraction and extension of soft tissues.
Working on flexibility and mobility
Now that we know the difference between flexibility and mobility, we also understand that these require different workouts. Flexibility may require more static stretching. As we do a stretch and hold the position, our muscles tend to adopt the extension and contraction forces leading to higher flexibility.
Mobility on the other hand requires dynamic stretching. This is extremely important before a run or a walk. Within one’s range of flexibility, we do dynamic stretches to increase mobility. In other words, mobility is the easy movement of the required group of soft tissues. Here word ‘easy’ makes all the difference. If you are putting an effort to stretch beyond a point, you are trying to become more flexible. However, within the flexible range of tissue, one works on mobility.
Treatments and benefits
There are times when we feel that one side or one leg is moving better than the other. We may have problems in symmetric motions due to imbalance or unequal mobility. H2FCARE will soon release videos to increase mobility and gaining the balance back in two weeks.
It is important to understand the difference and relate it to your goal. Someone wanting to run a marathon will need a different approach than a gymnast or a person involved in Asana. Also understanding the difference enables us to recognize the problem if we have and hence work towards the correct resolution.