Stop trying to be flexible
I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and how it works. While being schooled in chiropractic, I found myself longing for more. I found that the more I learned, the more questions I had. It was a vicious cycle of knowledge thirst that had begun and I do not think it will ever be quenched. These analogies make it sound like a burden, but I believe it is a good quality I developed.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s dive into this topic of what ‘Mobility’ is and what ‘Flexibility’ is. From what I have read and from what I have heard, especially working with athletes in a wide array of gyms and athletic facilities is that these two terms are used interchangeably.
Flexibility is defined as capable of being bent or flexed. This definition implies that whatever it is that has the ‘capability’ is being passively altered. For instance, a person lifts there leg up onto a bench to stretch their hamstrings before a run. The bench in this situation is providing the ‘passive’ component.
Mobility is defined as capable of moving or of being moved readily from place to place. This is where the disconnect occurs in our terminology or what is actually meant. This definition plays both sides of the field, lending itself to being ‘active’ by saying ‘capable of moving’ and ‘passive’ by saying ‘being moved.’
Lets finally obliterate this misconception and nerd out a little bit. The next time you hear your doctor or even your coach/trainer speaking to you about these two objective findings make sure he or she knows what is meant by the terms.
So as the great DJ Kool once said, “Some of ya’ll might know this, and some of ya’ll don’t…I hope ya don’t mind, let me clear my throat.”
- The ability to reach a range of motion through a passive means.
- Useless, meaning, why would you want to reach a certain range of motion that your body otherwise could not reach without “help,” (The bench, for example, from our previous hypothetical situation)
- A misguided goal of many people, whether a manual therapist, trainer, or athlete because over the years flexibility has been considered a quality of trait of athleticism. My point here being, why place your leg on a bench to simply stretch your hamstring, when you can train your body to achieve the exact same range of motion without the use of the bench. Does that not sound like a better option? This leads me to the subject of mobility, in the truest sense of the word.
- The ability to reach a desired range of motion through active
- Useful flexibility, meaning, using nothing but your own body and body control to achieve a desired range of motion.
- Can be progressed and maintained via specific training.
- It improves body control as well as awareness.
- You gain flexibility, with the added benefit of the tissue strength to hold your body at a certain range of motion.
- Benefits articular or joint health/function.
- Serves as a marker to assess movement potential.
My point here was not to just reference DJ Kool, but to educate literally anyone who uses their body on what it means to progress flexibility versus mobility. Why be flexible, when you can be mobile.
Dr. Jeffrey Batis, DC
Seneca Chiropractic & Family Wellness