Mobility vs. Flexibility: What’s The Difference?

Via CrossfitInvictus.com

“Written by Calvin Sun

I have spent over half a decade working in the fitness industry and, for better or worse, things have changed a great deal over the last few years. Among these changes, strength coaches and physical therapists have found themselves on convergent paths. Many PTs are required to have a certification in strength and conditioning and more coaches are finding themselves at seminars learning about myofasical release and techniques for increasing range of motion. In the past, coaches and trainers would simply instruct their clients on how to “stretch”, focusing on increasing flexibility by lengthening muscles that might be short and tight. Today, especially in the CrossFit community, we hear the term “mobilization” used in conjunction with or even in place of the word “stretching”. This has caused some confusion amongst coaches, clients, and their respective physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists. In a clinical setting, joint mobilization typically refers to a type of manual therapy intervention where a therapist will physically move the joint to help restore function and/or alleviate symptoms. However, more commonly, coaches are referring to the definition popularized by Kelly Starrett of San Francisco CrossFit and MobilityWOD. He describes mobilization as “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems”.

Mobility should be a proactive approach, not a reactive one. In other words, don’t wait until problems arise before you address them. Too often I will see athletes finish a workout that might have hundreds of repetitions of loaded squats or pressing and do absolutely nothing to address the potential issues that are usually right around the corner. Having said that, there’s a great deal you can do to prevent injury, speed recovery, and improve performance. We can break down mobilization into three primary modalities: soft tissue work, stretching, and joint mobilization.” Continued…