Mobility doesn’t equal flexibility

August 29, 2019

Mobility doesn’t equal flexibility.

There I said it.

And static stretching has the potential to worsen an injury, if one is present! So how do we become more mobile? Why do we need mobility? and what even is mobility?

Mobility is about having the ability for joints to move through the full range of motion, with NO pain and ease of movement! It is essentially how you and your body move together. The more mobility you have, the more self-awareness you gain.

And, do you know what happens when you have more self-awareness? You know when something doesn’t feel right, sooner, within your body, such as a possible injury. Mobility means you catch the signs of an injury when it first happens, leading you to get the help you need and stop the pain in its tracks. Isn’t that amazing?!

 

We need to be mobile. Simple as that. We need to be able to move through day-to-day life in order to get from Place A to Place B.  Surprisingly, strength training assists with this. “Hold up !” you might be thinking, “doesn’t increasing strength mean limiting the range of motion of those joints?” No! The stronger the joints, the more control you have over those joints, therefore more mobility you have! Therefore, if you want to get more mobile, get stronger.

Furthermore, when enhancing mobility in our bodies, it is important to do incremental changes. This allows the body to adapt slowly and not go “What the heck are you doing?!?!” when you decided to foam roll your quads for 30 minutes once a week.

 

Everyone benefits from working on their mobility. How do I know this? If you think about it, most people stay within a limited range of motion for the majority of the day (i.e., sitting at a desk). This means you’re essentially missing half of your range of motion at your hips during the day! Also, when most people are moving, they typically move in one direction, I haven’t bumped into anyone (yet) that walks side-to-side. This again, limits our range of motion! The limited range of motion can cause a decrease in the sought, after mobility, leading to faulty movement patterns, which then leads to loss of movement economy, therefore a loss of energy and can make you prone to more injuries! It’s a giant chain reaction.

So, what can you do to increase your mobility? Exercise and massage! The two things I know best. Some simple exercises to add in throughout your day could include:

  • Leg Swings: swing your legs side to side, increasing your hip mobility and getting them to move in a direction they don’t normally move in
  • Frankenstein Walks: Bring your legs up in front of you, with control, while walking, increasing the hip range of motion again, working on balance and proprioception.
  • Walking lunge: Working on that hip range of motion, along with balance and proprioception.
  • Deep-body weight squats: Get down as low as you can without toppling over. This is a great position to be in if you just want to hang out. Watching tv and a commercial comes on? Go into that deep squat, your hips will thank you.
  • Getting up off the ground and going back onto the ground: This is an easy movement you can easily do throughout the day.
  • Hitting the door frame when you walk through a door: This is working on the shoulder mobility, when was the last time you raised your arms above your head.

 

And what about massage?

Start incorporating self-massage with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and a softer balls into your everyday routine.

You can use the foam rollers on larger parts of your body, such as your back and hamstrings. Use the harder lacrosse balls, on more specific areas that are deeper, such as a trigger point in the upper trap and use a softer ball to  work on the connective tissue covering the muscles to get nutrients into the fascia. The forearms are a good place to try that one! Remember to go up incrementally, only do self-massage for about 3 minutes whenever you can fit it in, in your day. This will also better prepare your body for a massage when you see a massage therapist, allowing you to reap the rewards better.

Now, when you go for your massage treatments with a massage therapist (such as myself), please forget the slogan “No pain, no gain”. This is absolutely wrong and no intense pain should be felt during a massage. Increased pain during a massage could cause the opposite effect of the intended results. Making your muscles go into protective mode and making them stiffer than they were before.

So remember:

  • mobility doesn’t mean flexibility
  • strength enhances mobility

And forget:

  • No pain, no gain

And there you have it. Mobility is important in injury prevention, self-awareness, coordination and generally better movement. You can incorporate mobility exercises throughout your day, and it never hurts to see a massage therapist to get your tissue moving!

 

Dylan Crake
R. Kin,
Registered Massage Therapist