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Mobility Vs. Flexibility – What’s the Difference?

in Southfield, MI

Mobility Vs. Flexibility – What’s the Difference?

It’s something of a misnomer to say mobility vs. flexibility. They’re not in competition. But neither are they same thing.

Both are important and work in tandem to reduce risk of injury both in athletic ventures and everyday movements. So it’s important that you focus on each one in whatever activities you partake.

Because flexibility without mobility is not going to provide the support you need for optimal movement.

The Distinction of Mobility Vs. Flexibility

The simplest way to explain how mobility and flexibility differ is to define each.

Flexibility has to do with the muscles. It’s essentially the ability of a muscle to be lengthened by lessening tone. Meanwhile, mobility is related to the joints. Traditionally, it was defined as the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion without pain or discomfort.

An increasingly modernized definition of mobility, however, addresses the ability to CONTROL movementthrough a range of motion. It encompasses  not just the movement of the joint, but the nervous system’s ability to relax and allow movement. It also addresses the neuromuscular system’s ability to activate muscles and control movement.

Such attention and focus on increasing flexibility and mobility while building strength through controlled movement is the benchmark of exercise programs like Pilates and GYROTONIC©.

Flexibility Works Within the Context of Mobility


Joints move more freely when working with flexible muscles. After all, if the muscles and tissues surrounding a joint are tight, it’s going to reduce the range of motion and decrease stability.

In this way, flexibility is actually a key component of mobility and not something separate from it. And certainly not in competition with it. The two work together – with mobility incorporating flexibility.

From the minute you get out of bed until you crawl back in later that night, mobility is essential. You want to be able to move freely and without pain or restriction. When range of motion is threatened or restricted, these everyday movements – as well as those you do at the gym or in a fitness class – are not properly executed. Instead, other muscles and joints compensate.

And that’s a recipe for injury.

The Danger of Hypermobility

When it comes to flexibility, there’s always the possibility of too much of a good thing.

The popularity of gymnastics, dance, and yoga has left onlookers continually impressed with those who are very flexible. And yes, watching someone put their feet behind their head or bend their spine in unimaginable ways is mesmerizing.

But in these cases, there is the risk of hypermobility. So while flexibility refers to lengthening the muscles, hypermobility is the condition of too much laxity in a ligament.

Muscles produce movement when they contract. And this contraction enables them to draw back together when stretched. Meanwhile, movement is further executed by ligaments that connect bones to one another. Unlike muscles, however, ligaments do not contract. So if they are elongated to their limit, they will remain lax.

A lax ligament can’t support a joint and if the muscles surrounding it are not properly strengthened, the result is pain and potential injury to the joint.

So Is There a Proper Way to Stretch?

There are two kinds of stretching – static and dynamic.

As the name implies, a static stretch is one where a position is held for longer amounts of time without moving. It helps to improve only flexibility. And if you’re already strong and your muscles are tight, this is very beneficial. They’re also good for doing post-workout. But if your tendency is to perform only static stretches, there’s a chance you’re neglecting your mobility.

By contrast, dynamic stretching includes movement. Lunges, twists, and squats are all examples of dynamic stretching. They incorporate movement that work joints and muscles. Thus, they improve both mobility AND flexibility. They also effectively warm and prepare the joints and muscles for strenuous movement. They’re beneficial in a pre-workout context to help avoid injury.

If you’re brand new to dynamic stretching, the movements can be foreign and are best executed with highly trained professionalswho can guide you through the proper alignment.

Looking to Increase Mobility and Flexibility?

Obviously, with flexibility as a component of mobility, it’s not really a matter of mobility vs. flexibility. Gaining strength while building flexibility through mobility is key.

So if you’re ready to explore the ways that increased mobility and flexibility can improve your everyday movements, contact ustoday. Our team of instructors and physical therapists will show you where to safely start and work with you every step of the way.