When it comes to fitness, there is more to it than just pure strength. Flexibility and mobility have a significant impact on overall performance. It’s not uncommon for the average-joe to have the misconception that mobility and flexibility have the same meaning. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are in fact different from one another.
This refers to the ability of your muscles to stretch, it is essentially the lengthening of a specific muscle. Flexibility tends to diminish with age and is augmented by a sedentary lifestyle – with the increased reliance on technology, this is becoming increasingly relevant for much of the population. When used correctly, flexibility training allows the average person to perform everyday activities with relative ease. Whether it’s playing with your kids after school, getting out of bed, or sweeping the floor, being flexible will not only help you enjoy your life but it will likely improve your longevity.
When it comes to stretching, it should never be painful. The main objective is to bring the muscle to a certain tension point that promotes muscle lengthening. Different techniques can be utilized to increase flexibility. The two main methods are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching consists of holding a given position for a certain amount of time, whereas dynamic stretching focuses on the movements of muscles that go into a particular stretch repeatedly to improve range of motion over time.
This method of stretching is typically used to help improve performance for sport-specific and functional movements because it helps to warm up your muscles.
By implementing some dynamic stretching before your workout, you will notice that your range of motion and flexibility will improve. You will also feel stronger and these stretches will increase your performance (speed, agility, and acceleration).
Try this short dynamic stretching routine before your workout and you’ll be sure to notice the difference in how smooth your body will feel throughout different movements. A good starting point is to perform each stretch for about 15-30 seconds and repeat at least twice.
This method of flexibility training focuses on taking a specific joint through a full range of motion stretch for at least 20-30 seconds and repeating the same stretch two to three times. The purpose of a static stretch is to overcome the contraction/tightening of a specific muscle, which usually relaxes after approximately 20 seconds which leads to an increased range of motion.
By performing the following static stretches for approximately 20-30 seconds each at least 4 times a week you will notice an increased range of motion throughout the targeted muscles.
When talking about mobility, it should be seen an umbrella covering a variety of factors that may affect the range of motion of a specific joint. In other words, flexibility is connected to mobility, and mobility itself is an ‘umbrella’ term that includes many components like flexibility. To dive in deeper, the focus of mobility exercises is to address elements that limit performance and movement, including tight muscles, joint restriction, joint range of motion, soft tissue restriction and more.
If you are not implementing some mobility work in addition to your flexibility exercises, you are most definitely restricting yourself from improving your range of motion and overall physical performance.
Common body parts that benefit most from dynamic stretching are the knees, shoulders, hips and upper back. If you rather not spend the money at a sports physiotherapist and are looking for a way to assess those areas, try the following steps to help loosen those areas up:
- Foam Rolling: A self-massaging technique to help release tight areas and knots in your muscles.
- Dynamic and Static Stretching: Stretching techniques used to relieve muscle tightness, increase blood flow and overall body temperature.
- Soft Tissue Release: Another type of self-massaging method that utilizes different tools such as a lacrosse ball, golf ball, pressure point massage stick, and more.
It’s important to remember that training for flexibility and mobility go hand in hand but differ in the way that they are approached. Start off by working the areas that you know are tight and have limited movement. In addition to keeping loose and limber, adding a physical activity that you enjoy will supplement the progress you’ve made – check out our “What is the Best Workout for You?” for ideas to get started.