Is it the same as flexibility?
Though the word ‘mobility’ might seem to be interchangeable with ‘flexibility’, we like to make a distinction. We think of flexibility being the possible range of movement for a joint – how far you can bend a finger back, for example. It’s a passive range of movement.
This means that flexibility is not necessarily useful. The passive range of a joint doesn’t relate to our ability to be in control of its position. This is where mobility comes in. We think of mobility as the range of movement of a joint that we are able to control, which is much more useful in daily life than flexibility.
Mobility is active
Let’s use the hip joint as an example. If I lie on my back with one leg on the floor and, keeping it straight, I pull the other leg towards my chest that will show my flexibility. If instead I don’t use my hands and pull my leg to my chest with my hip muscles, that will show my mobility – my active range of movement.
It’s usual for there to be a difference between passive and active range but the smaller we can make that difference the better. As well as making us less prone to injury increasing our mobility also helps with the stability that the previous post was about. Our ability to stabilise a joint will improve as the mobility of the joint improves.
3 Dimensions, again
The post about stability mentioned the idea of developing balance around a joint. Our brains are in charge of how much our muscles will stretch (or lengthen, to be precise) and if our brains know that there’s balance in the activity and strength of the muscles all around the joint they’ll be happier to allow more stretch.
Developing joint mobility is not a quick process but it goes hand in hand with stability. The more we develop our joint stability the more mobility we can gain, and vice versa. This is one of the reasons that Pilates is a ‘win, win’.
Next time: What do we mean by ‘balance’?