What is Mobility?
There’s a fundamental difference between flexibility and mobility, but the two are often confused even by coaches and trainers. Before we go any further we’re going to explain difference between the two…
- Mobility is the ability to actively control movement through the full range of a joint.
- Flexibility is the ability of the body part to be moved passively through a range of movement.
In English what this means is that mobility is the ability to move your body with control through a full range of motion – squat depth is a great example. If your mobility is good you’ll be able to perform a squat and break parallel with your thighs, whilst maintaining upright posture and a tight core.
Flexibility is the ability of the body to be passively moved. A flexible person may be able to hold onto the back of their leg and pull their head down until their forehead touches their knee. But (and this is the key part), they wouldn’t be able to put their head to their knee without the help of holding on to their leg.
Why is Mobility so Important?
Safe range of movement is key to reducing injury frequency, especially in sports that require lots of dynamic movement. Evidence suggests that sports-specific movement control programmes can result in a targeted reduction in injuries , which is important if you’re new to a sport or have started to pick up recurring injuries.
Sports such as running, which involve impact forces, direction changes and fatigue-associated torso rotation are known to be problematic for a lot of people, especially in the early days of their running career. You’re most likely to suffer from small movement-related injuries at the start of exercise career.
Good Mobility is a Pre-Cursor to Good Training and Technique
If you’re able to achieve correct positions in your training, you’ll be able to perform exercises effectively, with good form and that will translate into your sporting performance and your resistance to injury. Mobility forms the basis of most training programmes, usually incorporated at the start of the session in the warm up, so your body is primed and ready for movement before you begin the real work.
If you watch videos of top athletes training, you’ll see they’re all doing mobility work – whether it’s cyclists performing ankle mobility drills, runners performing hip mobility work or even weightlifters performing thoracic spine and shoulder mobility exercises, even athletes at the very top are placing a lot of importance on mobility. It doesn’t stop once you’re mobile – it’s maintained.
Where Do I Start with Mobility?
First of all you have to have your mobility assessed accurately. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is considered one of the most effective mobility tests  when used by an experienced practitioner. If you’re competing at a high level we’d suggest an FMS assessment to help identify areas of weakness in your mobility. If you’re not competing at a high level but you’re picking up a lot of unexplained injuries then a thorough FMS may uncover the route cause.
If you aren’t picking up injuries but feel as though you could do with improving your mobility, you could try these basic mobility tests. These are simple tests and will give you a basic overview of mobility issues you may have, showing you areas that may need addressing in more detail.
Improving Mobility is More Than Just Stretching
Mobility is a combination of flexibility and strength. You need muscle, fascia and connective tissue flexibility in order to be mobile, but you need strength to control movement and resist repeated stresses of the tissues. Working on them both is a good strategy, because most people will focus purely on flexibility and ignore the mobility aspect of movement training.
Incorporating dynamic exercises have shown to improve mobility more effectively than stretching alone , so mobility improvement drills should always include exercises to strengthen all of the stabilising muscles around a joint.
There isn’t the space to suggest specific mobility drills in this article, but once you have identified the areas of mobility that need addressing in your body, take a look at YouTube videos. Dr Aaron Horschig’s ‘Squat University’ YouTube channel has particularly excellent mobility drills for all areas of the body.
All mobility needs to be performed with warm muscles and connective tissues. When the body has been warmed up thoroughly the tissues are more supple, flexible and able to extend their functional ranges without risking injury.
The improved blood flow brought about by KYMIRA infrared products makes them the ideal clothing choice for mobility work. The KYMIRA training range allows you to cover the upper and lower body, giving yourself an additional training benefit without having to do additional warming up. KYMIRA infrared technology increases natural Nitric Oxide production, that improves muscle condition and elasticity. With the increases in circulation, tissue oxygenation and energy production in cells, muscle strength has been shown to increase by 12.44%, supporting both the strength and flexibility enhancements needed for mobility training.
Prioritising mobility work every week in training will help to ensure you maintain healthy joints, tissues and movement for a long, long time.
To view the KYMIRA training range, look here.