Can you understand what your gym buddies are talking about? Do half the things they say go straight over your head? In this series of posts I will define and help you understand some of the most commonly used terms in fitness today.
Can You Speak Fluent Fitness?
“This is a great exercise for stability.” “You need to work on mobility to improve your movement patterns.” “You should try this exercise; it’s more functional!” You may have heard these statements or many similar-sounding ones. There are many terms in the fitness world that get thrown around a lot. Today is your lucky day because I’m going to clarify them for you.
Flexibility – This term refers to a muscle’s maximum length. This can be improved through stretching, tissue work (massage, foam rolling etc) proper hydration and nutrition.
Mobility – The mobility of a joint is its ability to have full range of motion (ROM) in all directions. For a joint to have its full ROM, many factors are involved. The joint’s physical structure, the surrounding muscles’ flexibility, tendons, fascia and the nervous system’s control over the the surrounding muscles. Stretching alone is rarely enough to correct mobility issues. A combination of stretching, soft tissue work and corrective exercises is a far more thorough method.
Stability – Stability is the joint’s ability to resist movement in any position within its anatomical ROM when outside forces act on it. An example of an extremely stable joint would be the shoulders of an Olympic gymnast performing on the rings. His shoulder joints are experiencing some very large forces. On top of that, the shoulders are taken through a full ROM. The gymnast’s shoulders must be able to withstand the large forces in a wide range of positions. The other extreme would be someone who perhaps feels pain when fastening a seat belt or someone suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome. This person’s shoulder is likely moving out of position, perhaps pinching a nerve when moved in certain directions. This is very unstable.
Stability, Mobility or Flexibility? Which should I work on?
All of them! To have a fully functioning, pain-free, athletic, efficient and long-lasting body, you will need to work on stability, mobility and flexibility (and more areas) as we talked about above. Flexibility is a contributor to mobility and stability. Poor stability could lead to poor mobility in the same joint. Or even a different joint!
An example would be someone who has poor ankle stability. The body will sense this instability and begin to make compensations in the knee and favor movements in one direction and avoid them in the other. This has a knock-on effect to the hips. Now maybe one hip tends to want to ride lower than the other because of the unstable ankle. The spine then has to compensate all the way to the head. Now because of one unstable joint, all joints are likely to become unstable. This will lead to decreased athletic performance, joint pain, decreased strength, decreased ROM and faster deterioration of joints to mention a few nasty side effects.
On the flip side, poor mobility could lead to poor stability.
Someone could have poor mobility when raising their arm above their head. To compensate for this they may arch their lower back. This movement becomes reinforced the more they do it. Now the lower back is out of alignment and unstable. From there, the same knock-on effect happens throughout the body.
How To Stay Mobile and Stable
Try this full body flexibility routine that will help to maintain and increase your mobility.
To maintain good lower body and core mobility and stability, try out Multi-Planar Lunges
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