FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY
Flexibility is the lowest intensity-based modality of exercise included in our latest three-part exercise series. Flexibility plays a vital role in both the recovery and performance phases of aerobic and resistance based exercise.
When considering flexibility, it’s best thought of as the available passive range of your joints and limbs. Whilst flexibility is important, the term mobility should be the focus when targeting this modality of exercise. Whilst flexibility is the available passive range of joints, mobility refers to the active range of a joint. Meaning the range available through your own muscular contractions and not someone else moving you into a position.
Greater degrees of mobility provide a larger range for muscular contraction, theoretically meaning the possibility of faster and more powerful contractions, including jumping higher, running faster or throwing further. Flexibility, on the other hand, means a greater range of uncontrolled movement, which in turn means a greater range for potential injury. This means when initially looking to include flexibility or mobility into your weekly routine you should always consider how you are going to stabilise your joint through this new found range.
Everyone should include some degree of flexibility exercise into their weekly schedule, whether it be to help with the management of certain conditions, to assist in the management of pain or to improve your performance in a specific sport or task.
Improving your active range of movement in any given joint will allow you to perform a specific task in a less vulnerable position. For example, if you can touch your toes with your knees straight, then picking items up off the floor with your knees bent will place less stress on your hamstrings and posterior musculature. If our bodies are unable to move due to a limitation somewhere, they will compensate and find range from a different joint, which can result in injury.
Try this simple activity to better understand mobility and flexibility.
Place your forearm (palm facing upwards) on a table,
Now bend your wrist back towards you,
From this position, keeping the wrist bent, try and bend your fingers to make a fist.
You can’t! This is due to tension placed on the opposing muscle group, your wrist extensors. Now in the same position try and bend the two joints in your fingers, but keep the metacarpal-phalangeal joint (the knuckle) straight. This is much easier to do due to those forearm extensors not impacting the mobility of those finger joints.
This same tightness impacts every joint in your body, if your hamstrings prevent you from bending forwards, you find that range through your lower back. If your upper back if kyphotic (hunched), every time you reach overhead your shoulder has to find additional range elsewhere.
Regardless of your conditions or goals, improving and managing mobility can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re unsure of the best way to safely implement flexibility into your plan, speak to one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists and make an appointment.
ARE YOU PRONE TO INJURY OR WANTING A GREATER ACTIVE RANGE?
OUR EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS CAN HELP YOU IMPROVE YOUR MOBILITY
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Wian van Heerden