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Do you strive to become more flexible?

Updated: May 24

We often hear from clients this desire to be more flexible and less tight. What if we told you that stretching is not going to take that feeling of tightness away? While many people assume that flexibility and mobility are interchangeable, there is actually a big difference between the two.

Prior to recent research, stretching was held as the gold standard for not only gaining more flexibility but also the tool to use when things felt “tight”. Although stretching may feel good, recent studies have shown that it does not have long-term effects. When performing static stretches for short periods of time, it is only focusing on the surface level of the muscle and is not accessing the deepest tissue, the joint capsule, which is where your brain receives the message first to move.

Without training the joints, there is little to no improvement on functional movement. This is where mobility comes in.



Flexibility:

Flexibility is defined as the maximum range you can move a joint passively — pulling on your leg in a hip stretch, for example, or bending forward into a hamstring stretch and reaching for your toes

Mobility:

Mobility is defined as the maximum range you can actively control in a movement of a joint for example, slowly rotating your arms overhead, or lifting your knee as high as possible using hip strength only.


An easy way to feel the difference between the two is to try this exercise:

Come to standing and raise your knee towards your chest while only using the strength in your hip. Your hip mobility is defined by how far your knee travels without assistance. Then place your hands on your knee, and actively pull it closer to your chest. This stretch shows your overall flexibility in the hip.

Notice a gap between the two?


Most people have this idea that when they’re flexible, or bendable, they will automatically be able to use that flexibility to produce active movement. However, if there is never active training happening to strengthen and close the gap between the passive range of motion and the active range of motion the flexibility isn’t usable.

Passive stretching cannot achieve active results because the intensity is so low that a true strengthening effect isn’t being attained.


So, should you strive to be flexible?


Instead, strive to be mobile.

It’s important to note that stretching still has its benefits, however, without the implementation of actively engaging each joint through their fullest ranges of motion (often) and strengthening those end ranges, stretching will only get you so far.

By moving your joints actively you are not only lengthening the muscles surrounding the joint you are also strengthening the muscles and enhancing your joint's range of motion which will provide more body control, less risk of injury, and an overall improved range of motion.



More range of motion equals more freedom to move well and feel good.


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