Posted by Janell:
I think most people feel like they need to work on their flexibility. While that is a noble endeavor, you are most likely trying to improve your mobility. What’s the difference? Let’s start with some definitions:
Flexibility: The ability for a muscle to lengthen passively through a range of motion
Mobility: The ability to move a joint actively through a range of motion.
OK, so that helps a lot – NOT! Basically, your muscle is built out of a bunch of cells called sarcomeres. The more sarcomeres you have in a muscle, the longer your muscle is. Since the body is so adaptable, if you don’t stretch your muscle to it’s full length at a regular frequency, you will lose those sarcomeres… which ultimately shortens the muscle. If you start stretching your muscle, then new sarcomeres will be added. Great! You’re thinking! This is the answer to my problems! But stretching for 30 seconds a day isn’t going to cut it. You have to stretch for at least 2 minutes at a time, consistently, over a pretty long time.
But it gets more complicated. Your muscle tone is actually managed by your nervous system. So even if you have the longest muscles in the world, if your nervous system doesn’t want your muscle to lengthen, they won’t. Simple as that. As an example… some people have an extremely hard time getting into a squat with weight on their back. Obviously you need to stretch your hamstrings or hip flexors, right? Well, not necessarily…. What if you hold on to something for support and try to squat without weight? Can you get into a squat position now? If you can, then your flexibility is fine! It’s your nervous system preventing your muscles from fully lengthening because it doesn’t feel safe.
Mobility on the other hand, is how well your joint moves through all the ranges of motion. It involves your muscle length and tone, your joint capsule, fascia, tendons, skin…. everything. Mobility training includes stretching as well as soft tissue work. It also includes moving your joint! Usually people will use tennis balls, foam rollers and other gadgets to help improve mobility. Spending 5 minutes a day will make a huge difference! All these tools are available at CrossFit Red Star. Go ahead and try them or ask if you’re not sure what to do!