A trendy word in fitness these days is the word “mobility”. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word mobility? I’m not gonna lie, I think about those terrible commercials on TV that show elderly people using those grabber tools to get something from the top shelf. I also think about that same group of people who shuffle with a walker when they need to go somewhere. While those are in fact 2 examples of (the lack of) mobility, there is also a difference between flexibility and mobility. Mobility affects us all! Yes, the tiny elderly women, but also desk jockeys who spend long hours in front of the computer and strong athletes who train hard for their events. In today’s blog, we’re diving into mobility and flexibility for the last two examples that I gave. Let’s check out the difference between mobility, flexibility and how pilates can help increase both effectively!
Mobility is the ability of your joints in partnership with the surrounding muscles and tissue to move through their full range of motion. Let’s use your upper back (also known as your thoracic spine)as an example. Just for a minute, roll your shoulders forward and slouch your upper back. You know, like most of us do by the end of the work day at our desks. Now try and raise your arms. You’ll notice that you can’t raise your arms very high, can you? Now do the exact same movement, this time sitting up straight and making sure your abs are engaged. There’s a BIG difference in mobility between the two movements, isn’t there??
Mobility in your upper back is not only important to desk jockeys but also to many different athletes. Think about the movement examples above. How would that lack of mobility affect a golfer? Or a swimmer? Or even a triathlete?
Flexibility is the ability of your muscles to lengthen freely. An example of flexibility? Lay flat on the floor. Bring one leg into the air ( you may need to wrap a strap around your foot.) Can you bring your leg into the air freely? Or do your hamstrings shake and your knee stays bent?
The flexibility of the hamstring muscle group affects many people in many different ways. The person who sits at their desk for long hours may have tight hamstrings that in turn causes low back pain. A marathon runner who put in lots of miles may notice that their stride is shortened by tight hamstrings.
So how do mobility, flexibility and pilates tie together?
Pilates emphasizes core strength (which means your hips, hamstrings and abdominal muscles,) spinal mobility, and flexibility. Joseph Pilates called your core your “powerhouse”. With a strong core, you will notice better posture. With posture the opportunity to open your thoracic spine increases. Flexibility is easier to obtain when the mobility is there to help provide muscular length, providing you with a strong and more stable body to do the activities that you enjoy!
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