There seems to be a bit of confusion around the concepts of flexibility and mobility. So let's begin with a couple of definitions. Flexibility is the ability to flex, extend, or circumduct a joint through its intended full range of motion. So we're talking about the length of the tissues here, nothing more.
Mobility, or joint mobility, is the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion, with control. So mobility is based on active movement while flexibility involves static holds, and is dependent upon gravity or passive forces. Mobility also requires strength to produce full-range movement, whereas flexibility is passive, and does not require any strength.
Many individuals prepare for their training by performing routine stretches prior to their workout. And while stretching helps to improve static (non-moving) flexibility, it's important to remember that it may not do such a good job at preparing your body to move quickly and efficiently. That's why I recommend mobility exercises before the workout. Dynamic mobility exercises prepare your body for the vigorous movements that make up the more demanding part of the workout.
Joint mobility exercises work by circulating the synovial fluid in the bursa, which "washes" the joint. Since the joints have no direct blood supply, they are nourished by this synovial fluid, which simultaneously removes waste products. Joint salts, or calcium deposits, are also dissolved with the gentle, high-repetition movement patterns of the exercises.
When performed correctly, joint mobility exercises can restore complete freedom of movement to the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, spine, neck, elbows, wrists and fingers. If there was ever such a thing as the fountain of youth, joint mobility exercises would have to be one of the best ways to achieve it!
So use mobility exercises as your warm-up and do flexibility work after the workout as part of the cool-down to restore tissue length and prevent long term injury. Static exercises help bring the body back to a state of rest and recovery and allow you to focus on relaxing and lengthening the muscles that you had put under stress while you were working out.
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Article by Mikki Reilly, BA, MFS, of FitnessTransform. Visit her web site, www.fitnesstransform.com, where you'll find online personalized training programs, as well as a wealth of news, information and tips that will help you transform your health, fitness and overall quality of life.