Recently, I found myself googling "how to do a split" while simultaneously complaining about my stiff knees (a side effect of not moving around while working from home). Even at that moment, it felt ridiculous.
Clearly, my priorities aren't adding up here, which Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, and the founder of Movement Vault, happily put into perspective by sharing that flexibility is important. Still, it's only one piece of the puzzle. Mobility, on the other hand, is the entire puzzle.
Basically, you can have all the flexibility in the world, but if you can't move your muscles properly, you might not be able to put that flexibility into practice safely.
Wickham explains that flexibility passively lengthens a muscle, connective tissues, or a joint, while mobility moves your joint through a specific range of motion actively.
"When you increase your mobility, you automatically increase your flexibility."
"With mobility, your body and muscles are actively involved. Your muscles need to be able to contract and activate on one side of your joint, while the muscles on the other side of your joint stay relaxed."
Plus, focusing too much on flexibility and not enough on mobility can put you at risk of injury.
"Having too much flexibility, without being able to control the flexibility, again, which is mobility, can be dangerous and lead to injury. When your body and joints are put in a position that you can't control, bad things happen, such as muscle tears, ligament tears, and joint damage," Wickham says.
He adds that when a tight muscle or joint doesn't move the way it should, it causes compensation and stress in other joints and areas of the body. That's why improving mobility and flexibility together can help alleviate pain, decrease injuries, and increase your general physical performance.
For those reasons, Wickham likes to think of mobility work as daily maintenance that you are performing on your muscles and joints.
"Just like your car, your apartment, your house, and your pet — your body needs maintenance as well. When you don't spend the time correctly maintaining it, it is more prone to breaking down. When your body breaks down, it makes everything in life more challenging."
It all boils down to spending 10-to-15 minutes releasing your tight muscles and actively stretching every day — especially if you spend most of your day sitting, Wickham says.
And remember, if you start to experience pain or discomfort during any of these activities, stop immediately and call your doctor.