Flexibility and mobility are significant topics in the fitness world.
In fact, they’re so important because they help to improve your normal day-to-day activities and thus improve the quality of life
Even when people know what flexibility and mobility are, though, or understand how critical they are to overall fitness, we still get a lot of clients wondering how to increase flexibility and mobility.
In this blog, we’re tackling that question.
We’ll discuss the differences between flexibility and mobility, why they’re essential, and what you can do to enhance each for better fitness, a higher quality of life, and less discomfort daily.
Flexibility vs. Mobility 101
First things first – let’s do a quick overview of what flexibility and mobility are and why they matter.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is Flexibility?
Flexibility is the ability to bend or move without breaking or causing injury. In other words, it’s the type and range of motion that you can access passively (meaning you’re not under a load, and you’re not trying to control it).
Here’s an example of flexibility:
You lie on your back and someone (like a personal trainer or physical therapist) pushes your legs up as far as they can go.
In general, flexibility refers to the range of motion in a joint or group of joints. It’s a critical aspect of physical fitness since it ensures a greater range of motion, improved performance in physical activities, and a reduced risk of injury.
What is Mobility?
Mobility refers to a person’s ability to move actively, freely, and easily. Unlike flexibility, which is passive, mobility is active, meaning a person can control and leverage it. Compared to flexibility, mobility is more focused on the ability to perform movements rather than the range of motion of specific joints.
Mobility is the quality of movement and is closely related to flexibility, strength, and balance. To get mobility, a person needs both flexibility and stability.
Mobility is essential for maintaining physical health, reducing the risk of injury, and improving performance in physical activities.
5 Ways to Increase Physical Flexibility and Mobility
Each of us has a baseline level of flexibility and mobility that may change throughout our lives. Fortunately, flexibility and mobility aren’t rigid, and we can improve both through concentrated efforts.
Here are a few of the best and most efficient ways to increase flexibility and mobility, starting today:
- Strength training
If you want to improve your flexibility and mobility simultaneously, strength training is the best option.
Strength training exercises make your muscles and joints work harder than usual and can improve both mobility and flexibility. Exercises that target the muscles surrounding the joints can help increase stability and support range of motion.
Here are a few quick examples of muscle-strengthening activities for all fitness levels:
- Lifting weights
- Using resistance bands
- Climbing stairs
- Hill walking
- Sit-ups, push-ups, and squats
There are also a variety of gentle resistance exercises that can help you maintain mobility and flexibility as you age, including yoga, tai chi, and hiking.
Regular stretching is an integral part of improving flexibility and mobility. Dynamic stretching before exercise can help improve the range of motion, while static stretching after exercise can help reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility.
Still trying to figure out where to start? Some of the best stretching exercises to improve flexibility and mobility include dynamic lunges, stair calf stretches, lizard pose, lying quad stretch, overhead triceps stretches, standing hamstring stretches, and cat-cow pose (which you’ll likely remember from your favorite yoga class!)
- Balance Exercises
Balance exercises, such as yoga and Pilates, can help improve mobility and stability by strengthening the core muscles and improving proprioception (awareness of body position).
If you’re looking for a way to use balance exercises to improve flexibility and mobility, we recommend working with a personal trainer who can build them into your daily workouts and find ways to modify or scale them to help you get results.
In general, though, everyone can benefit from simple balance exercises like the following:
- Closing your eyes and standing on one foot.
- Basic yoga positions, like Warrior poses.
- Standing on the balls of your feet with your arms out to the side, then slowly lowering your arms down to your sides.
- Foam Rolling
Foam rolling can help release muscle tension and improve flexibility by targeting trigger points and increasing blood flow to the muscles.
If you’ve never foam rolled before, we recommend working with a personal trainer who can teach you the proper technique and tactics.
Once you’ve got the basics down, incorporate foam rolling as part of your daily activity or as a recovery or cool-down option on particularly heavy or sweaty workout days.
- Cardiovascular exercise
Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as running or cycling, can improve overall fitness and help increase mobility by improving circulation and reducing stiffness.
It is important to start gradually and progress slowly to improve flexibility and mobility to avoid injury.
Consult with a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program, and be sure to avoid over-reliance on cardio.
Here at Alloy, we like to mix cardio into our strength, flexibility, and mobility workouts as part of a more comprehensive functional fitness program that focuses on strength training first and cardio as a complement to those muscle-building activities.
Better Mobility and Flexibility Start Here
If you want to be fit and enjoy a strong, healthy, injury-free life, mobility and flexibility matter, and you should be actively working to enhance them.
Today, good mobility and flexibility are essential for maintaining physical health, reducing the risk of injury, and improving performance in physical activities, in addition to improving your posture and alignment, and decreasing everyday aches, pains, and stiffness.
Ready to get serious about improving your mobility and flexibility? Start working with an Alloy trainer who can design a workout program tailored to your needs, concerns, and pain points. Find an Alloy location near you!