Mobility: What is it?
by Erik Castiglione
As members of our Relentless Family, I’m sure by now you’ve heard the word “mobility” thrown around pretty frequently. If not, you need to pay more attention in class! Many of you have a vague idea of what mobility is, but this month I want to give it a lot more attention. We’re going to have a series of articles all about mobility, and today we’re starting off with Mobility: What is it?
In the CrossFit community, mobility has become a sort of blanket term to encompass mobility, flexibility, and stability. CrossFit’s mobility guru, Dr. Kelly Starrett (you’ll see him on our mobility posters) defines mobility as “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.”
While this all-encompassing description is all well and good, it is important to understand the difference between mobility, flexibility, and stability. That way, you can address the physical attribute you intend you and be deliberate in your approach. So, here are the definitions:
Mobility – At a system level, mobility is the body’s ability to achieve positions. Zooming in to a joint level, mobility is a joint’s ability to achieve a particular range of motion.
Flexibility – Flexibility is simply the length of a muscle.
Stability – Stability is your soft tissue’s ability (muscles, tendons, ligaments) to support a joint in its range of motion
Why should we care about the difference? Well, all three are necessary for safe and proper movement, and all three are improved differently. Flexibility is improved through stretching, mobility is built through MOTION, and stability must be improved through muscle activation and strengthening. While there are a number of mobility drills that simultaneously work on these different attributes, using them without an understanding of what you’re actually trying to achieve can be an ineffective way to solve your issues. It is sometimes necessary to work on each in isolation.
Hopefully this broad overview gave you a better understanding of what we mean when we talk about mobility. In future articles, we’ll talk about why mobility is important, and how to go about working on it. Stay tuned!