Mobility vs. Flexibility- What's the Difference?

Take a walk through any gym and you'll hear the words “flexibility” and “mobility” used interchangeably. The common misconception is that if you stretch enough you will remain mobile and ready to move. The typical "mobility" routines involve stretching and passively holding position without active movement.

This may overtime help the flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding body region; however, flexibility and mobility are not the same thing. In fact, your flexibility may not be a great predictor of mobility at all.

Mobility is not simply stretching. Mobility refers to the capacity to move using active, stable and controlled motion.


Why does it matter?

Flexibility does not improve function or performance by itself. Mobility however represents usable motion that can be used to maximize movement capacity, safely , efficiently and effectively.

“Strength without the mobility needed to use it is a fallacy. Flexibility without the strength to control it is a liability.”

Benefits of Improved Mobility:

Joint Health

When a joint maintains mobility, the components of the articular connective tissue remain strong and resilient. Maintaining joint mobility is key for preserving long term health and longevity and is shown to slow the progression of degenerative processes in joints.

Performance Enhancement

Strength and control over a wide range of motion is a vital component to force production. Regardless of your sport or functional endeavor, improved mobility will allow you to transfer energy more safety and efficiently.

Injury Prevention

Many injuries among the active population occur near end ranges of motion. Improving strength and motor control will help stabilize joints to minimize stress on de-conditioned tissues.

How do I Improve?

In order to truly enhance your mobility we must first expand our range of motion. This consists of muscle and joint capsule extensibility. We refer to this effort as "Gaining the Range". This process can be accelerated with the use of myofascial release techniques and low load, long duration stretching of muscle and connective tissue structures.

The second step is to teach the nervous system to utilize those ranges of motion so you’re not just passively stretching. We refer to this as "Training the Range".

Intelligent mobility training works by expanding the body’s ranges of motion, while simultaneously teaching the nervous system how to control the newly acquired ranges.

To put it simply, with safe training methods we are able to improve passive ranges of motion and convert them into usable, active ranges that will enhance performance and prevent injury in any physical endeavor.

About the author

Dr. Dale Bartek

Dale Bartek is a physical therapist and performance enhancement specialist with nearly a decade of elite-level training experience and advanced skills in manual therapy and functional dry needling.

Dale practices in Las Vegas, Nevada where he has helped treat some of the world's top athletes including MLB All-Stars, Olympic Gold Medalists, and top NCAA athletes from around the country.

Dale is committed to continued learning and helping people achieve their physical therapy, fitness, performance and personal goals. He has a strong passion and a vision of combining high performance strength training principles, elite sports performance physical therapy, and pain free training approaches to revolutionize the way athletes look, feel, function and perform.