The terminology used within the fitness industry can be quite confusing for anyone that isn’t a personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist. Words like mobility, stability, and power are thrown around often without a firm definition that coincides. This can make it difficult when trying to weed through the copious amounts of information out there.
Here are some commonly used terms with their definitions, which will help you understand how they differentiate from one another:
Flexibility is defined as the ability of muscles or muscle groups to lengthen passively. An easy way to picture this is to imagine somebody lifting one of your legs to stretch your hamstrings. The person is adding an external resistance to your body that is aiding you into the stretch.
Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion. When comparing this with flexibility, this is the ability of the neuromuscular system moving the joint from point A to point B without any external assistance.
Strength is most often described as the maximum amount of force you can exert against an external force. On the Titleist Performance Institute, strength is described as the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.
We all want to develop strength, but how do we know if the work we’re doing in the gym actually is actually carrying over to the golf course? Like golf, our body is subjected to varying amounts of internal and external forces throughout everyday life. The ability to control our body and withstand these forces are essential for joint health and longevity with any physical activities you pursue.
Strength is important when discussing the differences between mobility and flexibility? Why? Mobility and strength go hand-in-hand, and we firmly believe you can’t have one without the other.
Not sold on this concept yet? Here’s a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The study compared the results of a 16-week long flexibility and strength training program. The participants trained 3 times weekly, and they tested to see what the impact was on flexibility in women. It was concluded that both the strength and flexibility programs were responsible for improving overall flexibility.
If strength training can help us maintain or improve our flexibility levels, it indicates that mobility is more than passively moving a joint through space. Mobility is a complex training characteristic that is determined not just by our flexibility, but our ability to create stability as well.
Take a look at this strength curve, which shows you the amount of force that can be exerted along the range of motion continuum of a joint.
The graph depicts a phenomenon that happens at every joint in the body. On the far left of the chart, you can see the force capabilities of a joint in it’s fully lengthened position. Notice how the joint significantly weaker than a joint positioned in it’s middle of the range.
The far right portion of this chart shows the strength of a shortened range of motion joint. Again, you’ll realize how the joint is weaker at a shorter range than it is at mid-range.
This is important because to understand our bodies are most vulnerable to injury near end ranges of motion. This is where training end-ranges of joints will allow us to build both strength and mobility over time.
By strengthening and better controlling our outer ranges of motion, we can make the above bell curve longer. A longer bell curve means that we have access to more range of motion we can control. More controllable range of motion equates to more resilient joints and a decreased likelihood of injury.
How can we improve our personal bell curves? Simple. It all comes down to force application.
If a force acting on the body is greater than the forces the body can produce, injury will occur. If you were hit by a truck, the forces acting on the body would be much higher than the muscles, ligaments, and bones can handle, which is why we tend to see broken bones with this type of injury.
If a force acting on the body is less than or equal to what the body can produce, tissue damage will not occur. A prime example of this would be rolling your ankle playing basketball, but not severe enough where pain and swelling are present afterwards. The forces acting on the joint were not high enough to cause injury, but if it were higher than the tissues capacity, you would have sprained your ankle.
To conclude, if we strengthen end-ranges of motion and increase force production in these ranges, our body will be able to absorb forces in these end-ranges where most individuals are prone to injury due to lack of training experience.
This is what we preach to all of our Online Coaching clients and Virutal Kinstretch members. Our mission is to mitigate injury as much as we possibly can with everybody that works with us. You can’t prevent all injury, it’s impossible to prepare your body for every scenario where injury is possible. However, by consistently training joints in controlled positions where they’re prone to injury in a dynamic environment, we’re improving the likelihood of avoiding injury.