Mobility and stability training
Learn the benefits of improving your flexibility, mobility, balance and stability.
Flexibility, mobility and stability training
Suppleness refers to the possible range of motion (ROM) of a joint or a group of joints. In most people, joints have a potential to move through a greater range of motion than the muscles that surround them will allow. Through regular stretching, mobility or stability training, the capacity for muscles to extend is increased, allowing the joint a greater range of motion and more stability for joints. However it is important to remember that ROM restrictions are also there for a reason. For example, too much mobility in the shoulder girdle can cause serious injury.
The human body has 10 major joints, each have a role to play in the multitude of movements the body can create. For this reason, some joints within the body need to be more rigid than others to provide a platform and hold posture for movement, while others require greater ROM to allow for greater performance.
- Stable Joints - Foot, knee, lumbar and cervical spine and elbow
- Mobile Joints - Ankle, hip, thoracic spine, shoulder and wrist
Flexibility or mobility are both terms used to improve suppleness or ROM. They differ in what each are trying to achieve, but both maintain health and performance.
Flexibility refers to the ability of your muscles to lengthen. You can test the flexibility of your muscles with various passive tests, such as reaching down to touch your toes (tests your hamstring flexibility). Increased flexibility is achieved through stretching, before and after physical activity.
We want to maintain sufficient flexibility. An example where good flexibility is beneficial is the need to perform an extreme movement in response to an emergency, good flexibility allows for full range of movement. Without regular stretching your muscles could lose this flexibility rendering risk for injury or damage.
Physical Training can also lead to tightness and shortening (slight decrease in flexibility) during and after training, hence stretching is your tool to mediate this.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching even for short periods each day can help to:
- Increase physical efficiency and performance
- Decrease risk of injury
- Increase blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Improve muscular balance and postural awareness
- Decrease risk of lower back pain
- Reduce stress
- Enhance enjoyment of training
Types of stretching
1. Static stretching – A gradual form of stretching the muscle to a point when it is held at its end range for a minimum 10 secs and up to 2-3 minutes depending on the aim. Static stretching is a safe, effective way of stretching muscles and connective tissues, this is mainly used in between and after training sessions to help with recovery through improving circulation and reducing muscle soreness.
Check out this Static stretching guide.
2. Dynamic stretching – Dynamic stretching involves rhythmical movement of the major muscles that are generally used before a workout. This is used before training as opposed to static stretching to minimise the risk of injury, especially if training involves components like speed or power.
Dynamic Stretching Guide. ACC Pre-training warmup
Warm-up poster. Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.
Joint mobility is the degree to which an articulation (bone joint) can move before being restricted by its surrounding tissues (ligaments, tendons and muscles). It is the range of uninhibited movement permitted around a joint (e.g. a full squat requires mobility through the hips and ankles) and reflects the range of motion through the range of joints to perform a movement as nothing moves in isolation within the body. While a strong individual may be able to touch their toes with good muscle length in their hamstrings, if they need to pick up something heavy off the ground (e.g.an injured soldier) they may have difficulty executing this without the mobility within their hips to squat down and engage the muscles required to perform that movement.
Mobility exercises and videos
See our workouts page to find many short informative video guide's for mobility and stability.
Joint stability is defined as the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Simple actions like walking or running requires the ability to balance on one foot while the trailing leg swings through. The body's ability to stabilise through the joints of the body allows an individual to maintain balance and create movement.
Relationship between stability and mobility
Stability can be seen as the opposite side of the spectrum of mobility but both are interconnected within the body to create movement. Stability comes before mobility. Mobility relates to movement while stability relates to control.
If we do not have the mobility in a joint to create a movement, the body often compensates through a kinetic chain which can be described as the interrelated groups of body segments that connects joints and muscles working together to perform movements.
An example of the upper kinetic chain consists of the fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, shoulder blades, and spinal column. Each joint plays a role to complete a movement e.g the elbow joint must maintain an element of stability for proper function of the arm, same as the wrist to allow maximum ROM within its joint, or a movement may be compromised or create pain.
For example, if someone struggles to get into a kneeling supported shooting stance due to ankle mobility, the body will get there another way instead by increasing the load on the lower back or knees. This then creates problems for those two joints, ones that are meant to be stable.
Stability vs. Mobility
Factors that affect flexibility, mobility and stability
Too much sitting down
Sitting for extended periods of time reduces our range of motion. This causes tight hip flexors and back muscles as well as a weak core. This creates a myriad of problems, especially if regular movement and stretching doesn’t occur. The ageing process also results in the loss of elasticity to tendons and ligaments. This starts to affect our ROM and potentially cause pain within the joints, especially after movement or exercise.
An active person tends to be more flexible than an inactive one. Both men and women can increase their flexibility during a resistance training programme.
Frequency and duration of training
Stretching for 10 secs around a training session, or 2 mins once a week, is not adequate for increasing flexibility. The same applies to mobility and stability, if regular training doesn't take place throughout the week, improvements wont be made.
Ways to add ROM training and balance into your day
- Brush your teeth on one foot to help balance
- Stretch while the jug is boiling
- Add compulsory stability and mobility training before a weights session.
- Add many different types of movement into your day, if your body only moves forward and back, it will adapt to that, add twisting, rotating and bending as well.
Age and gender
Generally, young people tend to be more flexible than older people, and females more flexible than males. Regardless of your gender or age, flexibility levels don't have to be as limited or affected by these factor's.
Everyone has different levels of flexibility. To enhance your functional abilities and provide significant advantages to your training, aim to improve and maintain your flexibility. Treat it like other training principles, aka Use it or lose it. So add some focused mobility and stability time into your program today!