Putting the Mobility in Monday
Here are some thought provoking questions: Which arm rest is yours at the movie theater? Are people buried with their braces on? Is there a time limit on fortune cookie predictions? If we should never take candy from strangers, then why is Halloween ok? What’s the difference between flexibility and mobility? Are static or dynamic stretches better?
What do all of these have in common? They’re confusing questions. I can’t answer all of them in one blog, but let’s put the last two under the microscope today.
Let’s start with the difference between flexibility and mobility before we get into how to properly apply them to exercise. Flexibility is the ability to flex, extend, or lead a joint through its intended absolute range of motion. Mobility is the ability to use that flexibility in conjunction with stability to create a range of motion in a compound movement.
Mobility also requires strength to produce full-range movement, whereas flexibility is passive, so does not require strength. Simply put, flexibility is how far something will stretch, and mobility is how much of that flexibility is functionally available.
Our goal with stretching is to safely & effectively lengthen the muscle & surrounding connective tissue. This helps us improve the range of motion in our joints, thus minimizing risk of injury.
So what’s the best way to warm up, cool down, & maximize potential while preventing injury?
The long standing belief has been that static stretching was the best way to warm up for any athletic activity. Static stretches are slow and continuous stretches that take a muscle or joint to its furthest range of tension and then hold it there for a prolonged period of time while the body is at rest.
Being that you simply go as far as you can in static stretching, it requires little or no training and is the easiest way for those who are just beginning to integrate stretching into their routine.
Dynamic stretching involves movements that closely resemble the actual movements from the intended activity. These could be as simple as doing the exact movements of the intended exercise at a less explosive rate & under less load.
This type of stretching should never be done completely cold, so I recommended some blood flow & heart rate work first. A quick run, row, or jump rope set should do the trick quite nicely.
To get slightly more technical, dynamic stretching works by circulating the synovial fluid in the bursa to wash the joint. Since your joints have no direct blood supply, this nourishes them & simultaneously removes waste products. Joint salts and calcium deposits are also dissolved with the gentle movement patterns of dynamic stretches.
So the conclusion is really very simple: dynamic stretching before exercise, and static stretching afterward.
Studies have shown that static stretching before strength training can actually impede muscle strength by as much as 10%. We should only use them while cooling down our bodies to restore tissue length, prevent long term injury, and lengthen the tissues that we put under stress while exercising.
So now you know! As always, I invite you all to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any burning questions you’d like to see answered in the blog! In the meantime, start pondering life’s other confusing questions like, “how do you handcuff a one-armed man?”