The difference between range of motion and length of muscle tissue.
The distinction between mobility and flexibility can be confusing. Many of us walk into the studio knowing we have pain, but we might not know if it is because of joint inhibition or muscle tightness. Following, we break down the difference between mobility and flexibility related to Pilates.
What it means: Mobility is the ability of a joint to move freely. It’s the lubrication of a joint and how all the little accessory muscles connect and actively engage to move it.
How it feels: Some of us have a lot of mobility; we see you hyper-extenders! You actually move about the world with excessive joint mobility rather than muscle flexibility. Picture getting into an extreme exercise but not having the strength to get out of it, or maybe feeling pain 24 hours after a workout.
Others have such joint restrictions so that they live in pain, maybe limping, out of alignment, or have experienced a previous injury.
Why it matters: The Pilates flow dances between mobility and stability. If you live a life of hyperextension, we need to recognize that freedom of movement and move you towards activating those smaller accessory muscles to stabilize the joint.
If you experience pain or restriction in your daily range of motion, a muscle imbalance could be pulling your joints out of alignment. We want to work towards proper muscle activation.
Pilates exercises that improve mobility: Think Feet in Straps Leg Circles, Spinal Articulation like a Bridge, and or Sternum Drops. These movements isolate a joint to prep the body for activity.
What it means: Flexibility is the elasticity of your muscle fibers to stretch or lengthen.
How it feels: It can feel like a tug or pull in the body. Muscle tissue, along with fat, nerves, and blood vessels, is incased in fascia. That fascia bundle has an origin site – a joint or bone where it starts – and an insertion site – the joint or bone where it dies. When you reach for something, that bundle is pulled taught between those two sites.
Many of us mistake joint mobility for our flexibility. So it could be that you are muscularly very tight but have a lot of range of motion.
Why it matters: Hydrated tissue is more flexible and improved flexibility allows your joints to move through their full range of motion from a place to a balanced alignment. Long term this means less pain in the body.
How do you hydrate your tissue? You want to increase the fluid exchange within the fascia system that actually encases your muscle. Gentle release work is the best way to massage your fascia system and improve overall hydration at the cellular level.
Pilates exercises that improve flexibility: Believe it or not, ALL OF THEM! Pilates delivers a really unique workout that simultaneously lengthens the muscle tissue while you’re contracting it.
Pilates, as a well-rounded exercise method, offers both mobility exercises and challenges your flexibility. This makes it a perfect part of your overall health pie. Especially for those looking to cross-train, come back from an injury, or desire to relieve a source of pain. Beyond that, the coupling of improving mobility and working on flexibility all within one Pilates workout helps improve blood flow and circulation, calms the nervous system and moves your body from its fight or flight sympathetic state into its rest, digest, relax parasympathetic state. Which is really good for the body!
THE INFORMATION EXPRESSED ON THIS SITE IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. WE DRAW ON OUR EXPERTISE AS PILATES AND MOVEMENT SPECIALISTS BY EXPANDING OUR PROFESSIONALISM THROUGH CONTINUING EDUCATION AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. WE AIM TO PROVIDE VALUABLE INFORMATION CONCERNING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PILATES, FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT, AND FITNESS. YOU TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL DECISIONS NOW OR IN THE FUTURE CONCERNING YOUR HEALTH, LIFE, AND WELL-BEING. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT TO BE USED AS MEDICAL ADVICE EITHER TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE OR AILMENTS. YOU SHOULD CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE BEGINNING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM.