People most often talk about joints in relation to pain. Generally, we focus on one joint at a time. However, it’s important to think of all the bones, muscles, and connective tissue around each joint as an integrated system that relies on the health of other joints. Ankle joints connect to the knee joints. Knee joints connect to the hip joints. In other words, if a single joint doesn’t work properly, the joints above and below it can be affected.
Flexibility is the absolute range of motion in a joint or system of joints and the length of muscle that crosses the joint involved. Range of motion is the distance and direction the joint can move, while mobility is the ability to move without restriction.
Through flexibility and mobility sound similar, they are not interchangeable. Think of mobility as the range of uninhibited motion around the joint. A good level of mobility allows a person to perform movements without restriction, while a person with good flexibility may not have the strength, coordination, or balance to execute the same movement. Good flexibility does not always denote good mobility.
Mobility relates to movement while stability relates to control. Joint stability depends largely on the shape, size and arrangement of the articular surfaces, the surrounding ligaments, and the tone of the surrounding muscle. Injuries including ligament tears and sprains can often lead to stability issues in the joint.
Mobility drills are a great way to improve movement within joints that get a little sticky. Mobility exercises differ from static stretching in that they take joints and tissue through a series of movements to increase range of motion. Not everyone needs mobility work in all joints but many people benefit from daily mobility drills.
Activation Drills help the body learn to use the right muscles at the right time, which increases muscular strength around the joints and impacts the mobility or stability of that joint. Many activation exercises involve the core and the glutes since they make up the base of the trunk and help support hip and spine stability and mobility.
Stretching not only feels good but can also improve the range of motion within a joint. Save stretching for after a good warm up or workout.