by: Anthony Campo
Joint Mobilization is an important ingredient to any training program. However many
people confuse the difference between mobility and flexibility. Flexibility is the ability to flex,
extend, or move a joint through its intended full range of motion. This pertains to the
length of the tissue itself. When we are stretching for flexibility, the goal is to lengthen the
tissue so that the joint can move freely through a range of motion with less restriction. Joint mobility is the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. Joint
mobility requires stability and strength of the joint in order to move properly and without injury.
Flexibility does not require strength. Many people focus on flexibility stretching. While this
will help to limit restrictions due to tightness of tissue, it does not do a great job in preparing
your body to move quickly and efficiently. Mobilizing a joint can help to distract the joint, and
oppose the normal accumulated compression that is constantly placed on the joint. Joint
mobility work can also help to circulate synovial fluid, and provide nutrients. It is important to
remember to take into consideration the individual needs of the person. Depending on where the
restriction or weakness is, the proper combination of both mobility and flexibility can help to
best prepare the body for effective movement.
As we look through the joints of the body it is important to understand that different
joints have different needs. In a typically abled individual, the primary needs of the joints would
-Ankle mobility (particularly sagittal)
-Hip mobility (multi-planar)
-Lumbar Spine stability
Joints functioning well would allow for optimal movement. While this is important for
athletes and lifters trying to lift maximal weight, it can also help us see the need for specific
training if one of these joints is lacking in either mobility or stability. Though there are always special cases, in large part injuries will occur if there is hypo mobility in the joints that rather need stability such as the knee, lumbar spine, and gleno-humeral joint. In contrast, injury often occurs when there is a lack of mobility in joints like the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine.