Mobility and stability play crucial roles in almost any physical activity. The two are inherently linked; when we are stable and mobile, we are able to call on our power from an extensive variety of angles and positions. In this article, training specialist Carlo Reumont evaluates the logic and science behind mobility and stability.
Mobility: what’s it all about?
While flexibility is the passive range of motion one can reach around a given joint, mobility refers to the amount of that range of motion you can actually “use” during any given movement. Mobility is therefore limited by flexibility.
Mobility takes into account everything important to be able to perform movements properly: softening hardened muscles, treating joint restrictions, as well as loosening the soft tissues. Whenever it comes to movements like squats, burpees or running, it’s important to have good mobility.
Muscle fibers know only two movements: contraction and stretching. When we work out, we strengthen the contracting abilities of our muscle fibers. However, this also tends to shorten our muscle fibers. The results: we feel stiff and immobile, which may actually have adverse effects on our fiber’s ability to produce strength. The mobility of each fiber matters, as well as the smooth operation of fiber bundles and fascicle bundles. Their collaboration contributes to our overall mobility and power.
This makes stretching very important for relieving the muscle and increasing mobility. Pressure therapy through a massage or a foam roll can give short term relief, as this realigns muscle fascicles. Stretching also helps realign the muscle fibers.
Mobility is about more than simply stretching and flexibility. It is a secret to more power – power that comes from calling on your muscles’ full capacity.
Stability: power is nothing without control
Stability is the ability to withstand dynamics and turbulence. Research in biomechanics shows that the key to stability is controlling the center of gravity during movement.
Stability comes from the coordination of the center of gravity and the base of support (the surface on which the body is in contact with the ground); a large center of gravity alone won’t do if your base of support is small. The better they work together, the more stable your movements.
There are two key lessons to ensure stability:
1. Know your center of gravity.
This is found around the stomach and hip area. Practice feeling into this point in your body with the strongest gravitational pull. This way you’ll move with more awareness of your core and remain stable in all positions.
2. Make your base as big as possible.
Your connection to the ground is either through your hands, your feet or both. Get a clear sense of where and how you are connected to the ground and broaden your connection if you can.
Stability is more than simply strength. It’s the effective control of balance, the alignment of the body and, in connection to mobility, the coordinated activation of muscles. It’s logical: the firmer your foundation, the more controlled and coordinated your movements will be. The key phrase here is “quality of movement”.
Focusing on quality of movement will initially slow down your workouts. This might seem like a step backward. In the long run, however, with increased stability and coordination you will expand your physical capabilities, as you are standing on a broader foundation.
Progression requires a two-pronged approach focusing on both mobility and stability in tandem. Neglecting these could otherwise result in a downward spiral of poor coordination and a reduced capacity to apply the body’s strength.