Mobility vs Flexibility: Are They The Same Thing?

Mobility vs Flexibility

Are you confused about the difference between mobility and flexibility? Do you find yourself using the terms interchangeably but something in your gut tells you there must be a difference between the two?

You’re not alone!

The two concepts – mobility and flexibility – are related but they’re not the same thing. Understanding the difference is important if you want to maximize both.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between mobility vs flexibility, we’ll talk about the benefits of both, and how you can start working to improve them.

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle and connective tissue to stretch.

It’s influenced by several factors, including genetics, age, gender, and physical activity level. For example, women tend to be more flexible than men, and younger people tend to be more flexible than older people.

Being able to touch your toes or do a split without your hamstrings feeling like they’re going to snap are examples of flexibility. Lying on your back with one leg in the air and having a trainer push your leg all the way to your head is another example of “being flexible.”

Flexibility is passive. Doing a split uses gravity to pull you into the position. Your goal is to relax the muscles as much as possible to allow them to lengthen and stretch. You’re not tensing the muscles to get into the split, you’re relaxing them.


Flexibility is passive. Your muscles have to relax to be able to lengthen into the stretch.

Benefits of Flexibility

Flexibility has several benefits, including:

Reduced risk of injury

When your muscles are flexible, they are less likely to get strained or pulled during physical activity.

Better Posture

If the muscle tissue in the front of your shoulders and chest are too tight, they can pull your shoulders forward causing your back to round which leads to a hunched-over posture.

Improved Athletic Performance

Some sports like gymnastics, dance, and martial arts require a lot of flexibility. Imagine being a Rockette and not having the hamstring flexibility to kick higher than your waist. That will never happen because being a Rockette requires more flexibility than that.

Reduced Stress and Tension

Tight muscles can cause physical tension and stress in the body which can lead to pain and discomfort. Increasing flexibility in your muscles can reduce tension and increase relaxation in the body.

Improved Coordination and Movement Quality

Flexible muscles and connective tissue can lead to better movement quality by allowing you to move through different ranges of motion. Have you ever felt really tight and sore after a workout and you just can’t move well? Tight muscles can make movement more difficult.

Overall, flexibility is an important component of fitness and can help improve your overall physical health and performance.

What is Mobility?

Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion with control.

Unlike flexibility, which focuses on the length and stretchiness of your muscles and connective tissues, mobility is primarily related to joint health and function. Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through a full range of motion with control.

It is essential for maintaining optimal physical health and preventing injury. In contrast to flexibility, which focuses on muscle lengthening, mobility is about joint movement. Mobility is a combination of flexibility, strength, and control.

According to Dr. Kelly Starrett, author of the book “Becoming a Supple Leopard,” mobility is “the ability to express full range of motion at a joint or series of joints, while maintaining control of that motion.”

Being able to raise your arm straight up to the ceiling where it lines up with your ear is a sign that you have good shoulder mobility. If you just had the flexibility to do this, you could probably push your arm into place with your other arm or with the help of an outside object.

But, being able to move your arm into that position with just the muscles around that joint demonstrates that you also have shoulder MOBILITY, not just flexibility.

Key Takeaway

Mobility is active. The muscles around the joint are working to move the joint through a full range of motion.

Benefits of Mobility

Having good mobility has numerous benefits, including:

Improved Joint Health

Mobility is all about the movement and function of joints, so working to increase joint mobility will help you increase and maintain the health of your joints which becomes more and more important as we age.

Increased Athletic Performance

Many sports require good joint mobility. Baseball players and quarterbacks need great shoulder mobility to be able to throw a ball. Weight lifters need good hip and ankle mobility to squat. Being able to control your body through these ranges decreases the risk of injury which helps these athletes compete harder and for longer.

Reduced Risk Of Injury

Reducing injury risk isn’t just for athletes. Soft tissue injuries can happen at any time, to anyone. I tweaked my wrist once adjusting my iPad on its stand. The older we get the more likely we are to tweak a joint doing the most mundane things. The stronger and more mobile we are though our joints, the less our risk of injury becomes. Mobility is important for everyone, not just athletes.

Reduced Pain and Discomfort

A lot the time pain can be due to muscle imbalance and weakness around joints. Working on joint mobility is a great way to build strength around these areas which will help your joints move and feel better.

With good mobility, you can move more efficiently and effectively, allowing you to perform daily activities with greater ease.

When your joints are restricted, you may compensate by using other muscles or joints, which can lead to overuse injuries and chronic pain.

Overall, mobility is an essential component of physical fitness and health and should be prioritized in any fitness or wellness program.

Deep Squat

Mobility vs Flexibility: The Key Differences

Key Differences

The terms mobility and flexibility are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different aspects of movement. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch, while mobility is the ability of a joint to move.

Flexibility is primarily a passive ability, meaning that it can be improved through stretching and other exercises that lengthen the muscle. Mobility, on the other hand, requires active control of the joint through a full range of motion. It involves not just the flexibility of the muscles, but also joint stability, overall strength, balance, and coordination.

Another important difference between mobility and flexibility is that in order to move a muscle through its range of motion with control (mobility), you need strength. This is because strength is required to maintain proper joint alignment and control during movement.

Importance of Both

While mobility and flexibility are different, they are both important for overall movement and physical health. Flexibility helps to prevent injury by allowing muscles to move through their full range of motion without strain or tears. It can also improve posture and reduce muscle tension.

Mobility, on the other hand, is important for functional movement and athletic performance. It allows you to move efficiently and with control through a full range of motion, which is essential for activities like lifting, running, and jumping. Improving mobility can also help to reduce the risk of injury by improving joint stability and control.

Ultimately, both mobility and flexibility are important for overall physical health and performance. Incorporating exercises that improve both into your workout routine can help to improve your movement quality, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance athletic performance.

key Takeaway

Mobility and Flexibility are related but not the same. They both play a key role in the health of your body and your joints. Your muscles must be flexible enough and strong enough to allow your joints to have the mobility they need to move through full ranges of motion.

How to Improve Mobility and Flexibility

There are so many simple mobility exercises you can do to start working on your flexibility and increase your mobility now. For all the ones listed here, you don’t need any equipment, you just need your body and a lot of consistency.

The thing with flexibility and mobility is that they take work and patience to increase them. In general, our bodies don’t love change all that much. They settle into patterns, even if those patterns aren’t good for us. It takes consistent and persistent action to create changes in mobility and flexibility.

But, if you keep working on it, it WILL get better.

Exercises for Mobility

Improving mobility requires exercises that focus on increasing range of motion and joint mobility. Here are some exercises that can help:

Deep Squats:

This exercise helps to improve mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, slowly lower your body into a squat position, keeping your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly rise back up to a standing position.

If this is tough for you, a great way to help get deeper is to hold onto something. A door frame or a pole can help you try to get deeper without the fear of falling backward or getting stuck at the bottom.

Over time you’ll notice that your hips will be able to open up a little more to allow more depth.


Check out this video for a demonstration of a deep squat.

Shoulder CARS:

This exercise helps to improve mobility in the shoulders. CARS stands for Controlled Articular Rotations. It basically takes your shoulder joint through its full range of motion in a controlled manner.


Check out this video to see how to do a Shoulder CAR

Ankle Flexes:

If you’re doing your deep squats and you notice that you can get much deeper holding onto the door frame compared to doing it in the middle of the room, it could be your ankle mobility holding you back.

As the butt gets lower, our center of gravity follows it backward. In order to keep our balance we need to shift forward in other areas. Without the help of the door frame, our knees need to travel forward to stay on top of our center of gravity. If your ankles don’t have the flexibility for that, your knees can’t travel forward enough, and you’ll fall backward.

An easy way to work on this is to actively flex the ankles. Set yourself up where you’re down on the ground and you’ve got one foot planted flat on the ground, or a chair if that makes it easier. Push your knee as far past your toes as you can. Once you get to that end position, actively pull your toes off of the ground or chair.

Hold that flexion for 5-10 seconds and then ease out of it.

Exercises for Flexibility

Improving flexibility requires exercises that focus on stretching and lengthening the muscles. Here are some exercises that can help:

Hamstring Stretch:

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, like in the middle example below. Reach forward and try to touch your toes. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release.

If you don’t like the feeling of that stretch, you can try the other two in the picture. See which version feels like more of a stretch in your hamstrings.

Butterfly Stretch:

Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together. Reach the arms forward as far as you can while dropping your chest towards your feet. If you can’t go very far into this stretch, you can use your elbows to push your knees down to get into the hips a bit more. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release.

Butterfly stretch

Quad Stretch:

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your right knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks. Hold onto your ankle with your right hand and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat with your left leg.

Another option for this stretch is to do it on the ground on your knee. This can be a good option if balance is an issue and you don’t have anything to hold onto. Make sure you’ve got some padding under your knee so it’s more comfortable.

If you have trouble grabbing the foot, like in the picture below, you can rest the top of the back foot against the wall or your couch instead of reaching back and grabbing it with your hand. The more your quad is able to stretch, the closer you’ll be able to get your knee to the wall.

Two versions of a quad stretch


At the end of the day, both mobility and flexibility are important for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. While they are often used interchangeably, they are actually two distinct concepts that work together to help us move better and prevent injury.

Flexibility refers to the ability of our muscles to stretch and lengthen, while mobility refers to our joints’ ability to move through a full range of motion with strength and control. Both are essential for optimal physical performance, whether you are an athlete or simply someone who wants to stay active and pain-free.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mobility and flexibility training. The best approach is to work with a qualified fitness professional who can assess your individual needs and develop a customized program that addresses your unique goals and limitations.

Additionally, it’s important to incorporate a variety of mobility and flexibility exercises into your routine, including both static stretches and dynamic stretches, foam rolling, and other forms of self-myofascial release. By doing so, you can improve your overall movement quality and reduce your risk of injury.

In summary, mobility and flexibility are two essential components of a healthy and active lifestyle. It takes consistency with mobility training, static stretching, mobility exercises, and dynamic stretching to create change.

Mobility training and stretching aren’t sexy, and sometimes they can be downright miserable, but they’re important and if you dedicate the time, it can change your life for the better.

So get out there and juice your joints!

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