Personal Fitness Professional Winter 2021

Page 20

FEATURE ARTICLE Dr. Meredith Butulis

FLEXIBILITY OR MOBILITY Which one are you training, and why does it matter? By Dr. Meredith Butulis


an everyone learn to do the splits? Coming from a background in sports medicine, dance medicine, strength & conditioning, yoga and Pilates, this is a question people often ask me. The short answer is “no.” Not everyone can attain this range of motion. Now, let’s look at not only the “why” behind this, but also the bigger picture. Do you coach clients on flexibility or mobility? More importantly, what is the difference, and how does this affect a client’s movement abilities? With the rise of niche marketing and social media, the lines of “flexibility” versus “mobility,” have become blurred. Let’s begin


with what each word means, and how they are not the same. The delineation can shed light on which your client needs, so you can then select methods to help your clients set realistic goals and an efficient path toward success. FLEXIBILITY Flexibility is the ability of muscles and their surrounding soft tissues (fascia, ligaments, tendons and nerves) to passively lengthen. Passive means that a force outside of the client’s own body creates the motion. Forces could come from body weight against the floor or another object, stretch straps or a fitness professional’s use of hands for assisted stretching.


Flexibility is not the same as stretching. Stretching represents a variety of exercise methods to increase flexibility. Flexibility is the soft tissues’ internal response to stretching exercises. Biomechanically, the main component of flexibility we target with stretching is extensibility. Extensibility is the soft tissues’ ability to lengthen when stretching force is applied, then return to resting length. Effective stretching requires lengthening the soft tissues across all of the joints that the tissues cross. This makes stretching positions to increase flexibility fairly specific. For example, when stretching hamstrings, a client is often on his or her back with the hip flexed, knee extended and ankle slightly plantarflexed. When stretching the rectus