Flexibility v’s Mobility

How often have you watched an instagram video of some insane gymnast and said, “Wow, I wish I had her flexibility!” Or how many times have you felt some movement is just out of reach and said, “I’m so inflexible!” We use flexibility and mobility as interchangeable words that mean the same thing. In reality, while they are related, they’re not the same.

Flexibility is defined as the ability of a muscle or muscle group to be passively lengthened through a range of motion. Mobility on the other hand is the ability of a joint to actively move through that range.  Put into real terms, you can stretch for hours to achieve a nice flat forward fold but if you can’t actively get into that position, then your forward fold is only temporary and will be ineffective when applied to movement.

While we can have good flexibility without mobility, we can’t have good mobility without flexibility. Back to our nice deep forward fold on the floor, but now apply that position to a hanging toe to bar. You may have the hamstring flexibility to maintain that position when you get there but if you can’t raise your legs past your hips in the hang then you lack the strength in the opposing muscles to actively pull you into that position.

Achieving full active range of motion of the joint takes into consideration a number of things; restrictive muscle tissue, joint and joint capsule health, motor control and soft tissue health. Actively strengthening our end range combined with a variety of stretching techniques will lengthen, strengthen and stabilise our muscles, improving our overall mobility.

Consistency is key in mobility training. You might feel like you’re making little or no progress at all but over time, all those little victories add up to big changes. Initially it will be something you feel rather than see. Do a little each day as part of your warm up or cool down to your strength training, or in between reps as part of your active rest. Before you know it those leg raises will feel a little easier instead of feeling like lifting elephants.

When we apply increased mobility to our strength training, our muscles and joints will be better balanced and aligned, as will our posture as our range of motion increases. Better alignment means being able to complete exercises to their maximum, pushing further and harder. The central nervous system (CNS) will fire up more muscle fibres and more rapidly with continued mobility drills helping to build speed, power and endurance. 

Having active control over the positions we move through keeps us pain free, reduces injury risk, corrects imbalances, keeps our joints healthy and allows us to move in a way that looks effortless.

Ruth Woodside

Ruth is our Co-founder and General Manager and coaches Mobility on Thursday evenings at 6.30pm


Talent v’s Technique

A few years ago I spent some weeks at my brother's place in North London. The TV in the living room had Extreme Sports channel on, and different housemates would watch it on a pretty regular basis. Most of the stuff they showed was skateboarding and different disciplines of bmx.

In the beginning one could just not pass by the living room without feeling a force towards the screen. The awe and admiration at the different skills displayed there. The finest artistry and seemingly über-human performing qualities of most skateboarders, bmx-ers, etc was a reminder to us in that living room of the amazing potential of us as human beings.

After a while however, the same tricks didn't seem as entertaining. It didn't matter who did them, they all looked the same. They weren't as surprising or impressive anymore. Maybe because we had seen them already, or maybe seeing more people doing the same tricks made us feel that they were not so special after all. 

Yet, there were still a few times when a certain artist would blow everyone away.  I thought there were mainly two reasons for this: either he had plenty of tricks of his own that were therefore totally fresh, or somehow, his personality and style would shine through. Whatever it was he was different. And I knew it. I would remember his name and whenever he was on screen again I was sure he wouldn't disappoint. And he didn't.

I have now come to call this phenomenon 'Talent vs Technique' as I have come across it on many more occasions in my life. So many times in fact, that I just think it is a universal phenomenon in human artistic expression and creation.

I believe that in any art you need to have a minimum of technique to express yourself or otherwise you are at the mercy of your tools and you won't be able to truly shine through them. But I don't think they are totally related 1 to 1. In fact, if I had to choose between having talent but bad technique or good technique and lack of talent, I would probably choose the former. Of course if both are present then the result can be breathtaking!

Yet, 'talent' is personal, subjective. It is not as easily and objectively measurable as technique. It is not measurable in absolute terms. Even if you may feel that your expressivity as an artist/performer is improving or worsening, it is, ultimately, subjective.

So how do you train? Do you train talent or technique? Both? Separately? Together? Is that even possible? What do you think?


Guillermo Justel

Guillermo coaches Handbalancing on Monday evenings at 7.30pm

Recovery is Key

We can’t believe it’s already been 2 months since Move Hackney opened its doors! We know what it means to love training and to be in the gym every day, we also know how easy it is to over train and end up plateauing. It’s fine to move every day, but training hard day in and day out will impair our body’s ability to restore energy levels. We would like to take a moment to give some basic advice to help you make the most of your training so that the gains can keep coming and you all can stay injury-free…