Why Your Mobility Work Isn’t Working!

Why Your Mobility Work Isn’t Working!

I hear it all the time…athletes telling me they cannot get consistent gains in their mobility. Or, they get some mobility work (soft tissue, spinal manipulation, etc.) and feel like they have increased mobility for a short time and then back to being “locked up” again. mobility and stability

It can be a frustrating thing to be able to do something that improves mobility but not be able to get it to “stick”. On the flip side, athletes will also frequently complain to me of the inability to perform any mobility work that actually changes the range of motion. mobility and stability

Goblet SquatFor these athletes, learning the difference between MOBILITY and STABILITY is crucial if we are going to get any long-lasting improvements. I define mobility as the ability for a joint to be moved through its’ range of motion. Stability refers to the body’s ability to control movement through the available range of motion.

If you are someone with who is struggling to gain or maintain mobility improvements then you might be dealing with more of a stability problem manifesting itself as a mobility limitation. In this case, the nervous system may be “locking up” a certain movement or range of motion because it doesn’t feel that it can safely move through it due to lack of stability. That might mean mobility work helps, but the body quickly returns to its’ “safe zone” by restriction motion again.

There are three ways to differentiate between mobility and stability problems, or determine if your “mobility” problem is really due to stability issues.

First, compare active motion to passive motion. If active motion is significantly less than passive, stability is likely to blame. For example, have a partner assess your hamstring mobility while you lie on your back. Your partner will keep your knee straight while they slowly raise it until a stretch is felt in the hamstrings. Then, you will actively perform the same movement by keeping your leg straight and raising the leg up. If there is greater than 10 degrees of difference, core stability is the likely culprit of your “mobility” problem.

Second, assess your ability to move through a range of motion before, immediately after, and an hour after mobility work. If you have a stability issue, motion will improve after mobility work but will be back to pre-mobility work status soon after.

The third potentially proof that you are dealing with stability over mobility problems is harder to determine but I see it quite frequently. Athletes might have spent months working on one specific mobility issue with little results. When then given specific stability exercises, mobility magically improves. Here is an example of this where Dean Somerset demonstrates side planks to improve hip mobility.

If your “mobility” problems fall into any of these categories, adding proper stability exercises will be a game changer for your performance!