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Mobility vs. Stability: What Should I Focus On?

Do you get confused with focusing between mobility and stability? If yes, you are not alone.

For example: A patient develops back pain and complains of how stiff their back is and seeks treatment for their back. They do not complain of having restricted hip flexibility or stiffness, since the hips are not in pain. But it is commonly the tight hips that are the cause of the back pain for when we move, the hips need great movement in all directions, in order to prevent the back from flexing and extending. The lower back on the other hand must remain stable, while the hips must be the exact opposite, flexible and mobile.

​The human body is an amazing complexity that uses the combination of both stability of muscles and mobility of joints to perform efficient movement patterns. Is there one thing you should focus on more than the other? Keep reading to find out!

What is Mobility?
Mobility is the freedom of movement.

Why is mobility so important? Mobility refers to the strength of certain muscles being able to control being in a certain range of motion. A common exercise problem people have is not being able to perform an  exercise properly due to lack of mobility. If you’re unable to get your body in a safe position for proper exercise, you’re more than likely to get injured. 

Mobility vs. Flexibility
Flexibility is when the muscle or muscle groups can passively lengthen through a range of motion while mobility is when the joint can move actively through a range of motion.

Mobility training is for several joints/muscles. Coordinating and timing are very important. If your body can’t mobilize, it will become stiff.

Flexibility: uses stretches, and common places you see imbalances including: neck, chest, shoulder, hips, lats, glutes, quads, hamstring, calves. There are various ways for stretching including static, dynamic, and contract-relax.

What is Stability?
Stability is the ability to restrict movement. Stability is improved through teaching muscles around the joints to contract when needed, and by improving strength via exercise. For example, when you lift and hold your arm overhead, not only are the muscles that lift it up are working, but also the rest of the muscles that hug the joint. Yes, I’m talking about the rotator cuff!  The rotator cuff is largely involved in stabilization and therefore involved in almost all arm movements. Don’t only work the big muscles at the expense of the little guys! When everything is firing at the same time the joint is well supported. When you have weak stabilizers, it becomes more difficult to perform tasks because of improper alignment and positioning.

How can you improve mobility and stability?

  • Warm up
  • Mobility drills
  • Stretch
  • Stability and movement exercise

So back to our question. What should I focus on? Both! The function of stability and the interplay with mobility is often overlooked. We simply cannot just train one or the other rather we must train both. We should focus on movement. And that’s where the movement experts (physical therapists) come in.

If you found this blog helpful, please share it with someone that might benefit! we are committed to your health and recovery.


Dr. Jack Wong

Next Level Physical Therapy

"We Help People Age 40+ Stay Active, Healthy & Mobile Without Relying On Pain Meds, Injections Or Surgery"

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