Fighting Strength - Flexibility & Mobility
The difference between flexibility and mobility is the difference between moving and being moved. Flexibility utilizes an external aid, like gravity or partner assistance, and mobility requires muscular effort. Flexibility is passive, mobility is active, and there’s a big difference.
I touched on this subject briefly in part 2 of this series, but to recap...
A person may be able to bend down from a standing position [utilizing gravity] to touch their toes, yet at the same time be unable to touch their toes from a seated position simply by reaching forward. That person lacks the mobility to touch their toes even though they may be flexible enough. The difference is strength - they are not strong enough to move in or out of the stretched position.
From an aesthetic standpoint it doesn’t really matter, but from a performance standpoint flexibility is almost worthless. An athlete needs mobility and one of the fastest ways to increase mobility is with active stretching techniques.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Or PNF stretching. There are a couple of ways to do it, but here we’ll discuss the CRAC method “Contract Relax Antagonist Contract”. Let’s say you’re doing a partner assisted hamstring stretch. You’re lying on your back and you have someone stretching one of your legs. You would simply contract the muscle being stretched, hold it for a few seconds, relax it, and then contract your leg in the other direction. So you’re isometrically contracting in each direction, first flexing and then extending, in the range of motion you’re trying to develop.
The idea is to build strength in the stretched position.
Hard to explain, easy to do, if you know what you’re doing. My advice is to ditch the flexibility work and find a trainer, therapist or coach that can help you become more mobile with active stretching techniques. For a fighting athlete, mobility will be far more beneficial to performance than simply being flexible. And as for increasing range of motion, you’ll spend far less time doing it saving you time for more important things.
Dan Cenidoza is a strength & conditioning specialist, professional strongman and owner of Art & Strength in Baltimore, MD. Art & Strength offers group kettlebell classes, semi-private and personal training, as well as artwork - hand bent steel sculpture known as Iron Bonsai