Stability vs Mobility, What's More Important?

Early in my training career, I came across this graphic depicting the "mobility stability continuum".

It stated that the more mobile you are, the less stable you are and vice versa. It seems to make logical sense because for something to be stable, it has to not move or be able to resist movement, while you have to move to be mobile.

But this paints a distorted picture of the two concepts.

Don't we want to be more mobile? But is that at the cost of being stable?

Mobility is often confused with flexibility which is the ability to get into certain positions, (think of extreme yoga poses or doing the splits). But mobility is literally defined as the ability to move, as in not just get into a position but to move in it as well.

I like to think of it as having the strength to move in a given position as well.

So do we always want more mobility? Not necessarily. Having "better" mobility is not a good predictor of pain or risk of injury. But in saying that, we want to be prepared physically for whatever positions we're going to put our body in on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you're playing hockey, you want your hips to be mobile enough to withstand the stresses of hockey.

So mobility for the sake of mobility doesn't do much for us, but rather having the right mobility matters.

What about stability?

There are times when we need to not only produce movement but be able to prevent it as well. For example, we need to brace our spine on a heavy deadlift or when we might be absorbing a tackle in soccer.

You may have been cued to "get tight" and "brace your core" in order to achieve this stability.

Being able to do this does not have to come at the sacrifice of mobility. On the contrary, both require strength albeit in different ways.

Take a barbell squat as an example. You need to brace your spine and hips as part of your setup which requires a certain level of strength, but then you need the mobility to descend into your squat as well as the strength to push out of the bottom to get back to the top. Mobility and stability are required.

You need to be able to move but also "get tight" when necessary.

And if you can harness the best of both worlds, you'll not only perform better in life and in the gym, but you'll be a stronger and more durable individual.

To your good health,

Coach Stephen

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