Are you Flexible or Mobile? Is there a difference??

Far too often when I ask someone what type of exercise they do to prepare themselves physically for golf, they say, “I do lots of stretching to make sure I’m very flexible.” Does this sound familiar? If so, this blog’s for YOU!

First off, I do not intend to write a diatribe against stretching. I’ve been working on flexibility and stretching ever since I was 10 years old and started doing taekwondo. I take pride in being flexible. I have seen the rollercoaster of flexibility popularity. First it helps you and is crucial to preventing injuries, then it is dangerous and can actually cause injuries, and then it temporarily decreases strength output of muscles and should be avoided. Of course, the “truth” lies somewhere in between.

There is no question that an absence or lack of flexibility limits proper movement, especially a proper dynamic motion like a golf swing. However the point I want to make today is that working on flexibility alone, while important in itself, is woefully insufficient training to prepare your body for golfing or any physical challenge in life. In addition to flexibility, we need to consider the concepts of mobility and stability. Let’s start with some definitions. I would define flexibility as the ability to move a specific body part around a specific joint. It’s simply a measure of how far the body part can move. For example, thoracic spine flexibility is measured by how far you can rotate the upper torso in the transverse plane. When you talk about mobility, however you talk about the ability to do this under control and you introduce strength into the equation. Can you rotate your thoracic spine in a controlled fashion so that you can rotate it back with strength and power? This is critical for rotational sports and for the golf swing. Adequate flexibility without mobility can actually put you at a higher risk of injury by placing your body in a position it cannot control. In addition, flexibility without mobility will greatly limit your potential power output.

We also need to introduce the concept of stability. When you rotate your thoracic spine, will your supporting structures in your core (your glutes, abdominals, etc.) engage to keep the rest your body stable so that you can return your body to the proper impact position? If you have a great turn with adequate flexibility and mobility, but your lower body fails to stabilize you, you will sway back when you turn and thus be unable to consistently return to impact.

You can see how in the swing sequence, each concept (flexibility, mobility, and stability) is dependent on the other for a proper chain of events. Any weakness in the chain; be it flexibility, mobility, or stability, can cause the whole sequence to break down and result in inconsistent swing faults or even worse, a significant injury. Only by working on all 3 of these qualities, and making sure each segment in the chain of motions is working properly, can we develop stronger, more efficient, and more injury prone movements that translate not just to sports, but to all aspects of life.

Therefore when I hear someone say their golf training consists solely of stretching, I respond by saying, “That is a great start, and it is a very important component to your golf training. Now let’s test your mobility and stability and work on putting that flexibility to good functional use.”

At Boundless Health we strive to provide the most thorough assessments and the most detailed individualized treatment plans to help you achieve your goals, whether it is to develop a stronger and more consistent golf swing, or just to move better in your daily activities. Please contact us today to see how we can help you on your journey to health and fitness without boundaries.

Bret Scher, MD FACC
TPI level 1 Certified
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

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