A Christian Guide to Body Stewardship, Diet and Exercise

Chapter 7: Training for Mobility 149 Common Mobility-Related Terms and Concepts Mobility is the ability of a joint to move unhindered through its range of motion. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle, or group of muscles, to passively lengthen through its range of motion. Balance is the ability to control the body’s position while stationary. Stability is the ability to control the body’s position during movement or return to a desired position following a disturbance. Individuals with poor mobility, flexibility, stability and/or balance are at greater risk of falling. However, individuals who participate in regular mobility, flexibility, balance and stability training have a lower incidence of low back pain, reduced risk of injuries, increased range of motion (ROM) and improved posture (Gordon & Bloxham, 2016). An active stretch involves actively moving one muscle group in order to stretch another. Active stretching not only helps to improve the flexibility of the target muscle but also prepares it for the physical activity to follow. A passive stretch, on the other hand, uses some type of external force (e.g., stretching strap, partner) to stretch the target muscle without any muscular contraction from the individual being stretched. Factors Influencing Mobility and Flexibility There are several anatomical and training-related factors that can influence an individual’s mobility and flexibility (Haff & Triplett, 2016). Some of these factors include: • Neural Control. The central nervous system (CNS) plays a major role in determining the overall ROM an individual is able to attain. If the CNS perceives a particular ROM as either unfamiliar or unsafe, it will prevent the muscle from relaxing and thus reaching its full-length capacity. Regularly performing mobility and flexibility exercises will expose the CNS to positions of new or greater ROM, thereby reducing or eliminating the protective response and allow for greater ROM to be obtained. • Joint structure. Joint type largely determines the ROM surrounding a joint. Ball-and-socket joints (e.g., hip and shoulder) allow for movement in all three anatomical planes and thus have the greatest ROM. Conversely, hinge joints (e.g., knee and elbow) only allow for movement in one plane and thus have the least amount of ROM. • Connective tissue. The elasticity (ability to return to resting length) and plasticity (ability to assume a new or greater length) of tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules can also affect ROM. Regularly performing mobility and flexibility exercises can help improve the elastic and plastic connective potential of the various connective tissues.