Flexibility vs Mobility

September 1, 2020

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Flexibility vs Mobility
Health & Fitness

Welcome back!

Today’s blog deals with mobility - what it is and why we want to incorporate it into our weekly routines. 

Think about some famously mobile climbers - Adam Ondra, Fanny Gibert, Akiyo Noguchi - or any WorldCup climber these days. We all know they’ve got ridiculous finger strength, but we also know that finger strength can only get you so far. Modern competitions, setting and outdoor climbing have created a need for us to be as strong as possible in as much of our usable joint ranges as possible. 

But before we begin, something should be made clear, flexibility ≠ mobility.


Rock Climbing Flexibility and Mobility Exercises


Flexibility is our ability to move a joint passively through its available range of motion. 

Mobility is our ability to move a joint actively through its available range of motion, and it requires strength

Let’s test it.

Stand up.

Bring one knee as close to your chest as possible using both arms. Your arms are doing the work, your hip flexors are relaxed, and your glutes are being stretched. The height of your knee is being dictated by the length of your glutes - this is an example of flexibility

Keep standing.

Keep your knee as close to your chest as possible as you let go of it with both arms. Your glutes may still be getting stretched, but it is the strength of your hip flexors against the forces of both gravity and that stretch that determines your current knee height - this is an example of mobility.

So what? 

Have you ever been unable to use a foothold because it was too high up?

Have you ever felt “bunched up” on the wall?


Rock Climbing Competor Showing Flexibility and Mobility

Chances are a bit of extra hip flexor strength could help with these issues, and may also help you do your projects or those tricky technical boulders that require high feet or hand-foot matching.

There’s another benefit to having more mobility - Joint health.  

Think less compensation from non-contractile tissues (such as ligaments) due to a better quality of movement at multiple joints.

Think better control and more stability through a greater range of motion. 

Think of that range and movement quality as a buffer to reduce your chance of injury. 

If we want to train mobility as opposed to flexibility, we need to approach it like a strength workout. 

Most of us have campused, fingerboarded, or “done core” to supplement our climbing. Almost none of us have done exercise focused on improving our hip rotation while getting our hamstrings stronger for heel-hooking. That’s okay. But if you’re plateauing with your current program then adding some mobility exercises 2-3 times per week into your schedule might help.

Our bodies are naturally more suited to some moves more than others, and years of climbing and moving the same way may also predispose us to favour different body positions. If you do want some personalised mobility exercises for your body or goals, I will be running a Mobility workshop at nomad on 3rd of September. 

For some specific exercise examples check out our videos on Nomad’s Instagram and YouTube channel or speak to one of our specialised team. If you have a specific niggle or injury you need help with book a time on our “CLINIC” page.

That’s all for now.

Stay safe and enjoy! <3 The Nomad Team

Written By: Nomad Specialist Coach - Dr. Mattias Braach-Maksvytis - DPT.

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