Flexibility forms one of the 10 General Physical Skills defined as The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint. it’s directly related to mobility and stability (which we discussed here) and is crucial in injury prevention and allowing the body to get in to more efficient movement positions. Unlike the other 10 General Physical Skills, Flexibility is unique in being an attribute of the body’s state, whilst you can influence it, its not something you actively train for. mobility work, yoga and stretching all influence flexibility. But given its ‘passive’ nature, its often neglected by athletes in favour of more strength, or speed. Yet limiting flexibility can increase the risk of injury and directly affecting performance in the other 9 General Physical Skills
I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today who has a really interesting sports background, unlike most people his background is is Indian Clubbells and unconventional training methods. He was recalling to me about how he’d only just recently started to do barbell back squats and was really surprised by how much he was able to lift even though its not part of his typical training. The conversation then progressed to the topic of flexibility, mobility and stability; and which is most important.
here’s my take, which probably isn’t unique or mind blowing, but its certainly how i view it.
Flexibility looks at the range of motion of a joint, so being very flexibly means that the joint has the capacity for a full or greater range of motion. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in control through out that range of motion, think of a calf stretch, you can get further range of motion by leaning your body into the wall so that the wall helps you stretch.. increasing your range of motion.
Mobility adds another layer to flexibility, by apply motor control over the range of motion, in this sense, your mobility will always be less than your flexibility, but the closer the two are, the more control you have over the range of motion. which has tons of benefits in injury prevention. as an example, if you were able to hold your foot up in the same position as a calf stretch without the assistance of the wall, thats the muscles working over the range of motion, in other words, mobility working over flexibility.
Stability looks at the ability to maintain a stable position in space limited by the body’s ability to cope with external factors such as weight, time, gravity etc. greater stability therefore means the ability to hold a chosen position without compromising on form, or compensating. So your range of stability, or more accurately, your ability to be stable in a given position, is limited by your range of mobility. So Stability can be seen as muscular endurance over mobility (i.e. muscular control) or Flexibility (i.e. range of motion)
In terms of Crossfit and other sports, really this means that we should be trying to extend our flexibility (stretching) and supporting that with mobility (assistance work and low weight work) before finally developing progressive levels of stability (either via weight load or time under tension)