Flexibility vs. Mobility: What’s the Difference?

Chances are you’ve seen an Instagram account or two (or ten) promoting mobility challenges.  These include exercises that require motion at many joints to perform correctly. So you’re probably thinking, I can stretch for 5 minutes and then try this exercise again with a better result. By doing this, you might not see the results you want. This is where knowing the difference between flexibility and mobility comes into play. 

What’s the difference between flexibility and mobility?

For starters, flexibility is the ability of your muscles to stretch and lengthen throughout a range, whereas mobility is actively moving a joint through a range of motion. The concept of mobility includes the ability of the muscle to lengthen and stretch, but it is also reliant on the joint, ligaments, and surrounding joint capsule to provide motion. Mobility requires the joints to have good motor control, so you’re not flailing your limbs around. With that being said, flexibility and mobility are two very similar terms, with mobility encompassing flexibility in its definition. 

Mobility is an important concept for everyday function. You might be lacking motion due to a joint restriction or soft tissue restrictions. This can get in the way of your everyday function. Mobility is what we treat in physical therapy. It’s our job to help you regain mobility by addressing the underlying cause to restore normal motion. 


Research studies have demonstrated that static stretching only results in short-term benefits in flexibility. Contrarily, mobility training requires the body to tap into its motor control to actively move a joint. The best example is if you are stretching to attempt a split. You can sit in a split for hours, but if to get there you pushed the tissues and jammed a joint that has restricted mobility, you most likely won’t be able to perform the split regularly unless you actively put yourself in the split position. Your body is smart when it comes to keeping itself our of harm’s way. If the body feels like you are stressing it too much, it will limit your mobility to make sure the joint capsule and the muscle tissues don’t injure. 

What can you do to increase your mobility? 

You should perform mobility exercises before any compound exercise. You want to make sure the muscles contributing to a motion are correctly activating as well as provide lubrication to the joints through active motion. 

Performing mobility exercises can help you:

  1. Decrease injury risk — your muscles and joints will be primed to perform harder activities
  2. Bring awareness to areas that may need extra attention. By performing mobility drills you may find a restriction that requires more repetition for the body to be ready to move properly. 
  3. The body strengthen through a new range and develop motor control in new ranges achieved 


Are you dealing with body aches related to activity or exercise? We are here to help! At Symmetry, we will provide you with a comprehensive physical therapy assessment to get to the root cause of your problem. Check out our Youtube channel for more tips and easy to follow exercises videos. Making key changes to your footwear and movement strategies can help prevent a small problem from getting worse.

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