Mobility and flexibility often are used synonymously but they’re quite different. Flexibility refers to the range of motion around a joint, whereas mobility refers to range of motion within a joint.
Flexibility applies to muscles, specifically length of muscles. Mobility applies to joints and is used to describe motion. If someone lacks flexibility, stretching is recommended. A lack of mobility naturally calls for mobilization of the joint.
But while most of the fit world talks about flexibility pretty regularly, mobility is often neglected. But that's a shame since a lack of mobility causes pain in other areas due to the body’s ability to compensate—at least before that compensation causes injury or pain. For instance, a lack of ankle mobility produces knee pain. A lack of hip mobility causes lower back pain. Losing mobility in the thoracic spine produces neck, shoulder, and lower back pain. All of these things can keep you out of the gym in the short- or long-term.
The good news is that in each of these three areas, it’s possible to test mobility and improve it through movements. Here's how to do just that.