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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Zorn

The Balancing Act: Strength vs. Mobility – Which is More Important?




Back Exercise Dr. Zorn

Over the last 13 years, I have seen numerous patients with various types of back, neck, and joint pain. When patients face these conditions, their goal is to recover and prevent further injuries. Consequently, one of the most common questions when treating these conditions is, "What is more important, strength or mobility?"


In this article, we will discuss strength and mobility. 

  • What is strength

  • What is mobility? 

  • What are the differences between mobility and flexibility? 

  • How do these areas impact our health? 


The argument between strength and mobility has long been debated in the realm of fitness and athleticism. Some argue that raw strength is the key to athletic prowess. In contrast, others advocate for the importance of mobility in achieving optimal performance and preventing injury.


A gray area exists, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.



What is Strength Training?


Strength training is a form of physical exercise that uses resistance to stimulate muscle contraction, leading to increased strength, anaerobic endurance, and muscle size. It includes various activities, from weightlifting to bodyweight exercises, each designed to enhance overall muscle function and health.


Progressive strength training helps increase muscle mass, boost metabolism, and improve bone density. The human body must be strong and resilient to thrive with longevity and health. 


However, excessive emphasis on strength training alone can lead to muscle imbalances and reduced mobility. Over time, tight muscles and restricted range of motion can lead to joint pain, increased injury risk, and hinder performance in other physical activities.


What is mobility?


Joint mobility in strength training refers to the range of motion around a joint. Mobility emphasizes the capacity to move freely and efficiently through the full range of movement without discomfort or restriction. Enhancing joint motion is essential for proper form during exercise, reducing injury risk, and improving overall functional fitness.


Good joint motion supports practical strength training by allowing more dynamic and controlled movements, leading to better performance and muscle development.

While mobility is commonly associated with activities like yoga and Pilates, it is equally essential in sports and everyday movements.


What is the difference between mobility and flexibility?


Flexibility:

  • Definition: Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to lengthen through a range of motion.

  • Focus: It focuses on the stretch of muscles and connective tissues.

  • Measurement: It's typically measured by how far a muscle can be elongated, such as in static (not moving) stretching exercises.

  • Examples: Being able to touch your toes or perform a split.


Mobility

  • Definition: Mobility refers to the ability of a joint to move actively through its full range of motion.

  • Focus: It combines flexibility with strength, coordination, and control, emphasizing the quality of movement and joint functionality.

  • Measurement: It's assessed by the ability to perform movements with control and without restrictions, such as in dynamic stretches or functional movements.

  • Examples: Performing a deep squat with proper form or smoothly transitioning between yoga poses.


Flexibility is about the length of muscles. Mobility encompasses the overall capacity of joints to move freely and efficiently, incorporating muscle strength and coordination.


Why are mobility and strength important for joint pain?


I often discuss the fine line between too much strength and poor mobility with patients. When patients struggle with lower back pain or muscle strains, this area often needs improvement. Many have either one, but not a balance between each.  


We often focus early on with increasing strength. It is necessary to go from crawling to walking to running. Perhaps eventually, we turn this improved strength into a sport.


This improvement in strength is important as we grow and develop, but we often lose mobility as strength increases. This can lead to joint injuries, muscle strains, and back pain.


Mobility allows us to be dynamic. The adaptability we need to move swiftly allows us to withstand the shocks and trauma that occur in life or sport. 


So, which is more important: strength or mobility? The reality is that they are both critical components of life, and there must be a balance between them to achieve peak physical condition.


Here's why:


1. Performance Enhancement: Strength alone may not be enough to excel in sports or other physical activities. Without adequate mobility, athletes may struggle to move fluidly and efficiently, limiting their ability to perform at their best.


Conversely, individuals with excellent mobility but needing more strength may be unable to generate the power necessary to excel in their chosen pursuits. Athletes can optimize their performance and maximize their potential by developing strength and mobility.


2. Injury Prevention: One of the most significant benefits of mobility is its role in injury prevention. Every day, we treat patients at Skyline Chiropractic and Sports Medicine who injure themselves because of the imbalance between strength and mobility.


Tight muscles and a decreased range of motion can increase the risk of back pain, muscle strains, and joint sprains, particularly during physical activity. By incorporating mobility exercises into their training routines, individuals can improve joint health, reduce muscle imbalances, and decrease the likelihood of injury.


Building strength can help support and stabilize your joints, especially your lower back. This can reduce the risk of injury during high-impact activities.


3. Longevity and Quality of Life: Maintaining strength and mobility as we age becomes increasingly important for preserving independence and quality of life. Loss of muscle mass and mobility are common consequences of aging, leading to reduced mobility, increased risk of falls, and diminished overall function.


By incorporating strength and mobility exercises into one's regular routine, older adults can slow the progression of age-related decline and maintain their physical independence for longer.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the debate between strength and mobility ultimately comes down to recognizing the importance of each in achieving overall fitness and performance.


While strength may provide the raw power needed to excel in athletic pursuits, mobility is equally essential for moving efficiently and preventing injury.


So, rather than choosing between strength or mobility, why not embrace the power of both!


Take Aways


When working on your health and fitness, it is beneficial to change the routine often. Strength training should be a large part of the training program, but don't neglect mobility.


Try doing strength training 2-3 days a week. Break up the week with 1-2 days of mobility work, actively working on improving range of motion and overall function. Remember cardio training as well. No one said being healthy and fit was easy, but it's worth it!


 

At Skyline Chiropractic and Sports Medicine, we see various sports injuries, including lower back and neck pain. Patients are often unaware of the importance of mobility in relation to muscle strains and joint pain. Over the years, we have put together patient-specific treatments to reduce pain and improve joint motion through chiropractic care. 


If you are experiencing difficulty with any aspect of your health or simply want to be pain free, please contact us for a consultation. 724-203-0783. 




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