BALANCED
with Athletes In Motion

WRITTEN BY

CHRIS M.
AIM PERFORMANCE COACH

DATE

09.16.2019

Defining Mobility and Stability

When referring to a warm up, cool down or even a workout in general, many trainers, coaches and instructors use the words “mobility” and “stability” to drive home the purpose of a movement. While these are great at surface level, it’s important to understand the actual definitions and purposes of these frequently-used words.

Mobility is the muscles’ ability to move around a joint, or how freely the joint can move in its full range of motion. Stability is the ability to maintain control of joint position/movement while acted upon by an external force. In other words, mobility is movement and stability is control. In the human body, a series of joints interact to provide mobility and stability during motion. These joints include ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine (lower back), thoracic spine/scapula (shoulder blades) and shoulders.

Benefits of Joint Mobility and Stability

Each of these joints have a specific need during motion. We list the joints from toe to head because they have an alternating mobility/stability function when moving from the ground up. The ankle, hip and thoracic spine/scapula provide mobility to allow the knee, lumbar spine and shoulder joints to maintain stability. By looking at the human body this way, we are able to paint a clear image of how human movement works and how the entire body is connected. If the mobility joints move freely without restrictions, the joints where control is important can maintain stability and move safely. However, if one of these joints loses its primary function, it could send a chain reaction either up or down the body.

One common example of this is chronic knee pain that is not caused by an injury. It is often assumed that if the knee hurts, something must be wrong with the knee. But, as stated above, knee stability can be influenced by ankle and hip mobility as well. The ankle is responsible for controlling the motion in the lower leg while the hip is accountable for controlling the motion in the upper leg. If those two mobility joints are not moving as designed, what gets caught in the middle? You’ve got it – the knee. The internal structure of the knee is designed to protect against rotational torque and all motion other than flexion and extension. When the ankle allows the lower leg to move appropriately and the hip allows the upper leg to move properly, the knee is able to flex and extend safely with stability and, hopefully, less pain.

A proper warm-up that addresses mobility and stability is an important component to add to any training session. Spending a little time before and after each session can go a long way in protecting your body and enhancing your ability to workout and enjoy life. 

Elements of an Effective Warm up

  1. Increase joint viscosity, the blood flow to all primary joints in the body.
  2. Address known and unknown mobility issues. Take a little extra time to work on the areas that may need more mobility.
  3. Activate muscle groups that correspond to your workout. Get the body in the proper position that mimics your primary exercise of the day
  4. Movement. Perform some sort of locomotion or fundamental movement pattern to activate the neural connections from the brain to the muscles

Joint Mobility Exercise Example (Warm Up)

Movement Prep: 2 sets each

• Lunge position World’s Greatest Stretch: 5 per side

• Bodyweight squat matrix: 3 per stance

– Wide stance

– Narrow stance

– Staggered stance

• Bodyweight push up: 10 total

• Bodyweight back lunge and twist: 5 per leg

Locomotion

• Lateral Shuffles with arm swing

• Carioca