Mobility vs Stability: What's better?
Mobility refers to how a joint moves through its range of motion (ROM).
Stability refers to restricting certain movement to support joints, and to maintain correct* posture.
These words are thrown around so easily within the fitness and health industry today, but do we even understand what they mean?
As stated above, the definitions for the two go hand in hand. It can be damaging to have one without the other, or to have one override the other as well. To be mobile is to have healthy range of motion. This comes down to a few things:
Pain free movement within the joint
Movement within a 'normal' range
A smooth motion with no clunking, clicking or crunching
Mobility comes with movement -- the more you move, the more your joints get lubricated, the more they are taken through the entire range of motion = a healthy joint.
Stability, on the other hand, is mainly thanks to our stabilizer muscle groups. These muscle groups are the closest to the skeleton and often are the ones to turn on before any larger muscle groups when movement is happening. This is for two main reasons:
To ensure the joint does not go further than it needs to
To protect the joint from injury
So what's the sweet spot when it comes to mobility and stability?
A healthy range of motion that is pain free and feels strong and trusting.
This is very subjective to each persons body, which is why it is so important to be aware of how your body feels throughout the day, during and after exercise. If you find yourself feeling 'stiff', this most likely is caused from joint inflammation as a result fo either, trauma, overuse or lack of mobility. When you force a joint through a range of motion that it is not able to go to, the result is stiffness, soreness and possible injury.
If you find yourself being cautious when doing certain exercises or movements (such as walking up or down stairs, at the gym, while walking or running), this is most likely a sign of instability. When a joint is unstable, you may feel uneasy or unsure of yourself when using it. This can feel like hesitation, or sometimes your joint might give way completely and either lock out or fall out from beneath you (think of a buckling knee or hip).
What to do with this information?
Talk with your coach, trainer or health care provider about getting your joint health checked, and to test your stability. These tests are very quick to perform and can easily be fixed through exercise prescription (most of them are boring, but very necessary!) and manual therapy.
Without stability, your mobility will be on overload!
Without mobility, your stabilizers will be on fire!
Getting to know your body is one of the greatest investments you will ever do.
*Correct is subjective to you and your body.