Dr. Steven Scappaticci, B.Sc. (Hons.), CSCS, DC, FRCms
Who’s better? Michael Jordan or Lebron James? Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Who was more influential? Biggie or Tupac? So many great debatable questions but one debate that may exist between strongmen & yogis is, which is more important? Mobility or strength? As you read this, you may already have your mind made up based on your personal preferences but let’s not forget that the answer may vary depending on a person’s needs and/or age. Lets take a deeper look, shall we?
What does mobility really mean? By definition mobility is the amount of 'active range' a person has when looking at a specific joint. This differs from flexibility, which is the 'passive (assisted) range' a person has. Mobility is a key piece to evaluate when it comes to movement, whether it’s in a gym setting or even just around the house. What makes mobility so important is that it is often the limiting factor when it comes to any movement. For example, someone can be super strong but if they want to perform a squat but only have 90 degrees of active hip flexion (mobility) but at the bottom of their squat the weight helps them get to 100 or 110 degrees of hip flexion, is that safe? Can they control themselves at the bottom of that squat? Isn’t mobility more important than strength here?
Now one thing that is outside of a gym setting that shows the importance of mobility is the relationship that mobility has on our independence as we age. Seniors, assuming adequate visual and mental states, will require their mobility to be sufficient to be ambulatory as the years go on. Is it realistic for someone in their late 70’s to all of a sudden start working on their mobility and then feel young again? Probably not! What is more likely to happen is that each year their mobility will be less and less than the year before. If you don’t care about a gym setting, the relationship between mobility & age-related independence and it’s effect on quality of life should be enough to highlight its importance.
But can someone really move if they don’t have the strength to do so? Isn’t strength more important? Some people spend a lot of time in the gym setting with specific training schedules aimed at improving their strength & hitting new personal records (PR) over time. Strength work can be a little more fun than mobility work. I mean its tough to get a PR for your mobility work. But once again, not everyone has the drive for strength in a gym setting.
The more muscle mass you accumulate throughout the early stages of life the better you are at having muscle left when you’re in your 80s. The loss of muscle mass is known as sarcopenia & it will affect everyone over time. Strength training can help us build a nice reserve but more importantly help maintain & improve muscle mass as we age (as well as aid in bone mineral density). Having strength as we age also contributes to independence in the later years of life. Are someone’s legs strong enough to get the off the couch or off the toilet at 78? Are someone’s arms strong enough to push a vacuum? If Olympic lifting is not your thing, weight training for future independence should be enough motivation to put down the remote & pickup a dumbbell.
So which is more important? Mobility or strength? Perhaps you’ve made up your mind. Maybe you’re thoughts have changed since reading this article. As it was alluded to earlier, the answer may vary from person to person depending on their age & needs. But regardless, everyone’s independence becomes more and more valuable as we age; and mobility & strength are both closely linked with long-term independence. Can you really have one without the other?
For any questions, please contact Dr. Steven Scappaticci at firstname.lastname@example.org
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