Hypermobility vs Flexibility? Is Mobility a Bad Thing?

What is hypermobility?

When talking about fitness, many people use flexibility and mobility interchangeably, but the two concepts are actually very different! Mobility refers to the range of motion in a joint. Mobility is influenced by both the joint structures (where one bone meets another) and the soft tissue that surrounds that joint. Flexibility refers only to the soft tissue itself.

Each joint has an optimal range of motion. If a joint is able to exceed this optimal range, it is considered hypermobile. Hypermobility is more common in women because they go through more musclular and bony changes that create joint laxity.

There are some easy tests to see if your joints are hypermobile. Begin by looking at your elbows and knees! If they bend beyond a 180 degrees straight line you are probably hypermobile.

How does this affect my workout?

Hypermobility is an added obstacle when performing exercises or working out, because as your joints move more freely they become less stable. Stability is key to exercise; if you are not stable you increase your odds of injury. This doesn’t mean you should not workout or perform physical activity, it just means you need to have a strategy for your workouts. Physical Therapy or working with a trained professional can help yo improve safety and provided a guided plan to improve joint strength and stability.

Here are some quick tips for exercising with hypermobility:

Avoid extreme range of motion exercises. This will prevent the joint from going into the excessive degrees of motion and will make them stronger in normal ranges, preventing them from entering the over extended positions.

Stretch with caution! People who are hypermobile sometimes feel tight because their ligaments and tendons are being overworked in order to protect their joints. Over-stretching will actually promote the body to move more freely into those injury prone ranges of motion.

Avoid complete fatigue when exercising. If you burn your muscles out to complete fatigue then they wont be able to stabilize the joints. Focus on quality over quantity.

Isometrics are key! Isometric exercises are held for a longer than normal period of time without moving. Isometrics work help improve stability in joints throughout the body. An example would be holding a pushup half way down for 15 seconds 3-5 times instead of doing 10 in a row.

For any questions about mobility, feel free to reach out to me or any of the team at Custom Performance!

Julia Malacoff, 5 Signs You’re Hypermobile and How to Workout Safely, myfitnesspal.com

Borsa PA, Sauers EL, Herling DE. Patterns of glenohumeral joint laxity and stiffness in healthy men and women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Oct; 32(10):1685-90

Greg Laraia ATC