Mobility vs. Flexibility

Mobility vs. Flexibility


Mobility training seems to be all the rage these days and has been widely accepted by both ends of the movement, sport and performance spectrum. However, as a growing trend, the word “mobility” is more and more often being used interchangeably with terms, such as; “flexibility,” and “stretching.”

For instance, many clients come to me and say they have been told they are tight, and need to stretch. Some of these clients have been prescribed Yoga classes or been given “stretching” exercises, but isolated stretching or classes that encourage improved flexibility will not address, nor fix a mobility dysfunction problem.

Understanding the “why” we prescribe and the “how” are key to, not only a client’s success, but in their understanding of how to self manage their health. Let’s start by defining the three terms:

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to lengthen passively through a range of motion. It is specific to that particular “part or parts.” Notice the word passively. During screening, one must assess tissue extensibility and length to determine if the dysfunction is a true muscle tissue issue, or, a joint issue.

Mobility is the ability to move a joint actively through a range of motion. Mobility is all encompassing and takes into account the joint, the joint capsule (ligaments), the muscles crossing the joint and the nervous system (motor control). This requires movement can control. Notice the word actively. This speaks to a clients ability to control movement. Screening mobility should also address mobility dysfunctions and or tissue extensibility dysfunctions.


Joints vs. Tissues:

As an industry too often we merely think of “flexibility” or “mobility” as being solely just tissue related, but what about the joints? Mobility dysfunctions are seldom differentiated appropriately because we need to screen them separately. We need to determine patterns vs. parts. This should be a two pronged process to differentiate mobility dysfunctions; further into either joint mobility or tissue extensibility dysfunctions. Joint pain, unlike muscle soreness, is a legitimate, bonified red flag, much like tight and overly toned tissue restrictions is a legitimate yellow flag. I say yellow because even if there is no pain yet, if not addressed, there could be.

Patterns vs. Parts:

In corrective movement, we focus much of our attention to “training patterns,” not parts.” This means that when a client is prescribed an exercise, it needs to address a pattern of movement, not just a part of the body. If there is an action to one part, there will be an equal reaction to surrounding parts AND to the pattern. As part of my overall screening I ensure “mobility (patterns) is optimal first,” which includes screening “tissue length” (parts) if needed, so that I can address and identify risk, but also ensure I am not just treating the symptom of a larger problem.

After screening or assessment, stretching may be one tool needed if there is a true flexibility issue; but even the word “stretching” has a vast spectrum of meaning. Stretching could apply to, passive, active, dynamic, facilitated, contract/relax etc. As a coach, clarity to the client is key.

Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramps.

Here’s an example of screening both for mobility and tissue extensibility (aka flexibility):

In the active straight leg raise screen, we are looking to identify the active mobility of the flexed hip, but also addressing the available hip extension on the alternate hip. We can also add in addressing lumbar and core/trunk stability.

In this screen, we ask a client to actively flex at the hip and raise the leg up straight (no bend in the knee). If the client cannot reach adequate flexion with a straight leg (which is around 70 degrees for leg flexion in this particular screen) we then move into screening the flexed hip through passive range. If the client still cannot reach optimal range, we could define this as requiring more “flexibility” in the hamstring group.

Does the screening process stop here? No…

If a client has movement dysfunction, the tissue length of the hamstring is merely one piece of the overall puzzle. When I screen, I also take into account the mobility of the joints at the hip, knee and ankle. Therefore, breaking this down to include screening the muscles in hip extension; as well as internal and external rotation at the hip, along with screening dorsi flexion at the ankle, would be next on my list to determine the full pattern. And down the rabbit hole we go. If I find other limitations I may take the client to seated and standing and further screen their toe touch to ensure this is a bonified “hip mobility” dysfunction. For the sake of this article, I merely wish to point out the difference between “flexibility” and “mobility” related to both screening and program exercise selection.

Prescribing Flexibility:

Soft Tissue release, we addressed in our 2 part series on myo fascia release. . Muscle soreness, tightness or tone usually changes when an appropriate warm-up, myo fascia release techniques are administered and or flexibility efforts are performed. This is where styles of stretching can be beneficial. Movement is the best remedy for maintaining both adequate flexibility of tissue, and adequate mobility of the surrounding joints.

Static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are the two most common ways to stretch short, tight muscles. Static stretching usually involves using stretches that hold the target muscle in a lengthened position. Through autogenic inhibition, this method allows for increases in passive range of motion. Once we have achieved this, we can then move onto active range, and joint disassociation drills.

Prescribing Mobility:

Mobility should always be addressed proactively, rather than on a reactionary basis. Do not wait until there is problem, dysfunction will manifest if compensation is present. If you see compensatory movement – address it right away. Mobility comes before stability and stability comes before strength.

Tight tissues are red flags for risk. Mobility drills address the elements that limit movement and performance; they take into account short and tight tissue, soft tissue restrictions, joint capsule limitations, joint range and motor control faults – the pattern, not just the part. Mobility includes, flexibility if needed, but for instance, if a client has a tight chest, tight shoulders, and a tight upper neck, I would look to screen their thoracic spine. Most often mobility exercises; like the rib pull or trunk rotations can clear up limitations in the shoulder, neck and upper girdle. Merely stretching the pecs or lats will not clear up dysfunction.

Mobility should be performed by globally addressing movement above and below the limitation to help weed out performance and movement problems.

Just keep in mind that when you add mobility to a joint, you also increase risk. Stability needs to be earned and applied before you apply strength. Movement and control are the key when mobility is added to a client’s program.

FlexibilityPRO “IS” Bill LeSuer: Not Your Average Major League Coach

FlexibilityPRO “IS” Bill LeSuer: Not Your Average Major League Coach


Bill LeSuer’s tag line above his treatment table. In this office you will find no fluffly blankets, no zen music, no candles or babbling brooks. This is NOT your regular body worker. Bill is indefinable, and he is has an incredible gift. Oh, and the room, sweet baby popsicles … is a little slice of man cave heaven.



Bill is a native of Brooklyn, NY, but has earned the nickname “Frenchy” from his French Canadian roots.  Most of the sports industry will know Bill from his medical staff days with the Major League Baseball Team, but before that, before the reinvention of his life, Bill Le Seur was a fireman in Fountain Hills, Arizona. In 1993, at the age of 33, he decided to make a change. Like many of us, reinventions of oneself are usually brought about by a life changing event. In December of that year, he was involved in one of a fireman’s greatest fears going to a call; known as the infant code. Unfortunately, the infant code was at his own house. After unsuccessful CPR, they lost their daughter Taylor. Any event of this magnitude is undeniably life shattering, life changing and life altering. It can either break you, or your learn to build yourself back up. Bill knew it was time to find his calling.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I had this very strong, overwhelming feeling that I really wanted to help people. While working my shift one day, I saw an ad in the paper for a Massage Therapy School in Scottsdale,”

Upon completing Massage Therapy School, I thought to myself “I must get this to athletes.” Now keep in mind, this is 1993, there was no such thing as muscle therapy in Major League Baseball. “I WILL BE THE FIRST” I decided.” –  Bill


Bill began his career on the Angels and the Dodgers Major League Traveling Medical Staffs. Interning at the age of 33, he worked his way up the ranks. A simple kid who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y, sitting in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium with his Dad and brother, was now a grown man standing on the field.


“One day Paul Bradley introduced me to a gentleman “This is Jim Merrick, Pitching Coach for the Milwaukee Brewers Rookie ball team.” My stomach churned, “no way”, I thought. So this is why I’m here. Turns out Jim Merrick had a painful hip. “What do you do” asked Jim. Before I could respond, the trainer blurts out “he’s a rub guy.” I got Jim on the table and treated him for about 30 minutes. It was at this moment that I knew I wasn’t just a rub guy. I wasn’t going to massage him, I was going to release his hip muscles. He gets off the table and walks across the Training Room to test out his “new hip”. He turns around, looks at me and says “Would you mind working on some of our players?” – Bill

The major reason Bill has been so successful, is because he did not conform to traditional “massage” or “stretching.” He took a tool and molded it, to create a niche that suited his players and supported growth, that was also quantitative. A player plays better, less pain, joints mobile – it works.  When you walk into his office the walls are filled from one wall to the other of “Thank You’s” from every major player in the MLB, NHL, NFL, Olympics Track and Field, even, Arnold pump you up” schwarzenegger,  Robert Plant Led Zepplin. The guy has more thanks you and testimonials on his wall, than I have facebook friends!  Joe dimaggio is on his wall. LEGEND!


“I created the positions of Muscle Therapist and Flexibility Coach in a Major League Training room back in the mid-90s at a time when no teams recognized this type of work. I got my start with the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Organization and also spent a couple of seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks Training Staff at the end of my career. I was the personal therapist to 3 times Gold Medal Olympian Gail Devers, and also was a member of the 1996 British Olympic Medical Staff. I’m the owner of FlexibilityPRO Studio in North Scottsdale, AZ” – Bill

bill national_anthem


It is a series of precise palpation techniques that actually releases muscle groups. This allows full extensibility of the tissue, allowing the athlete to achieve their fullest potential and performance. After many years of treating Major League Baseball players, Bill realized that most of the injuries were from a direct result of poor muscle condition. Pulling tools from his coaches toolbox he developed and founded a treatment plan called (PFT) Performance Flexibility Training.

This therapy includes a systemic and comprehensive evaluation of the client’s tissue health; taking into account; contractures, adhesions, and restrictions in the muscle tissue. In order to improve tissue health; one much focus on removing these negatives; which are done through precise palpation techniques, along with improving the elasticity in the fascial system and the relationship between the musculoskeletal and fascial systems.

Upon meeting Bill, I wasn’t sure what to expect…RMT, PNF, FST? All of these techniques aim to provide the same thing – improve tissue health. However, Bill has been able to pull from all of these tools AND use palpation techniques, I have never experienced before to restore pliability, flexibility and range of motion. Our muscles and fascia are made to move, our bones are made to float and be pliable. Bills technique does just this. It resets the nervous system, improves proprioception and identifies where a client may lack the ability to sequentially engage or activate tissue in their body.

For example, as a ball player, if you are asked to contract your right quad and you contract both, asked again and you can’t differentiate between firing your right to left… this is risk factor and most likely will result in a lower mechanical injury down the line. Much like FMS and how we approach our operating systems in Corrective Movement, Bill’s approach is to address the cause of the dysfunction, not just chase the symptoms.



Stretching a muscle group without manually releasing the dysfunctional tissue is like waxing a dirty car…. An important step has been missed. Using a simple analogy…..we all know how far you can stretch a tube sock. This represents healthy tissue. Put three staples in the center of the sock. These staples represent past injuries, adhesions, contracture, and fascial restrictions. Now try to stretch the sock. Not too much movement between the staples is there? No amount of stretching will remove these staples. ” – Bill

As a movement coach, I am asked all the time; “I stretch every day, why am I still tight.?” My answer is always simple; what is the state of the tissue, and second, what is your approach to “stretching.” As you all know, I use that term loosely. First off, a compensation or dysfunction is rarely one muscle; it’s a series of muscles and a pattern that works inefficiently as a team. Secondly, most of my clients that ask this are athletes who put their bodies through intense training, contact and rigor.

One needs to understand that you tissue health will look much different from that of, let’s say a Yoga teacher on a resort beach. Tissue holds contracture’s, adhesion’s and scar tissue – thus inhibits movement and dulls facilitation and activation. Standard stretching, PNF or FST will not get you to where you want to be. You need to move that tissue around so that it can move freely from it’s neighbor and slide with the surrounding tissue.

The palpation technique and transitions from technique to facilitated stretch back to palpation etc is what makes FlexibilityPRO so unique and successful.

What we deduced in my session with Bill, is that my left side has significantly reduced proprioception and activation (less responsive), and my right is overly responsive, to the point my sensory feedback was much more pronounced.

Bill’s unique ability to sense muscle tissue condition has enabled him to assist world class athletes in increasing their performance. He is widely considered to be one of the foremost consultants in the field of performance muscle therapy.

I am sure Arnold would agree, when I say this – Bill LeSuer is the terminator of tissue! No more dysfunction, no more restrictions, no more pain. Subtle, extensible, pliable and just down right read to perform tissue health. If you are not aware of this man’s talent, I suggest you start following his blog here – http://flexibilitypro.blogspot.ca/.  Thank you Bill for all that you give this world, for stepping outside the box and becoming a leader in an industry that “po-poos” “rub guys and gals” your technique just makes us all stronger and better people, as well as athletes. It was an honor to learn from you.



Tonight I was given the opportunity to attend a “Think Tank” session to discuss the ‘state of the industry’ in health, fitness and sports performance. Carmen Bott, newly appointed Director of the NSCA of BC invited over 30 health professionals to openly brainstorm and discuss strengths within our scope of practice, industry standards, pitfalls, trends and presentation topics, as well as, what we would like to see implemented into the next NSCA Conference. A wish list if you will!

L.A Clippers Blake Griffin, Mens Health Magazine 2011

Who was in the room? Strength coaches, personal trainers, educators, RMT’s a physiotherapist, athletic trainers, FST’s, a yoga teacher (me); and at this networking gig… there was no pink elephant in the room, just unbridled passion for harnessing human potential.

Honored to be invited and to sit next to these leaders in strength and athletic performance, I quietly wondered if this was a little out of my league. Many years ago I made the slow transition out of sports conditioning to Yoga, then to corrective movement; therefore, what could a Yoga teacher possibly bring to the table?

I had a realization.  The goal of a health professional is not to solely enroll in courses, or engage in discussions we already know the answers to, but to continue to learn and evolve our scope of practice, so that we can integrate a holistic approach to better serve our clients and our industry.

A background in the physiology of flexibility, the fascial system and the traditional holistic methodology of “Yoga” would be a very beneficial topic up for discussion in this group and on the flip side, learning more about strength conditioning and athletic based performance metrics would most definitely offer me the chance to better communicate with my clients that fall under the auspices of athlete and strength based populations.

As we know, teaching fascial stretch or Yoga to a rugby player, will be much different then teaching Yoga to an endurance athlete or a dancer. Why? Genetics, muscle tensity, sport performance, gender etc! Our genetic make-up and muscular and fascial composition make all the difference. As a Yoga Teacher, read this next sentence…

“Each has a unique genetic make up that requires a specific repertoire of movement patterns, release techniques and conditioning metrics for improved mobility and stability  for better movement and performance mechanics.”

Now, re-read that sentence if you are a strength coach? Doesn’t it sound like we are trying to achieve the same destination? The answer is YES, we just look at the mechanics a little differently.

This is why understanding the dynamics of strength coaching is so important if you teach to a population inside athletics. Moreover, an integrated approach is so integral to anyone with the goal of improved movement and human potential for that fact.

What is the NSCA?

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has become the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning for athletic performance.  They have achieved this accreditation by supporting and disseminating research-based knowledge and the practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness on a myriad of levels.

This think tank was a great representation of how we can each play a role and impact the evolution of our industry and better serve our clients. The science and the health sectors are constantly changing, and with the integration of holistic wellness outreach, I truly believe there is much to be learned and benefited from when we combine the science of biomechanics and human kinetics with the art of traditional Yoga. A practice that for over 5000 years has been rooted in the very embodiment of human performance potential – mind, body and spirit.

For every Ying, there is always a Yang!


To learn more about the NSCA please visit:  http://www.nsca-lift.org/

To learn more about Carmen Bott please visit:  http://www.carmenbott.com/

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