Mobility vs Stability: The Building Blocks of Biomechanics.

We go through life with little awareness of whether parts of our body are mobile or stable, until we experience a moment of instability that results in a stumble or fall, or a period of pain that affects our life. What we do not realize is that the body has a very specific pattern of mobility and stability that behaves much like a game of Jenga. Each block, which in this case is a section of the body, is either mobile or stable, and then each block immediately above and below is the opposite. This occurs from the head all the way down to the feet to ensure we remain upright and balanced.

The ideal biomechanical pattern of mobility and stability is as follows:

Mob&Stab charts 1

However, most often our patterns are the exact opposite of the ideal illustrated above. When one section changes its role, each block from top to bottom reverses its role as well, from mobile to stable or vice versa. Let’s explore what this looks like.

Mob&Stab charts 2

Does this sound familiar? We all know someone that carries this pattern. Maybe you recognize this in yourself.

To illustrate further, let’s distinguish between Stability and Mobility. By definition, these terms mean:

Stability – the ability to withstand force without being distorted, to be supported, to have strength, to be dependable, to be sturdy.

Mobility – not rigid, to move with ease without restriction, to be flexible.

Biomechanically, our bodies do not function well with the same pattern in two adjacent sections (or blocks), whether mobile or stable. For example, the cervical and thoracic spines are not mobile at the same time, one is mobile and the other is stable by default. The same applies to the knee and hip, or the hip and pelvis, and on it goes. In dynamic movement like walking, these changes from stability to mobility between adjacent joints occur in a split second. When the pattern is backward, you can imagine the confusion that occurs.

The great news is that when we change the pattern in one section (or block), each other block can change back to the ideal pattern. It’s like magic!

Try simply mobilizing your hip joint, and notice if your knee feels more stable or your low back feels more supported. Amazing changes can also happen throughout the body just by mobilizing the ankles or the ribcage.

Working with a Movement Practitioner with a strong knowledge of biomechanics can help you re-stack your blocks for better alignment and more effortless movement.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2015. All rights reserved. 


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