Why Flexibility is Oversold in the Fitness World
Dr. Edythe Heus
February 9, 2023

If you are a fitness enthusiast, you’ve most likely encountered one too many photos of influencers doing incredible flexibility feats on your social media.

You’ve also probably encountered many online blogs preaching the wonders of flexibility for peak performance.

So, you did what any sensible person on the quest for fitness would do: you stretched.

Unfortunately, the relevance of flexibility in our ability to function is mainly overhyped. What’s actually more important for your ability to perform better is mobility.

The two are different aspects of fitness that most people conflate. And while they are linked, they have varied implications on your overall ability to move.

To make things even more complicated, conventional stretching methods to increase flexibility actually impair your mobility.

But not to fret! Today, we’ll clear up the confusion between flexibility and mobility and explain how you can exercise to achieve both better.

Flexibility vs. Mobility

Flexibility is the ability to move a joint or series of joints through a range of motion. On the other hand, mobility is the ability to move the body freely and fluidly.

As you may observe from the above definitions, flexibility and mobility are closely related. You have to be flexible to be mobile, but having flexibility does not guarantee mobility.

A mobile person can move in various ways without any limitations. They move efficiently; their muscles and joints do not have to compensate for awkward movements.

Meanwhile, a flexible person may not have the required strength and motor control to perform the same movements with the same efficiency.

So while you should still aim for flexibility, your ultimate goal should be mobility.

How Flexible Do You Need To Be?

According to researchers, the level of flexibility you need essentially depends on your activities.

Gymnasts and dancers, for example, require higher levels of flexibility than runners or cyclists. For sports like the latter, researchers have found little to no evidence that stretching increases performance.

From a functional point of view, you only need to be flexible enough to go through your daily life without any friction or pain. As long as you can pick your laundry up off the floor and put dishes away on high shelves, you are good to go.

Beyond your needs, more flexibility offers little to no benefits.

For one, studies show that flexibility in one joint does not automatically translate to mobility. Furthermore, flexibility can even be counterproductive to mobility, especially with the way we stretch.

What’s Wrong With The Way We Stretch?

While stretching is universally promoted in sports for injury prevention and athletic performance, evidence supporting the practice is scarce. On the contrary, studies suggest that stretching to increase flexibility beyond necessary causes injury and compromises mobility.

In particular, static stretching as part of a warm-up routine has been found to be damaging to strength and running and jumping ability. There’s even a term for this phenomenon: stretch-induced strength loss.

One way to explain the detrimental effects of static stretching is its misalignment with the mechanics of the fascial system.

The fascia is an interconnected web encasing and connecting all of our muscles. It holds energy and houses most of our proprioceptors, the sensory receptors that inform us of our bodies’ placement and movement in space.

Healthy fascia looks wavy, reminiscent of elastic springs. Prolonged stretching, as is typical in static stretches, lengthens the fascia’s wavy structures, eliminating its ability to store energy and respond quickly to changes in our movement.

In sum, you can be too flexible—when your fascia becomes too stretched out that it can no longer bounce back.

What Exercises Increase Mobility?

All of the above does not mean you must stop stretching altogether. You just have to perform ones that nourish, instead of lengthen, the fascia.

Opt for more weight-bearing, dynamic movements that involve not just one or two joints. These exercises better stimulate our mobility than stretches done passively and held for a prolonged period.

Here at Rev6, we design our exercises specifically to bring the fascia back to its original, healthy tone. We also use specialized equipment to target small muscles and stimulate the fascia.

Our students are often surprised at how they feel much more mobile after just a few classes.

If you’d like to find out why they think so, try out one of our virtual classes today!


Brooks, T., & Cressey, E. (2013). Mobility Training for the Young Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(3), 27–33. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0b013e3182823435

Gremion G. (2005). Is stretching for sports performance still useful? A review of the literature. Revue medicale suisse, 1(28), 1830–1834. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16130528/

Ingraham S. J. (2003). The role of flexibility in injury prevention and athletic performance: have we stretched the truth?. Minnesota medicine, 86(5), 58–61. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15495679/

Moreside, J. M., & McGill, S. M. (2013). Improvements in Hip Flexibility Do Not Transfer to Mobility in Functional Movement Patterns. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(10), 2635–2643. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e318295d521

Nuzzo J. L. (2020). The Case for Retiring Flexibility as a Major Component of Physical Fitness. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 50(5), 853–870. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01248-w

Opplert, J., & Babault, N. (2018). Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 48(2), 299–325. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9

Page P. (2012). Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. International journal of sports physical therapy, 7(1), 109–119.

Sands, W. & McNeal, J. (2013). Mobility development and flexibility in youths. In R. LLoyd & J. Oliver (Eds.), Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes. Routledge. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780203147498-20/mobility-development-flexibility-youths-william-sands-jeni-mcneal

Schleip, R., & Müller, D. G. (2013). Training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 17(1), 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2012.06.007