You might associate flexibility with hitting a full split or tossing your leg behind your head. But, by textbook definition, flexible simply refers to the ability to flex or bend, often repeatedly.

And while crazy stretches may serve as strong goals for the ‘gram, it's important to aim for mobility, too.

What’s the difference between flexibility and mobility?

“Flexibility is someone’s ability to passively move through a range of motion,” says Dan Giordano, CSCS, DPT, co-founder and director of physical therapy at Bespoke Treatments. By that he means, say, if you’re lying down with one leg lifted to the ceiling, another person could easily push it toward your face.

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There’s also a neurological aspect to flexibility, Giordano says. To get more flexible, you have to stretch (the more frequently, the better), and your mind has to allow you to push your limits.

“Mobility, on the other hand, is how you go through a movement—and it requires more control, along with strength and stability,” he continues. “It’s more about the joint’s ability to move through a desired range,” rather than a muscle. Mobility also relates to comfortably doing a functional exercise, like a full deep squat or walking lunge.

While static stretching—holding poses for 30 seconds or longer—won’t necessarily make you more mobile, Giordano says, soft tissue work (like foam rolling) and dynamic stretches will.

Don't have a foam roller? Grab an expert-approved pick:

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So should I focus on flexibility or mobility—or both?

Well, that depends on your overall goals...and the expert you ask. Giordano believes focusing more on mobility work will serve you better. While focusing on flexibility (more specifically, long-held stretches) might feel good, it doesn’t necessarily benefit your workout.

He is a bigger fan of dynamic stretching—moving stretches—for improving your mobility and workout performance. “Dynamic stretching activates tissues and stimulates the nervous system," he says. "Allowing you to prep for activity.”

Adriana Salgado, NASM-CPT, trainer at CompleteBody in New York City has a slightly different mentality. She says, “good flexibility allows for moving through full ranges of motion, improving balance, and developing diverse movement skills.” And Salgado suggests incorporating flexibility programming three times a week.

But Giordano and Salgado agree you should save your static stretches for after a workout, and complete more dynamic movements before you break a sweat. Before your workout, Salgado recommends foam rolling, to address "potentially tight and overactive muscles." Then complete active stretching and mobility exercises. Post-workout, go for those static stretches "to help promote recovery and alleviate soreness,” she says.

So even if you don’t static stretch every day, you can still increase your range of motion through certain movements by foam rolling and active stretching. If you love the way static stretching feels, simply do it post-sweat. And to get the best of both worlds, try Giordano and Salgado's stretch recommendations.

Dynamic Stretches To Add To Your Pre-Workout Routine

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Lateral Lunge To Glute Pull

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at your side. Take a big step to the right, then push your hips back, bending your right knee and lowering your body until your right knee is bent 90 degrees. Push back to an upright position, as you lift your right knee and pull it into your chest with your arms. That's one rep. Complete 5 reps on each side.

Quad Pulls

How to: Start standing. Bend your right knee so your foot is behind you, by your butt, and grab for your ankle with your right hand. Point your knee toward the ground and press it back for a quad stretch, tucking your pelvis slightly forward. Then reverse the movement so your knee is back in line with your other leg. That's one rep. Repeat for 5 reps on each side.

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Toe Touches

How to: Start standing with your feet wider than hip-distance apart. Bend your right knee while leaving your left leg straight, and reach down toward your right toe with your left hand. Then, rotate at your hips and repeat the motion on your left side by touching your left toe with your right hand. That's one rep. Continue alternating for 5 reps.

Active Stretches For Post-Workout Or Rest Days
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Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

How to: Start in a kneeling position with your right foot forward and left knee on the ground. Press your hips forward slightly, as you engage through your left glute and your core to release your left hip. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.

Figure 4 Stretch

How to: Lie on your back on a mat. Bend both knees and place your left ankle over your right knee, feet flexed. Grab the back of your right thigh, pulling it toward your chest gently. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.

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Calves Stretch

How to: Sit up straight and place the balls of your right feet into the loop of a strap or resistance band. Flex your feet by pointing your toes toward your chest. After a few seconds, relax by pointing your toes away from your body. That's one rep. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds.

Chest and Shoulders Stretch

How to: Start standing. Interlace your fingers behind your low back and then extend them toward the ground as you look up toward the sky. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

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Neck Lateral Flexion

How to: In a standing or sitting position, lower your right ear toward your right shoulder, while looking straight ahead. With your right hand, reach over the top of your head, placing your fingertips on your left temple. Gently push your head toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.