When was the last time you thought about performing a mobility exercise? Just as you train for endurance, strength, and aerobic flexibility, you need to train for movement, especially if you want to maintain an active and vibrant life.
Mobility refers to the way your joints move within their sockets. “Mobility is the ability to move your joints freely with surrounding tissues, allowing for smooth movement,” says Dennis Cervantes, an ACSM-certified athletic performance and fitness specialist based in San Bernardino, California.
For example, think about the way your shoulder moves when you do a windmill or arm loop.
It is associated with flexibility but is not synonymous with it. Flexibility refers to the ability of a muscle to stretch or stretch. You can think of mobility as the range of motion of your joints.
Cervantes says exercises to improve movement are more dynamic than exercises to improve flexibility. However, working on both can lead to some of the same benefits.
“If you don’t have flexibility or mobility, it can be hard for you to do simple things like get in and out of your car on time, bend over to put your shoes on, or trying to get something out of the closet.” Cervantes says. It can make training and exercise more difficult.
For example, take the movement in the lumbar and thoracic spine. If you keep these body parts still, you may get injuries from repetitive daily behaviors, such as excessive sitting and using a machine. These habits lead to careless kyphosis, Cervantes says, which is an exaggerated curvature of the back.
Immobility can lead to poor gait mechanics. “Because I’m sitting a lot, the hip muscles are too tight and can’t open up, so when I walk, I can only take a short step,” he said. The older you get, the more likely you are to move your feet while walking as your body bends.
The good news is that simple exercises, practiced regularly, can help prevent these problems now and slow down some of the natural problems associated with aging.
Still good? You’ll never be too small – or too old – to start. “At all stages of your life, mobility training should be part of your strength training program,” says Prentice Rhodes, CSCS, a NASM-certified personal trainer and head coach in Scottsdale, Arizona.
7 Mobile Exercises to Help You
Although there are no specific guidelines on how often you should do mobility exercises, the more you do, the more you benefit overall.
Cervantes recommends doing mobility exercises every day. “The older you get or the more sedentary you are, the more mobility work you have to do,” he says, adding that he likes doing short range-of-motion workout with multiple exercises before any exercise you do. Or you can do it in small amounts throughout the day. Cervantes says the key is to do it regularly so you can maintain and improve this movement.
Here are seven exercises that can help navigate your most important and frequently used joints:
1. Child’s Pose to Downward-Facing Dog
Cervantes says: Kneel on the floor and lower your hips toward your heels. Now when you reach the arms forward on the floor, let the torso fall to the knees and the head fall between the arms. This is the situation of the child. Hold a few deep breaths.
Then come to a tabletop position, shifting the weight forward until the shoulders are above the wrists, and the hips are over the knees. Point the toes down and push the feet across the floor, then extend the arms so the hips are raised, the chest is pushed through the arms and the legs are straight. (Your body forms a triangle with the floor.) Extend through the torso, take a few deep breaths, then slowly drop knees to the floor, open toe-crossing, then return to the child’s position.
Repeat three times in total, taking three to four deep breaths for each movement, says Cervantes.
2. Frog Pose to Deep Squat
Rhodes says: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders, toes angled for this exercise. Lower the body until the thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as possible). Hold here for a second before moving the weight forward and placing both hands on the floor in front of you. Space your knees as you lower toward the floor, and bring your chest to the floor if possible. (Support yourself with your arms as needed if the inner thighs and groin are too tight.) Wait a second before pushing back into a deep squat with toes out. Move slowly, stand still.
Repeat 8 to 12 times, Rhodes says.
3. Chest and Shoulder Opener
Lie facedown on the floor with a dumbbell or bell in the right hand (or use a soup can if you don’t have strength equipment or the weight is too heavy), says Rhodes. Extend the right arm straight across the chest and place the left arm on the floor next to the ear. Bend the right leg, place the right foot on the floor next to the left knee. Roll your left shoulder and let the right knee fall to the floor. Now extend the right leg on the floor and slowly rotate your hips forward and back to the position with your right knee bent and arm still extended upwards.
Repeat 8 to 12 times, says Rhodes; Then gently rotate on your back, bearing the weight on your chest to rest your arms, switch sides, and repeat on the other side.
Sit on your hands and knees on the floor in a tabletop position, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips, says Rhodes. Form the right hand into a fist, the thumb into a traveler’s position, and raise the right arm in front of you to shoulder height. Fewer to start and repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch sides and repeat.
5. Hamstring and Hip Opener
Your knees should be hip-width apart as you lay on the ground. Place the right foot forward with the right knee on the right leg and the right thigh parallel to the floor. With arms at the sides or hands on the hips, shift the weight back as you bend from the hips to the right foot, allowing the toes of the right foot to pop out. (If you need some balance, place your hands on the floor.) Release to start and then repeat 8 to 12 times, Rhodes says.
Switch sides and repeat.
6. Arm and Shoulder Circles
Cervantes begins this exercise by excluding the hips and shoulders, excluding the feet and shoulders. Keep your left hand on the left side while swinging your right hand forward 10 times; Extend your arm as far as possible to make large circles without moving your hips. Switch directions for another 10 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.
7. Hip Circles
Lie facedown on the floor with your feet flat on the floor, says Cervantes. Bend the right knee and pull it toward the chest so that the knee is pointing toward the ceiling. Draw circles – gradually make them larger – that knee 20 times in one direction; Switch directions and repeat.