Table of Contents
- 1 What are the benefits of mobility?
- 2 10 Best Mobility Exercises To Improve Your Range Of Motion
- 3 How To Track Mobility Progress
You know the saying, “move it or lose it?” It turns out this bossy phrase is the slogan of mobility (seriously!). It may seem basic, but better mobility and incorporating mobility workouts into your routine may be the secret sauce for improving your overall health and fitness.
Simply put, mobility is the ability to move your body freely and easily, says certified physical therapist Amy Hutson, DPT, of SSM Health Physical Therapy. “Without mobility, we can be limited with our performance in day to day activities,” says Hutson. So, not only does it affect the ability to engage in essential things like getting dressed and taking a shower, but how much range your joints have also impacts recreational activities like hiking, swimming, or dancing.
Mobility is not the same as flexibility or stability, FYI. The three are related, and you can’t excel at one if you’re neglecting the others. But it’s important to understand the differences.
Meet the experts: India McPeak, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, former collegiate gymnast, and currently working on her masters in sports and exercise nutrition. Amy Hutson, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at SSM Health Physical Therapy, where she focuses on manual therapy, women’s health, and more.
Flexibility means the body can achieve a certain position, says certified strength and conditioning specialist India McPeak. Think of flexibility as a passive range of motion, like lengthening your muscles in a static stretch. Stability, on the other hand, is the ability to maintain a desired position or movement, explains McPeak. Think of stability like holding a plank steady, maintaining a hip bridge, or balancing on one foot.
Now that you know mobility is clutch, here’s how to measure yours, a complete workout to boost mobility, and all the benefits you’ll gain according to trainers.
What are the benefits of mobility?
- It’s easy to practice. Maintaining mobility is so simple. Think of mobility as little movements that can be incorporated into your daily routine. “It’s like a movement snack,” says McPeak. Incorporate a few moves when you wake up, during your lunch break, or before bed to keep your body strong, healthy, and pain free.
- It helps minimize your risk of injury. Investing in mobility will reduce your risk of injury, improve joint health, reduce muscle soreness and speed up the recovery process. “Without mobility, our bodies may not move optimally and can then put us at higher risk of injury,” says Hutson. Breakdown (aka injury) typically occurs at areas above and below a region with limited mobility, explains Hutson. When you lack mobility in one area of your body, other muscles work overtime.
- It can help improve strength. Mobility significantly helps improve overall strength, says McPeak. Your body’s freedom to move with maximum range of motion will increase the quality of your training. For example, by improving hip mobility you can achieve a deeper squat with proper form, which ultimately results in building muscle (it’s a win-win situation).
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10 Best Mobility Exercises To Improve Your Range Of Motion
Even if you feel like you’ve lost your mobility and your joints are anything but smooth, you can make a difference. Mobility training can be done any time, but McPeak suggests completing this 10 move routine as a pre-workout warmup to prep your body for conditioning. Alternatively, you can use it as a cooldown after a tough training sesh to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery.
And remember, consistency is key. “The more frequently you practice mobility, the more improvements you’ll see,” says McPeak. As little as five to ten minutes a day will help you progress, she explains. Whether you complete the entire routine at once or break up different moves throughout the day, making time for mobility is well worth it.
So, if you’re a mobility newbie or looking to further your progress, try out these 10 exercises for a complete routine, provided by McPeak.
Instructions: Complete the full mobility circuit 2-3 times.
1. Spiderman Lunges
- Start in a push up/high plank position.
- Bend one knee up toward your armpit and place your foot outside of your hand.
- Keep your back leg straight as you push your hips down.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds before returning to the starting position and switching legs. Complete 6 reps on each side.
2. 90/90 Hip Switch
- Sit up straight with your legs slightly wider that hip-width apart and both knees bent at 90-degrees.
- Keep your heels on the floor (in the same position) and rotate your knees from side to side. (For an added challenge, hold your arms straight in front of you.)
- Maintain an upright posture as you move your knees and focus on movement from the hips. Complete 6 reps on each side.
3. Cat Cows
- Start on your hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart and knees directly below hips.
- Inhale as you pull your belly button to your spine and curve your lower back. Hold this “cow” position for 2-3 seconds.
- Slowly transition to the “cat” position by arching your back and looking up to the sky. Hold the “cat” position for 2-3 seconds. Complete 8 reps in each position.
4. Prone Swimmers
- Start lying on your stomach with your arms overhead.
- Raise arms toward the ceiling, keeping your elbows straight and circle them around as far as you can until hands are behind your back.
- Reverse the arm circle motion. Tip: rest your arms between each circular motion. Complete 8 reps.
5. Quadruped To Down Dog
- Start on your hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart and knees directly below hips.
- Lift your knees one inch off the floor (into a bear plank) and engage your core. Hold 5 seconds.
- From this position, straighten your legs and lift your hips up to down dog. Push your armpits toward your toes. Hold 5 seconds before returning to hands and knees starting position. Complete 8 reps in each position.
6. Cossack Squat
- Start standing with legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and arms extended in front of you.
- Lunge to the right side by bending your right knee, sitting your hips back, and reaching your arms forward. Keep both feet flat on the ground and maintain a neutral spine.
- Lunge as low as you can while maintaining proper form and hold for 1-2 seconds before switching sides. Complete 6 reps on each side.
7. T-Spine Rotation
- Start on hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart and knees directly below your hips.
- Straighten the right leg out to the side, then sit back on the heel of your bent knee.
- Reach your right arm under your left arm and try to touch the back of your right shoulder to the ground. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
- Put your right hand to your right ear and rotate your upper body as you point your elbow straight up to the ceiling (shift your gaze to the ceiling too).
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side with your left leg extended. Complete 6 reps on each side.
8. Ankle Rocks
- Place one foot on a box or low bench.
- Keep your foot flat and rock your knee forward as much as you can to feel a stretch in your ankle. Hold the stretch for 2-3 seconds.
- Rock back to the starting position. Complete 8 reps on each side.
9. Scapular Push-Ups
- Start in a plank position and relax shoulders so shoulder blades are pinched together (think of trying to clench a dollar bill between them).
- Hold for 2-3 seconds, then push down on the floor to round your upper back. Try to move your shoulders/shoulder blades as much as possible between each position. Complete 10 reps in each position.
10. Assisted Deep Squat
- Start with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold onto an upright and supported surface (squat rack or door frame).
- Keep your feet flat and torso upright as you lower down into a deep squat position while holding onto a supported surface.
- Hold the deep squat for 20-30 seconds before returning to standing position. Complete 2 reps.
How To Track Mobility Progress
While it’s not as easy to quantify mobility as stats like running pace, you can assess your progress and check in with your body regularly to monitor developments with or without a pro. Measuring your mobility can highlight areas that are *chef’s kiss* and where you may need some extra help.
- Work with a trainer. They can conduct a mobility assessment and give you personalized tips.
- Film yourself doing a variety of exercises. The recording can help you visually track movement progress, she explains. Watch your movement patterns over the course of a few weeks. If you see (and feel) a difference in range of motion, you’re on the right track.
- Keep a workout journal. On the days you exercise, write down how your bod feels, recommends Hutson. Consider the following questions and answer honestly: What can and can’t you do? How does a specific movement pattern feel? Sometimes one move can unlock a new mobility level, so it’s important to gauge how you’re feeling and work on a variety of exercises.
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