Mobility has quickly become one of the main focuses of functional fitness training, and rightfully so. But what exactly does mobility mean for you, and how can it help support you in your ongoing fitness journey?
Mobility exercises can greatly enhance your current training method in several ways, and you've likely already seen some of them demonstrated either through watching videos on YouTube, Instagram, or from a hands-on demonstration by an instructor. The great thing about mobility exercises is that they can be adapted for practically anyone who is looking to increase their flexibility and range of motion regardless of age or fitness level. Not to mention, they can be quite fun!
The older we get, the more sedentary many of us become and we forget the importance of movement and play. Remember back in the day when we were kids on the playground, climbing all the over the huge tires and jungle gyms? As adults, we naturally take on more worry and responsibility that often leave us feeling worn out and less vibrant than we once were. Not to mention, we start speeding up the aging process by being less active.
If you are hoping to reintroduce physical activity and want to increase your range of motion (and flexibility), you've come to the right place! Many of these movements can be done by both beginners and those who have been playing with mobility a little longer. Proper form is still important here in order to avoid injury, and it’s essential to always listen to your body, (especially if you have any prior injuries) so that you don’t put additional strain on the muscles and joints.
I’ve created a series of videos performing some of my favorite mobility exercises, and I’ll share five of them below, demonstrating how to do each one while maintaining proper form. You can also adapt the number of reps to fit your comfort level. Also, if you do have an injury, be sure to check in with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure you’ve got the green light before you begin.
Now, let’s get to it!
Hip Extended Half Mountain Climber
Hip opener mobility exercises are great for increasing flexibility in your lower body, especially if you are a runner or practice yoga. They are pretty simple to do and give your hip flexors and hamstrings a solid stretch. If you do mountain climbers in your regular workout routine, these are a slow and controlled version that you can get the benefit from without putting stress on your knees and ankles.The flexion demonstrated here (cat cow pose) can help with relieving any tightness in the hips. If you want to go a little further with this one, you can also open your extended front knee out a few inches, pushing it away from the center and hold for three seconds for a little extra.
Ankle Global Rotations
Ankle mobility plays a vital role in supporting your overall range of motion, reducing your risk of injury, and offering additional support during exercises like squats and lunges. There are several exercises you can do to support dorsiflexion, which is what controls forward movement of the shin and allows you to produce the force needed to propel your body up and away from the ground. One could even go so far as to say, may the dorsiflexion be with you! In all seriousness though, below is a rotational ankle exercise that will help with your range of motion as well as improve your balance. Yoga instructors often use ankle global rotations with students when warming up as a way to improve stability and help maintain a good base for standing poses.
Pie Pass Back
Wrist and elbow strength is paramount when it comes to performing body weight exercises like planks and pushups and I’ve seen so many people who experience pain and discomfort in these areas when exercising. Another common issue is carpal tunnel, especially for those who spend prolonged periods sitting at a desk. Just like other areas of our bodies, our wrists and elbows require rest and care, and they have the big job of supporting us both in our small and large functional requirements. What may be especially frustrating for those who enjoy body weight exercises is that they may lack the wrist and elbow strength to support their own weight for longer periods, but this can be improved upon with ongoing mobility exercises that target the wrists and elbows. There are several great examples of exercises that can help increase strength, and some you can even do if you’re sitting around looking for something to do! Concentrated movement of the joints is key if you want to keep your wrists and elbows flexible and fluid, and you can do this at your own pace to fit your needs. One of my favorites is the Pie Pass Back movement because it is a fun and challenging way to strengthen both your wrists and elbows, and you can do it in tandem with a partner!
Cervical Full Rotation
Just like our elbows and wrists sometimes need special attention, so do our necks. Those who are sitting at a computer desk all day will likely experience neck pain at one point or another. Poor posture and slouching while sitting for hours can lead to strain on the neck, shoulders, and back. This is another reason why it is important to get up and take regular movement breaks (especially if you have a sedentary job), or invest in a standing desk. The good news is, there are several rotational neck exercises that can help support your neck and spine and improve your range of motion. The following exercise is perfect for you if you experience neck and shoulder tension often and it can be done virtually anywhere!
Last but not least is one of the more challenging mobility exercises: the Shinbox Switch. While it does require a bit more hip flexibility, it’s so effective for lengthening the spine and easing lower back pain and tension, which I’ve got to admit, sounds pretty good right about now! Strengthening the spine through exercises that engage the pelvic floor muscles can also help improve overall core strength and promote better posture. Give this one a whirl and let me know what you think. Most importantly, do yourself a solid and be intentional when it comes to all of your movements, whether it be a hard training session, mobility exercises, or a simple walk in the neighborhood. If you’re dialing it in, you’re not going to get the same level of effectiveness you would get from performing with vigor and giving it all you’ve got. You’ll likely begin to see your overall physical strength, flexibility and confidence soar to new heights.