Mobility is a hot topic in health and fitness right now, and so it should be. In the interest of creating our best and strongest body, we should be choosing to do exercises that not only benefit this goal, but those that also act as an investment for our body.
We exercise because we want to be fit, healthy, look and feel great now – but what about when we’re older? Our mobility not only affects our ability to choose what exercises we’re capable of doing now, it also affects how we are capable of moving and exercising further into the future. Safe to say we would all like to be able to run, jump, move freely and do what we choose well into our senior years. A critical note is that you’re never too old to start working on improving your mobility and in fact the older we are, the more important this becomes. The old adage use it or lose it rings true!
Doubly, mobility (or lack thereof) also affects our risk of injury. Performing exercises through a range of movement that our body is not optimized to perform can be a factor that leads to injury. For example, if you don’t have the mobility in your shoulder joint to lift weight over your head with correct form, this increases your risk of shoulder joint complications. This is the reason it becomes increasingly more important that when we are in our senior years, strength building activities and mobility exercises are vital for injury prevention and quality of life.
Okay, so we’re sold on mobility. Now what is it exactly? Mobility and flexibility sometimes get confused – flexibility is the relationship between a muscle (or group of muscles) and their ability to passively move through a range of motion. For example – your hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles on the back of your thigh. A person with very flexible hamstrings will have no challenge performing a deep isolated stretch of this muscle.
Mobility, on the other hand, is defined as a joint’s ability to actively move through a range of motion. Being that a joint has many other structures to its movements, there are many other factors that come into play – flexibility, though important, is but one of them.
The areas of mobility we most commonly see lacking are through the hips, lower back, thoracic and shoulders. Let’s take a look at 4 very simple, yet effective mobility exercises, movements or stretches to help make a difference in these areas and get you moving more freely, including exercise for hip mobility.
Best Exercises for Flexibility and Mobility
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
This hip flexor stretch helps to stretch and lengthen the quadriceps, hip flexor muscles and iliopsoas muscle group. When tight, these muscles can cause a cascading effect of tightness and weakness through the lower back, core, glutes and hamstrings. Hip flexor muscles typically become tight for desk work, people who are sedentary. This is a great exercise for hip mobility.
- Assume a resting lunge, with your left knee on a pillow, a foam mat, or something soft.
- Place your right foot on the floor in front of your right knee.
- Tighten your glute muscles, then tuck your pelvis: navel to nose direction.
- Proceed to lower your hips, allowing your right knee to bend and stack over your ankle.
- Keep your pelvis tucked the whole time. You should feel a gentle stretch at the top of your right thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then change to the next leg. Repeat 2-3 times.
- Lying Leg & Torso Twist*
This movement helps to both actively engage our inner core muscles and strengthen our rotational muscles like our obliques and muscles of the spine.
Lay on your back on a soft surface, like a carpet, rug or yoga mat.
- Bring both knees tightly to the chest, engage the core muscles and keep them tight throughout.
- Extend your arms out in the shape of a “T” with the backs of your hands in contact with the ground.
- Roll to your left side, still keeping your knees together and bent toward your chest.
- Fold your right arm and hand on top of your left, so you are now lying on your side.
- Whilst keeping your left knuckles to the ground and your knees folded to the left, raise your right arm in an upward arc, moving the knuckles of your right arm toward the sky and then to the ground, or as far as you can open.
- Allow your torso to open up, aiming to bring your right shoulder in contact with the ground (or as close to as you can) without letting your left shoulder or knees raise from the ground.
- Then start folding back again, like closing a book. Repeat these opening and closing movements slowly and with control, remembering to always inhale deeply on the open and exhale slowly on the close. Repeat approximately 5 slow ‘open and closes’ on each side.
*If this is too difficult to do lying on the floor, it can be done standing up with your back against a wall.
- Cat and Cow
Great exercise for mobilizing the lower back and priming the body for an exercise session with your trainer!
- On the floor, with a soft surface like carpet or a yoga mat, place yourself on “all fours”: Your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hip bones.
- Starting with a neutral spine and an engaged core, inhale deeply and slowly while you simultaneously raise your chin to the sky, push your chest toward the floor and tilt your pelvis backward away from the floor to create a downward sway in your back like the sway in a cow’s back.
- Upon full inhale, start to reverse the movement with an exhale while you simultaneously tuck your chin toward your chest, push your thoracic and shoulder blades skywards and tuck your pelvis under and toward the floor to create an upward arch in your lower back, mimicking the shape of an angry cat.
- Upon full exhalations, commence inhaling and repeat 10 cat and cows with slow controlled breathing throughout.
- Child's Pose
Child's pose is a great and relaxing posture to help open up through the chest, thoracic, shoulders and hips. A well-known Yoga posture and very relaxing. Combined with cat and cow, a great movement for when you have spent a long day in an office chair.
- On the floor on a soft surface like a carpet, yoga mat or knees on a rolled-up towel: Position yourself on your hands and knees. Hands in line with shoulders, but slightly wider and knees in line with, but wider, than your hips.
- Allow the knuckles of your toes to make contact with the ground and bring your big toes together.
- Transfer your weight out of your hands and into your hips while you sink backward and push your hips to your heels and your chest to the floor.
Stretch your arms forward and wide while you’re simultaneously pushing your hips down and backward with knees wide.
- Continue to take slow, deep breaths throughout. Hold the posture for approximately 10 breaths.
For more information on mobility and stretching, feel free to take a look at some of our other expert articles, including reaching for flexibility and mobility and stability.
If you’re looking for some help with your strength, mobility or flexibility and don’t know where to start, our team of experienced trainers help our members with personalized programs to move better and move more every day. Get in touch with us today to see how we can get you moving more and better!