7 Exercises That Will Boost Your Mobility and Flexibility
Don’t let stiffness and inflexibility slow you down. A mobility session will strengthen your entire body and prep you for tough workouts—or busy days.
Mobility has become a bit of a buzzword in fitness, but it's more than just a trendy method for moving better. "It's your ability to achieve and control a certain range of motion," says New York City–based physical therapist and trainer Laura Miranda, DPT, CSCS, founder of Pursuit, the fitness training system. "In order to perform daily activities or simply function pain-free long-term, you need to find ways to properly work through full arcs of motion."
That's why Miranda created this flow: to help bridge the gap between how much range you should have and how much you actually have. In the routine, you move from one pose to the next, holding each for two to three seconds and focusing on the entire body, from the neck and shoulders to hips and hamstrings. Take a deep inhale and exhale in each pose, and engage the core throughout every step, keeping a neutral spine. The end range of each move should feel challenging but not painful. Readjust if you find your breath or form is compromised.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Become More Flexible
Try this as a warm-up to heavy lifting or high-intensity interval sessions— it gets the blood flowing and muscles primed for more movement. You can also do the exercises in the middle of the workday for a much-needed stretch. No matter when you do them, Miranda says, what's important is to move slowly, move well, and feel good.
Do all of the exercises, holding every pose for 2 to 3 seconds, or one full breath. Then repeat for 2 or 3 reps before switching sides or moving on to the following pose. On the last rep, hold the final pose for 10 seconds to dial up the strength and stability gains.
Reverse lunge with side bend
Mobility for: Hip flexors and lower back
Start standing with feet together. (A) Step right leg back into a reverse lunge, both knees bending and pelvis tucked forward. Squeeze right glute. (B) Reach right arm over head, then bend torso to the left and reach left arm across body (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). Repeat twice, then switch sides.
Squat to forward fold
Mobility for: Hamstrings, lower back, ankles, shoulder, and neck
Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and bend forward to grab toes or ankles. (A) Drop into a deep squat, keeping chest up and engaging hamstrings as you lower. At the bottom, use your elbows to push against knees and create tension in butt and hamstring (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). (B) Tuck head down and lift butt up, straightening legs only as much as you can without losing contact with toes or ankles. Do the move 2 more times.
Low lunge with rotation
Mobility for: Hip flexors, mid back, neck, and shoulders
Start in a plank position, shoulders over wrists, spine aligned from neck to hips. Step left foot forward, placing it outside of left hand. Keep right leg extended with knee off the ground and glute squeezed. (A) Place left hand behind head, and, moving through mid back, slowly rotate to the left, elbow reaching to sky. Push into floor with right hand. (B) Rotate left elbow down and in toward right elbow (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). Then, place left hand back down and step left foot back to plank. Repeat 2 times, then switch sides.
Shin box to forward step
Mobility for: Hips and glutes
(A) Sit on the floor with right leg bent about 90 degrees and shin in front of you; left leg bent about 90 degrees, shin to the side. With torso facing directly forward, hinge forward at hips, keeping spine neutral. (B) Squeeze glutes to lift hips off of the ground. Putting weight on the right knee, step left foot forward into a half-kneeling position, stretching forward into right hip flexor and squeezing right glute (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). Step left foot back to starting position, and lower hips to the ground. Repeat 2 times, then switch sides.
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Lateral lunge to plank walkout
Mobility for: Inner thighs
Stand with core engaged and feet apart, 6 to 10 inches wider than hips. (A) Bend right knee and hinge into right hip, keeping back flat and left leg straight. Push back to starting position, and repeat on other side. (B) From standing position, with a straight back, reach forward enough that your palms touch the floor (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). Walk palms out to a wide-leg plank position, shoulders over wrists, knees straight, spine aligned from neck to hips. Then, tuck head and walk hands back to feet. Repeat twice.
Wide squat with internal rotation
Mobility for: Hips
(A) Stand, feet wider than hip-width apart. Stack shoulders over hips, engaging core. Extend arms in front of you, and lower into a squat. (B) Without moving left leg, rotate right leg by pivoting foot, knee, and hip inward (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds), and engage left glute for greater internal rotation of right hip. Rotate right leg back to squat, then stand up. Do the exercise 2 more times, then switch sides.
Single-leg deadlift to knee drive
Mobility for: Hamstrings, lower back, and glutes
Start standing on left leg, engaging glute. (A) Hinge at hips, bringing torso toward floor and extending right leg out behind you, body in one straight line (on the last rep, hold here for 10 seconds). (B) Then, drive through left glute to stand back up, engaging abs and bringing right knee toward chest, squeezing it until you feel a stretch in the glute. Repeat 2 times, then switch sides.
This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
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