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Mobility Exercises and Stretches to Improve Movement and Flexibility

Mobility exercises and stretches


Mobility Exercises and Stretches to Improve Movement and Flexibility

As the body ages, it naturally restricts movement for various reasons. Previous injuries cause our brains to protect parts of the body that may be vulnerable. Sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs keep joints from reaching their full potential on a daily basis. 

The long and short of it is if you’re not moving your body regularly, your range of motion will begin to shrink with time. So how do you keep your body in tip-top shape? You move it, of course! 

What are Mobility Exercises? 

Mobility exercises, or mobility stretches, aim to improve the joint range of motion and flexibility to enhance physical performance. Creating a pre-workout routine or enjoying several stretching sessions throughout the week is best to increase mobility in the long term.

Benefits of Mobility Exercises

The biggest benefit of mobility stretches and exercises is that the whole body can get involved without breaking a sweat. Whether your body needs to focus on hip mobility exercises, shoulder mobility, ankles and wrists, or spinal mobility, there’s an exercise that’s right for you. 

But before we get into the specifics of mobility movement, let’s unpack a few more benefits of this type of exercise.

  • It’s Easy. Mobility exercises are accessible to anyone, whether you have experience or not. No matter what your body needs, there’s a mobility exercise—or group of exercises—that you can start with today. 
  • Improves Overall Strength. After a few sets of mobility exercises, you may be sore the next day. While the effects aren’t as dramatic as a heart-pumping cardio workout, mobility exercises work on engaging muscles often left dormant during a typical gym routine.
  • Better Mental Health. Mobility exercises are done slowly and intentionally, often with the rhythm of the breath. And deep breathing has many of its own mental and physical benefits
  • Better Quality of Life. Overall, even a little bit of exercise each week is a healthy way to occupy the brain and care for the body! 

No matter how or why you integrate regular mobility exercises into your routine, the benefits show that it’s worth the time. Age and experience don’t matter—mobility exercises are ready to work for you when you pick up the habit!

Exercises to Improve Mobility 

Whether you’re combating everyday stiffness or simply looking to increase your mobility, the six stretches and movement variations below are a great way to build mobility into your lifestyle.

Here are six mobility exercises to engage and strengthen every stiff joint from your neck to your pinky toe.

1. Yogic Squat

Good for hips, knees, ankles, and toes, everyone should be taking time each week to squat. It may look awkward, but it works wonders for the lower body. Not only great for joint mobility, but it’s also good for digestion

To do a yogic squat, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and slowly lowering your hips toward the ground while keeping your heels on the floor and back straight. You can use your elbows to gently push your knees apart to deepen the stretch.

2. Lunges

Lunges are an extremely versatile stretching category that engages hips, ankles, knees, and even the spine with certain variations. When starting with mobility exercises, begin with a basic forward lunge. 

If familiar with yoga, the physical placement is similar to a Crescent Lunge, with one knee forward and bent at up to a 90-degree angle and the back leg straight with toes tucked, with or without the knee down, as an optional modification. 

Other variations that engage ankles, hips, and knees differently according to your needs may be Warrior I, Warrior II, and Lizard Pose. Each pose has twisting variations to engage the upper back, thoracic, and lumbar spine. 

Lunges also help recover and build balance. If that’s too big a challenge when starting, place yourself near furniture or a wall for assistance if needed. As a category, lunges offer accessible mobility levels for everybody!

3. Bear Hug

This seated shoulder mobility exercise creates space in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Begin in a seated, cross-legged position, with arms open wide, palms facing forward, and thumbs pointed up. Gently cross arms in front of the body with palms landing on opposite shoulder blades. Take 5-10 deep breaths in this position, then slowly add your neck into the mix. Inhaling, look to the right, exhaling, and bring the neck back to the center. Repeat 5-10 times on each side.

An optional adjustment if your shoulders need additional engagement is the seated Eagle’s Pose, where, still sitting, you’ll practice the pose from the waist up. This will further stretch shoulders, neck, and upper back. 

4. Extended Side Lunge

Also known as Skandasana, extended side lunges engage and strengthen the hip joint and hip flexor muscles. Extended side lunges are great for increasing flexibility, strengthening the lower body muscles, and improving balance. Additionally, they can help alleviate tightness in the hips and improve overall mobility.

To do an extended side lunge, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and taking a big step to the side with one foot while keeping the other planted. Then, bend the knee of the foot that stepped out while keeping your other leg straight and push your hips back.

5. Three-Legged Dog

Downward-Facing Dog offers many mobility benefits. Spending regular time in the traditional Downward-Facing Dog pose alone increases bone density and strength while causing less tension and stress.  

But if you want to level up, a variation called Three-Legged Dog, where one leg is held in the air, is an excellent hip mobility exercise. 

To practice Three-Legged Dog, bring yourself into a regular Downward-Facing Dog pose: a triangle shape with hands pressing firmly into the ground or mat, hips high, and heels pulling toward the ground. From here, keeping the hips level, lift one leg into the air. 

If this first movement is challenging, slowly repeat it 5-10 times with slow, even breathing. Depending on your current hip mobility, you can bend the knee, circle the hip in both directions, take the foot to the side in the air, or any combination to build a hip mobility exercise routine that works best for you. 

Since you’re leading your mobility routine, keep track of hip movements to repeat evenly for both legs. Always move slowly with the breath and with intention, and only move within your current level of comfort. 

6. Tabletop Variations

Like lunges and Three-Legged Dog, Tabletop is another wonderful starting place for many excellent mobility exercises. Begin on your hands and knees, with hands placed directly under the shoulders and knees under the hips in a tabletop position. 

From this position, you have a lot of options. Some of which are:

  • Practice 5-10 repetitions of the Cat/Cow stretch.
  • Lift a single arm or leg off the ground to practice engaging specific muscles or balance.
  • Lift two limbs off the ground to further engage muscles and balance.
  • Keeping the knee bent, lift the foot straight up so it’s parallel to the ceiling. Repeat slowly 5-10 times. 
  • Straightening the knee, lift the leg to hip level with the foot flexed, and take the leg to the side so it’s 90 degrees with the rest of the body. Then return it to the center. Repeat 5-10 times. This is a major mobility exercise for the hips. 

Wherever your current abilities lie with the above options and variations, remember that mobility is a long-term goal—a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no need to go quickly. Don’t forget: it’s practice, not perfect, that counts!

Looking to increase your mobility and get moving? Start today for free on the PF App.