What Are Mobility Exercises and Why Are They Important?

man lying on a foam roller
Mobility exercises like foam rolling can help you improve flexibility and avoid injury.

by Mary Lambkin

Exercise is all about enhancing the quality of your life — whether it be by improving your health, increasing your chances of living longer, or simply feeling better prepared for life's many adventures.

If you want to reduce your chance of injury, improve your mobility, and reap the most benefits out of your gym sessions, it's important to include mobility exercises in your workout regimen. According to Men's Fitness, mobility exercises can increase your range of motion and stabilization as well as help you gain control over the muscles that surround each joint.

With just a few of these exercises incorporated into your gym routine, you'll likely notice a difference both inside and outside of the gym. Not only will you feel better, but you may find yourself exceeding your physical limits! Consider trying the mobility exercises listed below during your next gym session. Remember to take things slow and ease into these exercises.

The L-Arm Stretch

This simple stretch can loosen and relax tense muscles in your shoulders and neck, which many of us have from long, stressful days spent hunched over keyboards and steering wheels.

To complete the exercise, lie on your stomach and form an "L" shape with your arms — extend your left arm in front of you so your bicep lands next to your ear and your palm lands on the floor, then extend your right arm across your chest (underneath your body). With your head lifted, try to even out your shoulders so they form a straight, parallel line. Now slowly rock your body from left to right. As you hold the position for 15 seconds, you should feel the stretch on the outside of your right shoulder. Try to complete 10 reps and then repeat on the other side.

Leg Swings

Open up your hips, glutes, and hamstrings with this simple but effective mobility exercise. Stand to face a wall (or use a pole for support) and use your arms to stabilize yourself. Then, slowly swing one leg from one side to the other (across your body), keeping your hips straight and your core tight. Try to repeat this ten times. When you've finished, make a 90-degree turn. Swing the same leg forward and backward, working different hip muscles from the new angle. Repeat this ten times. Afterward, return to the starting position and repeat the same movements while swinging your other leg.

Spine Foam Roll

The foam roller is perfect for all kinds of mobility exercises — especially for those hard-to-reach places like your back. Keep your spine straight and loose with a five-minute foam-rolling session every day. Place your foam roller on the ground, sit in front of it (facing away), and slowly lower your body backward until your shoulders are on top of the roller. Using your hands for additional support if needed, "roll" backward until the roller hits the arch in the middle of your back. Roll forward and repeat, releasing tension in and around your spine. In order to avoid injury, do not attempt to foam roll your lower back unless you have expert supervision!

Stretch, swing, and roll your way to a rewarding workout with the mobility exercises listed above. You might feel tight and stiff for the first few sessions, but after a while, you'll loosen up and enjoy better all-around health. As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.