Mobility is the ability of your joints to move in their place. It is important for many daily activities, as well as for physical exercise. When was the last time you thought about doing mobility training? Just as you train aerobic endurance, strength, and flexibility, you must also train mobility, especially if you want to maintain an active and vibrant life.
Mobility refers to the way your joints move in their place. Mobility is the ability to move your joints freely, with the surrounding tissues allowing movement to occur smoothly. Think, for example, of how the shoulder moves when you do a top-rope or arm-circle motion.
It is related, but not synonymous with flexibility. Flexibility refers to the ability to lengthen or hold a muscle in a stretch. Mobility refers to the range of motion of your joints.
Exercises aimed at improving mobility tend to be more dynamic than those aimed at improving flexibility. Yet both types of exercise can provide the same benefits. If you don’t have flexibility or mobility, it may become more difficult over time to do simple things like getting in and out of your car, bending over to put on your shoes, or getting up to grab something from a closet. And it could make training and exercising more difficult.
Take, for example, the mobility of your hips and thoracic spine. If you keep these body parts too still, you risk developing lesions simply from repetitive daily behaviors, namely excessive sitting and using devices. If left unchecked, these habits cause kyphosis, which is an exaggerated rounding of the back.
Immobility can also lead to poor gait mechanics. From sitting, the hip flexors become so tight that they can no longer open, so when you walk you can only use a shortened stride. As you get older, you are therefore more likely to drag your feet while walking with your body hunched over. The good news is that simple exercises, done regularly, can help prevent these problems now and slow down some of the natural age-related problems.
Even better ? You are never too young, or too old, to start. At all stages of your life, mobility training should be part of your strength training program.
7 exercises to help you be more mobile
Although there is no specific guideline for the frequency of mobility exercises, the more you do, the more you will benefit.
Try to do mobility exercises every day. The older you are or the more sedentary you are, the more you need to work on your mobility. You can also do them in small doses throughout the day. The most important thing is to do them regularly in order to maintain and improve your mobility.
Here are seven exercises you can try to improve mobility in your major joints and the ones you use the most:
1. From Child’s Pose to Downward Facing Dog
Get on your knees on the floor and lower your hips towards your heels. Now let the torso fall to the knees and the head between the arms, then extend the arms towards the floor. This is the child’s pose. Hold this position for a few deep breaths.
Next, assume the plateau position, shifting the weight forward until the shoulders are over the wrists and the hips are over the knees. Swing the toes down and, pushing the feet into the floor, extend the arms so that the hips lift, the chest passes into the arms, and the legs straighten. (Your body will form a triangle with the floor.) Extending the torso, take a few deep breaths and slowly release the knees to the floor, lifting the toes and returning to Child’s Pose.
Repeat the exercise a total of three times, taking three to four deep breaths per movement.
2. From Frog Pose to Deep Squat
Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, toes facing out for this exercise. Sit down and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close to that parallel as possible). Hold this position for a second before shifting your weight forward and placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Spread your knees apart as you lower yourself toward the floor, bringing your chest down to the floor if possible. (Support yourself as needed with your arms if the inner thigh and groin stretch is too intense). Hold for a second before returning to a deep squat position with your toes facing out. Get up slowly.
Repeat 8-12 times.
3. Chest and shoulder opening
Lie face down on the floor with a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand (or use a can if you don’t have weight training equipment or find the weights too heavy). Extend your right arm above your chest and your left arm above your head, resting it on the floor near your ear. Bend the right leg, placing the right foot on the floor next to the left knee. Roll over the left shoulder, letting the right knee drop to the floor. Now extend the right leg on the floor and slowly roll the hips forward, then return to the position of the right knee bent and the arm still extended above the head.
Repeat 8-12 times, then gently roll onto your back, keeping the weight in your chest to give your arms a break, and switch sides, repeating on the other side.
4. The Hitchhiker
Get on the floor on your hands and knees in tabletop position, wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Form a fist with your right hand, thumb pointing up, and raise your right arm in front of you at shoulder height. Return to the starting point and repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch sides and repeat.
5. Hamstring and hip opening
Kneel on the floor, knees hip-width apart. Step the right foot forward so that the right knee is over the right ankle and the right thigh is parallel to the ground. With arms at sides or hands on hips, shift your weight back as you lean from the hips toward the right foot, allowing the right toes to stick up. (If you need a little balance, place your hands on the floor.) Release at the start and repeat 8 to 12 times, according to Rhodes.
Switch sides and repeat.
6. Arm and shoulder circles
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hips and shoulders straight to begin this Cervantes exercise. Relax left arm to left side as you circle right arm forward 10 times; extend your arm as long as possible to make large circles without moving the hips. Change direction for another 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
7. Hip Circles
Lie on the floor, face up, with your legs stretched out on the floor. Bend the right knee and bring it towards the chest so that the knee is pointing towards the ceiling. Draw circles – bigger and bigger – with this knee in one direction 20 times; change direction and repeat. Then switch sides and repeat.