When you think of training, what do you think of? Some of us think about strength training. Some of us think about training for a marathon. Some of us may even think about training for sports or other cardio activities.
But … how many of us think about mobility training? The truth is, probably not enough of us.
Mobility exercises are a great way to improve your range of motion all around. Plus, mobility training may also have the potential to increase the quality of your life!
Now, many people think that flexibility and mobility are the same thing. Well, I'm here to tell you that they aren’t.
However, mobility and flexibility are similar, so I completely understand why most people think this.
See, being more flexible can generally give you more mobility ... but while it can help, they are still two different things.
Simply put ... mobility works to improve a joint’s ability to move freely within its specific range of motion. Flexibility is about increasing the length capabilities of your muscles.
Increasing the length of your muscles pushes the boundaries of your range of motion. So, when you become more flexible, you generally become more mobile. But again, that doesn’t make them the same thing.
The way you train for each is different, and this is something I’ll talk about. First, though, let’s talk about the benefits of mobility exercises as a starting point.
Benefits of Mobility Workouts
Do you ever just feel tight, like you aren’t able to move as freely? Sometimes your muscles stiffen up a bit, and this can cause that feeling like something is off when you move.
Typically, that stiffness shortens the range of motion to some degree, and that’s why it feels "off."
Mobility exercises are a great way to make stiff and less mobile joints more functional. They can even help to relieve joint discomfort in some cases too.
Not only can mobility training help with everyday movement, but it can also do much more. For one, it can be extremely helpful throughout your workouts when it comes to reducing the risk of injury (1).
Another major benefit of mobility exercises is straight up making you feel better! This is because mobility training can help improve posture and reduce pain in stiff joints as we age (2).
As you can see, mobility training is important. So, make sure you include at least some sort of mobility exercise in your next workout routine.
Safety in Mobility
Mobility exercises are great for increasing your range of motion. Having better mobility can also help with injury prevention too.
Still, it’s important not to overdo it, because you can take mobility too far.
Never push mobility exercises to the point that you actually feel pain. If you do, you should consult with a healthcare professional.
Your body will typically compensate for mobility restrictions with extra mobility in other joints. This can cause issues over time if you aren’t careful, though.
Injuries happen when too much force is applied at an end range of motion. They can also happen when there isn't enough force holding the joint within that end range of motion.
Think joint dislocation.
If you dislocate your shoulder, it’s easier to dislocate again. This is because the ligaments get stretched out. They aren’t properly holding the joint together as strongly anymore.
This leaves it with too much mobility and less strength. Too much mobility can basically weaken the integrity of the joint if you take it way too far, so be careful. You'll want to keep this in mind as you continue to train your mobility.
Now, I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Let’s dive into some of the best mobility exercises you can do today!
Top Mobility Exercises
This is a great exercise for increasing mobility through your back, shoulders, and neck.
If you have extra tension in your neck and upper back from sitting at a desk all day, cat-cow exercises can help.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees below your hips.
Inhale and pull your belly button towards your spine to curve your back towards the sky. Pause for a second and hold this stretch.
Then, exhale and arch your back toward the ground while looking at the sky. Repeat this for 30-60 seconds total.
Ankle Rocks With Rotation
Your ankles play a crucial role in many daily movements, including walking. So, as you may guess, it’s important to keep your ankle joints limber and strong.
Ankle rocks can improve your ankle mobility, as well as your form during exercises like squats. Poor ankle mobility limits some people from being able to squat all the way down.
This can also interfere with their ability to get the full benefits from squatting. Don’t let mobility problems hold you back. Do these regularly and you won’t have those mobility problems for long!
Place one foot on a raised surface like a box or a low bench. Keep your heel down as your rock your knee forward as far as you can without causing discomfort.
Pause for a second and hold the stretch. Rock back to the starting position, and repeat 4-5 times before switching feet.
This particular lunge helps develop strength, stability, and balance in your hips. It stretches the groin nicely and improves overall hip strength and mobility.
Stand with your feet together and toes pointed forward. Take a large step to the right side with your right leg. Sink into your right hip and bend your right knee while keeping your left leg straight.
Drop down until your right thigh is parallel with the ground. Then pause for a second, and push up through your right foot to return to the starting position. Do 10 reps before you repeat this with your left leg.
Resistance Band Arm Rotation
The shoulder joint has the most range of motion of any joint in the body. This exercise takes your shoulder through that full range.
This can help strengthen your shoulder and upper back. It also gives a nice stretch to various muscles in the upper body too.
This is usually one of my warm-ups every workout that I’m primarily training my upper body.
Grab a resistance band around shoulder width, and begin with 5 reps of pulling it apart as far as you can. When fully stretched, the band should be running across your chest.
With the band in the fully stretched position, move your arms in a wide backward circle behind your head.
Allow the band to pull your arms in a little bit until you feel a stretch, and then come back over the head to the front. Do that 10 times.
A prying squat encourages deeper, safer squat techniques while also preventing groin strains.
If you wish to improve your hip mobility and squat form at the same time, this is a great choice.
Hold onto a light dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest, and stand with your feet at hip width or wider. Keeping your torso upright, slowly squat until your elbows come to the insides of your knees.
Press your elbows into your knees. Be sure to keep your chest up and shoulders down. Rock gently, rotating back and forth toward each leg. You should feel a stretch in your inner thigh as you rotate.
Continue for 30 seconds or more, and then stand back up.
Kettlebell Arm Bar
A kettlebell arm bar exercise can strengthen your shoulder and rotator cuff. These are even more prone to injury as we age (3). More strength and mobility may help reduce that risk.
Additionally, it may be a good injury prevention exercise for the back too. It might take you a little practice to get it down, so don’t go too heavy on this.
Lie on your right side with your knees bent to 90 degrees and grab the kettlebell with both hands.
Roll to your back and press the kettlebell over your right shoulder. Then let your left arm lie overhead on the ground. Your right knee should be bent and your left leg should lie straight on the ground.
Keep the kettlebell in the same position with your right arm straight. Roll to your left and lift your right leg up and over to the left side of your body while keeping your right arm stable.
Hold for a few seconds, and then roll back to the starting position on your back. Repeat for 10 reps, and then switch sides.
Passive Leg Lowering
This particular exercise boosts hip mobility, core stability, and flexibility in your hamstrings. It’s great for consciously controlling the range of motion in one leg while stretching the other.
Lie in a supine position and hook a resistance band around the middle of one foot.
Bring both legs straight up in the air and hold the resistance band in both hands.
Lower your free leg slowly to the ground while keeping the leg with the band stable and only a slight bend in that knee.
Lower the heel of the banded leg almost to the floor and then return to the starting position with both legs. Repeat this for 10 reps on each leg.
Thoracic Spine Rotation
This is a great way to increase mobility in your mid back. Better mobility in your mid back could possibly help to reduce low back pain in some cases.
This is because your body often compensates for low mobility in the mid back by using the lower back more. That can lead to unnecessary low back pain, so this is a great exercise to add to your mobility routine!
The better mobility in your spine, the better you’ll feel day to day. Trust me!
Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips. Take your right hand off the ground and reach under your left arm as far as you can in that direction.
At the same time try to touch the back of your right shoulder to the ground as you rotate your spine and reach to your left.
Pause for a second and hold the stretch, and then return back to the starting position. Repeat this on the other side.
The Spiderman lunge works several areas of mobility, from the hips and hamstrings to the mid back. It is a great option for warming up by adding extra mobility to the hips and back before a workout starts.
Start in a push-up position. Step forward with one foot and place it by your hand on that side.
With your arm on the same side as the forward leg, reach toward the ceiling as you rotate your chest toward that leg. Only go as far as you can comfortably go.
Hold for a few seconds, and return your hand back to the ground, and then back to the starting push-up position. Repeat this for 10 reps on both sides.
90/90 Hip Switch
This mobility exercise improves hip rotation in both directions. If you've ever felt tightness and low mobility in your hips, this one's for you.
This is a little easier for females since they have wider hips. It’s still an awesome exercise for males though. They help increase mobility in your hips and potentially help to reduce lower back pain too.
Sit on the ground with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Rotate both legs to their left side with your right knee up against your left foot. It should look almost like you’re making a half square with your legs.
Keep your torso upright and feet on the ground, and rotate both legs to their right side. Your left knee should be against your right foot now.
Hold for a few seconds, rotate to the other side, and then continue back and forth for 60 seconds.
Assisted Deep Squat
Like many other mobility exercises, this can help increase the range of motion in your hips. Not just that, but they can also help with knee and ankle mobility too.
This is also a great mobility exercise for anyone who deals with low back issues when squatting! Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold onto a pole in front of you.
Use the pole for support while you lower into a deep squat as low as you can ... keeping your back straight. Hold the squat for a few seconds, then stand back up. Repeat this for roughly 10 reps.
Hip circles are great for increasing the range of motion in your hip joints when they start to get tight. With how often we sit in society, tight hips can be very common!
These help with hip mobility a ton!
Get down on your hands and knees. Your hands should be beneath your shoulders, and your knees beneath your hips.
Lift your right knee off the ground and bring it to your stomach. With your knee, draw the biggest circle you can for 15 seconds clockwise. Repeat this again for another 15 seconds counterclockwise.
When finished, return your right leg to the floor, and repeat the exercise with your left leg.
This is a mixture of a yoga pose and a lunge, but the extra mobility you get in your hips is wonderful! You will need a bench for this one.
Stand on one side of the bench and face it. Lift your right leg and bend your knee to form a 90-degree angle. Lay the right side of your lower leg on the bench from foot to knee.
Your lower leg should be parallel to the bench. This should look similar to a lunge in that your left foot is back behind you on the ball of that foot.
From here, drop your left knee toward the ground as far as you can comfortably.
As you lower into this lunge position with your left leg, your right hip and glute will be getting a big stretch.
Hold at the bottom for a few seconds, then stand back up. Repeat this for 5-10 reps before switching to your opposite leg.
Incorporating Mobility Routines Into Your Workout
Mobility exercises offer a ton of benefits and should be done regularly. Rarely can you have too much mobility, and you’d have to really overdo it to get there!
You'd be surprised what ten to twenty minutes each day of mobility exercises can do for you. They can help improve your range of motion significantly and relieve joint discomfort.
Mobility routines work great as either a warm-up or cool-down around your other workouts. Some people even do mobility exercises between sets when lifting weights.
Aim for about two sets of five to eight exercises, and focus on ones that target the muscle groups you’re working on. Doing this pre-workout is a great way to prepare your body for the movements you’re performing.
Improve Your Mobility
If you want to boost both range of motion and flexibility, mobility exercises are the way to go!
These routines are intended to loosen tight joints and make it easier to use your full range of motion. We were all meant to be able to move in a full range of motion, but our lifestyles nowadays throw that out the window.
Use caution when practicing these movements, and don’t push them too far. You can injure yourself if you don’t listen to your body when pushing your range of motion!
That said, mobility exercises can reduce the risk of injury from other exercises when you do them right. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, they’ll help you feel better every day when you do them consistently.
Now, upping your joint mobility for a better quality of life is one thing. If you also have big goals in fitness, whether weight loss or weight gain, there are other factors to consider too.
You need to push yourself in your workouts, and your diet needs to be dialed in for the best results. Do you know exactly what and how much to eat in order to see great results?
If you aren’t a fitness professional or dietitian, there’s a good chance you have a lot to learn in the realm of nutrition. Let us help!
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If you’re serious about your overall health and want to make serious progress, check out the 1st Phorm App. I promise you won’t regret it!
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(1) Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, McHugh M. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Jan;41(1):1-11. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0235. Epub 2015 Dec 8. PMID: 26642915.
(2) Sobrinho ACDS, Almeida ML, Rodrigues GDS, Finzeto LC, Silva VRR, Bernatti RF, Bueno Junior CR. Effect of Flexibility Training Associated with Multicomponent Training on Posture and Quality of Movement in Physically Inactive Older Women: A Randomized Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Oct 13;18(20):10709. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182010709. PMID: 34682455; PMCID: PMC8536106.
(3) Meng C, Jiang B, Liu M, Kang F, Kong L, Zhang T, Wang C, Wang J, Han C, Ren Y. Repair of rotator cuff tears in patients aged 75 years and older: Does it make sense? A systematic review. Front Public Health. 2023 Jan 17;10:1060700. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.1060700. PMID: 36733288; PMCID: PMC9887178.ABOUT THE AUTHOR