Mobility, the ability to have full range of motion in your muscles and joints, is one of the most important aspects of fitness. Improving your mobility can help you exercise better, prevent injuries and reduce joint pain, says Gold’s Gym Fitness Expert Lisa Brownlee.
Some people think mobility means flexibility, but it’s more than that. Flexibility allows you to lengthen a muscle. Mobility allows you to move that muscle in many different ways.
Mobility training can also improve your quality of life, since improving the ease of motion you feel during an exercise can improve the ease of motion you feel doing everyday tasks. Brownlee has seen many cases where a person’s lack of mobility exacerbates back and knee problems. “The muscles around those areas will start to tighten, which will lead to other stiff joints, which will lead to more pain,” Brownlee says. “So the pain increases because of the limited range of motion.”
The mobility workout
These four mobility moves can be used as a 5–10 minute circuit or individually integrated into your stretching and warmup routine. Either way, they can help you move better. “These are my go-to moves,” Brownlee says. (If you’re looking for additional ways to improve your mobility, consider yoga.)
The equipment you’ll need:
- A mat
- A PVC pipe
- A resistance band
- PVC passes
- Lunges with the “world’s greatest stretch”
- Band pullovers
Areas of focus: hamstrings, calves, hips
Stand at the back of the mat with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Reach your hands to the floor and push your hips back, trying to keep your knees as straight as you can. Walk your hands forward until you are in a full plank position. At this point, you should be in a plank with your hands under your shoulders, core tight. From here, walk your hands back to your toes, keeping your knees as straight as possible as you lift your hips in the air. Stand up completely and repeat as directed.
The goal: Do three rounds of 5–10 reps, depending on your fitness level.
Areas of focus: shoulders, upper back, neck, chest
Hold the PVC pipe horizontally against the front of your body, with your hands down and set wide (if you don’t have a PVC pipe, you can use a band or a broomstick). Lift the pipe overhead, and, if possible, bring your arms all the way behind you to touch your hips in the back. If you have limited shoulder mobility or this causes pain, you can just bring the pipe straight overhead or slightly behind your head. You can also make your hands wider or bring them closer in, depending on your mobility level. Keep your core tight and ribs down so you don’t arch your back.
The goal: 10 lifts
Lunges with the “world’s greatest stretch”
Areas of focus: thoracic spine and hips
Take an extended lunge forward with your right foot. In lunge position, lean forward and put both hands on the ground. Twist and reach your left hand straight up into the sky, looking at your fingers. Take four deep breaths, and then put your hand back on the ground. Return to standing position, and then repeat on the opposite side by leading with your left foot forward.
The goal: Do once with each foot forward, breathing deeply for each side.
Areas of focus: shoulders, scapula, hips, spine, ribs
With an attached band accessible overhead, lie flat with your back on the mat. Extend arms overhead to grip the band, keeping your hands slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. For the movement, keep your hips, lower back, shoulders and head glued to the ground. In a single fluid motion, pull the band from overhead all the way to your hips. Pause, and then, still holding the band, bring your arms back overhead in a controlled manner. If your lower back starts to come off the ground, push your belly back to the ground by tightening your core. If it’s still coming off the ground, limit your range of motion overhead until your mobility improves. Make sure you are not bringing your shoulders up to your ears.
The goal: Three rounds of 10–15 reps. Your last rep should have a better range of motion than your first.