Mobility is a simple word with big implications. In many circles, it determines whether you can progress from a basic exercise to a more advanced exercise. For instance, if you can’t actively bring your arms over your head, the chances of doing a solid overhead squat or even overhead press without having some negative compensation through the spine become limited.
Some say mobility to a specific benchmark is needed to maintain health. Things like squatting to the floor sound awesome and are a great way to show off for those who have the innate ability to do it, whereas those who might not have the anatomy to get there will be frustrated with their lot in life.
I’ve always viewed mobility a little differently and with a much less extreme “yes/no” kind of ideal:
How much do you have versus how much do you use?
Let’s say you can grab your knee and hug it to your chest, but when you do a squat, you wind up looking like you’re more of a marionette puppet whose strings aren’t long enough. This disconnect between where you could get to by hugging your knee to your chest and where you managed to get to when asked to squat means you may have to get more control over your motion and maybe not as much time spent doing static stretches or “muscle lengthening” exercises. This doesn’t mean there’s no use for them, but the use is not as well spent as others.
Some people will have anatomical structures that allow massive excursions during these movements, while others won’t. There isn’t a standard I would want anyone to work to say they’re a good exerciser or person, but use as much as you have and work hard at using it. So in this vein, I wanted to showcase the 5 Mobility Exercises that teach you how to use a range of motion effectively while also trying to use as much as possible.
5 Mobility Exercises You’ve Probably Never Done, but Should
Here’s a simple hint to make each exercise more diabolically intense. Whenever you get to the end of the range of motion, try to contract the muscles pulling them in that direction as hard as possible to coax a little more room out of each position. If you find a sticking point in the range, this would be a good point to try those max isometric tension developments.
1. Rolling Cossacks
This movement works on getting an adductor stretch while also imparting some controlled rotation through internal and external rotation. They can stand having some direct work once in a while. Considering how overlooked adductors are too general health and function of the hips and knees.
2. Half Kneeling Elastic Thoracic Rotations
Half Kneeling Elastic Thoracic Rotations
This is an active and vertical movement similar to the side-lying thoracic rotation. This movement relies on core control to develop hip and thoracic spine rotation, plus some spine extension to accommodate arm movement. Try to reach your arm as high as possible and get your biceps as close to the ear as possible. With most mobility drills, there should be a progression to coming off the floor into a more vertical position so that the usability of that mobility can be more applicable.
3. Standing Hip Circles
Standing Hip Circles
These look deceptively simple but can be massively challenging. The key here is to move come entirely from the hip socket doing the work. This means keeping the knees locked out and trying not to have any twisting from the hips, side leaning, or any deviation from neutral.
4. 2-Step Kneeling Hip Stretch
2-Step Kneeling Hip Stretch
This stretch focuses on developing tension in the hip flexors and glutes in a reciprocal manner. When in half kneeling position, try to get the glute of the down leg to flex hard and drive into the hip flexor without letting the low back extend. When in the pigeon pose on top of the knee, try to drive the knee into the floor to get the glutes to respond to the stretch reflex more effectively. Don’t forget to breathe, either.
5. Shin Box
This is a solid way to start a workout and simultaneously improve the hip internal and external rotation. It’s a simple movement with some excellent carry-over into many of the activities you would want to include in your workout and can be scaled down by simply putting your hands on the ground behind you and scaled up by doing something like this:
Flow Hip Mobility Warm-up
You could even work into something like this if you’re feeling up for it:
Butterfly Flow Hip Mobility
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