In today’s fast-paced environment, it's all too common for stretching and mobility movements to be overlooked as most of us search for the quickest way to lose body fat, increase muscle and improve overall fitness. Due to time constraints, lack of knowledge and genuine dislike in the practice, mobility is often overshadowed and considered not so important when many of us are on a quest to gaining a healthy lifestyle. However, when we’re looking to gain back our health, our bodies need the most TLC of all!
Mobility improves range of movement and helps us to move more free and easy. It should NOT be confused with a warm up. Warm ups prep our bodies for the workout ahead while mobility increases muscle elasticity, training performance, reduces stress, improves technique and helps prevent injuries.
Mobility movements should be incorporated into your weekly routine and can be practised in as little as 10 minutes per session.
Here are 5 body-weight mobility movements that will help you improve your range of movement and have you moving better than ever before!
Hip Openers (Lizard pose)
As we have 22 muscles that cross the hip, it's essential for us to consistently stretch these muscles every few days. Tight hips can limit movement in all aspects of life and as we age, become more difficult to move freely! There are THREE KEY BENEFITS to stretching the hips using this open lizard movement.
1. Releasing Stress – One of the main benefits of hip openers is stretching and strengthening muscles that are directly correlated to our stress response. One muscle in particular, the psoas, is a muscle that attaches the lumbar spine to the femur bone, and is triggered when we feel stress (as many of you have probably no doubt felt before ).
2. Alignment – Hip openers can help the joints of the lower back, hips and legs to come into better alignment. When hips are tight or causing mis-alignment, it can have a big effect on the back, knees, feet and even shoulders. Strong and flexible hips will give you good alignment and more mobility.
3. Supporting Lower Back – Tight hips cause strain on the lower back by over-loading the spine with pressure. When hips are open, there is more range of movement, better circulation, and more support for the muscles of the back and the spine.
Complete this movement holding each pose for 30 seconds before alternating to the opposite side and complete 3 sets total.
Thread The Needle Pose
Thread the Needle Pose stretches and opens the shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck. It’s a movement that will help release tension through the upper back and between the shoulder blades. This pose also provides a mild twist to the spine, which further reduces tension.
Here’s how to position your body to practice this movement correctly.
1. Begin on your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips towards the front. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Centre your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downwards towards the floor. This is Table Pose.
2. On an exhalation, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your left.
3. Keep your left elbow lifting and your hips raised. Do not press your weight onto your head; instead, adjust your position so you do not strain your neck or shoulder.
4. Let your upper back broaden. Soften and relax your lower back. Allow all of the tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away.
5. Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out. Return to Table Pose. Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Cat / Cow
This gentle mobility movement helps to bring flexibility to the spine. It stretches the back torso and neck, as well as activating and strengthening the abdominal organs. It also opens the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep which relieves stress and calms the mind.
A great movement to develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body. It brings the spine into correct alignment and can help prevent back pain when practised regularly.
1. Start on all fours with shoulders stacked over wrists, knees under hips, and spine neutral.
2. Slowly arch spine, lifting chest and tailbone while lowering bellybutton toward the ground.
3. Draw belly button toward spine to round back toward the ceiling, dropping tailbone toward the floor and curling chin in to chest.
Complete the sequence 8-10 times before moving into your next movement.
Thoracic spine windmills lying on floor
Your thoracic spine is in the middle of your back, from the base of the neck down to where your rib cage ends.
Having good mobility in the thoracic spine allows you to move your arms freely over your head and turn side to side pain free. Poor mobility can lead to shoulder pain, upper back pain and stiffness, poor posture and even headaches!
1. Begin lying on your side with the top knee and hip bent to 90 degrees. Brace your knee against a foam roll or towel with the downside hand. The arms are stretched out in front of you at shoulder level.
2. While maintaining knee and foam roll contact, rotate your upper body and open up arms so that top arm reaches across your body and touches floor on opposite side. Keep knee in contact with foam roll in order to eliminate hip movement.
Hold for 5 seconds before returning to starting position and repeat 3-5 times before changing to opposite side.
Complete 1-2 times each side.
The Serratus anterior plays a major role in helping you raise your arms above shoulder height and this is the muscle at the vertebral border of scapula. It helps stabilize the shoulder, protects you against neck pain, and helps you hold good posture making this an important part of our mobility sequence.
Scapular push ups helps to strengthen the serratus anterior, and helps the shoulder work with both strength and a complete range of motion.
1. Start with your hands on a wall, bench, or floor, with your hands directly under your shoulders.
2. Keep your spine neutral.
3. Engage your core and glutes so your hips don’t sink.
4. Keeping your arms extended, pinch your shoulder blades together.
5. Retract your shoulder blades by drawing them together, then detract them by pulling them apart. Lower your body slightly. Push back up.
Complete 2-3 sets of 15 reps.
There are so many incredible benefits of mobility training in both the gym and day to day life. Mobility movements as part of your warm-up reduce your risk of injury and increase strength and power. Better mobility also results in better technique. Dedicating 5-10 minutes of your day to mobility training is all it takes to reap these benefits.
It’s important to note the difference between static stretching and dynamic mobility training. Static stretches ate vital at improving flexibility, but reduce performance when done during a warm-up. So save static stretching for the cool-down after a workout or end of the day.
Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practising these mobility movements.