Increasing Mobility for a Safe Exercise Experience

There are many reasons why I love working in the fitness industry. One of the main ones is the simple fact that I get to train so many different individuals who are all looking for new ways to live happier, healthier lives. How great is that?

Although there is no end to the different types of workouts and exercises you can try that can promise good results. But one thing that I always recommend to every client I train is to tell them to incorporate mobility training as a consistent element of their routine.

What exactly is mobility training?

Is it yoga? Foam-rolling? Walking lunges? Bear crawls? The answer is all of the above. In simple terms, mobility is equal parts strength and flexibility and something we should all aim for to feel our best. Maintaining mobility is crucial to overall health and well-being, especially as we age, and I always encourage people to do exercises that will increase their range of motion, and at the same time, control of the muscles that surround each joint.

A classic example of a mobility challenge is someone who says that they hurt their back from the simple task of picking something up from the floor. When you have tight primary muscles, it actually prevents your joint from moving correctly, and this forces our accessory, or supporting, muscles to work harder than they should be.  How can this be prevented?

How do we do that?

The best approach is to think of mobility as a skill as opposed to a type of workout routine.  Mobility helps us to perform at our best, prevent injury and recover faster. And we all want that!

So the best advice I can offer anyone is to recommend doing mobility exercises as part of your workout warm-up. Even if you exercise regularly, your body doesn’t care how long you’ve have been working out. The bottom line is this: If you have limited range of motion, your joints are just going to cause you a lot of pain when they are put under stress. And that is why doing mobility exercises during your warm-up can make a world of difference.

Your movement should be slow and deliberate. And be sure to focus on breathing slowly with control.

These are things you can do at home:

Quad to Hamstrings Stretch – stand with both feet together. Grab the right leg (bringing heel to glute) with the right hand. Then reach overhead with the left arm to deepen the stretch. Bring the right leg down and forward to stretch the hamstrings. Repeat on the left side.

Deep Squat to Hamstring Stretch – sit into a deep squat position. (Legs are wide and knees are out). Grab your toes and come to standing. Move within your range of motion.

Arm Reach Through – From a quadraped position, take one arm and slide it between the space of the other arm and knee. To deepen this stretch, reach further and try to lean more onto the shoulder of the arm you are reaching with.

Dolphin Press-Up – Start in a plank position, and bring your feet in slightly. Arch your hips upward to form an inverted V-shape with your body, then use your upper arms and shoulders to push yourself back down.

The warm-up routine I use and suggest at the gym:

  1. Myofascial work to prevent potential muscular irritation.
    Use a foam roller to relieve tightness and release any chronic tension that plagues your body. There are all sorts of great techniques for relaxing tight calf muscles, loosening your hamstrings, releasing tension in your back, and deepening flexibility in your hips.
  2. Controlled dynamic stretches
    • Bridges
    • Hip circles
    • Lunge with a twist
    • Deep squat hold
    • Scarecrows
    • Shoulder circles
  3. Bodyweight movements
    • Squats
    • Backward alternating lunges
    • Bear-crawls (Crouch down with hands in front of your shoulder-width apart and feet behind you with hips up in the air and eyes forward. Crawl forward starting with your right hand and your left foot, followed by the left hand and the right foot.)
    • Duck-walks (assume a low partial squatting position and walk forwards, maintaining the low stance)
    • Push-ups

I would like to thank those of you who have given me the opportunity to work with you.  I am honored to join you on your journey!

Written by Sherin Thankachan, the JCC Assistant Fitness Director and certified personal trainer. She develops and implements new programs and oversees the overall management of the Sadinoff Fitness Center and the Seiden Wellness Center. Possessing a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, she has extensive experience in rehab, injury prevention, strength and conditioning, weight loss and functional training. Her Stretch Your Pain Away program has helped many clients recover their quality of life.