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What Are Mobility Exercises, and Should You Do Them?

Karla Tafra

Fitness and exercise have a lot of different components, and while some help you build muscle, burn fat, and increase your energy expenditure, others promote recovery and increase your range of motion. Mobility exercises fall under the latter category, supporting your fitness endeavors long-term.

What Are Mobility Exercises?

Woman doing wide legged stretch and twist.
Karla Tafra

Mobility exercises improve your body’s ability to move and function while reducing aches and pain, and alleviating stiffness and discomfort. They support all other forms of exercise, increasing the range of motion of all of your joints, strengthening your tendons and ligaments, and promoting better stability and function of your muscles.

Not to be confused with flexibility or stretching, mobility exercises help your body move in all directions and allow your joints and muscles to perform certain exercises more freely and easily. Flexibility, on the other hand, allows your muscles to stretch longer than they could before, and it requires both, passive and active action.

These two types of exercises complement each other, and even though some movements might seem similar, their goal and purpose are different and that’s why they’re performed in slightly different ways.

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What Are the Benefits of Mobility Exercises

A woman does a yoga pose in a park.
Bogdan Cherniak/Shutterstock.com

The benefits of exercise are endless, but there are a few important reasons for including mobility exercises in your regimen:

Mobility Exercises Reduce Your Risk of Injury

Mobility exercises help minimize injuries and sprains by improving the strength and stability of your joints. They also help increase their natural lubrication and allow them to move freely and without tension. This reduces the pressure on your surrounding muscles, bringing the risk of injury or premature fatigue to a minimum.

To that point, mobility exercises are highly recommended to the elderly whose risk of falling and frailty only grows with each passing year. The more mobile their hips, knees, shoulders, and ankles, the lower the risk of serious injuries and broken bones, which improves their overall quality of life.

Mobility Exercises Support Other Exercises

When your range of motion increases, you’re able to perform certain exercises with ease, which allows for progress and greater fitness results.

Just imagine yourself doing walking lunges. If your hips are too tight, your legs and lower back will get fatigued too quickly and you might struggle with balance as you’re walking. The better your range of movement, the easier you’ll be able to improve your stability and balance, and with it, challenge yourself with heavier dumbbells. This helps you increase your strength and reach your fitness goals.

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Mobility Exercises Help Reduce Pain and Muscle Soreness.

Another important benefit of mobility exercises is their ability to help reduce common pains and muscle stiffness, improving recovery and reducing soreness. Back, neck, and general joint pain is mostly caused by an overall imbalance in the body that’s due to weak muscles and tendons. This makes certain areas of your body take over, compensating for the weaker part, which results in pain that can easily go from acute to chronic.

Mobility exercises help reduce pain and stiffness, alleviate muscle soreness, and promote easier and quicker recovery time so you’re able to increase your exercise volume and achieve progress.

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The Best Mobility Exercises

A woman does a mobility exercise on a mat while looking at a phone.

Once you get into the world of mobility exercises, you’ll realize how many you already know and have probably performed before without even knowing they were meant to increase your range of motion. Here are some of the best mobility exercises for different areas of your body to include in your workout routine.

Mobility Exercise for Hips – Deep Yogi Squat

A woman does a deep yogi sit.

Probably one of the best mobility exercises for your hips includes the so-called yogi squat. This dynamic pose helps you utilize the power of your upper body to control the movement of your hips, opening them and improving mobility to the level of your own, individual comfort.

Come into a standing position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance. Bend your knees and lower your hips all the way down into a deep squat. Open your knees and bring your palms together, using your elbows to push and open your hips. Try to keep your spine as straight as possible and gaze forward to relax your shoulders and leave some space for your neck.

You can control this pose with your elbows, choosing how much and for how long you want to push. Stay for at least three long inhales and exhales, feeling your hips open a bit wider with every exhale.

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Mobility Exercise for Lower Back – Dynamic Downward-Facing Dog

Woman doing downward facing dog.
Karla Tafra

Your low back is another important area of your body that needs to be worked on in addition to your hips. Your pelvis is a large part of your skeletal system that takes on plenty of strain and pressure throughout the day, whether you’re sitting, walking, running, or even just standing in line in the grocery store. In order to keep it healthy for years to come, you need to work on the mobility and flexibility of the surrounding muscles.

A great mobility exercise for your lower back is a dynamic downward-facing dog. This popular yoga pose is known for relieving chronic pain and allowing for a better stretch of your lower back muscles. When movement is added to this otherwise static pose, it improves the lubrication of your hips and knees, creates space for your pelvic bones, and brings some relief to the muscles surrounding them.

Come to a plank position, with your wrists right under your shoulders. Inhale and lift your hips up, pushing your hips diagonally back while stretching your legs and arms, and coming into an inverted V shape with your body. Once you feel comfortable in the pose, start bending one knee and then the other, alternating as fast or as slow as you want. Stay here for at least five long inhales and exhales.

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Mobility Exercise for Shoulders – Prone Swimmers

A woman does a stretch while laying on a mat.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

The range of movement of your shoulders is often neglected through usual fitness exercises. That’s why it’s important to include at least one mobility exercise for your shoulders in your upper body routine.

One of the best ways to do so is by performing prone swimmers. This exercise starts by laying on your stomach and lifting your arms overhead. Activate your core muscles to prevent your lower back from taking over and stabilize your breathing.

Inhale and on your exhale, circle your arms down and back, bending your elbows and placing the top of your palms on your back. Inhale, and on your next exhale, extend your arms and circle them all the way back to the starting position. Ensure your shoulders are relaxed and far away from your ears, creating more space for your neck and reducing any potential tension. Go for five full movements, and circle down and back.

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Mobility Exercise for Ankles – Heels Lift

Women on their tiptoes stretch their calves.

Everything starts with your ankles and any injury or sprain might prevent you from performing any other exercise, often making it hard to do any of your daily tasks. Improving the mobility of your ankles is crucial, especially if you’re an active individual.

Stand in front of a wall or another steady surface and flatten your palms, supporting your weight. Inhale and lift your heels so you’re standing high on the balls of your feet. Exhale and bring your heels back down. Repeat 20 times and you can go as fast or as slow as you’d like. If you want to challenge yourself, stand at the edge of a step, and as you bring your heels back down, stretch your heels even lower, past the step. This will stretch out your Achilles and strengthen your ankle mobility as you lift your heels up.

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Mobility Exercise for Knees – Wall Squats

A woman does a wall squat outside.
Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.com

Knee injuries are some of the most common in the fitness world and adding quality mobility exercises to your routine can be of great help. An easy way to strengthen your knees and the tendons surrounding them is by performing wall squats or wall sits.

Turn your back to a flat wall surface and make two steps forward. Lean back so your upper back touches the wall and then slide your spine down, bending your knees, until your thighs become parallel to the floor. You might need to walk your feet a bit further in order to create a 90-degree angle from your thighs to your calves.

Place your arms on your thighs or challenge yourself by holding a medicine ball and focusing on your breath. Activate your core muscles and keep your spine glued to the wall so you protect your lower back. Stay here for 5-10 long breath cycles or set a timer for one minute.

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Now that you’ve added mobility exercises to your routine, you might not have a lot of time left for stretching. Here are some quick and effective stretching exercises to help you out.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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