Compared to exercises that show aesthetic benefits, mobility movements often get neglected aside from the mandatory pre- and post-workout stretches. If you train hard, you're going to want to treat your body right, and that entails some focus on mobility.
In fact, many trainers we've spoken to emphasise the importance of mobility before even attempting to tackle things like heavy lifts. Mobility is seen as central to your ability to perform well in the gym, and to move better in everyday life as well.
Here are five effective exercises to improve your mobility. Integrate them into your rest day as a slight workout, or during your warm downs. Think of it as treating yourself, and reap the results of being freer from muscle stiffness, as well as better performance during training.
Photo credit: mensfitness
With lifts or moves like pull ups, the lats are often subjected to strain since they're so heavily utilised. They tend to grow tight, and this hampers your ability to carry loads you otherwise could without the tension. Lat hangs are an easy way to correct this. You go to a pull-up bar, preferably one where your feet can touch the floor. If not, bring a bench and adjust it so your heels are comfortably on them while your body is upright. Grasp the bar and lean back, making your torso perpendicular from the floor and your legs diagonal. Inhale deeply, and make sure to feel the stretch in your upper back. Breathe in and out five times, before returning to an upright position. Repeat three to four times.
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If you've got a desk-bound job, chances are your hip flexors are pretty stiff. Your hip joints are one of the primary causes of lower back pain and the tightness you feel after a long day's work. Hip flexors are used in a number of exercises, particularly cardio moves, and they're one of the most utilised in everyday life too. Take good care of them and ease their stress by performing this simple yoga stretch that also helps with flexibility. Assume a plank position, then slide your right foot off the floor. Bring your right knee up to your right hand, and allow your right foot to be near your left hand. Your back should be slightly curved downwards. Slide your left leg as far back as you can, lowering yourself down to the floor.Your arms should be now fully extended, as well as your back leg, with your right leg folded beneath you. Keep your head down and count for 20 seconds, taking deep breaths. Repeat three to four times on alternating sides.
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This easy stretch targets your quads, hip flexors and glutes, which is especially useful after an intensive leg day. Go towards a wall, and with your back facing it, bring your right shin and foot up and place it against the wall. Step your left leg forward, as if you were about to lunge and begin kneeling. Ensure your shin is always flat against the wall. Once you're fully kneeling, arch your back to engage your glutes as well. Hold for 15 seconds while taking steady breaths, before swapping over to the other leg. Repeat three to four times.
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Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is perhaps one of the most common and reliable mobility exercises. Its also extremely versatile, helping with your recovery too. You're basically just giving yourself a massage to alleviate muscle tightness, especially at trigger points where your muscles tend to feel "knotted". It's a deep tissue massage that can be painful, but the after-effects are extremely worth it. Foam rolling also restores proper blood flow to your tissues that allow for a return to optimum form. Purchase yourself a foam roller, get on the floor, and place the roller against a joint that has been giving you trouble. Begin rolling. One great place to start is the back. Simply lie down with the foam roller around your shoulder blades, and keep your knees up (think sit-up position). Roll that sore back away.
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Odd name aside, the cow's face is a pretty simple yoga pose to correct shoulder flexibility. This is especially great to improve scapular rotation. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, feet facing forward. Reach your hands behind your back, one from above and one from beneath. Try to lock your fingers together and hold them. If that isn't possible, use a T-shirt or a towel as an intermediary. Breathe in and out, holding for one minute, before switching sides. If you really want to stretch your hips at the same time, do this sitting down cross-legged, with each foot brought to touch the opposite hip.
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- April 12, 2017
- Beatrice Bowers