5 Best Mobility Exercises to Increase Your Range of Motion

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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In contrast to static stretching, mobility exercises incorporate active movements that involve the full range of motion of different joints.

Drawing from my experience as a certified personal trainer and several hours of extensive research, I have gathered a selection of the best mobility exercises to include in your workout routine.

In this post, I will also address some common mistakes that should be avoided, as they can cause more harm than good.

Quick Summary

  • The best mobility exercises include Spiderman lunges, 90/90 hip switches, cat cows, active frogs, and half-kneeling arm rotations.
  • The benefits of mobility exercises include improved movement mechanics, strength, hypertrophy, and injury prevention.
  • According to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on mobility training, participants saw a significant 15% boost in joint flexibility following eight weeks of consistent training.
  • In my view, you can embrace the challenge of mobility exercises by focusing on breathing, gradually increasing the intensity of the exercises, and staying committed to regular practice.

The Best Mobility Exercises

A person at home doing best mobility exercises

1. Spiderman Lunge

This is a great exercise to enhance your hip mobility, balance, and coordination.

Additionally, the Spiderman Lunge can indirectly help to improve ankle mobility as it involves moving the foot forward and outward.

As this exercise involves moving the foot forward and outward, it can help to improve ankle flexibility and mobility over time.

To perform the Spiderman lunge:

  1. Get in a plank position with your hands placed shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended.
  2. Bring your right foot toward the outside of your right hand. Ensure that your right knee is bent while extending your left leg behind you, engaging the muscles in your left arm.
  3. Maintain a straight back and lifted chest while actively engaging your core muscles.
  4. Hold for a few seconds before returning your right leg to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side, bringing your left foot to the outside of your left hand.
  6. Continue alternating sides for the desired number of reps.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Incorrect knee alignment - Ensuring your knees stay above your ankle throughout the exercise.
  • Poor posture - Keep your torso lifted and your back straight.
  • Lack of stability - Establish a firm hand placement on the ground and evenly distribute your body weight between your hands and the leg that is actively engaged.
  • Short range of motion - Begin by finding a range of motion that feels comfortable for you, and progressively work towards expanding it over time. Consistently integrating hip mobility exercises into your fitness routine can further enhance your range of motion.

Related: Side Lunges Stretches

2. 90/90 Switch

A person doing the 90/90 switch workout

This exercise improves flexibility and muscular balance by targeting the hip joints and muscles.

To perform the 90/90 hip switch, follow these steps:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you and your hands positioned behind your back.
  2. Gradually rotate your lower body to the right, allowing your right leg to bend at a 90-degree angle in front of you. Ensure that your foot is facing toward the left side.
  3. Rotate your left leg toward the back, forming another 90-degree angle at the knee. Keep your left foot facing toward the right side.
  4. Maintain a straight back and activate your core muscles throughout the movement.
  5. Slowly switch your leg position, allowing your left leg is now in front, with your right leg bent behind you, creating two 90-degree angles.
  6. Continue alternating between leg positions, performing the movement for the desired reps, and maintaining proper knee-bent alignment throughout the exercise.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Incorrect leg positioning - Make sure each leg is positioned to create a 90-degree angle at the knee. Take a moment to carefully adjust and align your legs before proceeding with the switch.
  • Rushing the movement - Focus on performing the switch in a controlled manner to maintain stability.
  • Poor posture - Avoid rounding your back and keep your shoulders relaxed, and chest lifted.

"The 90/90 stretch is one of the most effective hip stretches you can perform. It targets all of your hip rotator muscles, including your gluteus, piriformis and deep hip rotator muscles. It will specifically help you improve your internal and external hip rotation, which most people struggle with.”

- Grayson Beckham, Personal Trainer

3. Cat-Cow

I always recommend this workout to my clients, as it is a great mobility exercise to help them improve their spinal flexibility.

To perform a cat-cow stretch, follow these steps:

  1. Get in a tabletop position.
  2. As you inhale, arch your back, and lower your belly towards the ground while lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling.
  3. As you exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling, tucking your chin into your chest and lowering your tailbone towards the floor.
  4. Continue moving fluidly and slowly between the cow and cat positions until you reach the desired number of repetitions.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Poor spinal alignment - Focus on maintaining a straight line from your head to your tailbone.
  • Excessive arching - Lengthen the back of your neck and slightly tuck your chin toward your chest.

4. Half Kneeling Arm Rotation

A person doing a half kneeling arm rotation

This exercise offers several benefits, including improving shoulder mobility and promoting proper posture.

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  1. Assume a half-kneeling position with your left knee forward and your right knee on the floor. Ensure your left foot is placed flat on the ground while tucking your right toes underneath for support.
  2. Straighten both arms directly in front of your body, with your palms facing each other.
  3. Maintaining stability in your lower body, rotate your arms to the left, keeping them extended and palms facing each other.
  4. Pause briefly in the stretched position, then return your arms to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the rotation, this time to the right side.
  6. Continue alternating rotations until you reach the desired number of repetitions.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Poor form - Maintain a stable and balanced half-kneeling position by ensuring that your front knee is directly above your ankle and your back knee is aligned with your hips.
  • Over-rotating the arms - Rotate only as you comfortably can avoid putting strain on your shoulder joint.
  • Swinging your arms - Focus on controlled movements to get the benefits of this exercise.

5. Active Frog

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Lay down on your back with your arms at a 45-degree angle from your shoulders and palms up.
  2. Put the bottom of your feet together.
  3. Drop your knees to the sides into the frog position.
  4. Bring your knees back together. Your feet will flatten on the floor.
  5. Repeat until you reach the desired amount of reps.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Lack of core engagement - Activate your core to stabilize your body and support the movement.
  • Overextending the spine - Prioritize a controlled and fluid movement, activating your glutes while maintaining a neutral spine position.

“Frog allows you to sit with your hips and negotiate their opening and tune into their tightness. You can learn whether your hips are tighter on one side more than another, which gives you the potential to sideline an injury before it actually happens.”

- Gwen Lawrence, Fitness Editor

 

What Are the Benefits of Mobility Training?

A person doing mobility stretches

Through my extensive years of experience as a personal trainer, I've come to appreciate the numerous advantages that mobility training brings.

These include enhanced joint health, increased flexibility, improved Range of Motion (ROM), which translates into more functional movement capabilities, and a noticeable reduction in muscle fatigue.

Increased Range of Motion

Engaging in mobility training enhances joint range of motion, resulting in improved daily movements and athletic performance.

Improved Joint Health

According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), when muscles are tight, they limit the ability of joints to move freely through their full range of motion [1].

This restriction can result in pain and increase the risk of injury. A limited joint function can also lead to injuries during physical activities

Therefore, focusing on mobility training is essential for addressing current issues and preventing future problems.

Reduced Pain and Discomfort

When combined with exercise, mobility training can help alleviate stiffness caused by muscle buildup and reduce soreness around the joints.

As NPR states, mobility exercises will also help prevent pain caused by exercise, injury, or bad posture [2].

Improved Posture

According to NIH, regular mobility training can help improve your posture and technique by strengthening the muscles which support proper alignment [3].

Injury Prevention

A person doing mobility workouts at home

A study by NIH on mobility training found that participants experienced a 15% increase in joint flexibility after 8 weeks of consistent practice [4].

By improving joint health, flexibility, and ROM, mobility training can help prevent injuries during physical activity or everyday life.

A recent study by NIH indicates that incorporating preseason and daily mobility training into the routine of male athletes may offer significant benefits in injury prevention [5].

Stress Relief

Mobility training can also provide stress relief and relaxation benefits similar to activities such as stretching or yoga.

“Poor flexibility can impact your health and well-being in several ways. You may experience muscle fatigue, stress on your muscles, and inadequate joint health. Increasing your flexibility helps you avoid these problems and reap various benefits.”

- Nicole LaMarco, Health Writer

Mobility Training Tips

A person doing mobility training outside

Here are some valuable tips to enhance your mobility training:

  • Begin with the fundamentals - Prioritize simple mobility drills that target major joints like the hips, shoulders, and spine. Concentrate on proper form and technique to prevent any potential injuries.
  • Warm up effectively - Ensure you warm up adequately before engaging in mobility training. This will increase blood flow, elevate body temperature, and enhance mobility. Incorporate activities such as foam rolling, dynamic stretching, and light cardio exercises.
  • Stay consistent - Consistency is crucial in mobility training, just like any other form of exercise. Dedicate at least 10-15 minutes daily, several times a week, to work on your mobility.
  • Embrace patience - Improving mobility takes time and patience. Avoid expecting immediate results and allow yourself the necessary time to witness progress.
  • Address weaknesses - Identify areas of weakness in your mobility and focus on exercises that target those specific areas. By acknowledging and targeting your limitations, you can make substantial improvements.
  • Seek professional guidance if needed - If you have specific mobility limitations or physical restrictions, consider working with a certified personal trainer, physical therapist, or mobility coach. Their expertise can provide personalized guidance and tailored exercises to meet your unique needs and goals.

Related posts:

Nutritional Support

Nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting joint health and flexibility.

  • A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants helps maintain cartilage, reduce inflammation, and promote overall joint function.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fish oil possess anti-inflammatory properties, while vitamin D aids in calcium absorption for bone health.
  • Collagen supplements can enhance joint elasticity, and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements can alleviate joint discomfort.
  • A diet abundant in colorful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential nutrients.
  • Turmeric, ginger, and green tea have anti-inflammatory effects, further aiding mobility.

Proper nutrition complements mobility training by ensuring the body has the necessary building blocks for strong, flexible joints.

FAQs

Do Mobility Workouts Build Muscles?

Yes, mobility workouts can build muscles, although they may not lead to significant muscle gains like traditional strength training exercises.

Can I Do Mobility Exercise Every Day?

Yes, you can do mobility exercises every day. Five to fifteen minutes of daily mobility training can help maintain your range of motion and keep your nervous system active.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
  2. www.npr.org/2022/08/24/1119309409
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7056483/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9245897/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33188962/
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