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30 Exercises to Increase Your Mobility

Posted by Aaron Laurence on May 13th 2022

A female athlete performing YBell rack side lunges.

30 Exercises for Improving Your Mobility, Flexibility & Strength

You've probably heard a lot about the importance of increasing your mobility through mobility training. But what exactly is mobility? And how do you increase your mobility?

Mobility is an attribute of fitness that refers to your ability to take a joint through an extended range of motion with control. It's a combination of flexibility, coordination, and strength.

Many people think mobility is the same as flexibility, but they're pretty different. Flexibility is your ability to lengthen your muscles. Mobility is your ability to move your muscles and joints through a full range of motion.

This blog will cover the benefits of mobility training, ways to improve mobility, and specific exercises for mobility (with and without equipment) that you can do from the comfort of your home gym. Let's dive in!

4 Benefits of Mobility Training

There are multiple benefits to performing mobility training, but here are just a few:

1. Better Posture and Form

If you spend your day sitting in front of a computer, your body may start compensating for that through poor posture. Sitting for prolonged periods can cause your shoulders to slump and your hip flexors to shorten, along with kyphosis (an exaggerated rounding of your back).

Improving your joint mobility offers you an increased range of motion, which can correct your posture and allow you to perform exercises and stretches with better form.

2. Reduce Pain and Prevent Injuries

Our bodies naturally compensate for mobility issues, often through poor form and a limited range of motion. Allowing that compensation to continue will limit your physical performance in exercise and athletic activities. It could also lead to muscle strain or injury.

For example, poor elbow mobility will limit your ability to perform hammer curls or pull-ups. This limitation means other muscles and joints in the kinetic chain will be compensating for the elbow. Over time, this can lead to pain in your wrist, forearm, and elbow.

Since mobility training improves your strength and flexibility, your muscles and joints will be able to withstand more stress with a lowered risk of injury.

3. Improves Strength

Full joint mobility allows your body to move more efficiently during strength or tactical training. Your muscles can handle more load by not compensating for a limited range of motion. Lifting heavier, with proper form, helps to create strength and helps you build more muscle.

4. Increase Athletic Performance

Mobility exercises are a must for athletes. Whether you're a competitive athlete or someone who loves to hit the gym, increasing your mobility will profoundly impact your athletic and physical performance.

Increasing your range of motion, flexibility, and strength allows your muscles to work more efficiently. Your muscles will also recover from strenuous physical activity much faster. That maximum efficiency and faster recovery lead to improved overall athletic performance.

3 Ways to Improve Your Mobility

If you’re wondering how to increase your mobility, it’s as simple as stretching, strength training, and performing mobility exercises.

1. Dynamic Stretching

Stretching lengthens and shortens your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which activates viscoelastic properties, allowing an extended range of motion. Studies have shown that by stretching regularly (preferably before and after every workout), your muscles will better tolerate that extended range of motion, making it more permanent.

Performing 3 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretches before a workout improves your mobility by loosening your joints, improving your range of motion, increasing blood flow throughout your body, and improving your form. Dynamic stretches can include squats, lunges, and twists. If you’re preparing for a cardio workout like endurance running, you can perform a low-resistance walk or jog before a sprint or endurance run.

2. Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is performed by manually applying gentle pressure to your muscles. It’s commonly performed during physical therapy or as part of an injury rehab program by using foam rollers or resistance bands to relieve muscle tension. But you can also perform myofascial release at home as part of your preventative care for muscle recovery by identifying restricted movement patterns and releasing the tight muscles or connective tissue in those areas.

For example, suppose you've noticed tightness in your quads when attempting to squat. In that case, you may want to consider using a foam roller for soft tissue work to release tension in your thighs.

3. Mobility Exercises or Mobility Training

Adding mobility exercises to your training regimen can go a long way to improving your overall health and minimizing your risk for injury. You can accomplish this through weekly yoga or pilates classes or by adding separate mobility workouts to your weekly routine. Another option that won't require as much time commitment is simply adding a few mobility exercises to your current training.

Making mobility training a regular habit can reduce your pain and improve your posture, strength, and physical performance.

Mobility exercises don’t require machines or free weights. Starting with bodyweight exercises can be the most effective, especially if you’re new to mobility training. However, as your mobility improves, adding resistance by using bands or free weights like YBells can help you increase the difficulty and build more strength.

Best Mobility Exercises

Here are some of the best mobility exercises that you can start adding to your fitness routine:

1. Prone Cobra

Prone cobra is an excellent neck mobility exercise that strengthens your shoulder muscles and upper back. You don’t need any equipment, but an exercise mat and small towel may be helpful since you’ll need to lay on the floor.

To perform prone cobra, lay face down on the floor with your arms to your side and palms down. You can rest your forehead on a towel for added comfort. Bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth to stabilize the muscles in the front of your neck, then pinch your shoulder blades back and lift your hands off the floor. Slowly roll your elbows in toward your ribs, bringing your palms out. Lift your chest off the floor while keeping your gaze on the floor (this will lift your forehead off the ground/towel). Hold for 8 to 10 seconds. Repeat for 10 reps.

Additional Neck Mobility Exercises:

  1. Neck Half Circles
  2. 360-Degree Flexion and Extention
  3. Upper Trapezius Stretch
  4. Chin Tucks
  5. Quadruped Thoracic Spine Rotations

2. Shoulder Pass-Throughs

The shoulder pass-through is an excellent shoulder mobility exercise that works your neck, upper back, and chest. Hold a PVC pipe in front of you by your hips, with both hands as wide as feels comfortable. Lift the pipe over your head and bring your arms behind you as far as possible, ideally touching your glutes. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

This entire movement may cause pain if you have limited shoulder mobility. If so, try simply lifting the pipe overhead. As you become more comfortable with the exercise and your shoulders become more mobile, you can slowly bring your arms further back. You can bring your arms closer together on the pipe to increase the difficulty.

While pass-throughs are typically performed with a pipe, you can easily substitute with a resistance band or other items around the house like a broomstick or a roll of wrapping paper.

Additional Shoulder Mobility Exercises:

  1. Clasped Arm Extensions
  2. Back to the Wall Shoulder Flexion
  3. Kettlebell Rack Presses
  4. Cross Halos
  5. Push-up Rows

3. Jefferson Curls

The Jefferson curl is an excellent exercise to strengthen your posterior chain and build your lower back and spinal mobility. This exercise is typically performed with a free weight like a YBell Neo or YBell Arc.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a YBell in front of you with a double grip. Keep your chest lifted and shoulders back. Keep your arms and legs straight, lower your chin to your chest, curl your back, and lean forward like you're reaching to touch your toes. Curl down as far as your body will allow without pain. Exhale and hold for 4 seconds at the bottom of the movement, then slowly return to your starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.

You can do Jefferson curls with just bodyweight if holding a weight is too difficult. While you can stand on the floor, you may find that you can achieve a deeper curl and stretch by standing on a plyo box or the bottom step of your stairs. However, be sure to stop the curl when you feel pain. Otherwise, you may risk back strain.

Additional Back and Spinal Mobility Exercises:

  1. Cat-Cow Stretches
  2. Bridge Taps
  3. Thread the Needle
  4. Supine Spine Twists
  5. Tail Wags

4. Lunge With Spinal Twist

One of the most effective hip mobility exercises you can perform is a lunge with a spinal twist. Start with a standard forward lunge. While in the lunge position, place your hands on the ground, and then twist and reach your right arm toward the ceiling, holding for 5 seconds. Repeat for 10 reps on each side. Twist lunges work your hip stabilizers, helping your balance and stability. They also activate your thoracic spine and the muscles in your ankles and feet.

You can decrease the difficulty by starting with a standard lunge. You can also increase the difficulty of the lunge with a spinal twist by adding free weights like a YBell Pro. Hold a YBell in each hand with an outer grip. Place the YBells on the ground in the lunge position, then using a center grip, press up with a YBell during the spinal twist.

Additional Hip Mobility Exercises:

  1. Frog Squats
  2. Deep Pick-Up Squat Jumps
  3. Hip Controlled Articular Rotations (AKA: Hip CARs)
  4. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
  5. Walking Spiderman With Hip Lift and Overhead Reach

5. Controlled Air Squats

Air squats (AKA: bodyweight squats) are a phenomenal exercise for working your quads and glutes, but more importantly, it's perfect for testing your ankle mobility. How so? If your ankles come off the ground during an air squat, it’s a sign that you have limited ankle mobility.

To do an air squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes angled slightly outward. Engage your core muscles and push your hips back. Then bend at your knees to lower your torso into a squat, pushing through your heels. Keep lowering yourself until you feel your heel(s) lifting off the ground. Pause there, then push yourself back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.

Adding ankle stretching and strengthening exercises into your routine will help boost your athletic performance and help minimize hip or knee injuries. Banded mobility exercises are also great for your ankle and leg mobility.

Additional Ankle Mobility Exercises:

  1. Rocking Ankle Mobilization
  2. Walking Lunges
  3. Banded Ankle Distractions
  4. Slow Eccentric Calf Raises
  5. Ankle Plantar Flexion

Why You Should Work Mobility Training Into Your Fitness Regimen

You should add mobility training into your fitness routine immediately, even if you're not currently experiencing muscle tension or restricted movement. Adding mobility exercises into your current workout regimen will help to improve your athletic performance and help you move and feel better in your daily life.

Having optimal mobility in your joints means having a full range of motion for all activities. Your body depends on your mobility every day. When you walk or run, climb a flight of stairs, bend down in your garden, or play a round of golf, your mobility is what allows (or restricts) your ability to move with ease.

Whether you're hoping to improve your posture, prevent an injury, or become stronger or more athletic, mobility training can help you achieve your fitness goal.

Improve Your Mobility with YBell Fitness

YBell is a versatile 4-in-1 fitness tool that functions as a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a double-grip med ball, and a push-up stand. Its unique shape and award-winning multi-handled design are excellent for strength training and functional fitness. More importantly, it offers new layers of challenge to traditional mobility exercises. YBells offer variety, allowing you to increase or decrease complexity based on your fitness level without needing to own or switch out multiple pieces of equipment.

YBell-Specific Compound Mobility Exercises

Let's take halos as an example. They're often performed with kettlebells or dumbbells and are a great exercise for shoulder and upper back mobility. However, using a multi-handled YBell, which has multiple grip options, can turn the halo into more complex movements, like cross halos or drop lunge cross halos.

With the YBell cross halo, you'll start with the YBell in an outer grip by your right side and bring it across your body to your left shoulder. Add in your left hand for a double grip, continue the halo around the back of your head, then release your right hand to drop the YBell back down to your left side using an outer grip again.

Multiple Handles = Multiple Pieces of Mobility Equipment

The multi-handle, multi-grip design of the YBell allows you to switch from a two-handed grip to a single-handed grip without throwing off the weight distribution, making compound movements seamless. This transition would be harder to accomplish with traditional equipment like kettlebells, where the weight sits in the middle, or dumbbells, where the stress is shifted to an isolated muscle group. Difficult transitions like this are what can often cause injuries during strength training workouts.

Using those same grip transitions, you can add pick-ups and lunges to your YBell cross halo for lower body mobility, creating compound mobility exercises like pick-up cross halos and drop lunge cross halos. The ability to transition your grip mid-exercise makes YBell ideal for your stability and safety while performing functional fitness and mobility exercises.

Pick up a set of YBells today, and check out the YBell Fitness App or follow us on Instagram for more YBell-specific mobility exercises and workouts you can start doing from the comfort of your home gym.

FAQs About Mobility

How Often Should I Do Mobility Exercises?

Ideally, you should be performing mobility work every day, especially if you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Try to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes per day on targeted mobility work and focus on any given area for at least two minutes. However, if you're rehabbing a joint or muscle group from an injury, you may want to spend more time working on that area.

If you have an established workout routine, adding mobility work to your regular resistance training or cardio training won't take up much time. Spending a few minutes on a short set of mobility exercises before your main workout is usually enough to work on problematic areas.

Keep in mind that training to gain and improve mobility takes longer than maintaining your mobility once you have it. Like physical therapy or injury rehab, you may need to intensify your mobility training to work on difficult areas for a few weeks or months, then continue with daily maintenance mobility exercises to keep your mobility strong.

Why Are Mobility Exercises Important?

Adding mobility exercises to your fitness routine can go a long way to improving your health and lowering your risk for injury. Making mobility training a regular habit can reduce your pain and improve your posture, physical strength, and athletic performance. Moreover, it'll make your daily activities easier to perform.

The point of physical training isn't just to become lean and muscular but also to restore and maintain your body's normal function. Being mobile is crucial to being healthy. Improving your mobility gives you the foundation to be fit and active without facing constant pain or injury.  

Do You Need To Warm Up Before Doing Mobility Exercises?

You should warm-up before every workout, including mobility exercises. Focus on dynamic stretching and movements to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Whenever possible, include unloaded (AKA bodyweight) exercises that use the same muscle groups and mimic the movements of your workout routine.

Dynamic stretching before mobility training loosens your joints, which helps to increase your range of motion and improve your form. Dynamic stretching can be as easy as walking and doing arm circles before running or marching in place before a soccer game. When using cardio equipment like a treadmill, you can set it to low resistance to warm up your muscles and joints before going into a high-performance or endurance routine.

Avoid static stretching before your workout, which can cause a delayed muscle response. Static stretches are great as a cool down after your workout.

What’s The Difference Between Mobility & Flexibility?

Mobility and flexibility are often used interchangeably, but they aren't the same thing. Mobility is your ability to move your muscles and joints through a full range of motion.

Mobility is dynamic. Flexibility is your ability to lengthen your muscles by stretching and applying pressure. Flexibility is passive.

Think of the butterfly stretch. Flexibility is when you can press your knees to touch the ground with your hands. This applies pressure to and stretches your inner thigh muscles. Mobility is when your hips have a full range of motion, and you can open your hips so that your knees can touch the ground without pressure from your hands.

Flexibility is achieved by stretching and holding your muscles in that position for an extended period. This reduces tension in the muscles, which relaxes and lengthens them.

Mobility is achieved when you can control a movement through a full range of motion. Mobility incorporates flexibility and strength.

How Long Does it Take to Improve Mobility?

Suppose you work in front of a computer all day and aren't actively working on your mobility. In that case, you may have already developed poor neurological habits. This means it may take your body some time to break those habits. Lasting mobility is a process. It will take consistency and dedication to your training.

You're not going to see overnight success, but that doesn't mean your mobility exercises aren't working. Unless you're rehabbing an injury, you're likely to see improvements in your mobility in three to four weeks. Even after two weeks of consistent mobility training, you'll start to see small but significant improvements in your range of motion — like an ability to squat deeper or bend lower. Keep it up and you’ll start seeing major improvements with time!

Aaron "Az" Laurence, Co-Founder, YBell Fitness

As a certified personal trainer and the inventor of the YBell, Aaron "Az" Laurence loves motivating people to become better versions of themselves. He enjoys designing challenging workouts for himself that he can use with his clients.
 
Az developed the YBell to replace the multiple pieces of equipment he was using in his group training sessions. He enjoys seeing his clients' reactions when they realize they only have to change grips on their YBells to change equipment. And he loves being able to dial up the intensity of their workouts with just one training tool.
 
Seeing clients progress both physically and mentally as a result of training fuels his passion for the fitness industry.