Boost Your Flexibility and Mobility
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Looking to loosen up? Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainers Carla Sottovia, PhD, and Clay Fredrickson, DPT, PT, discuss the importance of flexibility and mobility and the best way to achieve them in your own fitness routine.
Flexibility and mobility play vital roles in one’s overall fitness and well-being. The two are essentially interrelated and cannot be separated. “Flexibility is the passive ability of the muscles and connective tissue surrounding a joint to stretch,” explains Fredrickson. “Mobility is defined as the active ability of the joint to move through a given range of motion without restriction.” Both the passive ability of the tissues to stretch and the active ability of the joints to move are critical components that allow for range of motion. Ultimately, in order to have ideal mobility, you also need increased flexibility.
Did you know our shoulders are actually capable of moving in a full 360° range of motion? As we age, we tend to lose both mobility and flexibility from being less physically active, experiencing various injuries and not including enough variety in our exercise routines. This causes our joints to decline in their range of motion and more likely to result in injury or pain while exercising.
“Specific movements can be incorporated in your exercise routine as a warm up or cool down that will enhance your overall mobility of the joints and flexibility of the tissue,” says Sottovia. “These specific movements should target key areas of the body typically prone to being tight and overused such as the foot, ankle, hip, lower back and thoracic spine.”
Key movements to incorporate into your exercise routine to give your mobility and flexibility a much needed boost:
- Ankle mobility exercise
This move is meant to increase range of motion in the ankle and can be especially beneficial to improving your form for movements such as squats and lunges. Begin by kneeling one knee to the ground and step the other foot out in front of you to form a 90° angle. Slowly lean forward, focusing on pushing your knee over your toes. Hold for a few seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
- Hip mobility stretch
Designed to increase lateral and posterior hip mobility, sit down in a chair or other sturdy surface and cross one foot over your other knee. As you lean forward slightly, you should feel a nice stretch in the back of the hip. Repeat on the other leg.
- Open book exercise
This is a great rotational mobility exercise for improving movement in the transverse plane between the lower (lumbar) and middle (thoracic) back segments. Begin by lying on your side with the top knee propped on a foam roller and your arms stretched out in front of you. Rotate the top arm to the opposite side of your body, aiming to touch your top hand to the floor on the opposite side. Repeat on other side.
- Cat-cow stretch
Improving movement in the back through the sagittal plane, begin on all fours on the ground. Arch your back upwards (like a cat does when it's scared) as far as is comfortable as you round out your shoulders, then arch your back downwards, trying to push your belly button towards the ground.
- Prayer stretch
This mobility exercise is intended to increase range of motion in the shoulders. Start by kneeling in front of a bench or chair. Place your elbows on the chair with fingers pointing to the ceiling. Sit back on your heels and place your head between your elbows as you go backwards.
Each exercise should be performed for 30 seconds with controlled movements. Remember, these moves should never cause pain.
In order to feel your best physically, you must first be able to move your best! Schedule a comprehensive assessment with a Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer to determine how your mobility and flexibility impacts not only your workouts but also your daily life. They will work with you to create an individualized corrective strategy so you can move more freely both in and out of the gym. Let us help you achieve your fitness goals by working smarter, not harder.
For more information about Cooper Fitness Center or to schedule a session with a Professional Fitness Trainer, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832.