The latest exercise craze promises to make you stronger, more flexible and agile, and prevent injury—all without pushing your body to its limits. If that sounds too good to be true, welcome to mobility training, a kinder, gentler workout that’s taking the fitness world by storm.
Mobility-focused workouts are so trendy that #mobilityTikTok has racked up more than 38 million TikTok views. But don’t let the hashtag fool you. “Mobility training has been around for decades,” says Araceli DeLeon, MS, ACE CPT, an ACE-certified health coach, personal trainer, and yoga instructor. “I would not and do not consider it a fad.” It’s so beneficial, she says, that it should be part of everyone’s exercise routine.
So, what, exactly, is mobility training, and what can it do for you? Here’s everything you need to know, plus a quick workout to help you get started.
What is mobility training?
Mobility training aims to help your body move more freely and easily. In a world where most of us sit glued to our computers all day, who couldn’t benefit from that? On the surface, it’s easy to assume that mobility training is the same as stretching, but mobility and flexibility are not the same things. “Flexibility is the ability of a muscle—or muscle group—to stretch or lengthen,” explains DeLeon. “Mobility is a person’s range of motion, mainly in the joints.”
“While flexibility is important, mobility helps strengthen the joint and the surrounding muscles, allowing the joint to move properly and effectively,” she adds. At the same time, because flexible muscles take the strain off your joints, flexibility is a key component of mobility.
It’s easy to see how moving more fluidly can prevent pain and injury. But how does mobility build strength? Think about how challenging squats can be when your hips are tight. On the other hand, when your hips are nice and loose, you can really sink down and work those glutes!
Getting started with mobility training
Even if you’ve never heard of mobility training before, you may already be doing some mobility work without knowing it. For example, yoga moves like cat-cow and child’s pose are excellent for increasing range of motion. Ditto for planks, lunges, and bridges. If you’re already doing these, great! But don’t stop there.
These three mobility exercises can loosen things up even more:
Kneeling hip flexor stretch. Begin in a kneeling position. Keeping your left knee on the floor directly under your left hip, move your right foot forward in front of the right hip into a mini lunge so that your right knee is bent at a right angle directly over your ankle. With both hands on your right thigh, tighten your abs and lean forward toward your right hip while squeezing and contracting your left glutes. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat two to 5 times and switch to the opposite side.
90 lat stretch. Stand roughly arm’s length in front of a table or desk. Contract your abs and bend your knees slightly. Slowly bend forward at the hips and place your hands on the table while keeping your arms straight. Lean back into your hips. While continuing to touch the table, straighten your legs and draw your torso down toward the ground. Keep your back flat and your chin tucked to prevent your head from tilting towards the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times.
Leg crossover stretch. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your arms stretched outward with palms facing upwards. Slightly lift your right leg and bend your right knee so it faces outward. Then rest your right ankle on your left knee to form a triangle. Slowly press your right knee away from you without moving your ankle. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times before taking it to the other side.
As much as trainers love mobility training, it’s not enough of a workout to meet all your fitness needs. Instead, think of it as the icing on your fitness cake. Ideally, DeLeon recommends incorporating mobility maneuvers into your workouts at least two to three times weekly for 15 to 30 minutes. However, she’s also a big fan of longer 30-to-60-minute sessions on rest days. Either way, you’ll be moving more smoothly in no time!
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