Mobility exercises for beginners

Welcome to Intro to Mobility or Mobility 101. Your guide to learning the basics of what mobility is, when to use it, and maybe most importantly why to do it.

Mobility is the new “it” thing in the fitness industry with everyone talking about new ways to create new levels of mobility and scapegoating any type of soft tissue injury or muscular tweaks for a lack of mobility.


“It’s about Mobility bro!”

What is mobility?

All these words and I haven’t even defined what mobility actually is.  Which is the ability of your body to move without soft tissue restriction; or your joints to go through a full range of motion uninhibited.

It’s the new cure all, but not every joint requires mobility.  Many in fact want to be stable.  From the ground up, the body alternates which joints are mobile and which need to be stable.

*Each of the following mobility joints are followed by images of exercises you can recreate at home*

Ankle Mobility

This is the first joint looking at the body from the ground up, and surprisingly one of the more important joints in the body as it sets the tone for every joint on up.

If we ignore mobility at this joint, it will find it at the next joint which is unfortunately the knee.  As we compensate through the knee, it results in damage to soft tissues.  This is an area that shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked.

Hip Mobility

While this is an important joint for mobility, it can easily become an area we over work.  Lack of hip mobility can result in lower extremity as well as spinal injuries when trying to carry out normal ranges of motion during loaded exercises. The hip contains the most powerful stabilizers for your spine and torso.  Keep mobility work for this area simple and consistent.

Thoracic Mobility

Thoracic mobility often gets ignored and because of this can lead to issues arising in other areas, namely the shoulder and lower back.  Stiffness or immobility in the thoracic spine is usually due to prolonged sitting or having poor posture. 

If you’ve read some of my other articles, I’ve touched on T-spine mobility and its importance.  In fact, it has made its way into our daily warm-up at AMP because most people don’t have a requisite amount of mobility.


Shoulder Mobility

Can you reach your arms straight above your head?  Sure no problem, right?  What if I said your back had to be against a wall?  Could you still do it?  Could you reach the wall?

Just like the hip, shoulder mobility can be over worked but it is still important as a lack of proper range of motion can result in neck and spinal issues.  And just like the hip, the shoulder has many stabilizing muscles as well, so it’s important to keep a balance.

Tools of the Game

The most commonly used tools for mobility are:

-Foam Rollers
-Lacrosse Balls
-Tennis Balls
-Peanuts (or two lacrosse balls taped together)

These tools all have a specific purpose and a reasoning behind their use, much like a carpenter has a specific set of tools for certain tasks.  Foam rollers are for more broad areas and big muscle groups, while more specific tools like lacrosse balls will pinpoint smaller areas or isolate trigger points.  Use them wisely.


Mobility should be done on an as needed basis.  If a specific joint doesn’t need mobility, then don’t do it.  But if you find that certain joints, like shoulders or hips lack mobility, then by all means go to town (in a smart manner).  When we lack mobility in these areas, we end up developing compensation patterns, and start developing mobility in areas that shouldn’t be mobile.  Do yourself and your body a favor and avoid letting that happen.

And Breathe!

Don’t underestimate the power that breathing has on your mobility.  Mobility can be influenced by our nervous system as it’s what controls the firing of our muscles.  An alert nervous system may allow for less mobility and movement than one that is calm.  Try a few deep breathes before each movement to see if that helps.


Read more from Expert Chris Cooper.

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