December 12·5 min read

Want to maximize your mobility? These 3 movements will do the trick

It only takes a few minutes to make the right moves.

“Use it or lose it.” 

You’ve probably heard that aphorism applied to everything from a coach’s use of timeouts during a football game to the flex spending account that covers your out-of-pocket health expenses. Within the realm of health and fitness, “use it or lose it” is an apt description of how mobility works. Specifically, if you don’t make an effort to warm up and activate certain parts of your body, you’ll gradually lose the ability to use them without opening yourself up to stiffness or injury. 

And yet, stretching is all too often the first thing people cut out of their workouts when they’re feeling pressed for time. I get the impulse. If you’re trying to squeeze in some fitness while juggling work, family, and something resembling a social life, doesn’t it make sense to jump straight into the exercises that will actually make you stronger? 

Short answer: not so fast. Why? Because making time for proper mobility matters. To convince you of that, let’s first take a closer look at what it means to be mobile and how it factors into a proper exercise routine. Next, I’ll walk you through three highly effective movements that can help you feel the difference firsthand. When you put it all together and put in the effort, you’ll not only feel limber and looser in day-to-day life — you’ll also put yourself in position to move more efficiently towards any strength-related fitness goals. 

What do we mean by mobility? 

The definition of mobility feels obvious, but it’s worth articulating in full. For our purposes, mobility refers to your overall ability to move your body in a full range of motion without pain or significant exertion. When we aren’t feeling particularly mobile, that’s often as a result of stiffness or tightness in a given area, or it could be that an injury is forcing your body to adjust how it performs a particular movement by compensating with other muscles. 

When you’re feeling sufficiently mobile, your movements are fluid and effortless. In fact, you probably don’t think about them all that much. In this state, there’s nothing that interferes with your ability to maintain proper form, which means you can attack strength training exercises with maximum efficiency. And whether you’re hitting the weights or crushing cardio, keeping your body in a flexible state can reduce the risk of injury or strain associated with your exercise activity of choice. 

Move through three important zones.

Reaping the rewards of free and easy movement starts with a routine that targets three important regions of your body: your hips, your shoulders, and your thoracic spine (sometimes known as the t-spine), which covers your T1 through T12 vertebrae. Targeting these three zones can help you glide through the day’s activities free from pain while maintaining proper form through the more strenuous elements of a strength training routine. 

With that in mind, here are three of the most valuable movements that might be missing from your exercise regimen. By hitting more than one key region in just a short burst of time, each offers plenty of bang for your buck so you can feel spry in as little time as possible. Here’s a brief rundown of why these movements can make a difference, and what it takes to perform each one. 

Open Book Stretch

Why it helps

While there’s no reading involved in this movement, integrating it into your stretching routine can start a new, glorious chapter of mobility for your upper body. Especially if spending too much time hunched over a good book has messed with your posture, the open book stretch’s emphasis on thoracic rotation can help your chest, shoulders, and spine live happily ever after. 

How to do it

Lay down on your side, bending the hip and knee of your top leg at a 90 degree angle with both arms straight out in front of you. If you have a yoga block handy, squeeze it between your legs to prime your hips and t-spine for the rest of the movement. From here, reach your top arm back across your body as if you’re, well, opening a book, extending it as far to the other side as you can in order to open up your chest. Let your eyes follow the movement of your hand, doing your best to keep that top knee firmly in place throughout the movement. 

Too easy for you?  

To really maximize that range of motion, try to keep the hand of your stationary arm touching the ground. 

Windshield Wipers

Why it helps

Just like the windshield wipers on your car clear away any precipitation so you can focus on what’s in front of you, moving through the full 90/90 lateral range of motion of this dynamic stretch wipes away soreness in your lower t-spine while keeping your hips awake and active for the rest of your workout. 

How to do it 

From a seated position on the ground, plant both feet in front of you with your knees bent to form a 90 degree angle. Start the move by rotating your hips in order to let both knees fall to one side of your body. Ideally, the goal is to have both of those knees touch the ground at the end of the rep, and you can use your hands to facilitate that as needed. Next, think about using your hips to move everything in the opposite direction so both knees fall to the other side, again using your hands if it promotes the movement you need to complete the stretch. Move slowly and deliberately through each rep, remembering to breathe. 

Too easy for you?

Going hands-free will up the degree of difficulty while integrating a little bit of core engagement. And what’s better than improving your mobility and working on your six pack at the same time? 


Why it helps 

Windmills are a great source of green power. Similarly, this bendy stretch can charge you up for greater mobility through your hips, shoulders, and t-spine while helping with hamstring flexibility. Try it out to get your body feeling renewed and energized.

How to do it

There are a few different windmill variations, but your basic standing windmill offers a simple way to check all the right boxes. Start with your feet a little bit farther than shoulder-width apart, with one arm extended above your head and the other at your side. Turn the foot of your lowered arm side out about 90 degrees. While keeping a slight bend in both of your knees, start to slide the non-raised arm down, aiming to place your hand on the ground right in the middle of your legs. As that hand moves downward, tilt your head and shift your gaze so that it follows your raised hand. Then, steadily rise back up, returning to your initial position. Switch arm positions and repeat, staying mindful of your breath throughout each rep. 

Too easy for you? 

For a bit of extra movement and added challenge, try touching your hand to the opposite toe. In this case, start with your arms spread out wide in a “T”, and bend a little at the waist. Reach your left arm down to your right big toe while keeping your right arm extended. Get yourself back up to neutral and repeat on the other side. 

Add some mobility minutes into your day. 

It should only take about five to ten minutes to work through all three of these movements once you get the hang of them. Because they can do your body so much good in so little time, they’re worth integrating into the warmup or cooldown of even the most abbreviated workout. Alternatively, they can be the perfect way to wake up the body at the beginning of the day, or provide a quick reset that nixes the aches and pains that come from sitting at a desk for too long. Integrate these into your routine, and you’ll be feeling loose, limber, and ready for action in no time. 

If you’re looking for even more advice on mobility and exercise, teaming up with a Future coach is definitely the right move. Whether you want to break records or just bounce back from a nagging injury, they’ll help you move with purpose and without pain. Future coaches are all about truly personal training, which starts with understanding your body, your goals, and your schedule, so they can create a customized, flexible workout plan that fits who you are and what you want to do. On top of that, they’re always just a message away to offer the accountability and motivation that moves you out of your comfort zone and stretches your notion of what your body and mind can handle.

Ready for personal training that moves you with purpose? Give your budget some extra flexibility when you save big on your first month of training with Future. Sign up hereand start moving toward what matters to you.

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