Guest Post from Shaun DMello
Most of us regard strength exercises simply as a way to build muscle mass and shed excess weight. This is a very myopic way of looking at strength exercise and it can significantly limit potential gains. With the right choice of strength exercises, you can also enhance mobility, which is often overlooked. When we talk about mobility in fitness and health care, we aren’t just referring to flexibility or the ability to twist like a pretzel. Mobility refers to the range of motion of your joints and muscles. Mobility exercises are often used to alleviate joint pain and slow the progression of degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis, but they can offer a lot more. Increased mobility will help lower the risk of injury and increase your strength potential too, making them an important part of any fitness routine.
Here are some simple strength exercises that you can use to enhance mobility. Try to do at least 3 to 5 reps each.
5 Strength Exercises for Mobility
1. Neck Half Circles
Neck mobility is often neglected, but problems with neck movement are most common and tend to surface early in life. This exercise will help strengthen the trapezius, as well as the neck flexors and extensors, all of which are vital for neck stability and mobility. Neck half circles can be done either seated or standing.
· Let your hands rest on your lap and lean your head towards one side. Tilt it till you can feel the stretch, but only go so far as is comfortable.
· Slowly let your head drop forward in a rolling movement, bringing the chin to rest on your chest.
· Similarly, continue that rolling motion so that your head is brought to the opposite side, once again till you feel that stretch.
2. Shoulder Pass-Through
Stiffness and reduced range of motion of the shoulders is fairly common even among people who exercise regularly. This can adversely impact your form and increase the risk of injury. The Shoulder Pass-Through exercise works on the rotator cuff, opening up the shoulders, upper back, and chest, helping you prep for your workout.
· Stand with your feet about 2 feet apart, while holding an empty barbell or mop parallel to the floor.
· Slowly raise your hands to bring the bar above your head, keeping your arms as straight as possible, and the abdominal, or core muscles tight.
· Bring the bar as far behind your head as is comfortable and hold for a few seconds.
3. Cat Cow Pose
A yoga sequence that is frequently used enhance spine and shoulder mobility, the cat cow pose is also known to many as arch and curl. It is one of the simplest strength exercises for mobility, suitable for individuals of any fitness level.
· Kneel on all fours, with your hands and feet, shoulder and hip-width apart respectively
· Inhale slowly, arch your back, and drop your head forward so that it comes in towards your chest
· As you exhale, lower your back and tummy while lifting your head and buttocks upwards
4. Glute Bridges
As the name suggests, this hip extension exercise works on the glutes, but it also strengthens the lower back, hamstrings, and core. While it does help enhance mobility, the exercise doesn’t put any pressure on the lower back and would be a good addition to your routine if you have trouble with squats because of back or knee pain.
· Lie flat on your back with your arms beside you and legs bent so that the knees are raised. Your toes should also be raised so that only your heels rest on the floor.
· Using your hips and core, raise your body off the ground, while keeping your heels and shoulders planted firmly to the ground. You should also squeeze or tighten your glutes as you lift and hold the position.
· Allow your arms to remain resting on the floor for some stability. Lower yourself back down after a few seconds.
5. Low Lunge with Integrated Push Back
This is perhaps the ultimate stretching exercise and should always be included in your warm-up routine. It helps prep the hips and hamstrings to increase mobility or range of motion.
· Begin in the low lunge position with your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and the knee bent 90 degrees. Your left leg should be behind you, with the knee hovering off the floor. Your palms should rest firmly on the floor to the left of your right foot.
· Push your right foot back to bring it alongside the left, while raising your hips and dipping your head and chest down. This should resemble the downward dog pose, albeit with bent knees.
· Then switch sides, pulling the left foot forward and returning to the low lunge position.
If you have a history of chronic illness, have suffered injuries, or undergone joint replacement surgery, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your exercise program.