Taking on a strength training workout or cardio workout tends to be more enticing for most people than a mobility workout.
After all, in many ways, it is easier to see improvement in your fitness, strength, and body composition when you are lifting weights consistently or doing aerobic workouts.
However, mobility exercises for athletes are just as important as other forms of training.
But what are the best mobility exercises for athletes? What are the most important mobility exercises to incorporate into your mobility training?
In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for how to perform some of the best mobility exercises for runners, weightlifters, and other types of athletes:
- Ankle Alphabets
- Walking Spidermans with Hip Lifts and Overhead Reaches
- High Plank With Thoracic Rotations
- High Knee Hurdle Walks
- Banded Overhead Reaches
- Shoulder Mobility Clocks
- Heel Walks and Toe Walks
- Walking Lunges
Let’s dive in!
The Complete Mobility Training Workout
Here are some of the best exercises to include in your mobility workout routine to increase the usable range of motion:
#1: Ankle Alphabets
This ankle mobility exercise can be completed even when you’re sitting at your desk at work or watching TV.
It is a variation on ankle circles that involves tracing the alphabet with your foot. You can use cursive or standard letters.
Perform the entire alphabet 2 to 3 times per ankle.
#2: Walking Spidermans With Hip Lifts And Overhead Reaches
One of the best mobility exercises for total body mobility for weightlifting warm-ups is the walking Spiderman with a hip lift and overhead reach.
This dynamic mobility exercise engages nearly every major muscle of your body and activates all of your primary joints.It is a particularly effective mobility exercise for athletes who are short on time and need a dynamic mobility warm-up before lifting weights or training for their sport.
This mobility move or strength training warm-up exercise targets your hamstrings, adductors, and upper back muscles while increasing hip mobility, shoulder mobility, and thoracic spine mobility.
Here are the steps for how to perform this mobility training exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Take a giant step forward and slightly out to the side with your right leg and drop down by bending your front knees to 90° and dropping your body down. Keep your back leg straight so that you get a great stretch through your groin and left hip flexor.
- As you drop down into the extended lunge, simultaneously bring both hands down to the floor, placing your right hand and elbow just inside your right foot and shin and placing your left hand straight out in front as if dropping down to a push-up. Because your right leg is slightly out to the side, your hands should essentially be in a push-up position, with the right elbow abutting the inside of the right shin/knee.
- Press through your hands to straighten both legs.
- Drop back down into your deep lunge, reaching and rotating the left arm all the way up to the ceiling, following the trajectory of that hand with your gaze, allowing your head to turn. This will help improve thoracic mobility and shoulder mobility.
- Rotate back so that the hand returns to the ground.
- Stand back up and then step through to the other side and repeat the same pattern.
- Perform five reps per side to warm up before a workout or when including this exercise in a standalone mobility workout.
#3: High Plank With Thoracic Rotations
Many athletes struggle to feel motivated to perform mobility exercises on a consistent basis. We are often only compelled to do mobility training when we are experiencing tightness, an injury, or a restricted range of motion for one reason or another.
After all, when training time is limited, it is easier to favor more demanding workouts like strength training and cardio sessions.
However, you can make mobility workouts more engaging and physically challenging by selecting exercises for mobility that also increase strength, core activation, and balance.
The plank exercise with a thoracic rotation is a great mobility and stability exercise in one.
The thoracic rotations increase thoracic spine mobility and help mobilize your shoulder girdle and entire upper body while holding the isometric plank improves core and hip stability.
You can add hex dumbbells to make this mobility training exercise more difficult.
Here is how to perform this strengthening mobility exercise:
- Start in a push-up position either with your hands flat on the floor or gripping hex dumbbells with a neutral grip.
- Keep your core tight and glutes engaged and your weight concentrated in your right hand.
- Lift your left hand off the ground, rotating your spine and pivoting your feet somewhat so that your torso is facing the left wall and your left arm is pointing the weight up towards the ceiling. Your upper body should resemble the letter T.
- Slowly return to the push-up position.
- Switch sides and complete 12-15 reps per side.
#4: High Knee Hurdle Walks
This is a great hip opener exercise, and it also improves balance and core strength.
Opening up your hips before a workout is a great way to enhance hip mobility and loosen up tight tissues in your glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
Here are the steps to perform this hip mobility exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture and your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a large step forward and slightly out to the side with your right leg, aiming for a 30° trajectory off of straight forward.
- As you lift your left leg, bend your left knee at least 90° while you simultaneously rotate your left hip externally like a frog. You should feel a good stretch in your groin.
- Drive your left knee up as high as possible towards your left armpit, trying to open up your hips as much as possible.
- Step down with the left foot and then perform the same movement with the right leg.
- Continue walking forward, driving each knee bent up and out to the side as much as possible, exaggerating the motion and envisioning needing to clear your heel over a hurdle that comes up to your mid-thigh level.
- Complete at least 8 steps per leg.
#5: Banded Overhead Reaches
This is a good shoulder mobility warm-up exercise.
Throughout the duration of the shoulder mobility exercise, be sure that you keep your core as tight as possible.
Here are the steps:
- Place a mini loop resistance band around your wrists and straighten your arms out in front of your body, with your palms pointing downwards towards your feet.
- Separate your arms so that there is a good amount of tension on the band throughout the movement.
- Keeping your arms straight, lift your arms straight up overhead while maintaining tension on the band. Go as far as you can up and backward without bending your elbows.
- Slowly return down to the starting position.
- Complete 8-10 reps.
#6: Shoulder Mobility Clocks
This shoulder mobility exercise also strengthens your core, upper back, shoulders, and rotator cuff muscles.
Beginners can start performing this mobility exercise against the wall, leaning into the wall as if doing a wall push-up.
Progress to a push-up position on the floor.
Here are the steps:
- Get in a push-up position with a loop resistance band around your wrists. Maintain tension in the band at all times.
- Keeping your body as still and stable as possible, step one hand out at a time to each position of the clock.
- Right hand to 1:00, then back to neutral. Then out to 2:00 and back to neutral. When you reach 6:00, switch to moving the left hand to 7:00, 8:00, and so on.
- Perform five full cycles of the clock.
#7: Heel Walks and Toe Walks
Heel walks and toe walks are ankle mobility exercises that also strengthen the muscles in the shin and calf, respectively, while increasing the range of motion in dorsiflexion and plantarflexion.
To perform this ankle mobility exercise, place your hands on your hips.
Take 50 to 100 paces forward while walking on your toes, and then come back walking on your heels.
Perform 2 to 3 sets.
#8: Walking Lunges
Incorporate static or walking lunges in your mobility workouts for your hips, knees, and ankles.
Walking lunges will warm up your hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes.
The key is to keep your entire front foot planted on the ground.
Feel the stretch in the Achilles tendon and calf muscle on the rear foot by pressing the ball of your foot into the ground and letting your heel come upward.
Here are the steps for this lower-body mobility exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture, gaze forward, and keep your hands on your hips.
- Take a giant step forward so that when you bend your knees and drop down into a lunge, your front and back knees can bend to 90 degrees without your front knee going forward beyond your toes.
- Drop into a deep lunge, ensuring your front shin is perpendicular to the floor, and your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Keep walking forward with a lunge for each step, lifting your trailing leg in an exaggerated manner as if clearing a hurdle before planting it down. This will increase hip mobility.
- Complete 25-50 walking lunges.
Particularly if you are doing a lot of weightlifting or repetitive cardio exercises like running, cycling, rowing, or swimming, it is crucial to improve mobility training in your workout routine.
Performing mobility exercises on a consistent basis will help ensure that your muscles and joints maintain the full range of motion and that whatever flexibility you have is carried over into usable mobility for optimal movement mechanics and athletic performance.
For more specific ankle mobility exercises, check out our guide here.