8 Great Mobility Exercises To Improve Your Performance

No matter what your sport, mobility work will help you perform at your best

Most people find strength training or cardio workouts more enticing than mobility workouts, and for good reason.

For one, it is easier to see fitness, strength, and body composition improvements when lifting weights consistently or doing aerobic workouts than when performing mobility work.

However, mobility exercises for athletes are just as important as other forms of training for improved performance.

In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions and videos for performing some of the best mobility exercises for runners, weightlifters, and other athletes to improve your fitness level and reap the benefits of mobility routines as part of your training plan.

Plank with reach mobility exercise.

What Is The Difference Between Mobility And Stretching?

The difference between stretching(flexibility) and mobility is that mobility focuses on the range of motion of the joint. In contrast, flexibility focuses on the range of motion achieved while stretching a muscle. 

What Are The Benefits Of Mobility Training?

Daily mobility work can improve the range of motion in your joints, reduce stiffness and soreness throughout the day, improve uncomfortable pain such as low back pain, reduce the risk of injury, and improve posture and running biomechanics.

The most important point about good mobility is that it helps overall wellness and can keep you pain-free. Of course, if you are consistently experiencing pain, you may want to work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to help focus on your specific issue.

What Are The Best Mobility Exercises For Athletes?

Here are some of the best exercises to include in your mobility workout routine to increase the usable range of motion.1Coetzee, J. C., & Castro, M. D. (2004). Accurate Measurement of Ankle Range of Motion after Total Ankle Arthroplasty. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research424, 27–31. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.blo.0000132180.69464.84

#1: Ankle Alphabets

This ankle mobility exercise can be completed even when sitting at your desk 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 full 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 group in your body and activates your primary joints.

It is a particularly effective mobility exercise for athletes who are short on time and need a dynamic stretching 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, shoulder, and thoracic spine mobility.

Here are the steps for how to perform this mobility training exercise:

  1. Stand upright with good posture.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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 knee.
  4. Press through your hands to straighten both legs.
  5. 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.
  6. Rotate back so that the hand returns to the ground. 
  7. Stand back up and then step through to the opposite side and repeat the same pattern.
  8. 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 consistently. We are often only compelled to do mobility training when 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.

A full plank.

Here is how to perform this strengthening mobility exercise:

  1. Start in a push-up position with your hands flat on the floor or gripping hex dumbbells with a neutral grip. 
  2. Keep your core tight, your glutes engaged, and your weight concentrated in your left hand. 
  3. Lift your right hand off the ground, rotating your spine and pivoting your feet so that your torso faces the right wall and your right arm points the weight towards the ceiling. Your upper body should resemble the letter T.
  4. Slowly return to the push-up position.
  5. Switch sides and complete 12-15 reps per side.

#4: High Knee Hurdle Walks

This is a great hip opener exercise and 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:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a large step forward and slightly out to the side with your right leg, aiming for a 30° trajectory off of straight ahead.
  3. 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.
  4. Drive your left knee up as high as possible towards your left armpit, trying to open up your hips as much as possible.
  5. Step down with the left foot and then perform the same movement with the right leg. 
  6. 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.
  7. Complete at least eight reps per leg.

#5: Banded Overhead Reaches

This is a good shoulder mobility warm-up exercise.

Throughout this shoulder mobility exercise, keep your core as tight as possible.

Here are the steps: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Separate your arms so that there is a good amount of tension on the band throughout the movement.
  3. Keep your arms straight and lift them overhead while maintaining tension on the band. Go as far as you can up and backward without bending your elbows. 
  4. Slowly return down to the starting position.
  5. 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:

  1. Get in a push-up position with a loop resistance band around your wrists. Maintain tension in the band at all times.
  2. Keeping your body as still and stable as possible, step one hand out at a time to each position of the clock.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.2Vandervoort, A. A. (1999). Ankle mobility and postural stability. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice15(2), 91–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/095939899307793

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 bodyweight 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. 

Press the ball of your foot into the ground and let your heel come upward to feel the stretch in the Achilles tendon and calf muscle on the rear foot.

Here are the steps for this lower-body mobility exercise:

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, gaze forward, and hands on your hips.
  2. 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 beyond your toes.
  3. Drop into a deep lunge, ensuring your front shin is perpendicular to the floor and your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 include 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.

Other compliments to running and other sports that often don’t find their way into routines are using the foam roller and static stretching after a run to improve flexibility.

Check out our static stretching routine for after a run or sports performance, here.

8 Great Mobility Exercises To Improve Your Performance 1


Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.