4 Gentle Mobility Exercises a Trainer Says You Should Be Doing
Just five minutes a day of these mobility exercises could mean years of healthier movement (and lower risk of pain), says celeb trainer Charlee Atkins.
If this fitness routine sounds even close to yours, good on you—and now, there’s another smart way to up-level your long-term wellness through movement. “Everybody should be working on their mobility,” says Charlee Atkins, an Asian-American fitness professional and creator of the popular app, Le Sweat TV. “The reason I coach my clients to do mobility is that as we get older, we kind of want to do things that are going to help us be able to move and have increased mobility as we age. That’s why it’s important for everyone to have a mobility routine—but especially as we get older.”
According to Atkins, though, there’s often confusion around what it means to target your mobility. “The question that I get a lot of as a trainer is, What’s the difference between mobility and flexibility?” she says. “Ultimately, flexibility is the ability to do a movement, and mobility is the ability to control yourself while doing a movement. So the main difference between the two is control.”
The Healthy @Reader’s Digest caught up with Atkins to learn about some of the best exercises you can do to improve, or maintain, your mobility. “I have a mobility program that lasts five to 10 minutes,” which, Atkins tells us, she thinks everybody should be doing each day.
Atkins has partnered with Citi to celebrate the Citi Custom Cash Card that gives you cash back for working out at fitness clubs and with streaming services, among other lifestyle activities. So at the gym, at home, outdoors, or anywhere you get moving, here are this celeb trainer’s favorite exercises to amp your mobility game.
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The 90-90 stretch is traditionally done seated on the floor, but note that a good way to modify this stretch is by elevating your sitting position on a chair or yoga block.
This stretch targets the hips and lower back. The 90-90 stretch helps decrease muscle tension and increase your range of motion at the joint, which can help limit pain or decrease your chance of experiencing an injury.
- Start with both knees bent in a 90-degree angle—both going in the same direction—while you flex both.
- Sit up tall and keep your back straight. You’ll get a feel: depending on where you want to feel the stretch will determine which way you angle your torso.
- To increase the intensity of this stretch, you can intermittently drive the shin down in the ground for about 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Just listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do anything that feels too uncomfortable.
- Passively hold the stretch for 60 seconds, and intermittently contract and then relax your muscles for an additional 60 seconds for a total of two minutes.
The ankle stretch exercise targets the ankle to help alleviate tension experienced at the knee.
- Start standing next to a wall, with one toe touching the wall.
- Bring the toe of your back foot to match the heel of your front foot so that you’re standing one foot’s length away from the wall.
- Push your knee past your toes, keeping the heel on the ground until you feel a stretch in your calf.
- Passively stretch for 60 seconds and intermittently contract and relax for an additional 60 seconds for a total of two minutes. You can increase the intensity of the stretch by intermittently pushing the foot into the ground like you are pushing the gas pedal in a car for 10 to 15 seconds at a time.
The cat-cow exercise targets the spine to help relieve lower back pain. It is also a good core-strengthening move.
- Start in a quadruped (all-fours) position, toes tucked under (as above). Position your shoulders over your wrists, and hips over your knees.
- Flex the spine by pushing into the ground and pulling your belly button to the sky, raising your back.
- Slowly extend the spine by doing the opposite motion, pushing the belly button to the ground to create curve dip in the lower back. Try to expand the chest.
- Repeat the movement for 10 reps, or a total of two minutes.
Shoulder CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)
Shoulder CARs target the upper back, neck, and shoulders. “I think in general, we all have some mobility issues,” Atkins says. “Our shoulders in general are where you start to have specific mobility drills for different types of movements.”
- Begin on all fours with your fingertips pointed to your sides.
- Draw a box with your shoulder joint, which will move the scapulae (shoulder blades) on the back, while you the arms locked. Start with a shrug—then second, push the ground away. Third, depress your shoulders (pull them down), then pull your shoulder blades together.
- Repeat for 45 seconds in each direction.