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The top ten mobility exercises for beginners

By stephdorworth

August 24, 2021

stretching

womens workout program
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Intro: Mobility for Beginners

In 2019 I decided to try out a yoga class subscription. I remember walking into the yoga studio feeling so out of place. The class room was empty since I had arrived early, so I walked right in and began to set-up my mat and water bottle. I was immediately scolded for having my flip flops on in the studio by the studio owner. I immediately apologized and then dropped my head and felt even more out of place. 

What was I doing here? I felt so out of place and uncomfortable.

Over the next few minutes, more people began to trickle in a fill up the room. Placing their mats down one-by-one in three rows facing the front of the room. I was, of course, at the back of the room strategically because I wanted to hide. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had done yoga before following videos, but never a formal studio like this.

The instructor walked in and she was a young, fit lady with a calm voice, welcoming attitude, and a friendly smile. I took a deep breath. Okay, I can do this.

Then some hip music began and so did the yoga flows…

shoulder pain

Fast forward 45-minutes later and I was drenched in sweat wishing I had brought a towel...but felt lighter. Though I couldn’t do half the moves, I couldn’t do the handstands, and I couldn’t move with the ease that everyone else did - I had finished. 

I finished the yoga class without giving up and with optimism. I knew my body was tight, but I saw that after doing this regularly, I had potential. It would take regular practice, but since it was fun, I could see myself coming back and enjoying it.

I started something new that my body had never done much of before, but after just one class I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had faith that this would help me get more limber! And 6 months later I was one of the most limber people in the class, doing headstands, and moving through the flows with ease.

I share this story because starting any new form of exercise can be scary, especially in a group setting. You may feel intimidated and like a total beginner, but everyone is a beginner at some point. If mobility exercise is foreign to you, you have no clue what it is, and you’ve never done it before then I can guarantee you one thing: you will not regret starting it.

You’ve got to start somewhere. Why not start now?

Mobility exercise is the perfect exercise for anyone to do, anytime. It’s a form of exercise that is even better than stretching. It works your flexibility, control, and stability actively 

- all at the same time!

If you haven’t already, go back and read these blogs to learn more about mobility basics - what it is, how to do it, why it’s better than stretching, and how to make it part of your morning routine [free video workouts included].

Once you’re on the same page and fully understand mobility exercise, continue reading here for more mobility goodness.

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stretching

How to write a full body mobility workout

If you’re ready to practice mobility daily, then here’s what I recommend. Start with a full body mobility routine that hits each area of your body. This will help you get better in tune with your body and narrow down which areas are tightest for you. Then you could later spend more time isolating mobility to the areas you need it most.

Another option is to actually do some mobility testing to test your mobility on the left and right side of your body and be more detailed with isolating which joints and muscles need the most improvement. This is a technique I teach in Applied Mobility- my brand new online course that teaches you mobility and provided hundreds of mobility exercise ideas. In module 3 of that course, I walk you through 12 mobility tests that are physical therapy based and allow you to become more aware of your own body’s movement and movement restrictions. It’s amazing how you can feel so much better once you spend more time on the areas that need it.

Anyways, I was saying how you should begin with a full body workout if you’re new to mobility exercise. So how does one write a full body mobility exercise program?

I recommend you choose ~10 mobility exercises to practice daily for 1-4 weeks. Really get good at each exercise and try to progress your range of motion (make it larger) from week-to-week. You’ll learn a lot about your body in those few weeks as you learn new exercises, but also lean into new movements that you’ve maybe never done before!

Any exercise program should be well-rounded. If you were doing a full body strength training workout, would you do all chest exercises? No. You’d do a good balance of chest, back, shoulders, and arms. Same idea goes for mobility. You should choose mobility exercise that target the entire body from head to toe.

To give you a general idea, here’s what I’d recommend for a full body mobility exercise program:

  1. Cervical (neck) mobility

  2. Thoracic (upper back) mobility 

  3. Shoulder mobility 1

  4. Shoulder mobility 2

  5. Elbow/wrist/hand mobility

  6. Lumbar (lower back) mobility 1

  7. Hip mobility 1

  8. Hip mobility 2

  9. Knee mobility

  10. Ankle/foot mobility

Now that list is not set in stone and there are many variations that could be chosen. I mostly just want to get across the point that you want to hit each major joint at least once or twice throughout the workout. If you want to have 2 knee exercises and only 1 hip exercise then go for it! Adjust it for you.

stretching
Stretching

Choosing the top ten mobility exercises for beginners

As a newbie or beginner to mobility exercise, you’ll also want to choose exercises that are more simple. 

Would I pull out a combo exercise that combines 2-3 exercises a lot of coordination for you? No.

I’d choose simple exercises that can build your mobility fundamentals and are quick and easy to learn. 

Conquer the basics first and become super confident in them. Then, move on to more intermediate or advanced exercises.

I’m going to do you a favor and write you a beginners mobility exercise workout now, keeping everything we’ve discussed in mind.

This is exactly what I did in my online course Applied Mobility, as well. When I was writing the 12-week program portion of the program, I wrote weeks 1-4 for beginners. I chose more fundamental and simple exercises. Then weeks 5-8 were more intermediate level and finally weeks 9-12 more advanced. 

Just like with strength training - how you should practice progressive overload and repeat similar exercises for 4-6 weeks while gaining strength from week-to-week - the same goes for mobility. Begin with the basics and then build up your range of motion, flexibility, control, and stability each week from there on. Progressive range!

Alright, let’s get to work. In the next section I’ll share with you the program I wrote for you to try.

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Top ten mobility exercises for beginners video

Perform this mobility workout daily if possible, or at least 4x/week. It should take <10 minutes.

Here are the top ten mobility exercises for beginners:

  1. Standing neck side bend with strap for 10ea  - Cervical (neck) mobility 

  2. Seated trunk twist in chair for 10ea - Thoracic (upper back) mobility 

  3. Standing scapular protraction & retraction with the arms at 90 for 15 - Shoulder mobility 1

  4. Standing shoulder CARs for 5ea - Shoulder mobility 2

  5. Quadruped forward & backward weight shift for 15 - Elbow/wrist/hand mobility

  6. Quadruped to child’s pose for 10ea - Lumbar (lower back) mobility 1

  7. Low lunge hip flexor stretch with side bend for 10ea - Hip mobility 1

  8. Seated chair figure four pull & press for 15ea - Hip mobility 2

  9. Standing hip hinge 3 ways for 10ea - Knee mobility

  10. Walk the dog for 15ea - Ankle/foot mobility

Like what you see? Checkout the brand spankin’ new Applied Mobility course.

Mission: Mobilize, Modify, Move

I hope you’ll save the link to that video on your desktop so you can return to it often for your mobility practice. 

As you go through the exercises, you may notice that there are some exercises that are challenging for you. When that happens - modify.

You can modify any mobility exercise if you need to. Modify means to adjust it to make it work better for you.

Here are 5 ways to modify (or regress) mobility exercise:

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Once you add mobility exercise into your normal routine, you may feel uncomfortable at first. You may feel super tight and like your body just can’t move that way. You may start to question yourself and wonder why you even tried it…

But keep going.

Just like I felt uncomfortable in that first yoga class, you may feel with mobility. But if you keep going, the reward will be SO worth it.

You will begin to feel more limber and younger than ever. You’ll come alive! Your body will move with more ease and fend off injuries better than ever.

Mobility will allow you to move freely and isn’t that what we all want in life? More freedom?

I hope you found this blog and video workout helpful. If you did, please checkout Applied Mobility for more lessons and over 21 weeks of mobility workouts. Here’s what it’s all about.

mobility

Your A-to-Z blueprint to learn the mobility ropes so you can move freely… all in a 7 module, self-paced program backed by a community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts.

With 7 modules, 12 self-assessments, 232 mobility exercises, bonus modules and workouts you’ll become a mobility pro and be able to move and recover better than ever!

Applied Mobility has launched and is available now here!

Head to https://stephdorworth.com/appliedmobility/ to enroll today!

Thanks for reading!

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About Dr. Steph

Doctor of Physical therapy and Online Training & Nutrition Coach with a passion for teaching men and women how to train despite injury.

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