When it comes to boosting your power and strength, what comes to mind first? Is it lifting big? Maybe it’s targeting your muscles and working each group to overload. Do you focus on supplements while making sure you follow a specific diet designed to cut calories while give your body the protein, carbs and fat it needs to build, repair and increase muscle size?
If you think all of these points are important to improving power and strength you wouldn’t be wrong.
You really can’t do one without the other.
But what if there’s something else missing from the power and strength recipe?
Something important, yet you may only spend a few minutes a day on (if you’re spending any time at all on it).
What exactly are we referencing?
Mobility and stretching.
Sure, focusing on your range of motion and ability to improve your mobility through exercises and stretches isn’t going to directly build muscle and increase your strength. But building muscle is often about increasing the stretch you obtain when lifting.
The deeper the stretch the more you damage your muscles. The more you damage your muscles while lifting the larger your muscles grow while repairing.
So while mobility exercises won’t directly increase muscle size, the mobility exercises will improve your possible stretch, increasing your range of motion while lifting and, in turn boosting recovery size.
But what kind of stretches and exercises should you focus on?
You don’t need to go overboard with these kinds of moves. You just need to know what specifics you need to target.
Thankfully, we’ve got all the answers you need right here.
Top Mobility Exercises and Their Purpose
So yes, by bringing mobility exercises into your daily workout you will begin to see an improvement in your power and strength. However, there are other benefits you will take away from mobility exercises.
For starters, many will reduce your chance of injury.
By stretching out certain muscles and opening up certain parts of your body prior to a workout you’ll avoid the possibility of overextending muscles or putting too much weight on the muscles before your body is ready.
To do this, it is important for you to focus on proper form of the exercises.
If you do not have proper form you may actually increase the chance of injuring yourself while reducing the physical impact your body receives from the exercise.
With mobility exercise you’ll help cut down stress and tension. There are some yoga-like moves and exercises will focus here. We are not going to dive completely into a full yoga class, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t take one up. There are many benefits attributed to yoga and the moves we’re looking into because it helps open your body up and reduce stress.
By stretching the muscles out you’ll allow for improved blood circulation through the body.
This increased flow of oxygen and blood to your body improves your natural ability to fight infections and repair damaged areas to the body.
On top of it all, you’ll probably just feel good after doing these mobility exercises.
The natural stretch and openness you experience after performing these moves are great at cutting down on mental fatigue. The boost in blood and oxygen flow to your body doesn’t just stop at your muscles. It will reach your brain as well.
This is why performing mobility exercises in the morning is a great way to start off your day, although ultimately it does depend on your personal schedule and what works for your given needs.
Some Equipment You Might Want to Consider
You will find the addition of some equipment into your mobility exercises can help improve performance and take it to the next level. These are easy to use devices that don’t take much to bring into your exercise routine but will make all the difference.
First, there is the resistant band.
The rubber bands are excellent additions in working areas such as your shoulders and knees, which are two of the most commonly injured areas of your body as you age.
Next, you’ll want to consider a gym ball and a roller for your back.
Using these devices will help open up your spine and extend the vertebra in your back.
Over time, gravity pushes your body down and compresses the area in between each of the bones. This leads to pinched nerves and other pain in the back.
However, with the gym ball and rollers, you can improve the spacing of your spine, which will help not only in improved performance at the gym but it will help reduce back pain.
If you have specific areas of pain in your back, you should also consider purchasing a tube sock and a lacrosse ball.
By inserting the ball into the tube sock and slinging the sock over your shoulder, all you need to do is position the ball against the point in question and push your back against a wall. This works in a similar way to a massage therapist working the knot in your back.
While not a specific mobility exercise, it’s worth adding into your list of gear if you’re picking up other hardware from the rest of your mobility exercises.
Ditch Static Stretching
Mobility exercises focus on opening up your body and muscles while stretching out specific muscle groups.
However, this is different from static stretching.
Static stretching is what you probably did back in high school gym class.
You’d sit around the football field in the wrinkled shorts you had stuffed in your locker for the entire semester while your teacher walks you through some basic, standing straight (or sitting straight) stretches.
All of these stretches are designed to “prevent injury” your teach would tell you.
However, the problem with this notion, according to the Huffington Post (2014) is static stretching does little to nothing in terms of improving your body’s performance or safeguarding it against injuries.
In fact, in certain instances, static stretching actually places additional strain on certain tendons and ligaments, increasing your possibility of an injury.
And no matter how much you assumed your gym teacher disliked you for yelling at you while attempting to climb a rope leading up to the ceiling, they did not want to hurt you with those stretches.
So how are mobility exercises any different?
It’s not static.
How often do you perform an athletic movement when you’re not moving your body?
So how would static stretching prepare your body at all?
You’ll never in the actual physical position stretching puts you in during the athletic activity, which is why it doesn’t do all that much for you.
It’s also why you need to focus on mobility exercises, as this takes a combination of movement and stretching to target areas of your body in actual ways your body moves.
Low Lunge With Push Back
Alright, so let’s get into some of the different mobility exercises. There are a handful of great ones, some of which we probably won’t get to. There are just so many. So feel free to tinker, test and experiment what works for you.
Each of these exercises have been selected to help improve functionality and boost mobility of your entire body, which in turn will help improve your strength and power.
If you enjoy the kind of improvements you experience from these exercises feel free to add in as many new movements as you like.
This particular movement is great for opening up not only your lower back but your shoulders and your legs as well. If you’re going to do any kind of leg or back work, this is a must. It helps extend and warm up the muscle groups for everything from squats to deadlifts.
With this particular exercise you’ll want to begin in a low lunge position with your right foot forward and your left leg back (if it helps, start in a standing position and lunge forward with your right. The further you lunge, the better the stretch, but make sure you’re comfortable with the lunge.
Don’t push yourself too much with these just yet until you have become accustomed to the stretch.
Ideally, with the low lunge you’ll have your back knee hovering just above the ground.
With your legs in position place the wrists of your palms flat down against the ground, alongside your forward foot, as if you were going to do a pushup. Hold this stretch.
You can push your lower back down, as if you’re trying to touch your lower back to the ground. Hold in this position as well.
Now, move your forward foot back and pull your back and butt back toward your knees, pushing your rear toward the ceiling. Keep your hands flat on the ground as you do this.
This helps open up your shoulders and the rest of your back. Hold like this and then return to the starting position and switch legs.
All you need is one set of between eight and 10 reps per side.
Dynamic Frog Stretch
This is a fantastic move for opening up your inner thighs, hips and lower back. If you have any kind of pain in your back or your hips are not completely in line this is a great move to perform.
Due to posture issues (such as standing and leaning on one side over the other) your hip will likely fall out of correct alignment. This in turn will cause problems with your feet how you walk and the rest of your back as well.
With the move, you want to start out on all fours, with your knees pushed together. Arch your back so you feel a stretch in your lower back here.
From here, go down onto your forearms and stretch your knees out to each side of your body, creating a 90 degree bend at your knee (because you’ll be on your knees make sure to do this on a yoga mat or another soft surface).
When down in the position push your butt back in order to feel the stretch in your thighs and your lower back. Hold it here for a few moments before returning slowly back to the starting position (with all mobility exercises it isn’t about explosive, quick movements but instead slow, deliberate movements designed to open up your body and muscles).
Do a single set of these around eight or 10 times.
Arm Circle and Open Hip Lunge
This move is going to open up just about your entire body. It is a great move to perform every day, whether you’re performing upper or lower body lifts.
To begin, you want to start out in an extended lunge position.
Place your right foot forward while leaving your left leg back. You can even allow your left knee to rest on the ground to increase the stretch. Position your left hand down on the ground, aline with the back left toe.
Now, stretch your right arm out in front of you, as if you’re reaching for something you see standing before you.
Now, circle your arm back toward the ceiling. Make sure to look wherever your right hand is pointing. This helps open up your chest and your shoulders as you perform the move.
From the ceiling pull your arm back toward your rear foot and again follow your hand down. You will feel a complete stretch of your shoulders and chest.
You will want to perform this stretch on each side but it’s easier to complete the reps on one side before moving over to the other. So perform a single set of five reps per side.
Lying Hip Rotations
Your hips will become locked up over time. The amount of time the average person spends sitting forces much of the body’s weight down onto the hips.
Add on awkward standing positions and a number of other bodily movements and it all equates to locked up hips.
Lying hip rotations will help open the hips up and improve circulation to this area of the body.
To perform the lying hip rotations you’ll want to begin by laying on your back with both knees bent.
Now, cross one ankle over onto the opposite knee.
Hold your legs here but increase and decrease the intensity of the stretch by rotating your hips.
To hold and extend out the stretch you need to place your hands on your knee and hold it there (this will also help with balance if you’re struggling with this).
There is a series of hip mobility exercises you should perform and this is the first building block to it.
As most of your lifts do depend, in some way, to a steady core, you will want to perform these every day.
With this particular lying hip rotations, there are no single starting or stopping points, so just rotate in and out of the stretch for a few moments before moving on to the next mobility exercise.
With this movement you’re going to replicate much of what you do during cardio. While performing the mobility exercise (as well as all other exercises), make sure to be mindful of any kind of tightness you experience.
By performing each move slowly you should be able to feel the change in one area of your body.
Monitor how the pain or soreness begins, what you do to bring it on and how it feels at the conclusion of each movement. This will help you pinpoint what the problem is.
To perform the piriformis stretch lay on your back and position one foot on the ground in front of you with the knee bent.
Now, take your other leg and cross it over, so the ankle is positioned on the far side of your opposite knee.
Hold the crossing leg’s knee with your hands and pull it toward you. This will stretch much of your leg as you warm up the muscles. You will also want to focus on your hips with the movement. Push your hips from one side to the next.
This is a great move to open up not just your hips but your entire lower body and core.
To perform the move you’ll need to begin by sitting down with your feet positioned out in front of you.
Now, bring the bottom of your feet together in front of you (you’ll likely need to use your hands to help achieve this position). Your heels need to touch each other.
If the entire foot can touch the other that’s great too, but if not don’t worry, after performing the move for a few days you’ll begin to see an improvement in your lower body’s mobility and the feet will come together easier.
Place the palms of your hands behind you, so you stretch your shoulders.
With your back and shoulders stretched in revers, push your hips out toward the opposite wall while you keep your feet anchored to the ground. You’ll fee a nice stretch and opening movement in your hips, your lower core and your thighs.
Perform the movement slowly. Make sure to focus on your breathing as well. Taking long, deep breaths will help slow you down.
You will not hold any one of the positions for a long period of time (no more than a few seconds). It’s all about opening up your mobility and improving the blood circulation throughout your body.
The Arch and Curl
This is an excellent move to help open up your back and your shoulders. If you have any kind of back pain this one will feel great and will help increase blood flow throughout your back.
Like the last mobility exercise, start out on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be right over your wrists and your knees under your hips.
In this position allow your spine to remain neutral.
In a very slow movement, arch your spin, lifting your chest and your tailbone while pushing your bellybutton toward the ground.
It is important to perform this move slowly as it will allow for a greater range of motion and final stretch.
Hold in the bottom position for a few moments then return slowly back to the original position.
As is the case with most of these moves, you only need to perform one set for around eight to 10 reps each.
It’s all about opening up your body, increasing the flexibility in a natural way and improving blood flow, so you don’t need to go overboard with extensive set and rep numbers.
This is a move you want to do if you suffer from low back pain. It helps open up your spine and improve circulation to these areas of your body.
To begin, you’ll want to position an anchoring leg in front of you, bent 90 degrees.
Now, extend the opposite leg back behind you.
Twist your core in the direction of your anchoring knee, placing your palms down on the ground as you rotate your hips. Do not contort your back as you perform this stretch.
Continue to rotate until you are unable to do so any longer.You need to make sure and keep your legs anchored on the ground as you do this and keep your chest up.
You don’t want your chest to hold any of your body’s weight while you stretch. Hold in the final position for a few moments and then return to the starting position slowly. Perform this eight or nine more times.
If you want to see an improvement in your size, power and strength you need to begin incorporating mobility exercises and stretching into your workout.
However, you don’t need to spend a chunk of your gym time performing these moves. In fact, you only need to devote a few minutes every day these exercises.
This will, over time, improve your flexibility, boost your mobility and, in the end, help with your ability to boost power and strength.