Do you have a go to routine for mobility and recovery? Something to leave you feeling good and ready for whatever’s next, whether a workout or just life? Do you wish you had the time?
Well here you go! This is how I structure my daily mobility practice, including suggested exercises. And it only takes 10 minutes! I use a full body plan like this one whether I’m getting ready to train, or taking a rest day.
The key areas I aim to improve are my upper back (thoracic spine) mobility, hip (internal and external rotation) mobility, and ankle mobility. My trouble spot is my lower back. Our low backs are flexible, resilient, and eager to assist. If any of the aforementioned areas are lacking though, your lower back is going to pick up the slack. This extra work and fatigue can lead to feelings of discomfort, tightness or pain. Better mobility up and downstream will lead to better, more enjoyable workouts, not to mention daily life. Let’s get to it!
1. Thoracic Spine Foam Roll (1 to 2 minutes)
I begin almost every training or mobility session with a quick roll. Rolling out your upper back will help open up your shoulders. This is especially useful if you spend a lot of time working at a computer. Keep your hips slightly elevated in order to focus on extending your upper back, not your lower back (remember, it wants to help out and extend). I usually sneak in a couple passes over the outsides of my hips too. As mentioned in our “Get Your First Pull-up!” blog, add some pass throughs with a dowel (PVC, broom, curtain rod, Swiffer, etc.) for added shoulder mobility work. Something like a band or belt works for those pass throughs too.
2. Elevated Prayer Stretch (1 to 2 minutes)
You don’t need to be particularly pious to benefit from the elevated prayer stretch. This stretch deepens the work you started on the foam roller. I typically go with the variation that incorporates a dowel (use the same one you did for pass throughs ), and do 5 to 10 reps with a 5 to 10 second hold. The elevated prayer stretch can also be useful for simultaneously stretching the quads a bit.
3. Spider-Man Lunges with Rotation (1 minute)
Whether you prefer Toby, Andrew, or Tom in the role, this stretch is awesome when it comes to opening your hips. There’s a reason it’s the first part of pretty much every “world’s greatest” stretch sequence. The addition of the rotation continues to build on the thoracic mobility you’ve already been working on. I recommend 6 to 8 alternating reps (3 or 4 each side).
4. 90/90 Hip Stretch (4 minutes)
When it comes to hip mobility the 90/90 stretch keeps it . We place a lot of emphasis on external hip rotation (“knees out!”). Internal hip rotation is also important for maximizing our movement though. The 90/90 stretch hits both. Pay attention to the position of your low back on this one to ensure you’re getting the desired effect, and stretching your hips. I like to do this for two rounds of 30 seconds in each position on each side.
5. Ankle Glides (1 minute)
Glide your way to better squats! Performed consistently, this simple exercise can have huge benefits for your squats. Improve depth, positions, and your ability to apply force, all while taking a bit of stress off your low back. 10 to 15 reps per ankle daily will have you on your way to better dorsiflexion. I recommend doing some air and/or goblet squats after your ankle glides to reinforce the range of motion.
In addition to being excellent for your low back, exercises 3, 4, and 5 of this particular routine may also be helpful for cranky knees. Once again, improving upstream (hips) and downstream (ankles) mobility can take pressure off of everything in between.
Bonus: Core Stability
A solid, stable core will benefit you no matter your activity of choice. No one ever said “my core is too stable” (or “my abs are too awesome”). My preferred core stability exercises are bird dogs, dead bugs, planks, side planks, and their multitudes of variations. If you’ve got a couple extra minutes with your new daily mobility routine, pick one, and give it a try!
And that’s the thing, this is all trial and error. This plan has worked really well for me, and the drills generally work well for others. Ultimately you need to discover what works best for you though. The structure is pretty simple – a couple of upper back/shoulder focused exercises, a couple focused on the hips, and one for the lower legs – while also malleable, so it can be easily adjusted as your needs change.
Of course, if you’d like some assistance identifying areas that could benefit from improved range of motion, and selecting specific exercises for you, we’re here to help!