Mobility exercises and stretching are two often overlooked aspects of training that improve performance and movement quality. Here are eight great coaches and trainers showing you their favorite drills and stretches.
-Kevin Warren, strength and conditioning Coach (Instagram)
The Couch Stretch is my go-to mobility move to open up the hips and quads. Nearly everyone in today's society has tight hips as a result of sitting for far too long every day, which causes a host of problems including lower-back pain and poor lifting mechanics.
Perform the Couch Stretch for 2 minutes on each side as part of your warm-up (especially before Squats and Deadlifts), or for a total of 3-5 minutes each side every day if you have a desk job or long commute.
The "World's Greatest" World's Greatest Stretch
You may have heard of the "World's Greatest Stretch" before, or maybe you even include it in your daily routine. Taking nothing away from the WGS, I've got one better. I call it the World's Greatest World's Greatest Stretch—and it's basically just a slight variation of the classic catch-all mobility move that you already know and love. Above is a video demo, and as you can see, there are just a few slight tweaks to give this move a greater potential for benefits.
It starts off with a half-kneeling positing with knees in 90-90, instead of the traditional runner's lunge.
This gives you a better opportunity to create a functional separation of the hips and get a good stretch using the pulse technique shown above. It also reduces the risk of you cranking into lumbar hyperextension and over exaggerating the position. More ROM isn't always better.
Next, just like the traditional version, we have a T-Spine reach and rotation. No real major changes here; you're simply looking to open up the mid and upper back and move freely through that range of motion.
Lastly, you're going step out laterally and get into a nice stretch for the hamstrings, inner thighs and calves. Traditionally, we see a Hip Lift and Knee Extension here with a rounded posture. Instead of that, we're going to keep a nice neutral alignment and sit back into a position similar to a Cossack Squat to finish off the stretch.
Give this variation a try and you'll find that you get a much more effective and useful dynamic stretch going. I'd throw this in a warm-up or cooldown, or even knock some out between heavy sets of compound movements.
90/90 Hip Mobility Flow
-Justin Todd, strength and conditioning coach (Instagram)
In my experience, healthy and mobile hips are often one of the most important physical factors in optimizing human performance and longevity. Tightness, weakness, lack of stability and little to no control of the hips at their end ranges of motion can result in pain due to various compensations during particular movements, lack of technique, poor balance and possible increase of injuries.
In this hip opening flow, various techniques are used to increase passive flexibility, improve strength, improve neural drive and improve control at the end range of motion. From improving athletic and human performance to possible decreases in pain throughout other parts of the body, this flow is optimally performed once a day for about 5-10 minutes.
Begin seated with one leg bent and placed directly in front of the torso, externally rotated. The other leg is to the side in internal rotation, and both knees and ankles flexed to 90 degrees. Staying tall through the spine, attempt to tighten the rest of the body. Try to actively pull the belly button forward, over the front knee. At this point, you should feel a stretch in the front leg at the glute and hip. Maintaining full body tension, rotate the legs to switch. What was the front leg in external rotation, is now in internal rotation. Next, raise the back leg, foot and knee off the ground. Bring it to the front and extend the leg at the knee until it is straight out in front of you. Reverse the process and return to the 90/90 position. Staying tall through the spine, rotate the legs to return to the starting position and repeat the same sequence with the hips now in the opposite position.
Watch the video below for a visual of the flow.
Elevated Hamstring Stretch
This is an exercise you can use anywhere—in the gym or right in your living room while you binge watch Netflix. All you need is an elevated surface like a chair or couch and you are good to go.
Place one foot out in front of you with the heel resting on the elevated surface. Lean forward slightly with the chest up tall until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, keep your toe pulled toward your chest the entire time. Slowly rotate your leg left and right.
When you keep your chest up high and rock your hips side to side, you are stretching all three heads of the hamstring.
This is a stretch that always makes me feel like a million bucks once I'm done. Being that I can do this while I watch TV with my son makes it so much more sustainable and has led to a better performance in my lower-body exercises.
Start by going for 1-2 minutes per leg, 3-4 days/week.
If you don't have a couch or chair, just put your leg straight out in front of you, lean your chest over your knee and rock the hips from that position. It will definitely get the job done.
Open Hip Flexor Stretch
This is one of my go-to stretches for baseball pitchers and hockey players because it does a great job with the adductors and hip flexors. The adductors play such an important role in rotational power so making sure that athletes have increased internal rotation is key to performance.
Start in a tall kneeling position with your chest up tall, lift your right foot off the ground and set it to your side so both your foot and knee are pointed to the right. Keeping your left hip, chest, and head facing straight ahead, lean to the right slowly for a few seconds. Back off and repeat again slowly dropping into the stretch, this time a little deeper.
T-Spine Rotation With a Reach
Many people could use more mobility throughout their thoracic spine. A sedentary lifestyle has led many to become stiff in this area, especially those of us who sit in a desk from 9 to 5.
A stiff thoracic spine can lead to compensations in the shoulders, neck, and the lower back when we exercise and move. Most of us are stuck in flexion and need to work on both extension and rotation of this spinal segment.
One of my personal favorite mobility drills to include in people's workouts to address this is the t-spine rotation with a reach. Some people may call these "book openers," and you will see why in the video.
Start in a side-lying position with the top hip flexed to 90 degrees. If needed use a foam roller to support the knee if you can't quite reach the ground with the knee. Place an ab mat or pad under the head to support head and neck.
From this point start with hands parallel to the ground and begin rotating the thorax, keeping the top knee on the ground or the foam roller. As your arms become perpendicular to the ground, begin reaching with the top arm, attempting to reach the ground. Hold for a few deep breaths and repeat for 5 to 10 reps on each side.
Spiderman with Reach and Rotate
-Michael Anderson, strength coach, personal trainer and owner Anderson Strength & Fitness (Instagram)
I've had multiple love affairs with different mobility drills over the last few years. I go through various phases when I think there's a particular area of the body that takes precedence over others when it comes to mobilizations and prep for a training session. "Oh no, if I don't prep this body part the world will end!" Thankfully, I found a drill that does just about everything I want in a short amount of time; the Spiderman with Reach and Rotate. This will help mobilize and activate all of the common problem areas of your body.
Start in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders. Bring one foot up as close to, and just outside of the same side hand. Lift that hand and bend your elbow like you're flexing your biceps (this is a good time to flex just in case anyone is watching), and then reach your elbow down to the instep of your foot. Hold for a two-count and then rotate that same hand toward the ceiling, making sure to follow with your eyes. During this whole flow work on keeping your front foot flat on the ground and your trail leg as long as possible.
Repeat the process 8-10 times per side. Go forth and be a savage.
Corner Pec Stretch
-Todd Sabol, athletic trainer and owner of SportsMEDiscussion (Instagram)
This stretch is a great way to loosen up the pecs and pull your upper body into a better position.
To start, find a 90-degree corner in a room and place your hands and forearms flat on the walls. Keep your elbows at 90 degrees and slowly lean forward and allow gravity to do the work and pull your body toward the corner, all the while keeping the forearms and elbows stationary. You should feel a big stretch in the chest; hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat three to five times.
- 4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips
- A Nighttime Stretch Routine for Athletes
- 8 Hip Mobility Exercises That Will Unlock Your Strength and Power