Mobility for Beginners

So you’ve made the leap into the world of fitness and you’re ready to go! But wait, where do you start?!

Stretching, of course! You can call your “stretchiness” by two names that most people will understand: flexibility and/or mobility. We’ll use mobility here because CrossFit uses that term extensively and CrossFit Catonsville is, as you may have guessed, a CrossFit gym!

One thing you may have noticed is that most good training starts with stretching, anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes per session. This is normal, and helps prepare your body for the vigor of practice. Stretching has the dual benefit of making you a better athlete and improving your overall health. Your mobility is directly related to your ability to move through exercises safely, under control, and with maximal benefit.

At first, many of the stretches may seem harder than they should be, and that’s fine! Below I’ve provided some basic stretches you can do on your own to help you progress in your exercises. If you’re working with other beginners in fitness classes, consider this a way to get a leg up! (Pun intended.)

In this article we will cover three major body sections: Legs, Core, and Upper Body. We hit all the major muscle groups in each stretching section so that we don’t run into any nasty surprises later on Unlike weight lifting, you can stretch the same muscles every day. You may find that stretching every other day, every day, or twice a day works for you depending on your training schedule and how much you need to improve your mobility. Properly stretching your muscles on a regular basis increases their elasticity, helps prevent injury, and better enables you to recover from injury if it should occur.

One last note, before we jump into it: I recommend a short warm-up of walking, jumping jacks, or maybe light jogging prior to your stretching. Nothing too strenuous; just enough to get your blood flowing. It can be counter intuitive to need to exercise before you work on mobility which then leads to more exercise. The reason we do a little light movement before mobility is just to get our heart rate up a little bit and force the body to start pumping more oxygenated blood to our extremities. Done lightly, jumping jacks, jogging, or rowing do just that.

Guidelines for your mobility training:

  • Perform 3-4 sets of 10-30 seconds on each stretch. Where applicable, you will do this per leg or per arm.
  • Never go so far as to feel sharp pain in your muscles. Go only until mild discomfort, and then hold it there.
  • Breathe normally, and attempt to go a little further each time you stretch the same muscle group.

Leg Stretches

  • Sit and Reach (Side): sit on your butt, and spread your feet as far as they will go. With both hands, reach across to one foot, and hold the stretch. Repeat on the other leg.
  • Sit and Reach (Center): sit on your butt with your feet out in front of you and legs together. Reach both hands toward your feet as far as they will go, and hold
  • Calf Raise: Stand facing a wall, with one foot touching the wall with it’s toe, and then step the other foot back until you are standing on the ball of that foot. Push the heel down until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. If your heel touches, move your foot back more. Repeat on the other side.
  • Quad Pull: Facing a wall, place your left hand on the wall for balance. Reach back with your right hand, and lift your right foot up towards your butt. Grab the top of your foot with your right hand, and hold your foot as close to your butt as you can get. Repeat on the other side.

Core

  • Hip Rotations: Place your hands on your hips and make big circles in the air with your hips. Try to keep your head at the same level and still as you move through the circles. Repeat in the opposite direction.
  • Side Bend: With hands on hips, bend your body to the side so that you fold at your obliques (the side abdominal muscles). Your chest and stomach should still face forward; don’t droop your head. Repeat on the other side.
  • Truck Twists (Standing): With your arms held up at shoulder level and out to the side, twist your body so that your right arm is pointing forward and left arm is pointing back. Reverse. Repeat.

Upper Body

  • Shoulder Rotations: Hold your hands out in front of you at shoulder height, arms straight. Slowly lift your hands and make several backwards circles with your arms. Reverse. Repeat.
  • Cross-Chest Pull: Place your right arm across your chest, pointing towards your left shoulder and straight. Use your left arm to pull your right arm back towards your chest. Hold for several seconds, then reverse the motion to the other side.
  • Back Scratcher: Lift your right arm above your head, bend your elbow so your hand goes towards the back of your neck behind your head. Use your left arm to push your elbow down and behind your head as far as you can go without injury. Hold, then reverse for the other arm.