Cat cow pose

Stretching: try these 9 beginner-friendly mobility exercises before your next workout

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Looking for ways to mix up your stretching? These are the best beginner mobility exercises and stretches you can do to prep your body for your day, or your workout. 

Restrictions have eased and gyms re-opened, which means that you might be about to dive into a new workout programme, take on a running challenge or try out the Strong Women Training Club. Don’t just think about your workouts though; it’s also vital that you take into consideration how to prepare your body for those sessions.

It’s so important to get your muscles and joints ready for your workout. In fact, it’s crucial to help avoid injury and perform at your best. According to Harvard Health, without stretching, our muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when we call on the muscles for activity during exercise, they are weak and unable to extend all the way, which puts us at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

Because injuries don’t just happen when lifting heavy weights or performing complex moves. Last year, 7 million people in the UK were injured whilst working out at home or taking part in lockdown related activities like gardening and hiking. Our bet? That not enough of them warmed up properly before. 

However, a warm-up should involve more than jogging on the spot or swinging your arms around – it’s all about focusing on mobilising your entire body

You may have read Strong Women’s article before on mobility and how it can improve your body’s ability to move freely and easily – so even if you aren’t an avid exerciser or are taking a rest day, performing a mobility sequence is still incredibly beneficial. 

“Some mobility exercises may look very similar to yoga poses,” says personal trainer, mobility advocate and Huawei fitness tech spokesperson Em Ricketts. “The difference is that we want to move through postures in a dynamic way to get the body ready for movement. It’s important that you never force your body into any poses or positions. Try to relax as much as you can so that your body ‘melts’ into the poses.”

Here, Em shares her favourite mobility sequence that’s simple enough for beginners and will get your joints and muscles ready for a day at your work desk or a tough strength training session. 

Woman posing outdoors in activewear
Stretching: Personal trainer Em Ricketts shares her favourite mobility sequence

The best beginner-friendly mobility warm-up

Belly Breaths

Sit on your heels with your toes together and knees as wide as the mat. Place your hands on your belly and take a deep inward breath through your nose, then out through your nose. Ground yourself in the moment and use it to set an intention for your day/practice.

Repeat for 30 seconds. 

Downward Dog

This is an active pose, so make sure that all muscles are engaged and really focus on opening up through the entire back of your legs. Drive your heels down towards the mat, pedal your legs (taking it in turns to press one heel towards the floor as the opposite knee bends) if it feels good or just hold for the duration.

Hold for one minute. 

Cat / Cows

Starting in a tabletop position, inhale as you arch your spine, soften your belly towards the floor and shift your gaze upwards. Exhale as you flow back to tabletop position and continue drawing the belly in, tucking your chin and rounding your spine towards the ceiling.

Repeat for one minute. 

Thread the needle

This is great for opening the shoulders and stretching your spine. Start in a tabletop position again, then ‘thread’ your right hand under your left arm. Continue until the right side of your face gently rests on the floor. Make sure to keep your hips straight so you feel the pull through your back. 

Hold for 30 seconds each side. 

Seal pose

Lie belly down on your mat with your hands by your chest then press your upper body away from the floor, extending until your arms are straight. If this feels too intense, you can also perform this with your forearms on the floor.

Hold for one minute. 

Twisted cross

Lie belly down on your mat again and extend your right arm out to the side. Place your left hand next to your chest and press it into the floor to initiate a rotation of your left shoulder and chest. At the same time, lift your left leg up and across your body until it reaches your right hand (or as close as you can go).

Hold for 30 seconds each side. 

Low lunge and reach

Move to a high plank position with your palms stacked directly under your shoulders. Step your right leg up to meet your right hand, lowering your left knee down to the floor as you do. Then, rotate and send your right hand up towards the ceiling. Hold before returning back to high plank and repeating on the other side.

Repeat for one minute. 

Standing forward fold

Stand up tall and create a slight soft bend in your knees to allow for more range of motion. Fold your torso towards your legs, either resting your hands down towards the floor or holding your elbows in opposite hands. Gently lift up by slowly unrolling the spine vertebrae by vertebrae.

Hold for one minute. 

Child’s pose

Childs pose is great for lower back pain as well as opening your hips, thighs and ankles. Sit on your heels and place your toes together, knees as wide as your mat and sit back onto your heels. Slowly extend your arms forwards, creating as much length as you can before allowing your forehead to gently lean towards the floor. Drive back into your heels and sit with this pose as you relax into it further.

Hold for two minutes. 

And, done! How do you feel? Hopefully, nice and loose and ready to take on anything your day (or workout) throws your way. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Images: Em Ricketts/Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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