You don’t have to be an athlete to face daily physical challenges. Whether it’s lifting your carry-on bag into the overhead bin of an airplane or squatting on the floor to play with your kids, many everyday movements require a combination of strength, stability and flexibility.
As an athlete, if you want to do these things well and without risking injury, you need to train. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, plus two weekly sessions of strength training that activate all major muscle groups.
But life is troubled. If you only have ten minutes, there’s a lot you can do using just your own body weight. This can prevent or at least postpone your knees and back from becoming stiff and pain from appearing in your neck.
One way to create a quick and effective workout is to focus on mobility, which involves increasing your strength, stability and flexibility, says Cedric Bryant, president of the American Council on Physical Exercise.
“When we think of mobility, we think of movement,” he says. That means strength training using moves like lunges, which work groups of muscles, rather than individual moves like biceps curls, for example. “The body never does just one biceps curl” in real daily life, says Denver-based physical therapist and Pilates instructor Jessica Valant.
Fitness expert Mark Lauren, a former trainer for the US Air Force Special Operations Command, points out that in his own workouts he methodically exercises his shoulders, spine, hips and legs, incorporating the complete movements of each joint. This allows you to do strength and mobility training quickly and efficiently.
If you’re developing a full range of motion for those body parts, he says, “everything else tends to sort itself out.”
To create the most effective bodyweight workout routine for increasing strength and mobility in everyday life, we spoke with experts about which exercises they recommend and why. The five exercises they pinpointed promote full-body strength and will leave you feeling more agile and ready for whatever comes your way.
Ten-minute strength and mobility workout
This workout works the hips, shoulders and spine. Take breaks as you feel the need, but try to get to the point where you no longer need to sit still. As you progress, add light weights, but focus on mastering the moves first.
“If you don’t take the time to feel strong and secure, you could have problems down the line,” says Valant.
Start with a jog or walk in place or another dynamic warm-up. Then do two one-minute bursts of the following exercises:
- Lunge: 10 to 20 reps per minute
- Squats: 10 to 20 reps per minute
- Pelvic Raise: 10 to 15 reps per minute
- Pointer: six to 10 reps per minute
- YTWL training: three to five reps per position, with five positions per minute
Lower body squats and lunges
Squats and lunges are the best exercises to improve hip mobility. They strengthen the legs, hips and spine. While the two exercises are similar, Valant said, it’s important to do both. The lunge, which works the glutes and quadriceps, will help you get down to the floor and get up again without difficulty.
“We were made to do these deep squats,” says Valant. “It’s good for the pelvic floor and the hips.” The squat also works the body in a balanced way, with both legs performing the same movement.
To do a bodyweight squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly turned out. When you squat down, your knees should move in line with your feet, going down as far as is comfortable.
The lunge is an asymmetrical movement that requires balance and stability and covers many other daily movements. “That’s how we live”, points out Valant, that is, with one foot often in front of the other or moved to the side.
The lunge works the glutes, quadriceps and hamstring muscles, used when walking and climbing stairs, but it also improves balance.
To do a lunge, assume a wide stance with your back heel lifted. “Don’t hesitate to use a chair or other support when you’re starting,” recommends the expert. For both squats and lunges, as you get better you can start using some weights, but with a focus on improving mobility. “The deeper you go down, the better,” she says. Try to do 10 to 20 repetitions of each movement.
Pointers and bridges for the column
The main movements of the spine are forwards, backwards, sideways and twisting movements – so these are the ones we should train. Lauren recommends pointers, which move the spine forward, backward, and side to side.
Keep all four supports on the floor, as if you were going to crawl. Fully extend your right arm and left leg as you would in a “bird dog” exercise. Then bring the arm and leg to the center of the body, trying to touch the right elbow to the left knee. Repeat using left arm and right leg.
“This exercise is great for getting moving after a long day sitting at the computer,” says Lauren.
The next movement is the hip raise to the ground, which works the lower spine. To do this move, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes at the same time. Avoid arching your back and keep your spine straight. Then lower your hips to the floor again. Do 10 to 15 reps.
Four movements for the shoulders
To develop and maintain strong, agile shoulders, Bryant recommends the YTWL formation, in which the shoulders perform their full 3D range of motion in four distinct motions. The sequence strengthens muscles that are crucial to everyday life but often overlooked.
The exercise can be performed lying down or in a forward bending position. The goal is to perform four arm and shoulder movements that mimic the four letters, doing three to five repetitions of each.
To start the first movement, raise your arms above your head in a Y position. Lower them to your hips and then raise them back overhead, as if you were lowering a large ball from above, from above your head to your waist. .
Then do the T position. Extend your arms laterally at a 90º angle in relation to your body and join your hands, as if you were clapping, keeping your arms straight.
For the W pose, extend your arms out to your sides to a 90 degree angle, but bend your elbows up at a right angle, palms up, forming a W. Extend your arms straight up, touch the fingers of both hands , then lower the limbs again to get back to the W shape.
For the L, spread your arms out to your sides in a similar bent position, so that each arm forms an L. Lower your forearms to your hips in a semicircle motion, without moving your arms.
Translated by Clara Allain
I have over 8 years of experience in the news industry. I have worked for various news websites and have also written for a few news agencies. I mostly cover healthcare news, but I am also interested in other topics such as politics, business, and entertainment. In my free time, I enjoy writing fiction and spending time with my family and friends.