10 Best Mobility Exercises For Calisthenics (Expert Answers)
While most workouts focus on strength and muscle building, incorporating mobility exercises into a routine will help your body become more flexible and improve posture.
Calisthenics routines often include mobility exercises and stretches which can be completed as a full workout but are usually performed after a strength-building workout as part of a dynamic stretching routine.
In this article, we will show you ten of the best calisthenics exercises for improving mobility. Read on to find out much more, including how each exercise helps with mobility and how to do them properly and safely for the best results.
Why are Mobility Exercises Important in Calisthenics?
If you’re looking to increase your range of movement and, in time, take on some of the more complex calisthenics moves and exercises, then mobility movements and stretches are crucial to making this happen.
Not only does increased mobility help you be better at calisthenics, but it’s also great for helping to improve posture, which can help reduce the aches and pains that come from having a bad posture.
By focusing on mobility as part of a calisthenics routine, you can, in time, become much more mobile and flexible, which will increase the range of movement when you exercise, making your workouts more efficient.
The mobility level you need depends on your personal goals and how far you want to go with your range of movements. Any existing conditions or injuries can also impact mobility and how much it can be improved.
Just a small increase in mobility and flexibility can help strengthen and maintain healthy joints and decrease the risk of injury during a workout.
Best Calisthenics Mobility Exercises
Moving on to our top ten calisthenics mobility exercises, starting with the easiest for beginners to those that are a little more challenging.
1: Seated Shoulder Extension
With many of us spending our days sitting at desks or in cars in a hunched position, shoulders can be one of the main problem areas.
The shoulder extension is a stretch often used in calisthenics and can help improve mobility and posture in the upper back and shoulders while stretching the biceps and pecs.
This exercise helps to take the shoulders to a backward position, producing a stretch that can be increased in intensity depending on your ability.
How To Do It
- Start by sitting on the ground with the knees up and hands behind your back, pointing away from you shoulder-width apart.
- Lock the elbow, so you have a straight arm.
- Shuffle the feet forwards, laying the legs flat, and bring the arms down for a maximum stretch.
You can make this stretch harder by moving your hands closer together, but if you’re a beginner, keep them shoulder-width apart when you first start. Only do what you feel comfortable with and stop if you feel any pain.
2: Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts are a simple but effective stretch that are great for beginners. These tilts are gentle movements that are performed by pushing up and down the base of the back towards the ground.
In time, pelvic tilts help with increased mobility and flexibility in the hips, pelvis, and lower back/spine.
How To Do It
- Start by laying flat on your back and bring the knees up to a 45-degree angle leaving your feet flat on the floor.
- Concentrating on the lower back area only, push the base of the spine up so it lifts off the ground a few inches, and hold for a few seconds.
- Then perform the opposite movement by pushing the base of the back towards the ground so there’s no gap, and hold for a few seconds.
You can make pelvic tilts harder by lifting each leg in a marching action — one at a time and holding with each tilt.
3: Toe Touches (Standing and Sitting)
Toe touches are another simple movement suitable for beginners, which you can make easier or more challenging if you need to.
You can do toe touches in a sitting or standing position, and it’s fine if you can’t actually reach your toes, just go as far as you feel comfortable, to begin with. The more you perform this movement, the closer you will get to your toes over time.
If done regularly, toe touches will improve mobility and flexibility in the hamstrings, calves, and lower back.
How To Do It
- For a sitting toe touch, sit upright on the floor with your legs straight.
- Lean forward with your arms straight and reach towards your toes as far as you feel comfortable.
- Hold the stretch for around five seconds.
If you prefer a standing toe touch, the same principles apply, lean forward and reach down as far as you feel comfortable and hold.
4: Downward Dog
Technically the downward dog is a yoga move, but it’s not unusual for certain yoga or pilates stretches to be used as mobility moves in calisthenics.
The downward dog is an excellent mobility stretch because it works on many body areas, including the hands, wrists, hamstrings, calves, and back.
You can also try the reverse of this move which is the upwards-facing dog that stretches the front of the body.
How To Do It
- Starting on your hands and knees, lift the hips in the air so the arms are pointing straight forward, hands are flat on the ground, and legs are straight.
- Keeping arms, shoulders and the back in a straight line, drop the head, so it’s in line with the arms.
- Hold the pose and then gently come back onto your hands and knees.
When you first try this pose, you might be unable to put your feet flat on the floor, but in time this will become easier and will take the stretch further.
5: Bar Hang
If you have access to a pull-up bar in a gym or at home, you can perform a simple mobility stretch which is good for opening up the shoulders.
The bar hang is also an excellent stretch if you want to do more bar work in the future because it helps build up strength for more complex moves.
How To Do It
To do the bar hang, you simply need to hang with the hands facing forward for a time that feels comfortable.
If you’re new to bar moves and can’t fully support your body weight through your arms, you can stand on something solid and drop down to let your arms take as much weight as you feel comfortable with.
You can also make this stretch a little more challenging by pulling up slightly and holding to activate the shoulders.
The cat-cow is another well-known yoga move, but it works really well as a calisthenics mobility exercise and focuses on mobilizing and strengthening the back and spine.
It’s also known to improve posture and can actually help to reduce back pain if done regularly.
The cat-cow pose is two stretches in one — the cat and the cow, this way, you stretch different areas in one move.
How To Do It
- Start on all fours and keep your arms shoulder-width apart; with your knees a hip distance apart.
- Go into the cow move by lifting your head and hips while dropping the belly simultaneously.
- Lift the head upwards so you feel a stretch in the chest area, and hold.
- Next, go into the cat move by lowering the head, arching the back, press down through the arms, and hold again.
7: Deep Squats
You might be thinking that a squat is a fairly basic exercise, but when it comes to calisthenics, it’s often taken further into a deep squat, which is excellent for mobility and opening out the hips.
A deep squat is where you squat right down to the ground, rather than a half squat, where you squat part way down.
Reaches and other moves can be incorporated into the squat to make them more challenging.
Don’t squat too far if you’re a beginner or if you feel any pain. The more you practice a deep squat, the further down you’ll be able to go in time.
How To Do It
- From a standing position, squat down with the legs open and feet pointing slightly outwards (similar to frog legs).
- Make sure your feet are flat on the ground and hold.
8: Jefferson Curl
The Jefferson Curl is a move that is often used in calisthenics and is an excellent exercise for improving mobility, flexibility, and posture.
Performing the Jefferson curl will help stretch out the spine, and it also stretches the glutes and hamstrings.
If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended that you perform the move using body weight alone. In time, as the movement gets more manageable, you can use a small kettlebell or dumbbell to increase the power of the stretch.
Those who regularly perform the Jefferson Curl stand on a bench (or something similar) to give extra height so they can reach past their feet and take the stretch further.
Don’t worry if you can’t bend too far to begin with; the more you practice, the more you can bend in time. As with all mobility, exercises don’t push further if you feel pain or are uncomfortable.
How To Do It
- Standing upright on the edge of a bench (or something raised and safe), fold your chin down towards your chest and gradually bend downwards using your body weight from the head and shoulders, not the hips.
- If you’re using a weight, this should be held in the hands with arms straight and pointing down.
- Keep the knees locked and legs straight; move the hands towards the ground as far as you feel comfortable and hold.
- When you’re ready to come back up, move slowly and gradually in the opposite way you went down.
9: Pigeon Stretch
The pigeon stretch is another popular calisthenics mobility move that is also used in yoga, but it’s probably one of the more complex and not for beginners.
If you can perform the pigeon stretch regularly, the benefits include greater flexibility around the hips, and they can even help reduce lower back pain.
Because the pigeon pose is quite a complex move, it shouldn’t be performed if you have any existing back, knee, or hip problems; if in doubt, consult your doctor first.
There are a few different ways the pigeon stretch can be performed, but the steps below show you how to do the classic pigeon pose. The aim of this move is to have one leg bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you with a straight leg behind you.
How To Do It
- Start in a low lunge position, with your back leg extended behind you and your front leg bent at the knee.
- Place your hands on the ground on either side of your front leg, which should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly lower your hips towards the ground, keeping your back leg extended and your back straight.
- Once you feel a stretch in your hip, hold the position and breathe deeply.
- To release the pose, slowly bring your back leg forward to meet your front leg and come back into a low lunge position. Repeat on the other side.
10: Back Bridge
The back bridge exercise is one of the most-used mobility exercises in calisthenics. It can look more straightforward than it actually is and takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the mobility and flexibility benefits are well worth it.
As well as increased mobility and improved posture (if done regularly), the back bridge can also stretch the core, shoulders, spine, and hips flexors.
How To Do It
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, your knees bent, and toes facing forwards.
- Place your hands behind your head with your fingers pointing in the same direction as your toes.
- Slowly lift your hips and back off the ground and arch your back.
- Hold the stretch and then gently lower yourself back down to the ground.
All of the exercises above can produce amazing results when it comes to mobility and are definitely worth a try if you want to take calisthenics to the next level or just improve your mobility and posture.
The main thing to remember if you’re new to this kind of exercise is to take things slowly and only do what your body will allow because mobility and flexibility build up over time.
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