After a long, hot summer of lazing around in the sun, it’s time to get back into the gym or onto the road for some serious training. But sometimes the renewed enthusiasm for hardcore workouts can leave your body stiff, sore, and uncooperative.
This lower-body mobility sequence combines static and dynamic moves that can be used as a warm-up on chilly autumn mornings when your body just won’t wake up or as your very own à la cart movement menu: Pick and choose pieces to treat your aches and pains as needed.[AD]
For step-by-step instructions on each pose, scroll past the workout graphic!
Digging deep into the hips can be an intense experience. Commit to slow, steady, regular practice, and you will see results and relief from discomfort and dysfunction. Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe deeply and fully throughout your mobility practice.
1. Ankle Circles
Use this move to get the lead out of sore, tired legs after a long day on your feet.
This is a super simple and intuitive move that is totally under-used! It’s a great way to warm up the ankles and calves before a long training run or after a workout with jumping or plyometrics.
- Stand on right foot with a hand on a chair, counter, or the wall for balance.
- Slowly circle the ankle in one direction 10 to 20 times (point and flex the ankle for even more mobility). Reverse direction and repeat.
- Switch legs. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.
Tips: If it's tough to balance, do this movement sitting in a chair. If you want to challenge your balance, do this movement hands-free.
2. Calf Stretch
Use this move to combat the calf-crunching effects of wearing high heel shoes or chunky boots.
This spicy little number targets the major muscles of the calf that can affect the foot and knee. It’s a fantastic way to gain greater ankle range when warming up for squats, pistols, or sprints.
- Stand tall and place the ball of the right foot on a rolled-up towel or yoga blanket. Drop the heel to the floor.
- Place left foot on the floor under left hip.
- Hold static or slowly straighten and bend the right leg to change the focus of the stretch up and down the leg for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the left leg.
Tips: Maintain a neutral spine and watch that your shoulders and chest don’t stoop forward.To intensify the stretch, step the free leg in front of the blanket.
3. Dynamic Low-Lunge
This move is a must after a long plane ride or road trip.
This move is a tune-up of the classic quad and hip flexor stretch. It will warm up the large muscles of the legs and mobilize the hips and lower spine. Cyclists and runners need this before and after training.
- From a standing position, step back with left leg, letting left knee tap the floor and sweeping arms to the sky alongside ears.
- Quickly step left foot forward to meet the right, sweeping arms back to the sides.
- Repeat, stepping right leg back. Continue, alternating legs, for 10 to 15 reps per side.
Tips: Hold the lunge static to deepen the intensity of the stretch. Use a yoga or exercise mat to pad tender knees.
4. Prasarita Lunge
Use this as a warm-up before a trip to the ice skating rink.
- Stand with feet parallel, about 3 to 3 1/2 feet apart.
- Keeping spine neutral, bend forward at the hips and place hands on the floor directly under shoulders.
- Push hips back so that the bodyweight stays in the heels throughout the movement.
- Bending right knee, shift the bodyweight toward the right hip and foot. (The right knee should track over the ankle.)
- Stay low and push off the right foot to launch over to the left side. Bend the left knee.
- Continue, alternating sides, for 10 to 15 reps per side.
Tips: For a deeper stretch of the adductors (inner thighs), hold the move static on each side for 10 to 30 seconds. To activate and wake up the inner thighs, instead of pushing off of the bent-knee foot, pull with the straight-leg inner thigh.
5. Seated Piriformis Stretch
Try this when your low back is stiff and achy from sitting on the couch binge-watching the latest Netflix hit.
Use this move to combat short, tight glutes and a grouchy piriformis. Great after a booty-burning barre class or if you’re feeling a little saddle-sore from that spin marathon.
- Perch on the edge of a chair or bench. Sit tall with feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Place right ankle over left knee. Let the knee fall open toward the floor.
- Bend forward at the hips and place forearms on shins. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat with left leg.
Tips: Keep the crossed-leg foot slightly flexed to maintain stability in the knee. Use a contract-relax action to deepen the stretch by placing a hand on the inner thigh just above the knee so the outer thigh drops slightly closer to the floor. At the same time, push up against the hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.
Thank you to our fitness model, Sandee Shin.