Bodyweight mobility training for staying strong and healthy

(This was written in 2008)

So, I turned 39 this year. That means I’ll be 40 next year. As you might be able to relate, I’ve started paying a little more attention to the concept of anti-aging.

About 5 years ago, I was lucky enough to meet expert strength and conditioning trainer Steve Maxwell at a kettlebell certification seminar. This guy is amazing. He’s 54, and in better shape than guys half his age. One of the things that Steve taught us at that seminar was a unique series of joint mobility drills. These moves are sort of like stretching, but the goal is to get your joints warm and ready for action. There are other benefits, too…

Daily practice of these moves will almost guarantee that you’ll suffer fewer injuries. And studies also show that rhythmic movements like these can help improve your mood. So the next time you’re feeling grouchy or blue, give these drills a whirl. As if that weren’t enough, practicing these moves daily will help ward off the inevitable stiffening that comes with getting older.

Steve was kind enough to let me use the article from his site to help share this information with you. I’ve modified it just a little bit. Each of these moves should be done in sequence. The number of reps should equal your age. So if you’re older, you have to do more reps. It should take you about 10 minutes to perform the full routine.

Try this circuit before your next workout and see how much of a boost it gives you. It’s really amazing. (Remember to clear this and any other physical activity with your doctor before starting because you could get hurt.)

  1. Hula hoop. Stand straight up with your feet as wide as your hips. Begin swinging your hips in a circle like you have an imaginary hula hoop around your waist. Do your number of reps (age) in each direction. Hula hoopHula hoop
  2. Pelvic rocking. In the same position, slightly arch your back and tilt your pelvis forward. Then straighten back up. Your spine shouldn’t bend, the motion should occur around the hips. Forward and back counts as one rep. Pelvic rockingPelvic rocking
  3. Front and back body bending. Start with a short range of motion and gradually extend. Bring your body forward at the hips, and then backwards. Don’t force it, just let your body start opening up. Forward and back counts as one rep. Front and back body bendingFront and back body bending
  4. Lateral bending. With your feet still at hips’ width, bend sideways running your hand as far down the outside of your leg as you comfortably can, then come back up and do the same thing on the other side. Each side counts as one rep. Lateral bendingLateral bending
  5. Tai Chi waist twisters. Twist gently to the left. Let your right hand tap just below your left collar bone and your left hand tap your right kidney. Then twist back to the other side (your hands switch positions, too). Each side counts as one rep. Tai Chi waist twistersTai Chi waist twisters
  6. Shoulder shrugs. Shrug your shoulders up, back, down and around, and then reverse directions. Do your number of reps (age) in each direction. Shoulder shrugs.Shoulder shrugs
  7. Arm circles. Swing your arms up and then behind you, like you’re doing a double back stroke. Do your prescribed number of reps, and then reverse directions. Arm circles
  8. Sumo torso twisters. Stand with your feet nice and wide and then squat about halfway down. Put your hands on your knees and twist one shoulder forward, then the other. Try to move a little closer to the ground with each rep. Sumo torso twistersSumo torso twisters
  9. Squat rockers. Squat down slowly as far as you can. Try to keep your heels flat and kneecaps aligned over the second toes. Rock your upper body to one side, then the other while trying to “pry” your hips open. Do your number of reps (age), or as many as you comfortably can. Squat rockersSquat rockers
  10. Pumps. Start in the “downward-facing dog” position, hands shoulder-width and feet hips’ width. Lower the pelvis towards the floor while keeping the arms straight, arriving in the “upward dog” position. Push back with your hands and raise your hips back into the downward dog position. Each cycle counts as one rep. PumpsPumps

This routine works great as a warm-up, but it can also serve as an active recovery strategy on an off-day. You could even do a mini-version of this when you’re sitting at your desk all day, slowly tightening and stiffening up. Do just 5 reps of each drill to get your muscles moving and get some joint fluid moving around.