Remember the days when you could just walk into the gym, do a couple of leg swings, crack your knuckles, and start squatting? They were nice while they lasted.
If you haven’t realized it already, neglecting to warm up properly is one of the surest routes to injury, and if you’re approaching middle age (or beyond), skipping or half-assing your warmup simply isn’t an option anymore.
Every weight training session should be preceded by mobility work — exercises that take your body through the ranges of motion you’re going to use in your workout, elongating and activating the muscles you need to perform. “Mobility drills provide a better warmup than old-fashioned static stretching,” says David Jack, creator of the Men’s Health Muscle After 40 (MA40) program.
“They not only increase your ranges of motion, they help you control your body in those new ranges — so you learn to own your position.” In terms of lower body training, mobilizing the hip flexors, hamstrings, and adductors means you’ll start to feel more comfortable in the bottom of a squat, hinging your hips back on a deadlift variation, and balancing on one leg during a lunge.
Below you’ll find Jack’s six favorite mobility exercises for the lower body. Work on them before any workout that includes squat, deadlift, and lunge variations, and you’ll reduce your risk for lower back, hip, and knee pain.
Perform the exercises below in sequence to warm up for a lower-body workout. Do 8–10 reps of each (on each side), except where otherwise noted.
*Do 3 reps back and forth, then stop, stand, and repeat on the other side.
*Pull your knee to your chest and hold 3 seconds. Then, when you extend your knee, take two full breaths, trying to pull your leg a little closer toward you after each breath. Now flex and extend the ankle four times. Repeat on the other side.
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