exercises to help you move better and stronger

8 Exercises to Help You Move Infinitely Better

You’ll get stronger, too.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Alec Kugler

Not sure about you, but as we grow out of our bendy and flexible baby-to-teen-year bodies, rudimentary tasks like reaching for your phone behind the couch, carrying five Erewhon grocery bags in one go, or getting out of a sports car (ha!) become, er, stiff. That’s why doing certain exercises in a certain succession really matter. “Functional strength training is simply purposeful training to move better,” says Thea Hughes, Lead Coach and Creative Marketing Director at Session in Brooklyn, New York. “The goal with this plan is to first prime your body for a workout and then activate various planes of movements so that each exercise is doing double duty for you. By incorporating unilateral movements, you are recruiting stabilizers that not only build muscle, but avoid injury.

“How many times do you pick up something from the floor with your limbs reaching in all different directions? Practice strengthening unilateral behaviors, since most of our day-to-day movements are done on one leg or with one arm (unless you’re picking up that piece of paper with perfect squat form every time, unlike me).”

 


Exercise Prep + Mobility = 1 set


 

Move #1: Foam Roll

“Before every workout, foam rolling is an excellent way to prepare your body for movement. Rolling decreases muscle density and aids in recovery from previous workouts.”

How it’s done: “Starting at the calves, apply body weight onto a foam roller, and begin to smoothly move forward and back, applying more pressure to areas that maybe need it along the way. Slowly work your way up your body, ending at the thoracic spine. Of course, feel free to spend a little longer on any areas that need that extra bit of TLC. Aim for 10 rolls per area for about three to five minutes total.”

 

Move #2: Shoulder Mobility

“As a next step, mobility is crucial to ensuring that your joints are primed for movement! The floor slide helps your overhead press by not only activating external rotators, as well as lower trap and rhomboid muscles, but also stretching internal rotators and pecs. This is a great drill to pair with breathing for added core stabilization and feels incredible.”

How it’s done: “Laying on your back, with feet firmly on the ground, place your arms in a ‘goal post’ position with hands, wrists, and elbows flat against the floor. Actively pressing your arms into the ground, take a deep breath in [and] glide your arms up as far as possible without losing contact with the floor as you exhale. Inhale to return, and repeat ten times.”

 

Move #3: Thoracic Mobility

“Just as we practice our squats regularly during workouts, it’s important to practice the movements our joints do day in and day out. Our upper spine (thoracic spine) is intended to be mobile, so let’s get some mobility in!”

How it’s done: “Starting on all fours, sit hips back to heels and place your left hand on the ground with the right hand at the left rib cage. Breath in, and as you exhale, slowly twist the head and chest towards the ceiling without letting your hips lose contact with your heels. Return to the start, and repeat for five times total on each side.”

 


Strength Circuit


 

Move #4: Bulgarian Split Squat

“A great way to improve your squat without placing a barbell on your back is with a split squat. To up the ante, elevate your rear foot to focus on single-leg strength, specifically targeting the glutes and hamstrings.”

How it’s done: “Before adding any weight, place your right foot on an elevated surface and slowly lower down into a split squat position. Check that your left knee is directly above the left ankle and your right hip above your right knee. If so, you’re ready to roll. Press through your front heel as you stand up, and repeat for ten reps per side. Aim for three to four rounds.”

 

Move #5: Single-Arm Overhead Press

“After doing some shoulder mobility work, you should be primed for a good old-fashioned overhead press. Only this time we are taking one arm out of the equation to work on rotary stability (aka resisting movement in the torso) and single-arm strength.”

How it’s done: “In a half-kneeling position, press one arm overhead with a single dumbbell while keeping the torso stable. Lower back to a racked position, and repeat for 10-12 reps. Aim for three to four rounds.”

 

Moving #6: Single-Leg Dead Lift

“A great drill to do when you want to work on your form, and also a challenging exercise to do once you incorporate a load.”

How it’s done: “With a soft bend in both knees, hinge at the hips, driving the torso forward and extending one leg behind you. Be sure to keep your back long and straight and without losing the bend in your supporting knee. Press through the supporting heel as you return to standing. Use a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells to add some heat. Repeat 10-12 times per side for three to four rounds.”

 

Move #7: Anti-Extension Body Saw

“Instead of actively working out your core, think about actively resisting movement in your torso. Anti-extension and anti-rotation fire up your core muscles and are key to avoiding low back injuries by activating stabilizers.”

How it’s done: “In a forearm plank position, elbows under your shoulders and a long line from your head to toes, begin to saw your arms out. Resisting any movement in your lumbar spine, find a breathing pattern and repeat for 20 seconds. Rest, then get back to it for a total of three rounds.”

 

Move #8: Suitcase Carry

“Carrying your groceries just got a little more enjoyable—this one is for the obliques.”

How it’s done: “Begin with a weight on the ground directly beside your right foot. Exhale as you squat down, grab either the dumbbell or kettlebell, and exhale as you extend your hips back to stand up. Holding your torso upright, walk from one end of the room and back without leaning in one direction or the other. Squat low to return the weight to the ground. Stand up, turn around, and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep; do a total of two to three times per side.”

 

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