Hate Doing Mobility? Here’s How to Do It Between Sets

If you're strategic, you can use downtime between sets to do the mobility work you're missing.

You should know (by now) that recovering from your training with rest, good nutrition, and the occasional soft tissue massage is essential for a body that not only looks good but performs well too.

Furthermore, most lifters know warming-up with mobility movements that get the body ready to lift are important too. And it’s amazing (at least to me) that so many miss this step and head straight to the barbell.

Here’s a quick primer on what you’re missing if you’re skipping mobility work.

  • Injury prevention: An unrestricted joint that can go through its full range of motion is a happy joint. Any restrictions in a joint pose a possible chance for injury further up the kinetic chain. For example, immobile hips can lead to low back pain.
  • Becoming stronger: If your hip mobility is limiting your squat or deadlift, then you’re not strengthening all parts of the movement.
  • Healthier joints: When you are performing mobility drills, blood and synovial fluids gets moved into the joint, preparing it for exercise.

I know that a lot of people just skip over mobility because it’s too dull or they don’t have enough time. That’s why the magic really happens when you realize you can introduce mobility into your straight sets and supersets.

Combining strength exercises with mobility drills will improve your ability to be in good exercise positions while you are training and will act as an active recovery mechanism between sets.

When time is of the essence, introducing mobility throughout your training will help you to do more work in less time. This is a win-win for you and your joints.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

When to Introduce Mobility to Your Sets (And When You Shouldn’t)

Mobility should complement your training, not take away from it. If mobility isn’t a problem for you and you’re already mobile enough, more is not necessarily better. You can recover with foam rolling or sitting down checking social media.

The movements described in this article shouldn’t take away from your strength, they should enhance it. The idea is for them to be active recovery rather than an all-out blitz on the body. They can be great additions to workouts if you’re not going very heavy — if you are, then it may be a better idea for you to completely rest between sets.

In my experience, adding mobility to straight sets or super sets can be just what the doctor ordered, especially when you’re an older lifter whose has more miles on the speedometer and has trouble getting into good exercise positions. They’re also great if you’re coming back from a long break from lifting and your movement is more likely an issue.

If you’re in a hurry and don’t address mobility in the warm up, the putting them into your training can be advisable, but take stock of how challenging your workout is and whether or not being a little active between sets is going to help or hinder your performance. After all, some folks find staying tight more helpful for deadlifts. Know your goals and work in these movements if they’ll help you achieve them.

[Explore your options with these 6 useful things powerlifters can do between sets!]

Mobility During Straight Sets

When you’re doing straight strength training sets — you know, like a 5 x 5 or any standard scheme where you’re doing the same exercise for reps and then resting before another set — don’t stand around waiting for 2-3 minutes between sets. Introduce a mobility drill to act as an active recovery instead.

Consider these examples.

Ankle Mobility

If your ankles feel stiff, your workout might look something like this:

1A. Squat or deadlift variation: 3-6 reps

1B. Rocking ankle mobilization: 8-10 reps

[Get more options with these 6 stretches to improve ankle mobility.]

Hip Mobility

If you work a desk job or sit a lot, insert a hip mobility drill because it’s likely your hips are tight from being in a sitting position.

1A. Squat, deadlift or press variation: 3- 6 reps

1B. Half kneeling hip flexor mobility: 10 reps each side

Shoulder Mobility

Likewise, sitting at a desk makes it really easy to have rounded shoulders. Try this movement to open them up.

1A. Squat, deadlift or press variation: 3- 6 reps

1B. Back to the wall shoulder flexion: 8 reps

Mobility During Supersets

Things can be trickier if you’re doing supersets — instead of doing the same exercise for sets and reps, you’re pairing two different exercises. Adding in a mobility drill (making it a tri-set) acts as an active recovery and helps you get ready for the next exercise.

[Read more about different ways to utilize supersets!]

For example,

1A. Lower body exercise: 8-12 reps

1B. Upper body exercise: 8-12 reps

1C. Knee break ankle mobility or Hip flexor mobilization: 8 reps.

And if you really want some extra work on your legs, here’s a lower body tri set that hits ‘em from almost every angle.

1A. Squat or deadlift variation 6-8 reps

1B. Hamstring variation 12 reps

1C. Bulgarian split squat iso hold 30 seconds on each leg

[Hips need work after a long day of sitting? Try these 8 stretches to unlock your hips.]

Or when you need extra core work

1A. Upper body exercise 8-12 reps

1B. Lower body exercise 8-12 reps

1C. Weighted deadbugs – 8 reps

Wrapping Up

It’s fair to say that it’s not always easy to work in mobility. Maybe you’re hitting extremely taxing compound lifts and you need every second of your rest to do absolutely nothing, (It’s controversial to recommend this unilaterally, but it’s not an uncommon approach to heavy sets.) Or perhaps you’re hitting really tough deadlifts, so taxing the core with weighted deadbugs while you rest isn’t ideal. We’re not saying every lifter should always engage with these protocols on every workout, rather that these can be useful templates to work from if it makes sense for your workouts.

After all, spending a little extra time on improving your movement quality will help you lift for the long haul and help reduce all those little aches and pains that crop up along the way.

Featured image via Eric Cressey on YouTube.

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

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