As a Movement Coach, I don't simply help people exercise-- I help my clients become more functional movers. Being a functional mover involves utilising your musculoskeletal system in the most efficient way, to your fullest range of motion, so that you become stronger, more flexible, more fluid and you have more control over your body at all times (even when going about your daily life). If you are sitting in front of a desk all day long, you are putting a lot of chronic stress on your shoulders, neck, spine and hips. This stress causes stiff joints, weak nueromuscular activity, tight muscles and sometimes myofascial knots (all things that cause pain and can lead to injury). So in addition to strength and conditioning, we focus a lot on exercises that involve being strong in a full range of motion to increase mobility (flexibility + strength = mobility).
If you want to avoid pain as you age and maintain your independence, then becoming a functional mover needs to be a priority and developing a mobility practice is imperative. Start with a few minutes of stretching a day and as you adapt, increase the time or frequency. Here are some great beginner to intermediate movements for the hips and hamstrings (note that these are sped up GIFs, perform these movements slowly and intentionally):
Standing Straddle Pulse and Hold
Cues: Spread legs wide (the wider, the easier), toes face forward with feet flat, squeeze Quads, keeping your back flat and the hips in line with your feet, hinge forward. Do not let your back round or your knees bend.
Reps and Sets: This can be done as a static hold for time, pulses for repetitions or a combination of both. Hinge and pulse between 10-15 times and then hold your deepest hinge for up to a minute on the last pulse. Perform for one to three sets.
Deep Squat to Pike
Cues: Find your deepest squat without allowing your heels to lift, keep your back as flat as possible the whole time, straighten legs in pike as much as possible, keep knees tracking over second and third toes in the squat and as you flow between pike and squat. You can hold onto a table or chair for assistance if you are very tight.
Reps and Sets: Set a timer for 2 minutes and slowly shift between your deepest squat and the pike. Perform for one set.
Cues: Elevate the extended to a challenging but comfortable height (can be lower than a chair or higher), keep extended leg straight by squeezing Quads, sit the butt back and bend the standing leg to squat until you feel a stretch in the extended leg. Keep foot of extended leg in dorsiflexion and keep the knee of the squatting let tracking over the second and third toes of the standing foot.
Reps and Sets: Perform 15-20 squats on each leg and hold the last repetition at the lowest point for 30 seconds. If the squat bothers your knee, you can simply hold the stretch (with the standing leg straight) for up to 2 minutes. Perform one to three sets.
Half Front Split Hip Hinge
Cues: Keep legs hip distance a part and keep hips squared to the front, squeeze the Quads on the front leg, keep butt stacked over bent knee (do not let your butt shift backwards as you hinge), keep back as flat as possible and draw chest toward thigh, do not let the shoulders round.
Reps and Sets: Hinge 10-15 times for each leg and hold the last rep in your deepest range of motion for 30 seconds. If hinging up and down is too hard, hinge once and hold the static stretch for one to two minutes. Perform one to three sets.
Cossack Squat Shifts
Cues: Stand with legs wide, feet flat and forward, sit the butt back and squat to one side as deep as possible, keep the back flat and the chest tall (do not let your chest become parallel to the floor), keep bent knee tracking over second and third toes, keep extended leg straight by squeezing the Quads, rotate extended leg's knee to face ceiling as you squat to the other side. Keep your chest square to the front. Use your hands to help you shift from side to side or, for a challenge, try to glide without your hands.
Reps and Sets: Perform anywhere between 10-20 alternating repetitions (between 5-10 on each side). If you cannot get very deep or shifting from side to side is bothersome, perform a static hold for up to one minute on each side. Perform one to three sets.
Kneeling Lunge with Thoracic Rotation
Cues: Keep legs hip distance a part, hips are squared to the front, keep your butt stacked over the back knee, squeeze and tuck the butt and keep back tall, rotate your upper body towards your bent knee side and open arms to a "T". Do not let your hips rotate with your upper torso.
Reps and Sets: Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side. If it is bothersome to rotate for repetitions, perform a static hold for up to one minute on each side. Perform one to three sets.
Cues: Use the blocks the entire time if you need. Step one foot forward to the middle of your chest, move that foot towards the opposite wrist and try to keep a 90 degree angle with your knee and shin, keep the back leg straight but squeezing the Glutes and Quads. Keep the blade (entire side) of the front foot on the floor (do not let the heel lift). Press the hips down and forward, staying square to the front and you pull the front knee down towards the floor. Pulse down and up for reps.
Reps and Sets: Perform 10-15 reps on each side or perform a static hold for up to 90 seconds on each side. If this is very advanced, place yoga blocks under the butt on your front leg side or decrease the angle of the front leg shin.
As with any new exercise routine or movements, be sure to get cleared by your doctor if you have any previous health conditions. Move slowly and intentionally, pay attention to how your muscles and joints feel as you move. These movements can be performed a few times a week or every day! Enjoy!