Everybody loves a twofer exercise: Who doesn't want double the body benefits in half the time? The mermaid lift — which involves starting in a seated 90/90 position and then pushing into an upright position onto your knees without using your hands — is the ultimate two-in-one movement you've probably never heard of before.
While its primary purpose is to loosen tight hips, this amazing mobility move also moonlights as a great glute-strengthening exercise. Come to think of it, the mermaid lift is more like a three-fer because it also works your core (more on this later). That's what we call a big bang for your exercise buck.
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You can easily sneak in mermaid lifts at any time during the day — at home, at the office or wherever you can plop down on a floor — but for the best results, perform them as part of a pre-workout dynamic warm-up, says Winnie Yu, PT, DPT, CPT, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.
How to Do the Mermaid Lift
- Sit on the ground with one knee bent in front of you at 90 degrees and your other knee bent behind you at 90 degrees.
- Brace your core and activate your glutes to lift your hips off the ground into an upright position on your knees.
- Focus on engaging your core to keep your trunk upright to minimize rounding of the upper back and/or arching of the lower back.
- Squeeze your glutes in the top position, holding for two to three seconds, before slowly lowering back down to the starting position.
- Perform 10 to 12 repetitions and repeat on the other side.
4 Mermaid Lift Benefits
Here are just a few reasons to make mermaid lifts a part of your daily routine:
1. It Loosens Tight Hips
If you sit at a desk all day, the mermaid lift will feel like heaven for your tight hips. Essentially a progression of hip mobility exercises like seated hip switches and 90-90 holds, this movement "challenges your front leg's external rotation range of motion and the hind leg's internal rotation range of motion," Yu says.
Translation: Movements that require your hips and legs to rotate will feel way easier if you do this move regularly.
And this increased range of motion in your hip region has a positive downstream effect on other parts of your body. Maintaining adequate hip mobility is key to reducing the risk of straining touchier areas, like the low back and knees, Yu says.
2. It Strengthens Your Glutes
The mermaid lift is aptly named since it will lift and strengthen your buns. The movement activates and recruits many of the same glute and hip muscles as some of your favorite butt exercises like glute bridges and hip thrusts, Yu says.
That's because your glutes and other hip muscles are required to lift your hips from a seated posture to an upright position, she says.
A stronger booty is beneficial for so many functional movement patterns from walking and running to climbing stairs and squatting. Strong glute muscles also help stabilize the entire lumbopelvic area, which is where the lower back connects to the hips, Yu says.
"Developing strength in this area is key to reducing the risk of lower back and knee pain and issues," she adds.
3. It Activates Your Core
During a mermaid lift, your core must work hard to keep your trunk upright and stable, Yu says. Without a sturdy middle, you'd wobble and fall.
Think of it like this: "The front and back of the body work almost like a pulley system," Yu says. Activating your core in the front of your body can prevent you from excessively rounding or overarching the lower back on the other side of your body, she explains.
4. It Works as a Great Dynamic Warm-Up
Because mermaid lifts activate major muscles — like the hips, glutes and core — they make the perfect pre-workout warm-up move to promote blood flow and increase body temperature, Yu says.
"Having a proper warm-up routine is important for injury prevention and for the ability to work at a greater force, power and distance during your workouts," she says.
The mermaid lift gets you moving your hips through their full range of motion, which preps them to work efficiently during the workout to come.
When you're ready for a new challenge, progress to the shin box get-up, a similar exercise that involves switching sides on every rep.