Just as you need to include workouts to build strength and boost your cardiovascular health, you need mobility exercises, too.
Mobility is related to flexibility, but they’re not the same.
Flexibility is about your muscles’ ability to lengthen and move through a range of motion.
Mobility is about your joints’ ability to move through a range of motion.
“If the joints in your body become immobile (i.e., tight), then it will be difficult for you to move your body, no matter how strong or weak you are,” explains Theresa Marko, P.T., D.P.T., M.S.
Mobility exercises also help to keep the surfaces of the joints lubricated with synovial fluid, explains Kristian Flores, C.S.C.S.
This fluid also delivers essential nutrients to your cartilage and serves as a shock absorber.
These mobility exercises — two for each set of joints — can help your range of motion from head to toe. Marko suggests aiming for 2 to 3 sessions a week.
1. Looking Side-to-Side (Neck Mobility)
- Pull your shoulder blades down away from your ears.
- Turn your head gently to look right.
- Turn your head gently to look left.
- Hold in any spot that feels tight or tender.
2. Wall Slides (Shoulder Mobility)
- Stand close to a wall, facing it, with your pinkies on the wall, thumbs facing you at shoulder-height.
- Slide your hands up toward the ceiling as far as you can go.
- Slide your hands back down to their starting position.
- Each time you do this, try to extend the arms further up the wall a little bit or step closer.
3. Lying Internal Rotation (Shoulder Mobility)
- Lie on your back on the floor with your arms out to your side at 90 degrees.
- Leave your upper arms on the floor but raise your hands and lower arms straight up in the air.
- Moving just your shoulders, rotate your arms to lower your palms as close to the floor as possible. Stop when you feel resistance.
- Reverse the movement and try to get the top of your hands as close to the floor as possible.
Pro tip: If it doesn’t hurt your shoulder, Marko suggests using a 1- or 2-pound weight to extend your range of motion.
4. Palms Up and Down (Wrist Mobility)
- While sitting or standing, reach your arms straight out to the sides.
- Keep your palms up with your fingers spread wide.
- Slowly rotate your wrists until your palms are facing the floor.
- Reverse the movement (palms up).
- Repeat several times, keeping your chest open.
Pro tip: You can also start with one palm up and the other down. If your arms feel tight, pause for some triceps stretches.
5. Wrist Circles (Wrist Mobility)
- Place your hands in prayer position at the center of your chest, then lace your fingers together.
- Moving both hands together, slowly rotate your wrists so your knuckles touch your heart.
- Reverse the movement and rotate your wrists so the heels of your hands touch your heart. Keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears.
6. Crossover Reaches (Thoracic Mobility)
- Start in tabletop position on the ground, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Reach your right hand under your body toward your left side as far as you can. Hold this position for several seconds.
- Pull your right arm back and reach it above and over your body as far as you can.
- Hold this position for several seconds and focus on keeping your hips square.
- Return your right hand to the floor and repeat with your left arm.
Pro tip: This movement should come through your spine’s ability to twist, not by turning your shoulders and hips. Focus on keeping your hips level.
Pair these with our best back stretches to work out any kinks from slouching over your computer.
7. Crossover Hip Sways (Hip Mobility)
- Start by standing, then step your right foot across and over your left. Keep both feet flat.
- Lean your hips to the right until you feel a stretch.
- Hold for several seconds. Release and repeat.
- Switch legs, crossing your left foot over your right.
Pro tip: This movement is essential for people who have desk jobs. “We need to actively spend time working on the mobility of the hip and thoracic spine to counteract the sitting,” says Marko.
8. 90/90 Hip Rotations (Hip Mobility)
- Start by sitting on the ground. Place your right leg at a 90-degree angle in front of your body, while keeping your knee on the ground.
- Place your left leg behind you at a 90-degree angle, also keeping the knee on the ground.
- Hold this position for a few breaths until you feel your hips loosen. For more of a stretch, place your hands on either side of your right leg.
- To switch sides, walk your hands back in, then slowly rotate your hips to the left and allow both feet to touch the floor while your knees lift.
- Reverse the movement, with the left leg in front and right leg in back.
9. Knee Circles (Knee Mobility)
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back into a half-squat.
- Rest your hands gently on your knees (no pushing!). Use them to guide your knees in circles, first both of them together then apart.
- After five circles, reverse direction — do five circles with your knees moving away from each other.
10. Dorsiflexion Exercise (Ankle Mobility)
- Start in a standing lunge position with your right leg behind you.
- Bend your right knee as far as it will go, then straighten it again.
- Repeat several times, then switch legs.
Pro tip: Dorsiflexion involves moving your toes toward your shin, and it’s essential for walking, Marko says.
11. Ankle Circles (Ankle Mobility)
- Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you.
- Trace a clockwise circle with your right foot.
- Repeat several times, then change directions.
- Switch legs and repeat in both directions with your left ankle.