Overhaul Your Mobility and Decrease Joint Pain With This 4-Week Plan

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Some people consistently delay their trips to the dentist. Others allow unread emails to clog their inbox for weeks. But something we're all at least a little guilty of is skipping our mobility training.

This 4-week program will help your decrease joint pain and overhaul your mobility.
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But here's the thing: Mobility training can work wonders for your body, whether your joints could use a little "oil" or you want to deepen your barbell back squat. It teaches your body to work as a whole, preventing excessive stress on the individual joints, which can lead to discomfort or pain.

If you've been pushing back your mobility sessions, it may be time for a complete overhaul. Before breakfast or bedtime — really, whenever is convenient for you — set aside a few minutes to perform a few quick at-home exercises. In just four weeks, you'll feel more loose and limber and your joint pain will be part of the past.

Benefits of Mobility Training

While many of us understand mobility in a vague sense, it can be tough to nail down what exactly mobility training entails. Mobility is your joints' ability to move freely and easily through their full range of motion, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. This includes your ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and wrists.

If you're experiencing stiffness in any of those areas, it may be time to give them a little TLC. But as with any fitness goal, you'll need to make it a part of your daily routine, says Jereme Schumacher, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in San Diego.

"Improving your overall mobility doesn't happen overnight, it is something that takes consistency and practice over a period of time," Schumacher says. "[When] people have more time on their hands, it will be easier to develop good day-to-day mobility habits."

And since many people spend their days sitting at a desk, it's common to struggle with stiff hips or slumping shoulders (or both). Working on your mobility can promote blood flow through the hip joints and can fix your posture over time, Schumacher says.

Whether you want to stack all your mobility exercises into one day or spread them across the week is totally up to you. You can do them on your rest days, first thing in the morning or as a post-workout practice — the possibilities are endless.

This plan spreads the exercises across three to four days each week, giving you time to rest between sessions. But on days you feel particularly stiff or want to add extra mobility training to your workout, listen to your body and adjust as necessary.

Week 1: Hip Mobility

Week one focuses on your hip mobility.
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Day 1, Move 1: 1/2 Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch

  1. Begin in a half-kneeling position with your right knee bent at 90-degrees, foot flat on the ground.
  2. Place your left knee on the ground on top of a mat or cushion.
  3. With your hands at your sides, engage the core and glutes.
  4. Shift forward slightly until you feel a stretch across the front of your left hip and quad muscle.
  5. Raise your left arm overhead and slightly rotate the hips to the right, leaning your body gently to the right to deepen the stretch.
  6. Hold here, then repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: 3 sets of 30-second holds on each side

Tip

As you deepen the stretch, avoid over-extending through the low back by engaging the glutes, recommends Brad Whitley, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in San Diego.

Day 1, Move 2: Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Begin standing in a staggered position with your left foot about two feet in front of your right, a slight bend in both knees.
  2. Raise your right arm overhead and tilt your torso slightly to the left.
  3. Stretch through your right arm and lean slightly to the left, feeling a stretch across the front of the right hip and quad.
  4. Hold and repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: 3 sets of 30-second holds on each side

Day 2, Move 1: Active Hamstring Stretch

  1. Begin lying flat on the ground, legs extended and arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your right leg up toward the ceiling, grasping your thigh below the knee joint.
  3. Straighten your knee and hold for a few seconds.
  4. Then bend the knee and hold for a few more moments.
  5. Continue to bend and straighten the knee for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Reps: 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side

Day 2, Move 2: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  1. Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Shift your weight into your right foot and maintain a slight bend in the right knee.
  2. Keeping the core tight, shift your torso forward with your back flat.
  3. At the same time, raise your left leg straight out behind you.
  4. Reach for your right toes with your left hand as you lower.
  5. Lean as far as you can maintain a flat back, then return to standing.

Reps: 3 sets of 10 on each leg

Tip

"Maintain soft bend in knee," Whitley says. "Shift your weight into the heel to [create] tension into hamstring as body moves over the hip."

Day 3, Move 1: World's Greatest Stretch

  1. Begin in a low lunge with your left leg bent at 90 degrees and your right leg extended straight behind you.
  2. Place your right palm on the ground on the right side of your left knee.
  3. Twist your torso to face the left and raise your left arm straight up toward the ceiling.
  4. Focus on rotating in your spine (not your shoulders).
  5. Hold and repeat on the opposite side.

Reps: 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side

Day 3, Move 2: Hip 90-90

  1. Begin seated on the ground, facing the left side.
  2. Bend your left leg at 90 degrees in front of your torso, inside of the leg facing up.
  3. Then, bend your right leg to 90 degrees with the outside of your leg facing up.
  4. Place your palms on the ground and slowly bend forward over your left knee, holding for a few moments.
  5. Then, rotate your body to the right, flipping your legs over, maintaining the 90-degree bend. Now, the inside of your right leg and outside of your left leg should face up.
  6. With palms on the ground, lean forward and hold for a few moments.
  7. Alternate between left and right sides.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds

Day 4, Move 1: Glute and External Rotator Foam Rolling

  1. Begin sitting on the floor, legs straight out in front of you, palms slightly behind your body.
  2. Place a foam roller under your glutes, leaning onto the left side.
  3. Roll up and down your left glute, tilting slightly to the left.
  4. Then, bend your knees, feet flat on the floor.
  5. Bring your left ankle across your right knee and foam roll up and down the left glute.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Day 4, Move 2: Adductor Foam Rolling

  1. Begin lying on your stomach and propped up on your forearms.
  2. Open your right hip out over a foam roller. Align the roller the long way so that it's parallel to the body and perpendicular to your thigh.
  3. Place weight into your right leg and foam roll up and down the thigh, pausing when you find a tense spot for 10 to 30 seconds.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Day 4, Move 3: Quad Foam Rolling

  1. Begin lying on your stomach and propped up on your forearm.
  2. Place a foam roller under your left quad, right above the knee. Position your right knee on the floor for balance.
  3. Roll up and down the front of the left leg, massaging the left quad muscle. Pause for 10 to 30 seconds if you feel tight points.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Week 2: Lower Back Mobility

This week will focus on your lower back mobility.
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Day 1, Move 1: Child's Pose Lat Stretch

  1. Start kneeling with your knees on the ground, glutes and hips resting lightly on your heels.
  2. Keeping your lower body in place, walk your hands forward above your head and bend your torso across the ground, letting your forehead rest on your mat or floor.
  3. Walk your outstretched hands over to the right, feeling a stretch across the left side of your body.
  4. Pause her for a few breaths, then walk your hands back to the middle.
  5. Repeat this stretch on the right side.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Tip

You can add a breathing sequence to this move to intensify the stretch, Whitley says. With every exhale, stretch deeper into the right or left side. Try holding each side for five deep breaths.

Day 2, Move 1: Prone Press-Up

  1. Begin lying on your stomach, legs extended out behind you. Place your palms under you shoulders.
  2. On an exhale, press into your palms and bring your shoulder blades down and back to raise your chest and torso off the ground. As you rise up, keep your lower body stable.
  3. Pause for a moment, then lower back down.

Reps: 3 sets of 60-second press-ups, pausing 30 seconds between sets

Tip

"Instead of using your spinal erectors (muscles along your spine) to extend, try to use your arms to actively gain extension," Whitley says. Throughout this movement, keep your neck long, eyes facing down.

Day 2, Move 2: Cat/Cow

  1. Begin on all fours, knees in line with your hips, shoulders stacked over palms.
  2. Slowly arch your back, raising your chin up toward the ceiling, pausing for a moment.
  3. Then, round your upper back, drawing the navel into the spine, raising the back toward the ceiling.
  4. Alternate between these two motions.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds

Day 3, Move 1: Supine Lumbar Rotations

  1. Begin lying on your back with arms out at your sides and knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keeping your arms out, rotate your knees to the left side, placing your palm on top of your right knee to press it closer to the ground.
  3. Pause here for a moment, then switch sides, rotating to the right.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds

Tip

"Try to keep both shoulders on ground, focusing on rotating through low back," Whitley says.

Day 3, Move 2: Quadratus Lumborum Stretch

  1. Start standing straight with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping your left leg planted, reach your right leg a few feet back and across your body at a diagonal angle.
  3. At the same time, reach your right hand above the head, leaning to your left.
  4. Pause here for a breath, then switch sides.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds

Week 3: Upper Back and Neck Mobility

The third week is all upper back and neck.
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Day 1, Move 1: Thoracic Extension

  1. Start seated on the ground with either legs in front of you or crossed.
  2. Sit with your back against either a couch or chair.
  3. Place your hands behind your neck, elbows along the sides of your head.
  4. Reach your elbows toward the ceiling, extending your upper back across the back of the chair or couch.
  5. Pause for a moment, then return to the starting position.

Reps: 3 sets 60 seconds

Day 1, Move 2: Side Lying Thoracic Rotation

  1. Lie on your left side, knees bent and hips stacked.
  2. Bring your your arms out straight in front of you, palms on top of one another.
  3. Keeping your hips, legs and left arm in place, bring your right arm up and across your body, extending it straight out to the right.
  4. Simultaneously, rotate your torso to face the ceiling and gaze over to your right.
  5. Reverse the motion and return to the starting position on your left.

Reps: 3 sets for 60 seconds on each side

Day 2, Move 1: Thoracic Extension and Rotation

  1. Begin on all fours, hips stacked over knees and shoulders over palms. Your spine should be netural.
  2. Bring your right hand behind your head, bending at the elbow.
  3. Bring your right elbow up toward the ceiling, opening up your chest toward the right.
  4. Then, bring the elbow back down to face the ground.

Reps: 3 sets for 60 seconds on each side

Day 3, Move 1: Thread the Needle

  1. Begin on all fours, hips stacked over your knees and shoulders directly over your palms. Keep your spine in a neutral position
  2. Raise your right hand up toward the ceiling, rotating your chest to the right.
  3. Then loop your right arm under your left armpit.
  4. Move your left palm a foot forward to deepen the stretch.
  5. Then, bring the arm back up.

Reps: 3 sets for 60 seconds on each side

Day 3, Move 2: Neck CARS

  1. Start seated or kneeling on the floor, arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly, draw a circle up and around your face with your nose.
  3. Start with a smaller circle and get larger with every full rotation, keeping a steady pace.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds in each direction

Tip

"Try working in postures other than the standard sitting and standing positions," says Cameron Yuen, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York. "Try sitting on the floor with your legs crossed or straight out in front of you. ... Adopting different postures throughout the day adds up and can help with both keeping and improving mobility."

Week 4: Shoulder and Wrist Mobility

The last week of this overhaul focuses on your wrists and shoulders.
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Day 1, Move 1: Shoulder CARs

  1. Sit in a half-kneeling position with your left leg bent at 90 degrees and right knee on the floor.
  2. Keep your neck in a neutral position, core braced.
  3. With your right arm straight, begin to rotate your shoulder straight around as if your arm were a large compass drawing a circle.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Tip

"Make sure to keep your torso still," says Samuel Chan, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York. "Do not let your back arch or rotate while you move through this exercise."

Day 2, Move 1: Posterior Capsule Stretch

  1. Kneel on the ground or sit cross-legged.
  2. Raise your left arm straight out in front of your body and hook your right arm under the left elbow.
  3. With your right arm, draw your left across your body, keeping your back flat.
  4. Pause for a few moments and bring your left arm straight in front of you.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

Day 3, Move 1: Wrist Flexor Stretch

  1. Start in a seated or kneeling position.
  2. Extend your right arm straight in front of you, keeping a neutral back.
  3. Tilt your wrist until your fingers face the ceiling.
  4. Grasp your right fingers with your left hand.
  5. Gently, pull the fingers back toward the right wrist.
  6. Release the fingers back to face the ceiling.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds each side

Day 3, Move 2: Wrist Extensor Stretch

  1. Start in a seated or kneeling position.
  2. Extend your right arm straight in front of you, keeping a neutral back.
  3. Tilt your wrist until your fingers face the floor.
  4. Grasp the top of your right fingers with your left hand.
  5. Gently, press the fingers down for a moment and release.

Reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds on each side

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