Mobility training is a lot like flossing your teeth: Both are equally easy to either neglect or build into your daily routine. But how do you create a new habit that actually sticks? Start with the bare minimum and grow from there.
You're on your own where flossing is concerned, but we've got you covered with mobility. These five moves are totally underrated and an excellent place to start keeping your joints healthy. To move more smoothly in your day-to-day life, Sam Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City, suggests you run through these mobility exercises every day.
Aim for three sets of each of these five moves. If that feels like too much, start with one set and build from there, gradually working your way up week-by-week.
1. Neck CARs
- Start seated or kneeling on the floor, arms at your sides.
- Slowly, draw a circle up and around your face with your nose.
- Start with a smaller circle and get larger with every full rotation, keeping a steady pace.
"Imagine a clock and try to reach every number on the clock when moving your head," Becourtney says. "Isolate the movement to the neck and resist moving through the upper back."
2. Thoracic Cat-Cow
- Begin on all fours, knees in line with your hips, shoulders stacked over hands.
- Press back so that your butt meets your heels. This is the starting position.
- Slowly arch your back, raising your chin up toward the ceiling, pausing for a moment.
- Then, round your upper back, drawing the navel into the spine, raising the back toward the ceiling.
- Alternate between these two motions.
Keeping your butt as close to your heels as possible while you move through this exercise helps isolate the upper middle back, Becourtney says.
3. Hip 90/90 Stretch
- Sit on the ground with one knee bent in front of you at 90 degrees and one knee bent behind you at 90 degrees.
- Lift both knees up and turn to face the leg behind you, keeping your heels planted on the ground.
- Keep switching back and forth.
4. Windshield Wipers
- Lie on the ground with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the ground and knees pointing toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your back and shoulder blades on the floor, drop your knees gently to the right side of your body.
- Pause here for a moment, then bring your knees back to the center.
- Drop the knees to the left, pause, then return to the start.
- Continue alternating right and left.
"Almost all Americans experience lower back pain or tightness at some point in their lifetime, and windshield wipers are an extremely simple yet effective mobility move to help loosen up the upper hip and lower back," Becourtney says.
5. Big Toe Extension Stretch
- Begin kneeling on the ground.
- Bring your left foot onto the ground in front of you.
- Keeping your right knee on the ground, tuck your right toes under the foot.
- Lean back, resting your butt lightly on your right heel.
- Imagine pulling the top of your right foot toward the knee, stretching the toes.
- Hold here, then switch sides.
Try to perform this move barefoot or in socks on a relatively soft surface to allow for the most effective but also comfortable stretch, Becourtney says.