Do This 20-Minute Side-to-Side and Rotational Workout for Healthy Joints

For healthy joints, add more side-to-side and rotational movements to your exercise routine.
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As you age, your body starts to show signs of normal wear and tear. But if you work to stay active, you can minimize some of this damage. Part of being proactive involves picking the right exercises to protect your joints and prevent injury.

"Incorporating movements and exercises in all three planes of motion is extremely important for joint health and longevity as well as your performance in day-to-day life, the gym and sport," says Grayson Wickham, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of the Movement Vault.

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Most people spend nearly all day moving in the sagittal plane (forward and backward) while they neglect the frontal plane (side to side) and transverse plane (rotation), he says.

But that can lead to mobility problems and weakness in nearly all of your muscles and joints that control side-to-side and rotational movements, Wickham says. And over time, these issues can set off a damaging domino effect as other areas of your body are forced to work double duty. Think: pain and injury.

Fortunately, you can prevent this vicious cycle and support sturdy joints with a simple strategy: Include more varied, multi-planar movements in your day-to-day activities, workouts and mobility routines. This helps improve your mobility and strength for healthier, more resilient joints, he says.

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Try This 20-Minute Workout for Healthy Joints

Designed by Wickham, this 20-minute body-weight workout can enhance your mobility and build strength in all three planes of motion. To do it, Do each exercise for 1 minute, then rest for another minute before moving to the next one.

Keep in mind that your current mobility level will dictate how big your body's available range of motion is. Whatever you do, don't overextend yourself if you feel discomfort or pain with an exercise. Instead, heed your body's cues. With repetition, you'll slowly but surely gain more flexibility and mobility.

Tip

To up the difficulty, you can increase the amount of time you do each exercise, shorten how long you rest between moves or use a weight like a dumbbell or kettlebell, Wickham says.

Or, if you need to make this workout less challenging, do each exercise for less time or lengthen your rest breaks

Move 1: Bear Crawl

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Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders.
  2. Lift your knees about 2 inches off of the ground and keep your core muscles braced the entire time. This will help you keep a relatively flat back.
  3. At the same time, step your right arm and left leg forward about 6 to 12 inches.
  4. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
  5. Continue alternating this movement.
  6. Next, move backward, following the same steps in reverse.

Tip

This walking bear plank targets your shoulder stabilizers, including your rotator cuff, rhomboid (upper back) and serratus anterior (under your armpit). It also works your core stability as well as foot, ankle and toe mobility, Wickham says.

If you don’t have much room, you can alternate the forward and backward crawls. Try taking two steps forward, then two back.

Move 2: Alternating Curtsy Lunge

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Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Put your weight into your left foot and step back and diagonally to the left with your right foot.
  3. Push your hips back and down and bend both knees to lower toward the floor as far as comfortable. Your front knee should be over the middle of your front foot.
  4. Hold for a second, then push through your feet and squeeze your quads and glutes to return to standing.
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

This lunge variation works your hips in the side-to-side and rotational planes of motion, Wickham says.

Move 3: Rotational Side Plank (Left)

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Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start in a side plank with your left arm straight (or rest on your left forearm with your elbow beneath your shoulder), keeping your core and glutes braced to help you stay in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  2. Next, raise your right arm toward the ceiling, then rotate your upper body forward and slowly reach your right arm under your body.
  3. Squeeze your abs to return to the starting position.

This exercise is great for core rotational mobility and stability, which, in turn, can help prevent lower back pain, Wickham says.

Move 4: Cossack Squat

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Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Start by standing up with your feet wide apart and pointed out at about a 45-degree angle.
  2. Shift your weight into your left leg and send your hips back, lowering into a deep lateral lunge, as you keep your right leg straight.
  3. Drive through the left foot to return to your starting position and alternate sides. Focus on keeping your chest lifted the entire time.

Tip

This exercise works your hips (especially your inner thighs' adductor muscles) and ankles, Wickham says.

But if you have tight hips and ankles, you might not be able to lower very far while keeping good form, Wickham says. Don’t push yourself. Stick to what that feels good to you. In time, you’ll be able to lower farther.

Move 5: Rotational Side Plank (Right)

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start in a side plank with your right arm straight (or rest on your right forearm with your elbow beneath your shoulder), keeping your core and glutes braced to help you stay in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  2. Next, raise your left arm toward the ceiling, then rotate your upper body forward and slowly reach your left arm under your body.
  3. Brace your core and return to starting position.

Move 6: Sideways Bear Crawl

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start ion all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders.
  2. Lift your knees about 2 inches off the ground and keep your core muscles engaged the entire time. This will help you keep a relatively flat back.
  3. Move your right arm and left leg out to one side at the same time about 6 to 12 inches.
  4. Repeat with your left arm and right leg, moving in the same direction.
  5. Continue this movement, then move in the opposite direction, following the same steps in reverse.

Tip

This side-to-side movement targets your lateral (side) shoulder and hip muscles. It's great for improving mobility and stability in your rotator cuff and gluteus medius (side glute), Wickham says.

Move 7: Plank 3-Way Toe Touch (Right)

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Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Lift your knees about 2 inches off of the ground.
  2. Next, keep your left leg (your anchor leg) bent while you straighten your right leg and reach it backward (diagonally to your left), shifting your whole body as you stretch and touch your toe down to the ground.
  3. Press through both hands and your left foot while keeping your core engaged.
  4. Shift your weight back to center.
  5. Next, reach your right leg straight back, shifting your whole body as you stretch and touch your toe to the ground.
  6. Shift your weight back to center.
  7. Then, reach your right leg out diagonally to the side, shifting your whole body backward as you stretch and touch your toe to the ground.
  8. Shift your weight back to center. That’s one rep.

Tip

This exercise fires up you core and works your hip in three different positions while incorporating toe, ankle and shoulder mobility and stability, Wickham says.

Move 8: Quadruped to Single-Arm Bridge Reach Back

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Lift your knees about 2 inches off the ground.
  2. Next, press through the ground with your right arm while rotating your entire body toward the left until your chest is pointing upward.
  3. Extend your hips upward as high as possible while squeezing your gluteus muscles and reach your left arm up and back. Focus on keeping your core engaged. This will help you keep a relatively flat back.
  4. Brace your core and slowly rotate back to the starting quadruped (hands and knees) position.
  5. Repeat the movement on your left arm.
  6. Continue to alternate sides.

Tip

This exercise hits just about everything: It works your shoulders in a frontal and transverse plane of motion. It also stretches your chest muscles while simultaneously incorporating core and hip stability, Wickham says.

Move 9: Plank 3-Way Toe Touch (Left)

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Lift your knees about 2 inches off the ground.
  2. Next, keep your right leg (your anchor leg) bent while you straighten your left leg and reach it backward (diagonally to your right), shifting your whole body as you stretch and touch your toe to the ground.
  3. Press through both hands and your right foot while keeping your core engaged.
  4. Shift your weight back to center.
  5. Next, reach your left leg straight back, shifting your whole body as you stretch and touch your toe to the ground.
  6. Shift your weight back to the center.
  7. Then, reach your left leg out diagonally to the side, shifting your whole body backward as you stretch and touch your toe to the ground.
  8. Shift your weight back to the center. That’s one rep.

Move 10: Quadruped to Single-Arm Bridge Reach Back

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start on all fours with your knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Lift your knees about 2 inches off the ground.
  2. Next, press through the ground with your right arm while rotating your entire body toward the left until your chest is pointing upward.
  3. Extend your hips upward as high as possible while squeezing your gluteus muscles and reach your left arm up and back. Focus on keeping your core engaged. This will help you keep a relatively flat back.
  4. Brace your core and slowly rotate back to the starting quadruped (hands and knees) position.
  5. Repeat the movement on your left arm.
  6. Continue to alternate sides.

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