5 Joint Mobility Exercises to Improve Flexibility

Woman doing a lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

A loss of mobility and flexibility can make you feel stiff and tight, causing certain activities and movements to feel off. Perhaps you're unable to complete certain exercises in the full range of motion required, or maybe reaching to put groceries away on a high shelf feels too difficult.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Klein, founder of Broadway Chiropractic & Wellness Center NYC, we lose flexibility as we age. "You need to continually work on flexibility your entire life—it's something you can lose very quickly, but you can also get your mobility back very quickly, too," he says.

While you can't stop the aging process, you can incorporate exercises that strive to improve mobility and flexibility into your weekly routine.

Joint Mobility Exercises

"Joint mobility exercises should be done 2-3 times per week for 20-minute intervals to achieve a general stretching of the body," recommends Klein.

Joint mobility exercises such as the ones listed below can lead to a "better range of motion throughout the body, easier to perform activities of daily living, and better blood flow of muscular components. You're also less likely to get injured," explains Klein.

Some reasons for a lack of mobility can be serious, such as injury, infection, arthritis, brain or nerve conditions. Never move past pain and make sure to discuss these exercises with your healthcare provider before adding them into your routine.

Cat-Cow

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The cat-cow is a common movement used to increase spinal mobility and flexibility. It's often performed in yoga sequences.

  1. Get into a hands and knees position (tabletop) with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
  2. Gaze down and out; curl your toes under.
  3. Tilt your pelvis back, lift your tailbone, then continue the movement up your spine with your neck moving last.
  4. Drop your belly toward the floor with your core engaged and gaze toward the ceiling.
  5. Place the tops of your feet on the floor and tuck your tailbone under, continuing this movement up your spine.
  6. Drop your head and gaze toward your navel.
  7. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths.

Wall Angels

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Wall angels improve your shoulder and back mobility.

  1. Sit tall against a wall and make an “L” with your body.
  2. Press your entire back flat into the wall and extend your legs. 
  3. Raise your elbows until level with your shoulders while pressing the backs of your arms against the wall. 
  4. Rotate your arms up, pressing your forearms, and the backs of your hands into the wall.
  5. Slowly raise your arms above your head, continuing until your shoulders and elbows are fully extended. Keep your back pressed into the wall without arching. 
  6. Lower your arms until your triceps are parallel to the floor. 
  7. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps. 

90-90

The 90-90 exercise is excellent for increasing hip mobility and stretching your lower back. It is an effective movement for alleviating and preventing low back and hip pain.

  1. Sit on the ground with your right leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle and your left leg behind you at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Sit up tall and straight with your left knee in line with your left arm if you raise it straight, and your hip and shoulder in line.
  3. Place your right hand beside you, palm down, fingers pointing behind you to support your posture.
  4. Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths, or if it feels good, lean forward, angling your torso over your front knee, and hold for a few breaths before raising up.
  5. Switch legs and repeat.

Lunge With a Twist

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lunging is a fundamental human movement that helps maintain and increase mobility in your lower body. When you add a twist, your entire spine becomes involved.

  1. Step forward with your right foot, and lower into a basic lunge position.
  2. Twist your upper body to the right while trying to keep your hips forward. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes. Don't rotate your knee open but keep a firm stance.
  3. Return to center in a slow and controlled manner.
  4. Step the right foot back to return to the starting position.
  5. Switch sides and repeat.

Perform this exercise without a weight until you you've mastered it. Adding a weight will increase the challenge to your muscles, but that isn't necessary to increase mobility.

Gate Opener

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Gate openers help improve the mobility of your hips, pelvis, and spine, including the psoas muscle, which has a tendency to become tight.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes forward or slightly outward, your arms down by your sides.
  2. Stand tall with your core braced; your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
  3. Place your weight on your right foot and raise your left leg up with your knee bent. Rotate your leg in and across the center of your body.
  4. Move the leg to the left next, opening your hip as far as comfortable. Maintain a braced core, hips facing forward, and keep your body still.
  5. Return the left leg to the starting position and repeat on the right side. 
  6. Try 10 gate openers on each side. 

A Word From Verywell

Mobility work provides you with the best chance of maintaining your range of motion and flexibility. These aspects of physical health are crucial for daily functioning and healthy aging, preventing injuries and allowing you to participate in activities that boost your quality of life.

If you are concerned about your mobility or feel increasingly stiff and limited in movement, be sure to speak with a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is joint mobility important?

    Joint mobility is important because it allows you to move in natural ways, making daily functioning less strenuous. It's also vital for proper exercise technique for strength training.

  • How do you improve joint movement?

    You can improve joint movement by increasing your joint mobility and your flexibility through range of motion/mobility exercises and stretching.

  • Can you regain joint mobility once it is lost?

    You can gain your mobility back by instituting a stretching program in your routine. Dr. Klein recommends a basic stretching of the hips and shoulders, stretching the back, and stretching the legs, which are all great exercises. 

  • Why do joints lose mobility?

    "Joints lose mobility with not enough use. You know the old saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it." if you stop using your joints, such as while you're sitting all day, you'll lose flexibility in your legs because your legs aren't moving," says Dr. Jeffrey Klein.

Was this page helpful?
7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pallarés JG, Hernández‐Belmonte A, Martínez‐Cava A, Vetrovsky T, Steffl M, Courel‐Ibáñez J. Effects of range of motion on resistance training adaptations: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2021;31(10):1866-1881. doi:10.1111/sms.14006

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Limited Range of Motion.

  3. Shariat A, Anastasio AT, Soheili S, Rostad M. Home-based fundamental approach to alleviate low back pain using myofascial release, stretching, and spinal musculature strengthening during the COVID-19 pandemic. WOR. 2020;67(1):11-19. doi:10.3233/WOR-203248

  4. Reddy RS, Alahmari KA. Effect of lower extremity stretching exercises on balance in geriatric populationInt J Health Sci (Qassim). 2016;10(3):389-395.

  5. American Council on Exercise. Standing Gate Openers (Frankensteins).

  6. Brahms CM, Hortobágyi T, Kressig RW, Granacher U. The interaction between mobility status and exercise specificity in older adults. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. 2021;49(1):15-22. doi:10.1249/JES.0000000000000237

  7. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J. Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: A systematic review. SAGE Open Medicine. 2020;8:205031212090155. doi:10.1177%2F2050312120901559