Flexibility is required in all day to day activities such as walking, bending, lifting, etc. Being flexible allows your muscles to remain mobile and healthy. Many people confuse mobility with flexibility. So let us first understand the difference between the two. 

Mobility is dynamic or active, whereas flexibility is passive. For example, flexibility is when you can pull your thumb back with your other hand, so it touches your wrist. In contrast, mobility is the ability to get your thumb to that exact same spot on your wrist without the help of the other hand. 

Flexibility is the ability of your joints to move through their full range of motion without pain or stiffness. Flexible muscles and tendons allow for a greater range of motion during activities. 

Want to improve your joint flexibility? Try these five exercises so you can move better, allowing you to improve strength and increase performance during your workout. 


1. Neck half circles

Neck mobility is often ignored despite its importance in everyday activities. Poor neck movement can lead to pain and problems in the neck, head, and upper back. 

How to perform:

  • Sit or stand comfortably with your hands on your lap.
  • Tilt your head to one side until you feel a stretch.
  • Slowly roll your head forward to bring your chin to your chest, only going as far as you can without pain.
  • Continue to roll your head to the other side until you feel a stretch along the opposite side of your neck. 
  • Make 3 half circles, moving slowly and smoothly through the motion.

Equipment needed: None 

Muscles worked: Trapezius, neck flexors and extensors


2. Shoulder pass-through 

Poor posture can cause many people to be tight through their chest and front of the shoulder. Warming up the shoulders before a workout will help improve your form and also prevent injury. 

How to perform:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a broomstick parallel to the floor. Use an overhand grip holding the bar as wide as possible. 
  • Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise the broomstick above your head. Hold your core tight to maintain good posture and balance.
  • Bring the broomstick behind your head as far as you’re able. Hold for 2 seconds and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5 times. 

Equipment needed: Broomstick or PVC pipe 

Muscles worked: Rotator cuff, anterior deltoid, chest, and upper back 


3. Thoracic spine windmills on floor 

Your thoracic spine is in the middle of your back, from the base of the neck down to where your rib cage ends. Good mobility in the thoracic spine allows you to move your arms freely over your head and turn side to side, whereas poor mobility can lead to shoulder and upper back pain as well as poor posture. 

How to perform:

  • Lie on the floor on your side.
  • Bend your knees and hips to just past 90 degrees, resting your knees beside you on the floor. Straighten your bottom leg and rest your top leg on a foam roller or a towel without changing its position.
  • Extend both your arms together along the floor, straight out in front of your body. They should be stacked, palms together, at shoulder height.
  • Slowly lift your top arm and rotate it away from you, opening up your chest to the ceiling. Rotate your head and trunk until your hand is on the other side of your body.
  • If possible, hold this position for 3 seconds and slowly bring it back to touch your other hand.
  • Repeat 5 times on each side. 

Equipment needed: towel or foam roller 

Muscles worked: core muscles, upper back, spine stabilizing muscles, and obliques 


4. Walking hip openers 

Your hip joint is a ball and socket that moves in all directions. It’s important to warm up the hip and surrounding muscles before any workout, since they’re key contributors to balance and stability.

How to perform:

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, plant your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Lift your left knee to your chest, make a circle with your left knee, bringing it up and across your body and then out to the side and down, place your left foot on the floor and repeat on the right side.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Repeat the sequence moving your legs in the opposite direction by bringing your leg out to the side first and then across your body. 

Equipment needed: None 

Muscles worked: Glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, hip abductors, hip  adductors 


5. Ankle mobility 

Good ankle mobility contributes to better balance, fewer falls, and better performance during activities like squats and deadlifts. 

How to perform:

  • Stand tall next to a wall, place one hand on the wall for support, slowly rock forward onto your toes, coming into a tip-toe position.
  • Slowly rock back onto your heels, lifting your toes off the ground. 
  • Repeat 10 times. 

Equipment needed: None 

Movement: Ankle dorsiflexion, plantar flexion

Beginners can improve their flexibility by doing each stretching exercise at least 4 times each session.

  • Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 15–30 seconds.
  • Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch a little farther.  

Always remember to breathe while stretching. 

Apart from the above-mentioned mobility exercises, one can practise the following for more flexibility -

  • Yoga 
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates 

Joint mobility can have many benefits on function for people at all stages of life. It’s an important part of a workout for athletes or gym-goers and can also be beneficial for older adults with arthritis or joint pain.

Please Note - Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Dynamic warm-up and range of motion exercises may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with previous injuries or joint replacements. If you’re unsure about whether you're doing these exercises correctly, seek help from a qualified professional, such as a physical therapist.


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