Stay limber and invigorated with this full-body mobility routine.

We all know we need to stretch and move our bodies more, especially if we have to spend a big part of our day sitting at work or in our cars. And even if we have standing desks or are lucky enough to get up and move around regularly, we still don’t put our body through its full range of motion.

This is why I want to share this efficient and effective full-body mobility routine that can help keep you from feeling tight and stiff after a long day. It can also be a great warm-up before your gym or at-home workouts!

Because they are often neglected in our daily movement patterns, the neck and spine are emphasized in this routine. This routine also follows a general “center to outward” pattern, which is an efficient way to build upon movements, and the beginning of the routine is a natural warm-up for the rest of it.

At a good steady pace without rushing, this routine takes about 10 minutes of your time, and you can definitely make it shorter or longer depending upon your needs at the moment. In general, five controlled and steady repetitions is a good start for all of the movements. You can also choose to hold the stretched positions for a few seconds after those five repetitions. Again, feel free to adjust and do more or less depending on how much time you have and what you feel needs more of an emphasis.

Each repetition serves as a warm-up for the next one, and you should feel as if you are moving better as you continue on. If you feel strain and tension, then you are likely pushing too much for that range and are better off dialing it down. Remember, you should feel better in the last repetition than you felt in the first!

Neck

Rotations side to side

  • Keep your eyes level and simply swivel your head back and forth side to side.
  • Lead with your eyes and chin and look over your shoulder as far as is comfortable.

Up and downs

  • Look up to the ceiling and then down to the ground.
  • Lead with your eyes, go slow and don’t overstretch.

Sidebending

  • Next, tilt your head from side to side, imagining that you are rotating around your nose and you are revolving your head around it.
  • Let the weight of your head gently take your ear down towards your shoulder.

Flexed with rotations

  • Now tuck your chin down to your chest in a comfortable position, and rotate your head in this position side to side.
  • As in the first exercise, lead with your eyes and chin. With the head flexed, this lends a different pull on the neck and upper back muscles.

Flexed and rotated with sidebending

  • Keeping your head tucked down towards your chest, go to the furthest point of rotation you can and then sidebend your head (remember the axis of rotation is your nose) as much as you can control.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Rotated with sidebending

  • Now bring your head back to middle and rotate as far as you can in one direction so you can sidebend in that position.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Spine

Kneeling back flexion to prone lying back extension

  • This is a full spinal movement taking you back and forth from a flexed to an extended position.
  • Starting in table top position, pull your tailbone back into child’s pose, then pull yourself forward into cobra.
  • Visualize “opening” your back in the kneeling position and then “opening” the front of your body in the lying extended posture.
  • Go slow and steady and feel where in your back is holding the most tension.

Spine sidebending (“wag the tail”)

  • On all fours, bring your knees together and float your feet off the floor so you can swivel on them to curl your spine from side to side.
  • The action is bending so you bring your shoulder and hip closer together and then switch to the other side. Wag your tail!

Spine circles

  • In the table top position, trace a circle with your back. Imagine taking one point in the middle of your back and making as large a circle as you can with it. As you do, you’ll move through cat and cow positions
  • Again, go slow and steady and seek out the tightest areas of your spine and gradually increase your range there.

Sidelying spine sidebend and rotation

  • Next, find a comfortable position lying on your side with your knees bent and your hands supporting you, so you can go from lying to sitting up on your side.
  • Keep your hips and pelvis down and push up into a sidebend. Once you are in that position, rotate toward your top arm.
  • These combined movements help you go into the full ranges of your spinal mobility. But take it slow and easy to start!
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Hips

Kneeling lunge

  • Stride out into a kneeling lunge, where you have a wide enough base with your knees apart. This helps you to be comfortable and stable moving back and forth.
  • Make sure to give yourself enough room to move by having your front foot far enough forward so that your knee is just over your foot when you lunge forward.
  • Keep your upper body tall for balance and proper positioning.
  • Push your hips forward as you bend into your front knee and straighten your back leg. Then push through your front foot to return to your lunge.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Hip rotations in squat

  • Next squat down as far as you are comfortable.
  • Feel free to use a support in front of you (such as a steady object like a chair, or a suspension device like a strap or rope).
  • Rotate one knee to touch it to the ground in front of you. Repeat from knee to knee.
  • The emphasis is not so much the squat as it is the rotation of your knee going in and outward. Do not force this movement! Play with how much you can rotate but don’t push farther than you are capable.

Hip rotations in squat

  • Stay in your squat, and push each knee out and back behind you as far as it will go.

Shoulders

Cross-arm stretch

  • Moving back into a table top position, bring one arm through the space between your opposite arm and leg as you “thread the needle” and rest on your shoulder.
  • Lean forward and place as much weight as you are comfortable with to stretch the back of your shoulder as you roll back and forth onto your arm.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Mid-back rotations

  • In table top position, support yourself one arm while the other elbow drives up, back and around for the rotation.
  • Keep your back level and turn your head to look where you are rotating.
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Alternating shoulder prayer stretch

  • Sit your hips back as far as you can onto your feet and keep your hands outstretched (child’s pose).
  • From here, alternate bringing your elbows towards the floor. You can rotate your body a bit to make that happen, but make most of the motion happen at the elbow to stretch your shoulders and lats.

Wrists and fingers

Finger stretch

  • Start in a table top position, with hands flat on the floor under your shoulders.
  • Lift and lower your palms, letting your fingers stay flat on the ground.
  • Lean back onto your knees as necessary to take weight off of your hands.

Wrist stretch, fingers back

  • Stay in the same position, but flip your hands around so your fingers are pointing toward your knees and your wrists face away from you.
  • Lean back into your hips to send them back toward your feet to stretch your wrists.

Wrist stretch fingers forward

  • Start in table top position, hands flat on the ground, fingers forward.
  • Keep your hands flat as you rock back and forth, hips toward your feet, then forward past your knees.

 Wrist stretch back of hand

  • Start in a table top position, and flip your hands upside down so the backs of your hands are on the floor and your fingers face toward you.
  • Lean back toward your heels then rock back to return.

This routine is meant to be used anytime you feel you need it, and can be shortened depending on how much time you have, either by reducing the repetitions or taking out a few exercises.

I would recommend going through the whole routine once a day, because it is so useful for maintaining and improving your overall movement. Then, as you become more aware of what body areas need more attention, you can pick which ones to do more often.

Our time in our dedicated workout sessions is very important for our health and fitness, but don’t neglect your body in the rest of your day. Take a few minutes to move and stretch and give your body the movement it craves. I guarantee you’ll feel more invigorated and ready to do all the things you need to do!

Photo credit: fizkes, Thinkstock