Mobility Exercises: Why You Should Add Them to Your Routine - Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC

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Mobility Exercises: Why You Should Add Them to Your Routine

Learn Why Mobility Exercises Are Important For Everyone

Key Takeaways:

  • Any movements that involve balance and posture while engaging  your core muscles and/or increasing your flexibility can be considered mobility exercises.
  • Examples of mobility exercises include yoga, pilates, stretching, crunches, and strength training.
  • Practicing mobility exercises routinely helps you maintain good posture and balance, prevents muscle and joint pain, and reduces your risk of injury.
  • Many mobility exercises also improve mood, cognition, blood sugar control, sleep, heart health, and self-esteem.
  • You can begin to incorporate mobility exercises into your routine with daily stretching and posture work (keeping your spine in a neutral position).
  • Once you’ve got the basics down, move on to balance training like yoga a few days per week for several months, and then try a more advanced practice like pilates or full-body strength training.

Daily life for many of us means sitting at a desk or moving through the same repetitive motions day in and day out. But it’s important to take your joints through their full range of motion on a daily basis with mobility exercises. Mobility training helps you maintain good posture and balance, prevents muscle and joint pain, and reduces your risk of injury [1, 2, 3, 4]. 

While I’m very intentional about my cardio and strength training routines, I recently realized my own mobility training had taken a back seat. I started to notice this when I was having more difficulty getting up from the floor than I should have. I began incorporating daily hip mobility exercises like sitting on the floor to return emails, and I noticed big improvements in my tight hips.

I had a great conversation about the importance of mobility work on the podcast with Aaron Alexander of Align. He shared that practicing functional range of motion exercises like stretching, yoga, strength training, and pilates is key for maintaining healthy tissues that will, in turn, help keep you mobile and optimize your quality of life as you age. 

In this article, I’ll share what you need to know about mobility exercises, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into your daily routine whether you’re an avid exerciser, recovering from an injury, or just hoping to maintain mobility and balance as you age.

Mobility Exercises: Big Picture Overview

Mobility exercises include any movements or stretches that put a joint through its active range of motion [5]. In general, there are two major types of mobility exercises: stability and flexibility. Before I get into the specifics, here’s a chart detailing each type of mobility training, examples of specific exercises, and their benefits:

  Type of Mobility Training Description Sample Exercises Benefits
Postural Exercise Stability Strengthens core muscle groups like traps, glutes, and deep abdominals [1, 2]
  • Situps
  • Crunches
  • Planks
  • Leg raises
  • Barre/dance
  • Improves posture
  • Improves appearance
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Prevents pain, injuries, and other health issues
Balance Training Stability Improves your ability to maintain your center of gravity over your point of contact on the ground [1]
  • Yoga (tree-pose, heel-to-toe pose)
  • Step-up exercises
  • Balance ball
  • Balance board
  • Improves posture
  • Increases strength
  • Improves sitting and standing balance
  • Improves physical function overall
  • Reduces fall risk
Neuromuscular Reeducation Stability Improves your sensorimotor control and stabilizes a specific joint by moving it through all planes [6] Education & exercise completed under the guidance of a physiotherapist
  • Improves joint injury recovery
  • Improves joint replacement recovery
  • Decreases pain
  • Improves quality of life
Dynamic Stretching Flexibility Using movement to warm up the body [3]
  • Yoga
  • Barre/dance
  • Jumping jacks
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Lunges
  • Arm circles (using both external and internal rotation)
  • Prevents injury
  • Improves exercise performance
  • Increases strength during exercise
Static Stretching Flexibility Stationary exercises [3]
  • Foam roller
  • Triceps stretch
  • Quad stretch
  • Lying hamstring stretch
  • Increases range of motion
  • Decreases pain

(Can increase risk of injuries and decrease performance if done immediately prior to exercise)

As you can see, there are a lot of different options when it comes to mobility routines. In general, any workout that involves balance and posture training that engages your core muscles and/or increases your flexibility can be considered a mobility exercise. 

Most of these can be incorporated into your current exercise routine, so you’ll be reaping the benefits of mobility training without spending an enormous amount of additional time. And bonus, when you participate in exercises like yoga, pilates, calisthenics, and strength training, you’ll also experience other health benefits like better:

The main risks of mobility training are overuse or improper use of an injured joint, or injuries or poor performance from
doing static stretching before strenuous activity. However, when you incorporate mobility exercises appropriately, the benefits far outweigh any potential risks. Now that you’ve had a brief introduction, let’s discuss the best mobility exercises.

What Are The Best Mobility Exercises?

Aaron made a great point on the podcast about exercise and health in general: it really comes down to your basic daily patterns. So, essentially, the best mobility exercises (and any exercises for that matter) are the ones you can consistently incorporate into your lifestyle. The great thing about mobility exercises is the wide variety, which makes it easy to tailor a plan for your specific needs. 

I shared some specific types of mobility exercises in the overview above, but let’s get into some more detail. Mobility exercises can include [1, 2]:

  • Core exercises: sit ups, crunches, planks, leg raises
  • Shoulder mobility exercises: keeping arms at shoulder width while hanging from a pull-up bar
  • Yoga: mind-body practice that includes stability and flexibility training and has the added component of body awareness
  • Tai Chi: system of movements and positions that promote stability and body awareness
  • Barre/dance: incorporates yoga, pilates, and dance into movements that engage your core, promote good posture and balance, and increase flexibility
  • Pilates: mind-body practice with similar effects of barre and yoga
  • Gymnastics: improves flexibility, balance, both lower and upper body strength, and posture
  • Balance training exercises: step-up exercises, single-leg balancing, balance ball
  • Strength training exercises (with a stability or flexibility component): push-ups, free weights, resistance bands, lunges
  • Neuromuscular reeducation: mobilizing select injured or diseased joints while working with a professional over several months

Before we get into why you need to include a mobility workout routine, I want to spend some time on strength training versus mobility training and why you often can’t simply use strength training alone as a way to target mobility.

Strength Training Versus Mobility Training

Strength training exercises can cross over with mobility training since they both engage the major muscle groups that are involved in posture and balance like your traps, core, and glutes [1, 2]. However, the objectives are different:

  • Strength training is used to build strength, which you can do without increasing mobility. (This is actually a pretty common problem in people who focus only on weight training).
  • Mobility training is primarily used to increase mobility, but you can also build strength.

Here are some common strength training exercises that can also count toward mobility training — remember these need to contain a component of stability and/or flexibility to be considered mobility training [17]:

  1. Body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges
  2. Barbell exercises like deadlifts and chest press
  3. Resistance band training
  4. Box jumps
  5. Free weight exercises using dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls (like biceps curls, triceps extensions, and abdominal crunches)
  6. Weight machine exercises like leg extensions and leg curls (you can do single leg extensions and curls – move through the exercise with only the right leg, then switch sides to complete the same amount of reps on the left leg).

Now that you have an idea of what mobility training is and some specific exercises you have to choose from, I want to share more about why you want to add mobility exercises to your routine.

Why You Need a Mobility Exercise Routine

On the podcast, Aaron shared that poor mobility contributes significantly to loss of function and poor quality of life as we age. Natural changes like the rounding of the upper back and thoracic spine, loss of lower spinal curvature, and decreased arch of the foot can affect posture [2]. And poor posture can [2]:

  • Decrease your flexibility
  • Restrict joint movement
  • Negatively impact digestion
  • Increase your risk of falling
  • Increase neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Create breathing difficulties

In addition, poor balance can increase your risk of falls, reduce your ability to complete routine activities, and decrease your ability to exercise [1]. And poor flexibility can increase your risk of injuries [3]. 

While this may sound unavoidable, the great news here is that mobility exercises can combat all of these. By simply making mobility training a priority, you can increase your range of motion, regain your joint function, and decrease pain and soreness [6, 18]. You may also notice improvements in your posture, flexibility, balance, strength, and even your breathing [1, 2, 3, 19]. 

Mobility training is often thought of (and researched) in the context of rehabilitation. But it’s also a wonderful preventative tool and a great lifestyle habit for most people to adopt. For one thing, mobility exercises can boost your self-esteem and increase your body awareness [1, 2], which makes it easier to stick with other types of exercise. Mobility exercises can also improve your exercise performance, and they just make day-to-day life easier by preventing injuries and aches and pains [3, 6]. 

In healthy adults, meta-analyses (a type of study that synthesizes findings from multiple research studies to give the highest quality evidence) have found:

  • Balance training for 30 to 45 minutes, three times per week assists in significantly improving balance and performance [20].
  • Static stretching increases both ankle mobility and hamstring flexibility. Hamstring flexibility is especially important as tight hamstrings can’t stabilize the knee properly, which can lead to an ACL tear [3, 4, 19].

In the case of rehabilitation, therapeutic mobility exercises may be especially helpful for [1, 2, 3, 6, 21]:

  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain (from things like tight hip flexors and hamstrings)
  • Athletic injuries
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Musculoskeletal deformities
  • Intense exercisers and athletes who may have imbalances on the right side or left side of their body
  • Elderly people
  • Wheel-chair bound people
  • Post-surgical conditions

Here’s a chart detailing some of the research on mobility exercises and their benefits for specific conditions:

Type of Study Group Studied Type of Mobility Training Result
Meta-analysis of 12 studies [22] Elderly patients Strength and balance training delivered by a physiotherapist


  • Mobility
  • Balance
  • Lower body strength
  • Frailty
  • Overall health status
Meta-analysis of 110 studies [7] Parkinson’s patients Yoga


  • Functional mobility (less tremor and shaking, faster and more coordinated walking)
  • Balance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Quality of life
Randomized controlled trial [18] Patients with lower back pain Stretching and core strengthening


  • Pain intensity
  • Disability level
  • Balance
  • Quality of life
Randomized controlled trial [21] Patients with rotator cuff injuries Shoulder blade training exercises (stretching, strengthening, stabilizing) added to traditional physical therapy


  • Pain
  • Active range of motion

As you can see, everyone can benefit from mobility training. It doesn’t matter if you’re using mobility exercises therapeutically to target a specific issue or whether you’re just hoping to prevent imbalances as you age. Now I want to help you think about how you can add this valuable training to your current routine.

Creating a Mobility Training Routine

If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with mobility exercises like daily stretching and posture work. When working on improving your posture, here are some factors to consider [2]:

  • Try not to slouch and instead, maintain a neutral posture during your everyday activities like sitting at your desk, washing dishes, and eating.
  • Wear shoes with arch support.
  • Make sure your work surfaces and desk height are at a comfortable level.
  • Practice proper exercise techniques by engaging your core muscles and glutes (buttocks) during exercises.

Once you get this type of basic routine in place, you can add in some balance training exercises. Balance training would ideally involve a flexibility component and be completed 3–5 times per week for a minimum of two months. Balance training should involve [1]:

  • Both stationary (static stretching) and moving (Tai Chi) exercises
  • Changes in base support, for example standing on one leg
  • Variable heights for your center of gravity (like step-up exercises)
  • Changing standing surfaces like using a balance ball or balance board

Ultimately, it would be great to work your way up to an advanced mobility exercise routine like full-body strength training, barre, and/or pilates. There are many free resources online, but if you don’t feel comfortable trying more advanced moves on your own, work with a certified personal trainer.

If you’re already a fitness enthusiast or athlete, you have so many options for adding mobility exercises to your established routine without spending a lot of extra time. It can be as simple as adding some warm-up mobility exercises or changing up your set strength training routine to incorporate some different movements. Ideally, you’ll have a variety of mobility training exercises that you rotate through each week in order to get the maximum benefit. 

If you’re working on a specific injury or joint issue (like a torn rotator cuff or knee osteoarthritis), you’ll definitely want to put more effort into that specific joint to improve mobility. If you’re in this category, you may be working with a professional like a physiotherapist for neuromuscular reeducation or a physical therapist for physical therapy. But, if those aren’t available, you still have a lot of at-home options.

Mobility Exercises Are Beneficial For Everyone

Mobility exercises are movements and/or stretches that take a joint through its active range of motion. In general, any exercises that include balance, posture, and flexibility fit this description. While mobility training may sound like something for older folks or those recovering from an injury, everyone can benefit from this type of training.

Mobility training can prevent imbalances that cause pain and injuries, improve your posture and digestion, reduce your risk of falling, and boost your self-esteem. In addition, many types of mobility training have the added benefits of exercise overall, which include better mood, cognition, blood sugar, heart health, and digestion.

If you’re a beginner, start with a mobility exercise that’s more feasible like daily flexibility exercises (stretching) or posture work, then ramp it up to a daily yoga or Tai Chi practice. Once you’ve got these incorporated into your lifestyle, consider moving on to more advanced mobility exercises like strength training, Barre, or pilates.

If you struggle with consistently adding mobility exercises or with changing your lifestyle for good, it’s important to make a plan that you can work on one day at a time. If you’d like more support on your health journey, contact us at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Health.

The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.

➕ References
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