9 Beginner Exercises You Can Do at Home for Better Range of Motion From Head to Toe

Photo: Stocksy/Jayme Burrows
With less movement amid the pandemic, your mobility is likely taking hit, leaving you feeling stiff, achy, and even in pain as you go about your day-to-day activities. It also affects your at-home workouts. For example, if you don't have good hip mobility when doing things like squats and lunges, "your body will compensate by tugging on the lower back, knees, and ankles, which can ultimately cause injury and pain," says trainer Amy Opielowski.

Physical therapist Grayson Wickham, DPT, says regularly focusing on exercises for better range of motion allows "joints to move freely and smoothly through its full range of motion with control and without compensation." And these beginner-friendly exercises are a great place to start, improving your mobility from head to toe.

Experts In This Article

The best beginner exercises for range of motion from head to toe

1. Rainbow neck stretch

It's easy for your neck to get stiff in everyday life, and trainer Ash Wilking says this is a great way to improve your mobility in the area.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. With your arms by your sides, make a strong fist with your hands and engage your core.
  3. Pull your chin down toward your chest. Imagine you're squeezing a tennis ball.
  4. Without moving your shoulders, hips, or ribs, look to your right pocket, keeping your chin to your right shoulder.
  5. Lift your head so you're looking at the ceiling, and imagine you're drawing a rainbow as you bring your gaze to your left pocket.
  6. Bring your chin back to your chest, then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Side neck stretch

Another simple way to improve mobility in your neck area is through this gentle stretch from Chloe Kernaghan and Krissy Jones of Sky Ting Yoga.

How to do it:

  1. Sit however is comfortable for you.
  2. Take your right hand and bring it right above your left ear.
  3. Gently draw your right ear down toward the right shoulder.
  4. Take your left hand and reach it away from your body.
  5. Carefully draw your chin down in toward your chest, then take that same route back to the right side.
  6. Release your head back up to center and repeat on the opposite side.

3. Four-point shoulder exercise

Give your shoulder area some extra mobility with this feel-good exercise. "We're working on moving those scapulas," Wilking says.

How to do it:

  1. Extend your arms in front of your body with your hands in fists.
  2. While keeping your arms in position, pull your shoulders back, down, forward, then up.
  3. You're making a circular motion, but in four different set points.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds.

4. Wrist stretch

Trainer Charlee Atkins says this feel-good exercise is a must for improving the function of your wrists.

How to do it:

  1. Come down to your mat and place your palms on your mat with your fingertips pointed out. Your shoulder should be directly over your wrists.
  2. Bring your weight forward until you feel a stretch throughout the backs of your forearms. Then, slowly move back and forth for 10 reps.
  3. Next, position yourself so the backs of your hands are on the mat with your palms up.
  4. Keeping a straight arm, gently pull your weight back for a stretch throughout the top part of your arms. Slowly move back and forth for 10 reps.

5. Bottom-up squat

According to trainer Traci Copeland, this is one of the best exercises for range of motion, as it loosens up your lower body and improves shoulder mobility at the same time.

How to do it:

  1. Start with your feet more than hip-distance apart.
  2. Put your arms straight up in the air.
  3. Reach for your toes.
  4. Bend your knees into a squat, pause, then reach your arms up as you lift back to standing.

6. Thread the needle

This exercise from Pilates instructor Chloe De Winter is great for opening up the upper body, and it's really simple to do.

  1. Start in a tabletop position.
  2. Sweep your right hand up toward the ceiling and open your chest.
  3. Take an inhale, then as you exhale, thread your arm underneath your body into a twist.
  4. Repeat a few times, then hold in the twist for a few breaths.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Glute bridge

Glute bridges are great for opening up the hips and improving spinal mobility, as well as increasing core and glute strength.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on a mat with your legs bent. Your knees should be directly above your ankles.
  2. Press your lower back into the mat, then lift, keeping your core engaged.
  3. Once you reach the top, lower right back down.

8. Tiptoe walk

The tiptoe walk is one of the easiest ways to improve foot and ankle mobility. "It provides ankle stability, toe flexion, and works and warms up your arches," Copeland says.

How to do it:

  1. Stand high up on your tiptoes like you're walking in high heels.
  2. Walk back and forth on your mat.

9. Heel walk

Now that you have your toes covered, it's time to focus on your heels. Aside from being great for foot mobility, Copeland says the heel walk also stretches out your calves and Achilles.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your weight in your heels. Your hips will naturally press back a little.
  2. Walk back and forth on your mat.

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