A stiff spine can throw a wrench in your day. But a bit of bending and twisting with a few minutes of spine mobility exercises—done consistently over time—can make a big difference.

Mobility exercises are like oil for the hinges of your spine, ensuring each vertebra moves smoothly. Gentle movement increases the production of synovial fluid, the body’s natural joint lubricant, reducing stiffness and making every twist and turn feel a bit more effortless.

To help with that, meet Alicia Rios, CSCS, certified personal trainer, programming manager for Bold, an at-home, digital fitness platform, and host of our March 2024 Movement of the Month Club. She’s dedicated her career to creating personalized exercise prescriptions for people who want to maintain strength, mobility and independence as they age.

Below, Rios demonstrates six spinal mobility exercises designed to help you stretch your way toward a more mobile, pain-free life, which you can then combine into a feel-good flow. If you’re following along with this month, for week 4, you’ll do one move each day, Monday through Saturday. Then on Sunday, you’ll do the full 5-minute routine.

Do each move for 50 seconds (25 seconds on each side, where necessary) before moving on to the next one, for a total of 5 minutes. If you’re feeling especially tight or if you have more time, feel free to do each move for as long as feels good.

1. Neck Rotation

This move helps relieve tension and stiffness in the neck and reduces discomfort from prolonged sitting or standing by improving neck mobility.

 

  1. Stand with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your left arm out at a diagonal, palm facing upward. Relax your right arm by your side and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  2. Slowly turn your head to the right.
  3. Hold the position, feeling a gentle stretch.
  4. Turn your head back to neutral, as you drop your left arm.
  5. Lift your right arm as you look to your left.
  6. Repeat, switching sides each time.

2. T-Spine Opener

The T-spine opener is a super popular spinal mobility exercise. It’s particularly beneficial for those who experience stiffness or discomfort in the middle and upper back areas and want more back flexibility. Regular practice can improve posture, reduce back pain, and enhance overall spinal health.

 

  1. Stand in a split stance: left foot a few feet in front of the right. Hold your arms straight out in front of your chest, palms touching. (You can also do this move lying down, with your knees bent together.)
  2. Swing your arm out wide to the side and behind you as you rotate your torso to the right and open your chest.
  3. Rotate back to the front, returning to the starting position.
  4. Next, swing your left arm out wide to the side and behind you as you rotate your torso to the left and open your chest.
  5. Come back to center and repeat, alternating between right and left.

3. Seated Butterfly Lateral Reach

The seated butterfly lateral reach is excellent for opening the hips, stretching the inner thighs, and enhancing lateral flexibility in the torso.

 

  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight and bring the soles of your feet together, drawing them in toward your body. Allow your knees to fall out to the sides, creating a diamond shape with your legs.
  2. Gently hold onto your ankles or feet with your hands.
  3. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, engage your core muscles.
  4. Lift your right arm overhead, keeping your elbow straight. Lean to the left side, stretching your right arm over your head towards the left.
  5. Inhale and slowly lift your body back to the center, bringing your right arm down.
  6. Alternate sides, focusing on maintaining a smooth, controlled movement and deep breathing.

4. Cross-Body Rotation

The cross-body rotation is a dynamic exercise that enhances thoracic (mid back) mobility and stretches the shoulders, chest, and arms. It’s also great for improving rotational movement and flexibility.

 

  1. Lie on your back with your left leg extended out straight and your right leg bent. Your right foot is on the floor and your right knee is pointed to the ceiling.
  2. Raise your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, palms facing down. Ensure your shoulders are down and away from your ears and your core is engaged.
  3. Keeping your hips facing forward and your lower body still, lift your right foot, cross it over your body, and tap the floor on the left side of your body. The movement should originate from your thoracic spine (the part of your spine that corresponds to the chest area).
  4. Hold the position for a moment, feeling the stretch across your chest, shoulder, and upper back.
  5. Rotate back to the center.
  6. Straighten your right left, bend your left, and repeat the twist on the other side.

5. Lunge With Twist

This lunge variation not only helps improve lower-body strength and flexibility but also encourages thoracic rotation and stretches the hip flexors.

 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step forward with your right foot and bend both knees to lower into a lunge. Your right knee should be bent at about a 90-degree angle, directly above your right ankle. Your left knee should lower toward the floor, hovering just above it.
  3. Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height and stack your forearms.
  4. Then, twist your torso to the right, keeping your arms parallel to the floor. Aim to rotate from your upper back (thoracic spine), not your lower back.
  5. Rotate your torso back to the center, and then rotate it to the left.
  6. Rotate your torso back to the center before pushing off with your right foot to return to standing.
  7. Next, step forward with your left foot into a lunge and repeat the twist to the left side.
  8. Repeat, switching legs with each rep.

6. Squat With Overhead Reach

This versatile exercise strengthens the lower body, increases hip mobility, stretches the shoulders, and improves upper-body mobility. It’s a great full-body exercise that can be incorporated into warmups and cooldowns or as part of a strength-training workout.

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Point your toes slightly out.
  2. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor if your mobility allows.
  3. Reach both hands down to the ground, trying to get your palms flat on the ground.
  4. Anchor your right hand to the floor as you lift your left hand out and over your head, twisting your body to the left and gazing up at your hand.
  5. Fold back to the center, both hands by your feet, before repeating to the right side.
  6. Switch side to side several times before driving through your heels to stand back up, keeping a straight back.
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