Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

Written by
November 20, 2014
Updated April 11, 2018

Mobility training, along with breathing exercises and selective tension exercises, form a foundation for my training system called Compound Conditioning. There are multiple reasons for it:

  • Onnit Quad MaceMobility training lubricates the joints with synovial fluid, helps to remove toxins, and prevents arthritic build up.
  • Mobility training enhances basic coordination and body awareness via progressively more challenging drills and exercises.
  • Mobility training doubles up as a useful warm up and does more than just merely increasing your body temperature, it simultaneously improves your movement skills.
  • Entry level mobility training is very gentle on the body, yet enhances all bodily systems and creates a platform for more intense training methods down the road.
  • Advanced level mobility training incorporates coordination and movement skills, strength, flexibility, and conditioning into one package.

I have covered lower body and torso mobility extensively in my prior Onnit Academy articles, so here we will take a look at upper extremity mobility training: wrists, elbows, and shoulders. I will show you foundational exercises for each
joint to get you started in the right direction.

Mobility Exercise #1: Wrist Rotation

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

When performing this exercise, make sure that at any given point in time a part of your wrist is touching the floor or wall. In order to do that, you will have to move the rest of your body quite a bit in a circular fashion and your next joint, the elbow, has to be nice and relaxed. Perform in both directions.

Mobility Exercise #2: Elbow Plank Rotation

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

This is a tremendous elbow/shoulder mobility exercise and when performed off the floor, it properly works your midsection quite a bit. When performing the Plank Elbow Rotation make sure that at least one part of your elbow is touching the floor or wall at all times.

Begin in a strong plank position with a tucked pelvis, then relax and twirl on your elbow making a 360 degree rotation, eventually coming back to the plank. In order to do this you must keep your shoulder relaxed and rotate the shoulder joint similar to a well-known Egyptian shoulder mobility exercise.

Another must is your hip movement; descend onto one hip, then switch all the way to the other hip. In the beginning, most people make a mistake of only partially rotating their hips; make sure to switch your hips to the opposite side in order to come out smoothly and keep your elbow down. Perform in both directions.

Mobility Exercise #3: Floor Shoulder Rotation

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

When performing this exercise, make sure to keep your shoulder on the floor at all times. In order to do this, you will have to turn from the stomach to your side and back to the stomach as your arm makes a 360 degree circle around you. To pass the arm under your body, slightly bridge up into a tripod position with two feet and a shoulder being your support. Perform in both directions.

Mobility Exercise #4: Internal/External Vertical Staff Rotation Variation A

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

This is a great exercise for all three upper extremity joints: wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Make sure to keep a full grip on the staff and do not let go with either finger; it is better to initially perform this exercise through a partial range of motion with a full grip and eventually work up to the full range of motion then to cheat by releasing fingers.

Mobility Exercise #5: Internal/External Vertical Staff Rotation Variation B

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

This variation integrates the whole body along with wrist, elbow, and shoulder mobility. When passing through, make sure to keep your back vertical and straight. And off course, make sure to keep a full grip!

Mobility Exercise #6: External Vertical Staff Rotation

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

Yet another great wrist, elbow, and shoulder mobility exercise. Similar to the previous versions, make sure to keep a full grip on the staff.

Mobility Exercise #7: External Horizontal Staff Rotation


Start with the staff behind, palms facing forward. This variation integrates shoulder and wrist mobility. Again, make sure to actively pull with your lats throughout the motion.

Mobility Exercise #8: Overhead Squat

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

The Overhead Squat is a tremendous mobility and active flexibility movement for the shoulders and the entire body. The wider your grip is, the easier the exercise; eventually you could work up to keeping your hands fairly close together and still squat with solid form.

The keys here are: heels on the floor, knees lined up with the toes, torso as upright as possible, arms straight with lats engaged pulling the staff apart, and the staff should be lined up right above your center of gravity (slightly behind your head).

Mobility Exercise #9: Staff Sots Press

Try These 9 Mobility Exercises for Pain-Free Joints

This is a tremendous shoulder mobility exercise that integrates the whole body. Make sure that you have the Over- head Squat down before jumping into this variation. Stay tight and keep your knees apart as you pull the staff down with your lats to behind your neck and then press it back up.

All right, so there you have it! A solid foundational curriculum for enhancing and maintaining mobility of upper extremities. As always, start slow and gradually build from there. Once you build a solid level of mobility you can start moving different limbs simultaneously in the same or opposite directions, loading up the movements and/or perform various combination flows.

Greg Mihovich
Greg Mihovich is the owner and head trainer of the Underground Gym. With a lifetime of experience in martial arts and fitness, Greg utilizes multiple disciplines to enhance the athletic performance of his clients. His innovative approach to training has led to the development of the Compound Conditioning method.
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