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JOINT MOBILITY: PELVIC CIRCLES

Every time you land, something has to absorb the shock. The muscles, tendons and ligaments aren't designed to do it all. You want the discs throughout the lumbar spine to absorb the shock. If something is jammed in the spine, that weight load is going to be translated to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Over time, it leads to sprains, strains, knee and low-back pain," says chiropractor Natacha Nelson. Lubricate your pelvic joints and lumbar spine with pelvic circles. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands on your hips. Keep your feet planted and core contracted...
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JOINT MOBILITY: ELBOW KICKBACK SWOOP-AROUND

​Progressive stretching is the best way to treat post-surgery joint stiffness. You can prevent the need for surgery with daily mobility drills. HOW TO DO IT: Hinge forward at the hips just slightly while maintaining a flat back. Draw your elbows along the sides of your ribcage, with your arms forming a 90-degree angle. Make fists with your hands. Extend your arms back behind you, palms facing each other. In one fluid motion, swoop your arms around to the front as you internally rotate your arms to bring the backside of your hands together. Then externally rotate the arms and pull back to pinch...
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JOINT MOBILITY: BACKSTROKE

​The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, but due to improper posture, motion can deteriorate over time. "Ergonomics is not enough. You must get the movement in the joints," Practicing proper posture in the workplace and taking breaks to get your joints moving as well as keeping them hydrated. This classic swim stroke counteracts the negative effects of slouching shoulders. HOW TO DO IT: Keep your arms straight and elbows locked as you lift one arm straight out in front of you and slowly circle it backwards. Try to avoid rotating the torso as you do...
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JOINT MOBILITY: NECK CIRCLES

​Today's digital culture means hours spent in front of the computer screen or staring down at a smartphone and can create postural deficiencies like forward-head posture, explains chiropractor Robert Bates. Forward-head posture causes stiffness in the joints in the cervical spine and elongates the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders, creating knots and tension. Neck circles are a simple and effective exercise for releasing that tension. HOW TO DO IT: Begin with proper posture: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-distance apart, a slight bend in the knees, navel drawn in, hips tucked u...
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JOINT MOBILITY

​Stretching and strength training are good for your muscles and cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart, but what about your joints? Joints, along with bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, form the musculoskeletal system that allows us to walk, run, jump and move in whatever way we want. And joints rely on movement to keep them functioning properly. Unlike muscles, joints have no direct blood supply. "If there's no motion in the joint it will degenerate -- that's a law,"  Joints rely on synovial fluid to "wash" away waste products that build up and compromise the integ...
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Yoga

​"I love the lunge for getting the hip into extension, because our hips are in a partially flexed position from doing a lot of sitting," says yoga teacher Sadie Chanlett-Avery. Lunges stretch the hip flexors on the front of the upper thigh and pelvis as well as strengthen the legs and back muscles. Reaching your arms up overhead adds a level of challenge and builds shoulder strength. HOW TO DO IT: From downward dog, step the right foot forward in between your hands. Make sure your right knee is directly over your right ankle to protect the knee joint. Come onto the ball of the back foot and br...
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Yoga

​Twists are an excellent way to rejuvenate your body and realign your spine, especially when you've been sitting in front of your computer all day. "In a seated twist, your hips are anchored, so you have less chance of rotation in the hips, says yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. That keeps the twist in the thoracic spine and above for the greatest benefit. HOW TO DO IT: Sit on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the mat about a few inches from your left leg on the outside of your left knee. Bring your right palm to the mat just behind you...
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Yoga

​"Forward bends are a great counter to hunching over computers all day," says in-house yoga teacher at Clif Bar Sadie Chanlett-Avery. And they're great for when you don't have a mat or a lot of space. Calming to the nervous system, forward bends also stretch out the spine, glutes and hamstrings and strengthen the quadriceps and knees. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Fold forward at the hips, only going as far as your hamstrings allow. Keep your knees bent just a little and rest your stomach on your thighs. Advanced practitioners can straighten the legs. Chanlett-Avery re...
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Yoga

​Plank pose is one of the best ways to build core strength as well as strength and stability in the wrists, arms, shoulders and quadriceps. HOW TO DO IT: Start in downward dog. Roll forward onto the balls of your feet and lower your hips so that your shoulders come directly over your wrists and your hips are in line with the top of your head and shoulders. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and your leg muscles engaged. Beginners can modify the pose by lowering their knees to the ground while keeping a straight, solid line through the knees, hips and head.
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Yoga

People spend a lot of time sitting with their hips at 90 degrees. "Over time, this can create a host of problems, including limited mobility in your joints," says yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. "[Garland pose] helps open the hips and inner thighs and lengthen out the spine. It helps you keep your pelvic and hip joints healthy." HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes out slightly. Keep your gaze forward and your spine straight as you push your hips back and lower down as if into a chair. The goal is to bring the hips as low as you can without rounding t...
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Yoga

​A foundational pose in many styles of yoga, down dog is the whole package. "It helps strengthen the shoulders, arms and legs; it lengthens out the spine and helps relieve pain in the upper, middle and low back," says Atlanta-based yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. It's also a gentle inversion, which reverses the flow of blood in the body, benefiting the circulatory and lymphatic systems and fighting the effects of gravity on the body. HOW TO DO IT: Starting from a tabletop position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees, curl your toes under and lift your hips sky...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​You probably won't be able to pull off a triple flip, the iron cross or all those pommel horse spin moves anytime soon, so the L-sit is the closest you're probably going to get to an Olympic gymnastics move. It won't be easy though. HOW TO DO IT: Set two benches parallel to one another a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Get between the benches and hold yourself up with your arms so that your body forms an L shape. Your torso should be perpendicular to the floor, your arms straight at your sides and your legs out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Hold this position.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​One benefit of the weighted carry is that it builds functional strength. You'll probably need that same strength the next time a buddy moves to a new apartment. But in the real world, little variables pop up, says Mike Wunsch, director of training and program design at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. There's a bump in the walking surface or the couch slips in your hand. If your core isn't ready to adjust, you'll fall or get injured. The K-off carry uses a mini band to approximate little adjustments like that so you'll be ready. HOW TO DO IT: Double-wrap a thick mini exercise ban...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Crunches are like Nickelback -- incredibly popular but most people agree they stink. But throw in some incline (gravity!) and reverse the movement and you've got a whole new challenge. HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on an incline bench with your hips lower than your head, your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Grab the bar behind your head for support or grasp the sides of the bench. Lift your knees toward your chest. Slowly lower your feet toward the floor and repeat.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Popularized by CrossFit, this exercise, like the banana roll, will make you feel silly twice -- first for how you look and second when you realize how much you underestimated its challenge. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, legs straight out. Lift into a "hollow" position, with arms and legs up, lower back pressed into the ground and head in line with the arms. Using your core to get going, rock your body so that you look like the bottom of a rocking chair.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Lots of people crank out leg raises, but they're not getting the full benefit. By concentrating on keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor, you'll add difficulty to this move and reap greater benefits. HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your torso perpendicular to the ground and don't lean back as you pull your knees toward your chest by bending your hips. To make it more difficult, keep your legs straight as you raise them and work toward raising your straight legs all the way up to the bar.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Your glutes -- and hips and back -- are all part of your core. This move works all of those muscle groups much as they function together in real life, while still ripping that six-pack area you can't stop obsessing over. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms down. Bend your knees so your heels are on the floor, feet flexed. Squeeze your glutes so your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Maintaining this straight line and keeping your hips square, lift your right foot off the ground and bring your knee to your chest. Return it to the floor and lift ...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Planks too easy? Try them suspended upside down. The front lever isn't just incredibly impressive-looking, it's even harder than it looks and will challenge your core, back and motivation as you train to perfect it. Good luck! HOW TO DO IT: Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. From the hanging position, use your shoulders, back and core to pull your body -- totally straight -- from the perpendicular position up to a position parallel to the floor. If you can reach this position, hold it for as long as you can. To work your way up to this position, start with your knees tu...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Mimicking a dog marking his territory might not sound like an efficient ab exercise, but this move will prove otherwise. You'll also work on your hips, which are (surprise!) part of your core. HOW TO DO IT: Start on all fours, knees below your hips, hands below your shoulders. Keep your knee bent and lift your left leg out to the side until your thigh is parallel to the floor -- you'll look like a dog visiting a fire hydrant. Kick your leg straight back and return to start. Repeat with the right leg.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​If this move is tough enough for the Italian Stallion, it's tough enough for you. While you may not rock the dragon on a farmhouse wooden table with a fire burning in the background while you train to avenge the death of your friend and formal rival, you can pretend that's why you're working on this punishing move. HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on a bench and grab the bench next to your ears so that your elbows are bent and your upper arms are next to your head. Your hands are there simply for support -- don't pull with them or you'll wrench your neck. Use your core to roll up onto your shoulders ...
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