If you can hear your joints pop and creak when you move, that usually means the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments are tight or underused. The right stretching exercises can help increase flexibility and, more important, mobility. This means you have full range of motion in multiple joints, and it feels great (not dangerous) to stretch in different directions. The benefits go way beyond your yoga class: Improving your range of motion reduces your chances of pulling a muscle when you do things like reach into the back seat or suddenly leap sideways to avoid a puddle, says Cris Dobrosielski, a certified personal trainer, owner of Monumental Results in San Diego, and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise: "You want your body to be ready for the movements you encounter in daily life." The following routine includes moves from Dobrosielski as well as certified personal trainer Sarah Kusch and Dain LaRoche, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire. Try it before a workout, or on its own, and consider it a dose of WD-40 for your tight spots.

1. Standing Hip Circles: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then raise your right knee to your chest. Circle your knee out to the right, then bring it back to the center. Keep circling for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left knee.

2. Deep Squat Reach: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands clasped in front of your chest. With your back flat, squat deeply so your bottom sinks lower than your knees. Reach up with your right hand, following the movement with your head. Bring your hand back to your chest and repeat with your left hand. Return to the start position. Repeat the sequence—squat, reach right, reach left, stand—for 30 seconds.

3. Rotate and Reach: Start on your hands and knees. Lower your left elbow to the floor; twist to the left and extend your right arm back between your left elbow and left knee. Pause, then untwist to the right to bring your right hand up toward the ceiling, looking at that hand. Return to start. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.


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