Kelly Starrett, P.T., author of Built To Move, Reveals a 4-Move Test To See If You Have Healthy Mobility

WORKING WITH pro athletes, the military, and civilian fitness heads in the early 2000s, physical therapist Kelly Starrett noticed a recurring problem. Many people were in pain and lacked a complete range of motion for basic moves like squats and lunges. That inspired Starrett to create what he called “mobilizations,” which take your joints to different places, unstick compressed soft tissue (skin, nerves, muscles, and tendons), and ingrain new patterns of movement. That helped birth mobility training. Starrett’s website, MobilityWOD—renamed the Ready State in 2019—popularized daily mobility work like squat challenges and foam rolling, and his books (Becoming a Supple Leopard, Deskbound) espoused more and better movement. Starrett, now 49, is a tattooed, balding canary in the coal mine of wellness who has been warning of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle for a while. During a Zoom interview with MH, he’s on the floor with his feet down and his knees raised, sitting on a lacrosse ball to smash his right glute, and he’s really frustrated.

“We’ve had a revolution in fitness with the commoditization of training, but if fitness is the laboratory of our health and we’re applying what we’re learning to society, we’re not doing very well,” he says. “Almost every metric—obesity, back pain, ACL-injury rates, depression, even life expectancy—is trending in a worse direction.” Starrett and his wife, Juliet, provide solutions with their new book, Built to Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully (dropping April 4, 2023). Along with tactics to hit your sleep, step, and protein goals, it details several tests for basic moves that you should be able to do. “Just as you have vital signs for other aspects of your health, so these are vital movement signs,” he says. “Your range of motion has real implications for health span and life span.”

Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

The good news, he says, is that your body is extraordinarily anti-fragile, and with regular practice it will adapt. One of the big takeaways from Built to Move is that frequency and consistency really matter. Your approach should be to pepper in mobility “snacks”—two- to five-minute sessions—every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day, especially if you’re often seated, whether at a desk at work or on a couch in front of the television. A new Columbia University study backs this up: Researchers studying the harmful effects of sitting tested different movement snacks and found that five minutes every 60 minutes delivered the best results, significantly lowering both blood sugar and blood pressure.

The book may seem basic, but Starrett says it has benefits for everyone. That’s because mobility work is a glow-up for your whole workout—and life. If you can do a lunge or squat with a full range of motion, you’re going to see greater strength and performance results. Get ready to mobilize and liberate your body.


1. Sit and rise

ben mounsey wood illustration of sit and rise

This test determines whether you have a good range of motion in your hips and gauges leg and core strength as well as balance. Stand next to a wall if you think you will need help. From there, cross one foot in front of the other and sit down into a cross-legged position on the floor without holding on to anything (unless you feel very unsteady). Then, from the same cross-legged position, rise up without placing your hands or knees on the floor. Your goal should be to sit and stand without using any points of contact besides your feet. Being able to do this is associated with longer life.


Sitting in a chair affects hip mobility, so Starrett recommends taking 2- to 5-minute breaks every 30 to 60 minutes you sit in a chair and also sitting on the floor for at least 30 cumulative minutes a day. Kneel, sit cross-legged, scissor your legs with one leg at a 90 degree angle in front of you (and one behind), or sit with your legs straight in
front of you (or with one bent and your foot on the floor).

2. Unlock Your Hips

hip mobility exercises

Hip extension enables you to walk and run with ease and speed, stand up from a squat, and rotate with power.

Position A


Place your left knee at the intersection of the floor and the wall, then rest your shin on the wall. Place your right knee on the floor and hold yourself up with your hands. Activate your glutes and inhale to a slow count of 5, then relax your butt as you exhale to 5. Repeat 5 times. Switch sides. If this is easy—being able to activate the glutes is key—move on to B.

Position B


From position A, raise your right knee, bend it at a 90 degree angle, and place your foot down. Keeping your left knee at the floor/wall intersection, clench your butt firmly and inhale to a slow count of 5, then relax as you exhale to 5. Switch sides. No problem? On to C!

Position C


From position B, raise your torso upright so that it’s as close to parallel to the wall as possible. Squeeze your butt and inhale to a slow count of 5, then relax your butt as you exhale to 5. Repeat 5 times. Switch sides.


To improve, do the easier positions but on a couch, and hold for intervals of 1 to 3 minutes per side. Foam-rolling your hamstrings, quads, and glutes will also help.

3. Upgrade Your Squat


A low squat assesses the range of motion in your ankles, knees, and hips. Stand with your feet at hip width, then bend your knees and squat. The ideal position is: butt a few inches above the floor, hip crease below the knees, toes pointed forward, heels flat (A). Hold for 5 breaths. If you can’t do it, angle your toes outward and separate your legs farther apart or keep your feet straight but allow your heels to rise. Still too difficult? Lower your hips to the height of a chair seat so that your legs form a 90 degree angle (B).


If your squat is weak, stand with a chair behind you and squat down until your butt hits the chair, then stand up. Do 20 reps daily. Also, practice sitting in a deep squat for 3 to 10 minutes daily and do squat Tabatas (as many squats as you can in 20 seconds; rest 10 seconds; repeat 8 times).

4. Stabilize Your Shoulders

mobility move

This test assesses shoulder mobility—critical if you need to lift anything over your head or reach for something high on a shelf. Lie down and, while keeping your forehead and belly in contact with the floor, arms straight and thumbs up, lift up your arms as high as they’ll go. The goal is 2 or more inches off the floor. Hold for 5 inhales and exhales. Avoid holding your breath or bending your elbows.


If you struggle, do the test daily, but repeat 5 times and try these 2 moves. Wall hangs: Stand a few feet away from a wall. Bend at the waist, keep your back flat, and place your palms flat on the wall. Look down, roll your shoulders out (your elbow pits should point up), and “hang” on the wall for 10 breaths. Pushups: To improve shoulder rotation and stability, imagine screwing each hand toward its pinkie finger. Do 3 sets of 5 to 10.


Unleash these tools to target your body’s problem spots.

Lacrosse ball

Use to “unglue” tissue knots and self-massage tight spots on your shoulders, back, and legs.

Foam roller

Best for rolling out tightness in your quads, glutes, and calves, as well as your spine.

Exercise band

A great aid for stretches like hamstring lockouts and wall-hang

PVC pipe or broom

Good for analyzing form when squatting, planking, and doing the arm-raise test.

Built To Move: The 10 Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully, by Kelly Starrett and Juliet Starrett, is out April 4, 2023.

This story appears in the April 2023 issue of Men’s Health.

Headshot of Ben Court

Ben Court is the Executive Editor of Men’s Health. He has a decade of experience writing and editing stories about peak performance, as it relates to health, nutrition, fitness, weight loss, and sex and relationships. He enjoys yoga, cycling, running, swimming, lifting, grilling, and napping.

This article was originally posted here.

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