Joint Mobility Work…. From toe to top.
There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding joint mobility programs lately, and it’s easy to get a little confused for those who want to apply this to their fat loss goals. This mini-article will help to explain some of the finer points of joint mobility training, so that you know how to best utilize this for your fat burning program. Read on for some common myths about joint mobility.
Common Joint Mobility Training Myths
1. Joint mobility is the same as stretching. Static stretching is a method of elongating the muscular tissues through the holding of certain poses. Most people utilize stretching routines for the wrong reasons. It is very common for people to stretch in order to prevent injuries and feel more relaxed – it is incorrectly used as both a method of warm-up and cooldown. There has been no scientific evidence that concludes that stretching is a valid method of injury prevention.
Joint mobility, on the other hand, focuses on using dynamic range of motion drills to wash and lubricate the joints with synovial fluid (joint nutrition) in order to restore and coordinate proper range of motion. This method of training does not deform the soft-tissues, merely takes them through their normal range of motion in an attempt to relax them by removing adhesions called scar tissue.
While stretching will move into and beyond tension, joint mobility training moves to slowly release the tension by gently “brushing by it.” Joint mobility exercise is not a flexibility program, it is a joint strengthening program. Even still, our tissue flexibility is determined by our degree of mobility at the two adjacent joints. If one is very limited in their joint mobility, they will also be very tight muscularly. Healthy flexibility comes as a by-product of healthy mobility practice.
2. Joint mobility training is reserved for athletes. Everyone can benefit from joint mobility exercises, especially those that have lost their range of motion. As we age, our body naturally loses its ability to perform complex movements. This leads to restrictions in our movement that can be restored through joint mobility practice. Athletes will absolutely benefit from JM exercises, to help them prevent over-compensation and over-use injuries in their specific sport.
However, anyone and everyone will benefit by including this type of exercise in their program. This especially includes the elderly, overweight individuals, people whom have a very fixed movement schedule (ie: those who sit a lot during the day), people whose jobs are physically demanding, and youngsters that are involved in sports.
The good news is that everyone develops in a predictable manner when applying joint mobility exercises. No matter how old, how tight, how fat, how stressed – everyone will make progress.
3. Some joints are mobilizers, and some are stabilizers. I’ve heard a lot of strength coaches refer to some joints as requiring more mobility, and others requiring more stability training. For instance, those joints which are commonly referred to as mobilizers are the ankles, hips, thoracic vertebrae, and shoulders. The stabilizing joints are usually the feet, knees, lumbar vertebrae, and the elbow. This is a common misunderstanding about human anatomy.
Every joint requires mobility, and we actually gain stability through our mobility practice. I’ve heard it said that the joints which are wrongly classified as “stabilizers,” like the lower back, should not be moved to their full range of motion. This is one of the most dangerous things we can do for our lower back. The only way that our lumbar spine can get the joint nutrition it needs is to move it. If we don’t move it, calcification (joint salts) will begin to accumulate and eventually will form tiny arthritic stalactites that will cause pain when finally moved again. The only way to gain healthy stability at each joint is through mobility practice.
4. Joint mobility training is complicated and requires extensive study to perform correctly. This is a half-truth… Each joint has a predetermined range of motion. For instance, the elbow will flex, extend, and rotate. At first glance, it may seem that this really limits how much you can move your elbow, but the truth is that even these three movements allow virtually limitless movement combinations even within the confined framework of healthy elbow range of motion.
All you must do to begin joint mobility training is move each joint in whatever way feels natural to you. Move left, right, forward, backward, up and down. There’s no right or wrong way to begin at first, and even the biggest motor-moron (like I was when I began) can excel towards graceful movement and pain-free range of motion. I said this myth is a half-truth.
Extensive practice of joint mobility will continue to unlock movement potential. The sky is the limit with your exploration, so joint mobility exercise can grow into something very sophisticated (not complicated) as you learn at your own pace.
Joint mobility practice will pay off based on what you put into it. It can be a valuable warm-up method, or a lifelong pursuit of pain-free, sophisticated movement. The good news is that all it takes is a little bit of practice.
To your health and success,
John Sifferman, NSCA-CPT