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Joint by Joint Concept

A little background on the Joint-by-Joint Concept. This approach was created by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook to help better understand functional movement. The body is connected through a series of joints, much like a chain. Each link in the chain is a different joint on the body, and they all serve an important purpose to the way the body moves. The joints alternate between being mobile and stable as you work your way up the body. It is oriented this way to allow for optimal body movement and reduces the chances of injury to certain joints.


An easier way to think of this concept is:

Ankle = Mobile

Knee = Stable

Hip = Mobile

Lumber Spine (Low Back) = Stable

Thoracic Spine (Upper Back) = Mobile

Scapula = Stable

Shoulder = Mobile

Elbow = Stable

Wrist = Mobile


Just because certain joints, or areas of the body, are categorized as “stable” doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to move. Rather, these areas should be strengthened, throughout resistance training, in order to create that stability when needed. For example, the Lumbar Spine (Low Back) is categorized as “stable” and yet we can easily move it by simply bending over. However, when you go to do a deadlift, you want to stabilize this area of the body, by bracing your core through inter-abdominal pressure, in order to complete a safe and successful rep.


On the other hand, a joint being extremely “mobile” isn’t necessarily a great thing either. Having strength at end ranges of motion is vital to injury prevention and overall joint strength. The previous newsletter was all about the benefits of training with full range of motion, which applies directly to this situation. Similarly, to the “stable” joints, resistance training is able to enhance joint mobility, if done correctly.


Loss of function in a joint can result in a domino effect on the body. What I mean by this is that if a joint that is supposed to be mobile, becomes stiff and immobile (or vice versa), then the joint(s) around it will be forced to compensate for the dysfunction. This can lead to many more issues if it isn’t addressed. Let’s say you sprain your ankle pretty badly. It will more than likely swell up and have some gross bruising on it for a few weeks, but will ultimately go away in a month or so. If you fail to rehab the ankle, then there is a chance that it won’t heal properly and the joint will be less mobile than it previously was or is supposed to be. This might seem like an insignificant side-effect, but if there is even a slight immobilization, the body will feel the effects, specifically in the knee directly above the affected ankle. The knee will be forced to become less stable, making it more and more susceptible to future injuries. This is just one example that can be applied to many other situations.


While every injury to a joint doesn’t always stem from dysfunctional joints around it, sometimes this can be the direct problem. Analyzing and addressing faulty biomechanics in our daily movements, through the use of unilateral exercises and movement screens, can help to solve these issues before they happen. If you are someone that has dealt with a nagging ache/pain in for a while and there has not been any exercise or stretch (that directly targets that area) that has helped relieve the ache/pain, try to focus on strengthening the joints around it and see what happens. Worst case scenario: you strengthen up a few other joints in your body. Best case scenario: you fix the issue and are able to move better, feel better, and live better.

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