If you have been following along with the blog for awhile, you have probably heard me mention joint mobility exercises a few times. This little-known, yet quickly emerging method of exercise is starting to take a prominent place in some of today’s fitness programs, and it is very important for those who have limited range of motion. There have been several joint mobility programs that have been developed over the past few years, and there is a good reason why – these exercises work! I have seen joint mobility exercises prescribed as a method of rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, workout warmups, and a means of athletic enhancement. It has even been referred to as the fountain of youth. This brief article will explain what joint mobility is, why it’s important for your training goals, and how you can get started using joint mobility exercises today.
Think of how well kids move when they’re at the playground – swinging, leaping, and climbing all come naturally to children. Would you think I’m crazy if I told you it is our birthright as adults to move with this same amount of freedom as super-active kids? As we grow older, and stop moving around as much, our body actually forgets how to move. The good news is that this process is completely reversible through highly-accessible, low tech, and easy to implement joint mobility exercises.
Movement is one of the first, integral steps to any physical goal. Having full, healthy range of motion at each joint is imperative to staying injury-free and maximizing our performance in recreation and life, in general.
Joint mobility exercises involve moving each joint through its full range of motion. Some people do this naturally everyday, oftentimes tilting the head left and right or rolling it in a circle to relieve tension. We begin with linear movements such as forwards/backwards, and left/right. Eventually, we can graduate into circles and more complex movement patterns. These exercises involve reaching to the fullest range of motion possible, without moving through tension. It may resemble a form of standing yoga, streching, or tai-chi, but joint mobility is in its own class and not dependent upon old traditions – it is fully supported by the latest research and science of the West as well as the ancient art and practice of the Eastern traditions.
Joint mobility exercise acts as a foundational technique to increase range of motion and restore lost movement patterns, but the benefits don’t stop at increasing range of motion. There are a host of benefits waiting to be explored. I’ll include the immediate benefits of joint mobility training in this article and save the long-term benefits for a later blog post.
1. Once you have finished a whole-body joint mobility session, you will feel completely relaxed. Any tension that was present has either been eliminated or softened.
2. You will restore health at each joint in your body by washing them with synovial fluid (joint lubrication). Prior to adolescence, our body would automatically feed our joints with nutrition. After puberty, the body stops doing this, and the only nutrition that our joints receive is that which we feed it through movement. So, if we don’t move through a full range of motion at each joint, we are literally starving our joints.
3. Another immediate benefit of joint mobility is that it provides a method or reaching a heightened sensory awareness which will improve your ability to concentrate. In other words, you will feel fully awake and aware. A personal note is that once I finish my daily full-body session, I feel ready to do anything, completely prepared for any task. I could run 10 miles, lift something heavy with ease, or swing from the monkey bars at the playground.
So, how do you begin to use this powerful training tool today? It’s really quite simple. Joint mobility is available to everyone. Young and old, fit or fat – it doesn’t matter, everyone progresses in a predictable way. And it doesn’t take anything more than your own ingenuity and determination to practice.
To begin, if you feel tense anywhere in your body, start by moving that area – just move it, it’s that simple. If your arm is tense, move your elbow back and forth, don’t just flex and extend – move in circles too. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this in the beginning – any movement that you normally don’t do will help to begin to restore proper joint function. Shrug your shoulders in circles, do hip circles – it’s ok if you look like your dancing. If you’re not comfortable with how you look, don’t do it in the front of the health club. If you are seated a lot during the day, move your neck and your shoulders. This is all you have to do to start – just baby steps.
The one important thing to keep in mind is not to move into pain. Experiencing minor discomfort is ok – and we actually want to move into this discomfort, not through it into pain though. Keep your discomfort level at a 3 out of 10 (10 being extremely painful, 1 being minimal discomfort).
There will be more information coming about this superb training method in future blog posts (including some beginner routine videos!). Look for the next installment to be my personal story about finding and exploring joint mobility exercises.
To your health and success,
Fitness Professional and Wellness Warrior
P.S. As I said in the introduction, there are a lot of joint mobility programs out there – and I’ve reviewed many of them. If you want a complete system for joint mobility training, I recommend Scott Sonnon’s Intu-Flow program here: http://www.rmaxi.com/products/intu-flow.html With this program, there is no guesswork involved, you simply follow along with the DVD and your body will thank you for it. Intu Flow stands head and shoulders above the other joint mobility programs I have encountered.
P.P.S. Stay tuned for the next blogpost about joint mobility exercises, where I explain how I discovered joint mobility training, and all of the benefits I have received since.