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What is the Joint-by-Joint Approach? (Part One)

Fundamental Movement Performance Training

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A systematic theory of approaching the human body developed by Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Boyle and Physical Therapist Gray Cook, the Joint-by-Joint describes the foundation of efficient human movement in which “an alternating series of stable segments move on mobile joints”.

This approach has been used to explain injuries resulting from non-contact situations in both acute and chronic pain scenarios, as well as guiding the appropriateness of training choices in exercise selection during training and rehabilitation.

From a practical standpoint, a stable joint such as the knee for example, controlling frontal and transverse plane movement, is supported above and below by two mobile joints, the tri-planar hip joint above and the ankle joint below.

Through the rigours of life, poor exercise selection and inappropriate training methodology we introduce inputs and stressors into the body that change the “true” alternating series of this approach.

A joint such as the hip, mechanically considered mobile, may over time see a detrimental loss when end-range movement is not fully explored. This may subsequently result in degenerative changes to the joint, forcing the body to slow down and limiting the capacity for exercise at even the most basic of levels.

To coin a Shirley Sahrmann term, we all suffer however from a “directional susceptibility to movement”. The body will move in the path or least resistance every time. It’s optimised for efficiency, engineered for survival.

A mobile joint losing its versatility becoming increasingly more stable, therefore impacts areas above and below the site as our system searches to find new ways of creating the necessary mobility and range of motion to perform the tasks we demand of it.

A once mobile hip joint, now increasing stability through a loss ROM, potentially may see what should be stable lumbar spine becoming a mobile joint to accommodate for the loss of motion in performing actions such as hip extension when running for example. When the Joint-by-Joint approach is off it appears that dysfunction, compensation, poor performance and pain are soon to follow.

Take a listen to Physical Therapist and Strength Coach Charlie Weingroff discussing the Joint-by-Joint here.

In such examples, stable joints becoming mobile joints sees dislocations, positional faults, muscle strains, disc herniations and of the course, the resulting pain from those movement impairment issues.

This approach to the human body underpins not only exercise selection within the Integrative Fitness Training methodology, but explains the use of both the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and Selective Functional Movement Top Tier Assessment (SFMA) within initial screening procedures.

At a fundamental level, do you have appropriate mobility where you should be mobile, and are you sufficiently stable in the joint systems that should be stable?

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