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

Performance Training

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In Part One, we outlined how through the Joint-by-Joint approach, “an alternating series of stable segments moving on mobile joints” developed by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook, we’re provided with a framework from which to explain non-contact injuries and future exercise prescription.

Part Two summarised how excessive mobility without consideration for the fundamental requirement of joint integrity and compensatory reflexive flexibility, could limit our training and performance.

In this post, we move onto the role that stability plays in the equation, which as a topic brings about its own preconceptions and biases.

To firstly establish definition of terms. In our opinion no description matches as simply and elegantly as that of Physical Therapist and Strength Coach, Charlie Weingroff, in his definition stability, “control in the presence of change”.

If we take a moment to think about what stability is by this definition and what it’s not, we discover therefore stability is NOT simply isometric contraction, high tone and increased tension such as we commonly see in actions such as planks, side planks and the like. This is controlled movement in the presence of an ever-changing environment, much closer to the concept many of us would consider instability, one that allows for variability of movement whilst maintaining control.

Building upon the previous articles (1, 2) introducing the concept of the Joint-by-Joint and the effects of excessive mobility, the question arises at what point is stability considered a threat to our performance?

It is clear to see that an individual with excessive stability, increased tone and tension, across major joints is limited in terms of achievable range of motion (ROM). Such an individual would clearly lack access to basic movement patterns that we require at a neurological basis for the body to understand what is considered “normal” unthreatened movement.

If we remember the basic tenant of the neurodevelopmental perspective, mobility comes first.

Yet often we see both inside and outside of the athletic environment across the UK and beyond, individuals who live and train without an appreciation or understanding of movement pattern development or biomechanics. Living lives at increased levels of stability, compounding the issue in a training environment maximising aesthetic gains through muscle growth and isolation training without consideration for maintaining necessary joint motion and movement patterns.

Take a look at Charlie Weingroff discussing the concept of High Threshold Strategies here.

A body without freedom of movement to explore end ranges in the simplest of unloaded situations, one capable of movement that is both alternating and reciprocal, is a marker of an individual that doesn’t obey the fundamental requirements of the Joint-by-Joint approach.

If we rob a joint of mobility over time decreasing ROM, the mechanoreceptors whose responsibility it is to sense movement and provide feedback to the body, can no longer tell the brain we can move between “x” and “y” safely enabling us to stabilise naturally and efficiently.

To again use our initial definition, stability is “control in the presence of change”.

We therefore need mobile, variable systems to enable stability when needed, we cannot stabilise effectively if the body doesn’t access to its full ranges of motion.

Movement should encapsulate changes of direction, range, aptitude, tempo, exercise and so on, all of which we must demonstrate control in within the presence of environmental changes.

This is fundamental to the human movement system.

For an thought provoking conceptual explanation of stability take a read of this blog post from IFAST Physical Therapist and PRI enthusiast Bill Hartman. The man has a truly astounding understanding of the interaction between systems.

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