The Joint-by-Joint Principle

CrossFit Chiltern
The Joint-by-Joint Principle

If you suffer from pain when you perform certain or you just struggle to get into positions when you're training, then it could be your mobility.

The Joint-by-Joint Principle (developed by Michael Boyle and Gray Cook.)

The Joint-by-Joint Principle explains that each joint has either a function of mainly stability or mobility. If we talk about the whole body and we start at the bottom, the foot, should be a stable joint. Working up to the ankle, this is a mobile joint. Progressing up to the knee - stable, hips/pelvis-mobility. The lumbar spine, the lower back, the core -stability. upper back and shoulders- mobility. And in the neck- stability.

If there's a break in that chain, the segments either side will compensate. For example, if you lack stability in your feet, the ability to balance, to keep that foot stable then you're going to have to compensate and recruit stability from mobile joints like your ankle to be able to perform a movement. If you lack foot stability, then your ankle won't be able to mobilize as much as you want it to because it will be working to stay stable. If we work up into the ankle, if we lack mobility in our ankle, then we're going to have to compensate for that lack of mobility up or down that chain. For example, if you were squatting, and you lack mobility in your ankle, you're going to have to recruit more movement in the joints further up that chain. And often that would be sort of overuse of the knee, overuse, possibly losing that core stability, to get lower down, so you're going to round your back. You lose that stability there. And that works up as well if we go up into the hips as well. If we're tight in the hips, then that's when you see people getting that position where they're tucking their pelvis under. They're unable to get the hip hinge they need to get into to get into a deep squat. You’re going to recruit mobility from areas where you should have stability.

The most common area people suffer from pain, I would say would be the lower back area, that area isn't necessarily the main problem. The problem lies up and down the chain. I'm going to talk about the most common areas now because with this lower back.

Often that lower back pain is caused by tightness in the hips or/and, or say and/or, tightness in the upper back as well. These are the two areas we want to be mobile, we want the hips to be mobile, the pelvis to be mobile and we want this upper back, this thoracic spine to be mobile. If the upper back is too stiff. That's going to affect you in multiple exercises.

The overhead press. If you're too tight in your upper back, when we do an overhead press, we're going to struggle to be able to press overhead without recruiting mobility from where we shouldn't be recruiting it, from where we should be maintaining stability.  You’re going to lean back, overextend through the lower back, and press up this way compressing the discs.

That would be the same if your hips are tight and you're coming down into a squat. If your hips are tight and you're unable to get your knees working outwards in your squat, you're unable to hinge properly through here, then you're going to tuck your pelvis under. You may lose this knee position as you're going down. You’re going to lose the stability in the joints you need to be stable, and that's going to put you under a lot of pressure, under risk of injury from those movements.

This is why it’s so important to listen to coach and ask their advice when completing a movement that you find difficult. They can help to determine whether it is a stability, mobility or just a motor control problem. They will also help to advise on the best way to perform/modify the movement and help with some tips to improve those areas that need some work.

It’s also so important to mobilise and warm up properly prior to exercise especially in the tighter areas to help improve your function and reduce the risk of injury. Remember if in doubt ask a question. Fixing movement is what we do!

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