A common question I am asked is:
"What are the best exercises to strengthen my knee/hips/shoulders/elbows/back?"
In other words, what exercises are there to strengthen my joints??
So first things first, the usual disclaimers: I'm not a physio or anything, I'm no expert, and this is not advice in any way at all. It's just something for you to think about and help you get on the right track.
You probably don't need to strengthen your joint.
This is the first important thing to get your head around. And in my experience, it's usually one of the biggest misconceptions we have that can hold us back the most.
Now don't forget, I've not assessed you, I don't know you and I have no idea what is making you worried about your particular joint. But the vast majority of people I have seen don't need to make their joints stronger.
- Not the young person who has recently started to exercise.
- Not the average person who has been exercising for ages.
- Not the little old lady who is afraid to exercise because of her weak joints.
And that is the important thing to remember...your joints are almost certainly not weak. And thinking they are weak will likely hold you back from the very thing that is likely to improve them.
You see, when we think of a joint as being weak, our natural behaviour is to "protect" it. So we use it less. We change the way we move and behave so the joint is favoured...because it is "weak" and needs protecting.
On the face of it, this sounds totally sensible! If we owed a favorite teacup that was delicate and fragile, it's sensible to handle it with kid gloves and molly coddle it. But don't forget, we are not old teacups and our joints are probably not weak.
You probably need to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint.
The best way I can explain this, is to ask you to imagine the last time you went camping and you were pitching a tent.
You would attach the poles to each other at the "joints" and give the tent its rough shape. But lets face it, it was a crappy structure at this point! It would be flopping all over the place, collapsing all the time...it was an unstable structure threatening to break at any moment!
But then you stuck the tent pegs into the ground and tightened up the ropes. And as you did this, the tent would take on a better, more solid shape. And the more ropes you attached and the tighter they were, the more secure and solid the tent structure became.
Can you see how good, solid, strong tent ropes kept the tent poles in place and made it a solid, secure tent?
Well, if you substitute tent poles for our bones and tent ropes for our muscles, you have a very good analogy of our body!
And when you are camping and your tent is collapsing, you could replace all your tent poles for stronger, sturdy tree trunks...but that's not at all practical. You are much better off off tightening the tent ropes.
So I want you to change your mindset...don't think you have weak joints...instead I want you to think that you need to strengthen your muscles.
Let your muscles take the strain, so your joints don't have to!
How to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint?
Remember, I'm not a physio, I haven't assessed you, so I don't know specifics about you. But I like to keep things simple whenever I can, pick the low hanging fruit and try easy options first. And for the lower body, a well executed squat or lunge pattern move will be good for most people, most of the time.
And for the upper body, a well executed push or especially a pull pattern move will also be good for most people, most of the time.
Get the body strong and able to move in a well coordinated fashion. In my experience, that is a fantastic vaccine and cure for many joint issues.
But most of all I want you to remember:
- Your joints are NOT weak.
- You want to get your muscles stronger.
And if this has made you think at all, please feel free to share it and pass it onto your friends etc.
Help make me famous! :)