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Warrior Wednesday 07.07.21 - Joint by Joint approach—and how you can use it

Often times we as coaches hear the words “I can’t squat, it hurts my knees” “I can’t deadlift, I have back problems”. In the world of medicine, many professionals set limitations for us that we go on believing will always just be. We as humans are constantly fixated on the problem and not the framework for how we developed said problem in the first place. Physical activity will always benefit you when done correctly. What I mean to say is, you’re not broken, no matter your age, size, or various health conditions. Let that sink in.


There are fundamental movement patterns that the human body loses from the time we are babies to adulthood for various reasons. These reasons can be as traumatic as an injury/accident or as simple as years with the same movement pattern in a job. [Disclaimer: Sitting isn’t the only poor position to be in all day, even as coaches standing all day can be incredibly difficult on the body and the only way to improve this is by a regular strength and mobility routine.]

If you have been working with a coach and experiencing a pain, or stiffness or something uncomfortable in your body, often times, the coach will cue you differently somewhere other than the site that hurts. Examples of this could be; site of pain: knee—cues: push your big toe down, stand a little wider, sit back into your hips a little more etc. once you have this figured out, we move on. But why?


The joint by joint approach formulated by strength coach Mike Boyle and physical therapist Gray Cook, states that the body is made up of both mobile segments, and stable segments. What? Mobility is referring to the range of motion you can control a joint without any external influence (like a band or person pulling you). Stability is how well you control the mobility you have. Think of the worst exercise ever lunge; can you kneel on one knee? If so, you have the mobility at your hip and ankle to do so. Can you stand up without feeling like a baby deer? If not, how can we stabilize your foot, knee and low back?

Below are prefixed body segments assigned to either a mobile or a stable framework:


The foot needs to be stable. The ankle needs to be mobile. The knee needs to be stable. The hip needs to be mobile. The lumbar spine (low back) needs to be stable. The thoracic spine (mid back) needs to be mobile. The cervical spine (neck) needs to be stable. The scapula-thoracic joint (shoulder blade on ribcage) needs to be stable. The shoulder joint needs to be mobile. The elbow needs to be stable. The wrist needs to be mobile. The hand needs to be stable.


This framework allows us as the coach, to hear your feedback, and look at the joint you may have a complaint about and visit directly above and below that joint. From the list above, should these joints be stable? Should there be more range of motion? Sometimes the issue can be resolved just by acknowledging and giving a clearer direction. Other times there are exercises we can use to warm up or incorporate in a program to get stronger. We as coaches pick out what we see and what you tell us for feedback to design a program that will get you feeling your best and strongest self, no matter what “broken” feedback you have received in the past. It should be noted, to also play to your strengths. If you have a great squat, you better believe we are going to use that to help you develop strength that will ultimately help you with your other lifts. We hope you practice the things you are good at and enjoy, because that’s what makes lifting fun and easy to come back to.


Yes, the human body is incredibly complex. As Ryan Debell said, “humans get paralysis by analysis”, we often choose to ignore what we don’t understand. Understanding the human body is DAUNTING and often misguided even in the professional world. However, the more information you can collect on how your body works, the more you can use this information for prevention of future ailments. None of what I have said so far says you will never be able to use a joint or complete a movement again. If you are working on your own, hopefully this can give you an idea of cues you can think of to avoid pain or further injury. Don’t be afraid to shorten range of motion (like placing your deadlift up on blocks) or creating a purposeful unstable exercise to help build stability. (like a bottom up kettle bell press). This does not mean you are “bad” or “weak” at something, this is simply your mind meeting your physical self where it’s at and improving leaps and bounds over a setback of injury.




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