What is “joint integrity” and why is it important?
Have you ever heard the adage, “You are only as strong as your weakest link”? Whether referring, literally, to weak links in a chain or the human body as a whole. The weak links of a connective chain are ALWAYS exposed sooner or later.
When applied to sports-specific training, joint integrity becomes of great importance in warranting health. It is important to ensure the small muscle fibers and ligaments that encapsulate the bodies joints are strong enough to support the large primary muscles.
Incorporating stability, mobility, and flexibility exercises into your everyday workout will increase productivity. Allowing the muscles to create a clean, full range of motion during extended periods of intense training. Therefore power, strength, and speed are not limited in a workout regimen, and the potential for injury is greatly reduced.
Joint integrity is the actual health of a joint. Yet, when strength training, a joint itself cannot be strengthened in the same manner, or at nearly the same rate, as a muscle. This is due to the blood flow property of tendon’s and ligaments vs muscles. Making it crucial to focus on the stability of a joint by strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint. Continually concentrating on mobility and flexibility to promote proper adaptation and conditioning of the connective tissue.
Potentially more important is the focus on PRESERVATION of the joint through PROPER strength training. Which can be easily accomplished by choosing exercises that do not compromise the joint to begin with.
Do your workouts encompass proper joint integrity?
In terms of the general fitness population, too often people get to the gym and immediately make a beeline to the free weights. Frequently working hard on the large primary muscles and neglecting the small muscle fibers and ligaments surrounding their joints. Selecting exercises they feel maximize their “beach” muscles without thinking twice about the force they are placing on their joints along the way. Either not realizing or not caring that the joints and area encapsulating them (cartilage, ligaments and tendons) subsequently take the most rigorous amounts of stress. All because time was not taken to select proper exercises and/or allotted for a proper warm-up. This may work short-term, but is not rational or responsible when considering overall health and safety for long-term muscle development and use. More frequently, those who forgo these crucial elements become injured or complain of joint pain. And they wonder why.
When applied to diamond athletes, our motto is simple. Get loose to throw, don’t just throw to get loose. In other words, do a necessary warm-up routine before even picking up and throwing a ball. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary, stressful throws in the long run.
Once the ball is picked up, it should only take between 10 and 20 throws to get loose. If it takes more than this, the warm-up routine may need to be reevaluated. We call it “saving bullets in the chamber.”
Results never trump health! Take time to WARM UP!
At Throw Smart, we take the health of our athletes very seriously. Velocity gains and improved performance are simply a by-product of building balanced, healthy athletes. In doing so, preparation is a major focus for each and every personalized workout.
We all know intense training can be very taxing on the body. Whether training to improve overall strength or training to throw harder, a proper warm-up should always be performed prior to the bulk of the workout. This doesn’t mean completing the same boring running routine each day. It’s all about preparing the muscles bearing the bulk of the workload for the particular workout.
Preparing and conditioning a tendon/ligament for training must begin with a proper warm-up. It’s essential that stretching comes after. People are commonly confused about the difference between warming up and stretching. Thinking if they stretch, they’re warming up. That is not the case.
A warm-up involves increasing the core temperature of the body. Whether through a brisk walk, jogging, the stationary bike, or a series of aerobic and/anaerobic activities (commonly referred to as a dynamic warm-up). You must elevate your core temperature before stretching and/or taxing your muscles with training. It makes tissues more pliable and prepared for activities.
PREPARE to train!
When discussing the Velocity portion of our Throw Smart mobile app, we are referring to the throwing portion of the workouts. In many cases these workouts may include the use of weighted balls, depending on the athlete and preferences selected.
When performing these workouts we make it mandatory our athletes prepare properly. First, getting blood flow throughout the body with a quality dynamic warm up. Next, getting the arm and shoulder loose by performing our arm care routine.
When performing the arm care exercises we concentrate on maintaining proper form while also pushing “thresholds”. Increasing exercise “thresholds” more with each training session. If form is compromised during any exercise or drill stop the activity immediately. Don’t get in a hurry. Let the body recover before moving to the next exercise or drill.
Only after the arm is completely loose should the main portion of the personalized Velocity workout begin. By demanding proper preparation we hope to insure our Velocity program is utilized in the safest manner possible. It also increases productivity by allowing more intent to be produced when conducting the drills and exercises prescribed.
The strength side of the Throw Smart mobile app is no different. Athletes must perform a dynamic warm up to get blood flow throughout the body. Then we incorporate low impact exercises and joint integrity work. Centralizing preparation in the areas receiving the most workload in the workout. These are crucial elements in properly performing a strength workout.
Healthy habits lead to healthy athletes!
So when we discuss joint integrity in strength training, it is important to understand joint preservation. Coupled with efforts to improve the stability of the area surrounding the joint through conditioning and adaptation. These elements MUST remain a priority in order to stay healthy. Accomplish this with routines that contain the right recipe of warm-ups, mobility, stability, flexibility and strength exercises. Exercises which compliment and preserve the joints. Exercises that place maximum work on the muscle with minimum force on the joints!
Interested in learning more? Check out this blog post about proper assessing, preparation and training.