I read the book Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle” in 2010 and it was a great book that created parts of my training philosophy today. One of the biggest things I took away from the book was the Joint by Joint approach. Boyle credits himself and Gray Cook as the designers of that thought process and I love that it is “bottom up” and is focused on movements, not muscles. Boyle also states that, “Problems at one joint usually show up as pain in the joint above or below.” The book then starts to break down the Joint by Joint approach with a heading “THE PROCESS IS SIMPLE” unfortunately after reading the rest of the chapter it was not so simple for me to understand. But let’s see if we can’t fill in some holes. Let’s start from the ground up as they do:
Ankle- Yes, we need to increase its (Sagittal) mobility, or dorsiflexion. But let’s not forget the foot also needs the mobility to evert (pronate) into the ground in the frontal and transverse planes. Additionally the ankle needs the stability to lock up in inversion (supination) to propel our mass and momentum forward.
Knee- We all need knee stability so we don’t tear an ACL. Yet, how do we stabilize the knee? First, understand what makes up the knee (answer = tibia/ femur) and who controls the knee (answer= ankle/ hip). In other words don’t blame the car (knee) blame the drivers (ankle/ hip). This means that stability is not created by the knee; it is driven from the hip and ankle.
Hip- ABSOLUTELY we need hip mobility, but what most people don’t realize is how mobile our hips actually can be. The hip must be mobile in all three planes of motion, which means it must be able to move in 36 different ways. The hips are our most potent power generators. However, along with that power comes great responsibility in ensuring that mobility AND stability are present in all three planes.
Lumbar- Without a doubt we need stability at this joint. Some would say we don’t want it to become mobile and that’s because of our facet orientation, which is not built for much motion or mobility. As we work our way up the lumbar spine the amount of rotation decreases to around 1 or 2 degrees. So in my opinion, we’d better not lose those 1 or 2 degrees of rotation because they are probably important. Don’t forget the lumbar spine still moves in all three planes of motion. Maybe we should ask ourselves why is the lumbar spine hurting (or being asked to move more than is needed) and who it is picking up the slack for?
T-Spine- First off, I need more thoracic spine mobility, but who doesn’t? The thoracic spine is a three dimensional cage that loves the transverse plane. Just take a look at gait when the pelvis moves to the right the t-spine rotates and loads to the left to help us explode forward. We need to make sure that our T-spine stays healthy so it can continue to assist the rest of the body and not hurt it.
Shoulder- Just like the hip, the ball and socket joint was built for mobility; but with great mobility comes the need for strong stabilization. We also cannot forget that the shoulder includes the scapula and where the shoulder goes so does the scapula. The shoulder is driven by the rest of the body in addition to the hand and we need to maintain that three dimensional mobility.
The word that I have been driving towards is MOSTABILITY. This is a term created by Gary Gray who defines mostability as just the right amount of motion, at the right time, in the right plane, in the right direction for the right reason. Our joints need both mobility and stability to maintain proper function. Overall, I think that the joint by joint approach is a great step in the right direction. But let’s not forget that our body is not a bunch of individual joints but an integrated system that works together. We can’t just look above and below for injury mechanisms, we need to look much further than that. The motions that our hand goes through affects our ankle and everything in between. So when we search for injury mechanisms we need to not only look at the individual joints but look to our body’s facial lines. Examples from (Thomas Myers) or flexibility highways (Chuck Wolf) are excellent sources to determining the WHY in any sort of body pain or injury.