In our ever-changing world of fitness trends the exercise pendulum often swings from safe and sane to hard-core and somewhat crazy.
Maybe you remember the ‘No Pain- No Gain’ philosophy of the early 80’s; or the mindful, rejuvenating yoga, Pilates and less impact acclaimed step-training workouts that grew in popularity during the 90’s. Today we see a little bit of everything with a definite focus on high intensity training methods like P90X, RIPPED, Insanity, Cross Fit, Power Yoga, Piloxing and Turbo Kick or the dance style trends like Zumba, Hip Hop Hustle and LaBlast.
On the positive side a wide spectrum of options means there really is something for every BODY… On the other hand it is more important than ever that new exercisers are aware of their current ability and progress properly into the right workouts. Fitness trends will come and go… but your joints are yours for life. So one good way to gauge if a workout or activity is right for you is to see if it adheres to some simple joint Do’s and Don’ts.
Joint Do's and Don'ts
Let’s start at the neck and work our way down to the ground.
Do – keep the neck limber with appropriate stretching in all directions and focus on strengthening the deep neck muscles that keep your head positioned back over your shoulders with exercises like chin retraction. Try to be more aware of your posture and head alignment habits especially when working at a computer or reading a book. Always try to keep your head stacked over your shoulders.
Don’t – do rapid head circles or a full yoga plow that places compression pressure on the delicate neck vertebra. Also avoid chin jutting during exercise or static postures.
Do- stretch the front of the shoulder including the chest and deltoid muscles. Also focus on strengthening your weak shoulder rotators with exercises like external rotation using an elastic band.
Don’t – perform loaded exercises that place your arms in position where you feel shoulder impingement or pain. That would typically be exercises where the arms go above and behind the head during movement or rotate the shoulders inwardly while lifting; like lat pull downs behind the neck or high upright rows with a narrow grip.
Do – loosen and limber your spine in all directions (forward and back, side to side-laterally and through rotation) and strengthen your spine with core stabilizing exercises like plank holds and the dead bug exercise.
Don’t – sit for long periods of time in a slouched position, or do unsupported lifting with your back in a bent or twisted position.
Do - stretch the hip flexor muscle on the front of the thigh and the hamstrings on the back and strengthen the gluts for good pelvic stability, a good example would be bridging sometimes called hip lifts.
Don’t – perform exercises or use ranges of motion that force your pelvis out of good alignment such as high kicks or side leg lifts that are outside of your ability to keep the hips level or stabilized.
Do - Focus on keeping the knees in alignment with the toes when doing lunging and squatting moves. Also strengthen the quadriceps, in particular the medial side that tends to get over powered by the lateral side. A good exercise for this is the single leg squat or terminal knee extensions.
Don’t – perform repetitive deep knee bends with heavy loads or pivoting moves where the feet are grounded causing a torque at the knee or the hurdlers stretch position.
Do – keep the angles mobile with stretches like ankle circles. Also work on strengthening and mobilizing them by doing toe and heel walking.
Don’t – jump repetitively on one foot for more than 8 hops or over stretch the muscles of the ankle with force or momentum.
DO - keep your joints in their best nutritional shape with the right supplement such as an extra strength liquid glucosamine and chondroitin that is fast absorbing to help improve your joint health. Glucosamine protects the cartilage tissue to keep them flexible and chondroitin helps to cushion and lubricate for better joint movement.