Nicole Thompson by Nicole Thompson

Joint mobility and stability are the cornerstones of the Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) Model. We’re going to start by discussing the basics – the five programming components of mobility and stability.

The goal of stability/mobility is to develop postural stability throughout the kinetic chain without compromising mobility at any point in the chain. This boils down to the idea that parts of the body that should be stable are stable, and the parts of the body that move should move correctly which leads to postural stability. Once we have that stability, we can start teaching you how to move your body.

Joint Mobility is defined as the degree to which an articulation (where two bones meet) can move before being restricted by surrounding tissues (ligaments/tendons/muscles etc.) - otherwise known as the range of uninhibited movement around a joint.

Joint Stability is defined as the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.

Moving through the major joints in the upper body, we will outline which ones favor mobility or stability, starting proximally and move towards the distal end.

  • The lumbar spine favors stability, remember how we talk to people about ‘move like a log’ and ‘don’t bend in your low back’ etc.
  • The hip favors mobility since there are a lot of attachments and actions happening at that joint, it needs to move freely.
  • The thoracic spine favors mobility, considering the shoulder attachments, clavicle, ribs, etc. attaching into this area, and think about all the movement that comes from our upper back/shoulder/chest area. It's also a significant component in developing and maintaining good posture.
  • The scapulothoracic joint favors stability, and it is where the scapulae attach to the thorax (which is the region of the body formed by the sternum, thoracic vertebrae, and ribs). It isn’t a typical synovial joint but more of an articulation. However, the ability of the scapulae to maintain proper proximity against the rib cage is vital for the movement and mobility of the glenohumeral joint.
  • The glenohumeral joint favors mobility. This joint is the connection between your shoulder and your arm. It is a highly mobile joint and has a considerable range of motion (ROM). 

Once the body parts are stable in the right spots and mobile in the right spots, we can teach the body to move. Remember that all joints demonstrate varying levels of stability and mobility but tend to favor one over the other – depending on their role in the body.

What happens if someone is ‘unbalanced' such as too mobile in a stable joint or too stable in a mobile joint? Individuals who exhibit limited mobility and stability often resort to compensated movements when performing complex exercises or using advanced equipment.  This leads to a higher risk of injury and/or muscular imbalances.

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