April Merritt by April Merritt

Joint mobility and stability are the cornerstones of Phase 1 of the Functional Movement and Resistance Training part of the Integrated Fitness Training model (IFT). We’re going to start with discussing the basics – the five programming components of mobility and stability. And just like with the IFT model, we need to understand the basics before we can move on.

The goal of the stability/mobility phase is to “develop postural stability throughout the kinetic chain without compromising mobility at any point in the chain” Which boils down to…the parts that should be stable are stable, and the parts 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 (movement training…phase 2)

Joint Mobility is defined as: the degree to which an articulation (where two bones meet) is allowed to 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.

So the parts of your body we are looking at today are those five components listed on pg. 252, Figure 9-8 in your manual, moving from proximal (close to the center/middle) to distal (far away from the center/middle) – and focused primarily on the torso and upper body. We start with the lumbar spine…Move up/down to the pelvis and thoracic spine…Move out towards the shoulder joint…Move down towards the arms/fingers and legs/feet…

  • Lumbar spine needs to be stable, remember how we talk to people about ‘move as a log’ and ‘don’t bend in your low back’ etc.
  • Pelvis needs to be mobile – There is a lot of attachments and action happening there, we want this joint to move freely
  • Thoracic spine needs to be mobile – consider that you’ve got shoulder attachments, clavicle, ribs etc. attaching into this area, and think about all the movement that comes from our upper back/shoulder/chest area. This is thoracic mobility; it’s also a big component in developing and maintaining good posture.
  • Scapulothoracic joint needs to be stable – this is where the scapula attaches to the thorax, it isn’t a joint so much as a spot where the two meet, but if it is stable then it means our scapula don’t wing out and they work properly
  • Glenohumeral needs to be mobile – this is the connection between your shoulder and your arm. Think about all the things this joint has to do, then think about frozen shoulder syndrome…where people can’t move their arm around because of restrictions in the tissues there (including muscle tightness)
  • Moving out to the distal extremities there are varying degrees of mobility and stability based on which joint you are dealing with – because it is so varied, we don’t go in depth here.

Once the body parts are stable in the right spots and mobile in the right spots, we can teach the body to move and balance as a whole (static balance). Don’t forget that all joints demonstrate varying levels of stability and mobility, but they tend to favor one over the other – depending on their role in the body.

What happens if someone is ‘unbalanced’ -  too mobile in a stable spot or too stable in a mobile spot? Individuals who exhibit limited mobility and stability often resort to compensated movements when performing complex exercises or using advanced equipment.  This leads to greater risk of injury…which we all know is not a great thing.