Before the acronym "CARS" was invented, Before people were talking about "movement" there was Joint Mobility.
Sometimes called joint rotations. Simple, systematic joint rotations that don't need a weekend seminar or an over proced certification to learn.
All it is is moving your joints through their currently available full range of motion for a number of reps, more on that number shortly.
The goal is simple, warm up and loosen up.
The benefits are far more wide ranging. Let's take a moment to think through them.
Joint Health Most of the joints in the body, especially those with the greatest ability to move are called synovial joints. This means when you move those joints, the synovial bursa releases synovial fluid into the joint, essentially oiling that joint for smooth movement. This synovial fluid carries some nutrition into the joint and basically has zero downside. As you move the joint, all associated muscle tissue is going to be moved with it, bringing blood to that area, massaging those muscles as they wake up and fill with life giving blood. Regularly stimulating the synovial bursa and boosting blood flow is no bad thing, especially if there is more intense movement to follow.
Awareness and Coordination
Your brain has what is known as a somatosensory map held in storage. In the simplest of simple terms, this is like a memory of how the body moves, how the muscles make movements, what the limits of joint actions are before injury happens and so on. The thing is, like all memories, it can fade. Sometimes the brain likes to be reminded of some of the faded areas of that somatosensory map. Kind of redrawing the lines, retracing the contours, etc.
Areas of the map that haven't been visited for a while may be viewed as suspicious, the brain my not like you going there. It can reduce the nerve signals to muscles that might take us there, or even send out a pain signal if it thinks we're moving into danger.
So take time to fill in that map by moving the joints thought their full ranges, or rather through their perceived full ranges. Let the brain experience a full, high definition map of the body. It may very well reward you with a greater range of motion and / or a reduction in pain as the territory becomes more familiar and starts to be deemed safe.
A full and detailed high definition map helps you move through you territory with ease, grace and speed.
A Systems Check
How does the shoulder feel today? Is the low back more or less stiff than last time? Is the knee healing up?
A regular joint mobility practice can act as a systems check to see where your body is right now, today.
It can let you know that the run you had planned is a go, because the ankle is feeling good. It can warn you that that old shoulder injury needs some attention today after yesterday's Jiu Jitsu training.
It can show you that the practice is helping as the spine starts to twist that bit more easily than this time last week. It can flush some blood through those quads and hamstrings to reduce the DOMS from those lunges the other day.
That's three compelling reasons. If they don't get you thinking about and applying this info, I don't know what will.
This is old school joint mobility.
I've taught this for nearly 20 years in and before Wg-Fit, and it's been taught by others for far far longer than that.
Back in my youth, in the 90's, my Karate instructor, the late Jack Parker would have us do joint mobility stuff in our warm ups. I've met a great many martial arts folk across the globe, most of whom have a practice so similar that it is almost identical in all but the order and maybe some variations on the movements.
Joint Mobility as a modality, a concept, an idea of simply and systematically rotating the joints is generations old.
This is so simple and so fundamental it is criminal for people to monetise it.
Here's a fairly detailed run through, there's a follow along below:
That's the detailed video for reference. Bookmark that.
This one is a slightly sped up video of me actually using a Joint Mobility sequence as part of my warm up routine for a Kettlebell Set:
You can change the playback speed on the video to 0.75 and that is about real speed.
So how best to use this stuff?
There is no one recommendation.
My friend and former client Peter Mamaev, owner of Jungle BJJ in Dublin likes to call this a "pre-warm up" He uses it as a systems check prior to specific warm up and then training.
Another old client, a former boxer named Jamin, he likes to start his day with this soon after waking.
You can do this every day, you can do this a couple of times per week. It'll not leave you fatigued, so really it's down to making the time.
How much time? 5 minutes for a handful of reps. I did 50 reps of each exercise the other day in under 15 minutes.
I remember reading one text that recommended doing the same number of reps per joint as your current age. It's not a bad recommendation. But really, go by feel. If it feels right, it is right. You may spend longer on the shoulders if they feel like they need and take time away from the hips. And next time, you might give that time back to the hips.
If you feel pain, something that is of concern that doesn't improve by some degree in a few reps, stop that movement. If it gets worse with that movement, reduce range of motion, reduce speed, and if that makes no difference, stop that motion, move onto the next and maybe give your physio a call.
If you use this or not it's your choice.
I highly, no strongly recommend you make the choice to include this into your regular practice.
If you do, I'll expect a thank you email in a few weeks....
All the best