One way to think of the human body is to imagine it as a collection of linked segments. These segments move at joints , held together with muscle and tendons while enclosed is a large sack of fascia. Not a very appealing description, but certainly simple.
When the body moves, these segments all move in an ordered sequence. The movement pattern is then dependent on the functionality and coordination of the joints, muscles and tendons, and fascia. I've addressed how to improve the movement patterns of the muscles and tendons in the Train Movements Not Muscles article. Improving fascia was covered in the article entitled Roll With It. Now I'd like to address ways to improve the functionality of joints.
Mike Boyle and Gray Cook have been talking about a joint-by-joint approach to the body for years. Coach Boyle says it this way...
Each joint has a specific function and is prone to predictable levels of dysfunction. As a result, each joint has particular training needs.
The joint-by-joint approach starts with an examination of the major joints in the body. If you look at these joints with respect to their purpose, you see a pattern.
Joint - Primary Needs
Ankle - Mobility
Knee - Stability
Hip - Mobility
Lumbar Spine - Stability
Thoracic Spine - Mobility
Scapula - Stability
Gleno-humeral - Mobility
Elbow - Stability
Wrist - Mobility
The pattern is that the joints alternate between the need to be stable and the need to be mobile. The ankle and the Gleno-humeral joints are designed to move in a many directions and planes---hence the need for them to be mobile. They are both sandwiched between joints whose primary movement pattern is in one plane---hence the need for them to be stable.
This breakdown of the joints has influenced my exercise selection. For example, we no longer do scorpions, iron cross, or windshield wipers. These exercises force the lumbar spine to be mobile, but its primary need is to be stable. Working a joint against its primary need is asking for injury.
Often injuries and aches and pains in a joint can be traced to dysfunction of the joint above or below. Low back pain is often a function of poor hip mobility. Knee pain is often caused by inadequate ankle mobility. When an athlete lands, either from jumping or the flight phase of sprinting, the ankle needs mobility to absorb and move energy up the kinetic chain. An immobile ankle limits this. Therefore the energy from landing gets transferred to the knee which isn't designed for this purpose.