You workout. But, do you take care of your body? Do you work to strengthen joints? Do you even know how? Rest easy. We give you the info you need to get the job done.
If you’ve never given much thought to the importance of joint health, you might want to consider all of the benefits of strengthening your joints. Strong joints and strong muscles go hand in hand. Without healthy joints, you wouldn’t be able to do much. That’s why it is so important to focus on joint strength and overall joint health as you get your workout on at the gym.
You’re likely already doing a lot of joint beneficial exercises. But, just in case you aren’t, let’s go over a few.
We will go in depth about getting stronger joints while you are at the gym.
The Importance Of Strong And Healthy Joints
Joints are those amazing things that connect two bones together and allow you to move freely. They allow you to do such things as bending your elbows, knees, nodding and turning your head.
Without joints, we would all be walking around like a bunch of stiff zombies and having to waddle our bodies around just to look for some tasty brains, I mean protein, to eat. The joints play a huge role in how your skeletal system functions and moves.
That’s why keeping them strong and healthy should always be number one on your list.
Performing certain exercises that are hard on your joints will most definitely wear them down over time and cause some pretty intense pain in your body. It’s not worth building huge muscles and looking sexy now when you can’t even move or walk without pain later.
Exercises That Can Hurt Your Joints
There are some pretty common exercises done at the gym that can wreak havoc on your joints. It’s important to avoid them at all costs. There are plenty of joint-friendly exercises that you can do instead. What follows is a list of what not to do.
Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown
Pretty much any exercise that requires you to bring your arms behind your neck, like this does, is one you need to stay away from.
These exercises put your shoulder joints in a compromised position that can cause injury and, over time, lots of pain. If you are going to do pulldowns, do them in front of your face and not behind your neck.
Leg Extensions Machine
Though this exercise builds some major quad muscles, it is the absolute worst for your knees. Why? It puts an ungodly amount of pressure on your knee joints as you are lifting and lowering your legs. All the weight is placed on your ankles and your knees get the brunt of the pressure.
This machine can help you as a newbie to perform squats. But, you are better off doing them freestanding and with a barbell or heavy dumbbells. The Smith machine really limits your range of motion and allows for improper form during a squat. This can jack up your back and knees in a hurry.
Any Standing Plyometric Exercise With Weights
Performing exercises such as jump squats, jumping lunges or even jumping jacks with an excessive amount of weight in your hands is going to cause a load of impact on your knees, hips and lower back. They are best done without the weight and will still be super effective that way.
For the love of all that is holy, please stop doing these if you want to keep your shoulder joints healthy. Yes, they target the triceps directly and will give you a good burn, but everything else will suffer greatly. Triceps dips put your shoulders in a very unnatural position as they are, but adding your body weight to that mix, puts extreme pressure on the shoulder joints and can cause tearing of the rotator cuff.
Sit-ups are kind of fading away and that’s a good thing.
While doing a sit-up (if you still do them), you might notice they work your hip flexors more than anything. But, that is not the only reason to avoid them. Sit-ups take a toll on your lower back, putting excessive pressure on your spine and they produce the same amount of force on the disc that can create a bulge. There are plenty of other awesome and safe abs exercises so skip this one.
I could go on and on about exercises that are bad for your joints, but since this is about making your joints stronger and healthier, I’m going to get to the point so you can get started on taking the best care of your joints.
I would recommend that if you are unsure about an exercise, to do some research on it and find out whether it’s safe for your joints or not. Also, just listen to your body. There is a difference between good pain and bad pain.
So if you notice something isn’t quite right, stop what you’re doing and move on to the next thing.
Exercises That Will Help You Strengthen Joints And Lean To Healthier Joints
There are a ton of exercises you can do that will be super beneficial to not only building the muscle you want but also for keeping your joints super strong and moving freely. If you focus more on joint-healthy exercises, they will benefit the whole package. Why? The better your joints move, the better form you’ll have to exercises and the better results you are going to get for all your effort.
What follows is a list of some of the best exercises for strong joints.
Squat To Overhead Barbell Press
This is a heart pounding, multi-joint, multi-muscle, compound movement that will give you the results you want, all while keeping your joints in tip-top shape. Begin by standing with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart and holding the barbell in a racked position and rested on your shoulders. Push your hips back as if you are about to sit down on a bench or chair and go into your squat. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground. As you come to standing, press the barbell overhead and lock your elbows.
Lower it back to the racked position and start again.
Triceps Extension With A Barbell
If you want to gain strength in your elbow joints and target those triceps directly without tearing up your shoulders (like you might by doing dips), then extensions are just the move you want to do.
Stand up nice and tall, or sit up straight on a bench if you like. Hold the barbell overhead with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Bend only at your elbows, which should be right next to your head, and lower the barbell back behind your neck. Your shoulders need to stay in place and straight or else you’ll be in the same boat as with the dips.
Then extend it upward till your arms are almost straight and repeat.
Lunges will strengthen your joints in a jiffy, especially when you add the weight of a set of dumbbells. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet together and step your right foot forward to go into your lunge position. Do not let your knee pass your toes. For the entire time, the dumbbells should be by your sides with your arms straight. Come back up to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
Barbell Hip Thrust
We can’t leave the hips out of the mix when talking about strengthening your joints because those are some of the most used joints during most everyone’s day. Glute Bridges are extremely effective as well.
Sit on the ground with a loaded barbell across your legs. You can put some padding on the barbell or use a fatter barbell to prevent any discomfort. Lean yourself against the weight bench and rest your shoulder blades against it. The bar should be right in the crease where your legs bend at the hips.
Push through the balls of your feet and raise your hips upward until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.
Kettlebell swings are another exercise that strengthens your hip joints and increases your range of motion.
It’s definitely all in the hips with this exercise, though some people think it is more of a leg workout, in spite of the fact that it’s not meant to be. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands by the handle. Slightly bend at the knees and tuck the kettlebell back between your knees, then build momentum by thrusting your hips forward as you come to standing.
The kettlebell should swing up to about eye level each time you come to standing. Let your hips do the work.
This is great for strengthening your knee joints and lower back, as well as giving you a stable core. It’s also one of the simplest exercises to do. Simply pick up a heavy weight in each hand and walk as far as you can with them. Keep your posture and face forward the entire time. After you’ve gone as far as you can go, take a rest and do it all over again.
Standing Military Press
Get those shoulder joints working with this move.
It’s great for strengthening your upper body and, by standing during this exercise, you’ll get the extra bonus of full core engagement. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip just in front of your chest. Extend the bar upwards as you exhale, then bring it back down slowly and repeat.
A Few Other Things You Can Do To Strengthen And Protect Your Joints
Healthy joints are not just about lifting weights and doing various exercises. There’s a lot more involved in keeping your joints strong and in good shape. For instance:
Warm-Up Properly Before Each Workout
A good warm up should always be done before any type of exercise is performed. It should last for a minimum of five minutes and include some dynamic stretching to prepare your body for what is to come. Warming up and dynamic stretching will help lube your joints and make you more successful in your workouts and various exercises.
Mix Up Your Routine From Time To Time
Overuse is one of the main causes of joint wearing. Instead of doing the same exercises time and time again, try adding a huge variety of exercises that move and work your joints in different ways. This will also keep you from getting bored with the same old routine.
Take The Time To Stretch After Each Workout
I can’t stress enough how important it is to stretch. It can prevent many injuries and help to ensure your joints will move freely. After you workout, hold each stretch for 30 seconds for each major muscle group.
Boost Your Omega-3 Intake
Not only are omega-3s heart-healthy and helpful in the muscle-building department, aside from exercise, they are also the best things for your joints. You can find them in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines. Also, they are found in breakfast eggs and can be taken as an oral supplement.
Being kind to your joints and making them stronger is key to success when working out at the gym. You need to take care of your joints. Do only exercises that are safe and effective. And, be sure to get your supplement on so that your joints stay stronger, longer.
By Heather Neff, CPT.