Joint health is not just something the elderly need to worry about. Well, it is if you don’t pay attention to it earlier on.
As yogis and top athletes are quickly discovering, paying attention to your oft forgotten joint health vastly improves overall joint longevity and body function. Thankfully there’s a new exercise that has everyone from amateur yogis to even the world champion Chicago Cubs subscribing to it. Functional Range Conditioning and its derivative Kinstretch want to boost your joint health.
So why does this matter to you? (We’re assuming you’re not playing for the Chicago Cubs). Ever had problems doing a simple squat or rising from a sitting position? Sitting at your office desk or stationary in your car does wonders to your hip joints—but not in a good way. The adage of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is especially meaningful to our joints. Those sitting positions restrict and don’t allow you to use your hips and their surrounding muscles and soft tissues to their optimal potential. Kinstretch does.
Photo courtesy of Functional Range Seminars
Put simply, Kinstretch is an exercise that focuses on body control, strength and flexibility. To the untrained eye, it looks like yoga and Pilates, but in fact it’s nothing like them. Instead of doing downward facing dog, Kinstretch encourages you to irradiate, isolate your joints (i.e., your shoulders, hips and ankles) and expand your pre-existing ranges of motion. Remember the example of not being able to squat properly? Kinstretch exercises can isolate your hips’ mobility to increase its range.
“When you look at Kinstretch with the naked eye, it might not look like you’re doing much, but you’re actually doing everything,” says Chris Campbell, a certified Kinstretch instructor and Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist at Next Level Fit Training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It’s one of the best examples of how to increase active flexibility.”
“Mobility is a term that is misunderstood or misused,” Campbell says. He explains that mobility is defined as usable ranges of motion that target body control, strength and flexibility. Where yoga tends to improve flexibility, it’s a passive mobility act. If you’re lying on the ground using a strap to help stretch your leg, it’s passive. Same thing if you’re bending down and letting gravity help you stretch, that’s passive.
Kinstretch encourages you to turn passive flexibility into active flexibility, which requires you to use your muscles to move instead of using tools or gravity to do so. Squatting is an active mobility exercise that engages your muscles. As Campbell says, if your hip mobility is limiting how you squat, you shouldn’t just squat more; instead, you should improve your hip’s flexibility and range of motion with specific and appropriate drills in order to make your hip work like it should.
Photo courtesy of Next Level Fit Training
Participants get into positions that challenge our joints and our tissues by doing exercises that open up new ranges of motion. Because Kinstretch applies to all body parts (neck, shoulders, hips, elbows, ankles, toes and anywhere else there’s a joint), the entire body is trained.
A common position is 90-90, where participants sit on the ground and place one leg at a 90-degree angle flat on the ground and the other leg behind the first, also at a 90-degree angle. “It expands the internal and external rotation of your hips, allowing it to work like a hip should,” Campbell says. “When you’re sitting down, our hips end up losing their abilities to do many things, in particular rotate. If you don’t use it, you lose it. 90-90 is a position that allows you to open up your hips and prevent injuries and to lower your injury susceptibility.”
If you’re flexible enough to do a split, that’s great. But what practical use do you have for it in your everyday life?
Kinstretch teaches participants how to control that flexibility to enhance performance and unlock additional movement potential. Kinstretch instructors look to improve the ranges of motion down to your cellular level while also teaching you how to control that motion. If you’re just doing flexibility training, you can easily neglect those principals. Kinstretch strengthens the muscles and connective tissues (ligaments, etc.) around the joints. So that formerly impossible-to-do squat? Easy as pie after practicing certain Kinstretch positions.
“I have clients who came to me unable to get up from the ground and now can stand up without assistance,” Campbell says. “After practicing Kinstretch, they can get down to the floor without any pain.”
Nila Do Simon is a freelance writer and editor, and full-time adventure seeker based in Florida with a taste for travel and sports.