While I was trying my best to do some sort of exercise with a 7 month-bump attached to me, I saw one of our members last week working out independently alongside Rev. We went on to speak about an injury she’s been putting up with and it spurred me on to write a blog on hypermobility and how it can affect us when exercising.
As all past and present ‘Revver’s’ know, we go on, and on about mobility in relation to recovery. Foam rolling, resistance band work and even that love/hate relationship with self-massage with that cricket ball we have stashed away, are all perfect for mobility routines and helps us loosen up after numerous sessions from strengthening muscles. However, there is such thing as being TOO mobile, and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can actually affect the way you workout in some important ways.
Before I go on, what does the term mobility actually mean? “Mobility refers to a range of motion of a joint. It is influenced by the relationship between your bony articulations (joint structures) and the soft tissue (muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments), as well as your central nervous system.” So, after reading this explanation you guess it’s just another word for flexibility? Well, actually no it isn’t! Flexibility refers only to the soft tissue. You see, each joint has an “optimal” range of motion, and if you can somehow exceed the ideal range of motion for a particular joint, it means it’s hypermobile.
So how do you know if you’re hypermobile or not? Well, apart from the obvious by being told by GP’s and Physio’s after diagnosis, you can actually test for it by yourself using something called the ‘Tim Beighton Score’, which uses a simple nine-point testing system. Let’s see how it’s calculated then shall we …
- Score yourself 1 point if you can fold forward with your legs straight and place both your palms on the flat on the floor.
- Score yourself 1 point for each elbow that can bend backwards.
- Score yourself 1 point for each knee that bends backwards.
- Score yourself 1 point for each thumb that when pushed backwards can reach your forearm.
- Score yourself 1 point for each little finger that bends backwards past 90degrees.
How did you score? Generally, a score of four or higher indicates hypermobility. It’s always best if you can get a friend to help score you with your knees and elbows.
Hypermobility is definitely gender orientated, and even though there are very hypermobile men out there, it’s much more common in women. One explanation for this from the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, is that females undergo a lot of bone and muscular changes that create the joint laxity.
Okay, so getting to the main reason for this blog – what does this all actually mean with regards to exercise and working out? Well, firstly, under no means does it stop someone from being active! It’s just an added hurdle to be safe within physical activity, as unfortunately, those with hypermobility tend to lack proprioception or awareness of where their body and joints are in accordance to the space around them, which can lead to injury in and out of the gym. And to be honest; most people don’t actually have major complications from hypermobility, but there is a syndrome called Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which refers to when hypermobile joints causes chronic pain to the individual. This syndrome is relatively rare and is not the same thing as simply having hypermobile joints.
So let’s have a look at a few things we can do and incorporate in our exercise regime for those that may be prone to hypermobility ..
Avoid The ‘End Range’ Of a Movement:
For example, maintaining a micro bend in the elbows at the top of a pushup rather than fully extending the elbows. This helps prevent joints from reaching that overextended position that makes you more vulnerable to injury.
When ligaments and tendons aren’t working properly, the surrounding muscles work double time to protect them. In the sport and exercise science world this is called ‘protective tension,’ which is why a hypermobile person may feel tight. That feeling of tightness may make you want to stretch, but it can actually make things worse by overstressing the hypermobile joints causing the tension. So instead of stretching just use a foam roller instead.
Understand That Everything Is Connected:
We need to think of our body as one connected unit, what I mean by this is that you should avoid putting emphasis on joints you know are hypermobile and instead focus on strengthening your body as a whole. For example, if you lack core strength, you may find your ability to reach overhead is limited. Lack of core strength may lead to poor posture, which would affect your shoulder mobility and so on … If you can focus on strengthening your weak areas, it may help reduce stress on the joints.
Don’t Train To Complete Fatigue:
The more fatigued the muscles get, the less they are able to stabilise at a particular joint. Instead of going all out and pushing past your limits every session you do, the focus should be on technique and quality over quantity.
Training effectively means we must work to improve stability in our joints first, and the best way of doing this is through isometric training (AKA Dave sessions!). For example, holding halfway down in a push-up position for 10–15 seconds 1–3 times instead of performing a set of 10 regular pushups. This helps to rewire how our brain views our joints during exercise and helps create stability in the joints under tension. Doing this will make a big difference in how your body handles being hypermobile by creating strength and stability where it needs it most which is near the joints!