This post comes as a result of me attending a physical testing session that my youngest son participated in this week. He plays club volleyball and part of the program is to participate in a strength and conditioning component at a training facility of the clubs choosing. The first session was for testing/assessing.
The strength and conditioning component is supposed to be two fold. It’s supposed strengthen and condition my son to prevent or reduce the risk of injury and secondly it’s a team building thing. The assessment should be designed to identify very specific things about a person that will guide you in your programming for that specific individual. Things they should be doing and things they shouldn’t be doing. Anyway, after the testing session I left somewhat frustrated. I didn’t like what I saw and I’m just going to leave it at that. Needless to say, I’m very proud of what we do at Body Fit and confirmed that we are way ahead of the curve when it comes to our assessment protocol.
There was one thing that jumped out at me during their “assessment” that they missed but can help pretty much everyone. Keep in mind that these kids are young. 12 and 13 years old and in pretty good shape. That said, some can bend and twist like Gumby. But more like a drunk Gumby playing twister. In other words they have very little muscular control of their movements but have the ability to contort and cheat themselves through a movement without pain.
I’m sure you have seen it before. Watch little kids doing gymnastics and you wonder how they don’t snap. Well, over time that takes it’s toll. Most people that have that ability have been dubbed “double jointed”. They have very elastic muscles and tendons which permit them to bend joints beyond their “normal” range of motion which ultimately puts a lot of stress of the ligaments and joint capsules. It’s referred to as hypermobility or joint laxity and excessive hypermobility is something that a strength coach should be assessing and watching. It’s much more prevalent in children than in adults and more in women than in men. In my experience, many of these individuals will eventually complain of “tightness” and feeling sore around the joints.
Coaches that don’t test for this condition or aren’t aware of it will usually just tell the person to stretch. This is common in the shoulders and the hips. Every time they stretch more they just shove the ball of the joint further into the capsule making the joint itself looser. Unfortunately, stretching actually provides temporary relief. It’s kind of like scratching your skin when you get poison ivy. Scratching feels good but makes the problem much worse.
So, how do you avoid this problem in the first place? You test for it. There are a couple tests out there and we use the Beighton laxity test. The other one that is used is called the 10-point hospital Del Mar criteria. If a person scores high, then they are considered to be “hypermobile”. If that’s you, then you need to understand what range of motion you should go to rather than what you can get to. More importantly, it’s about being able to control that range by strengthening the muscles around the joints and learning when you are resting or relying on passive structures (ligaments and capsules) for stability rather than the active structures (muscles).
The video below is a quick example of the Beighton test. The young man in the video is my son Raymond (not the son that was involved in the testing mentioned above) and based on the results of the test, he would be considered hypermobile. Therefore his program has a focus on joint stability and motor control. Give the test a try and see how you score. Each thumb is worth a point, each finger is a point, each elbow is a point, each knee is a point and the straight leg toe touch is another point making the score out of 9. We consider a score of 5 or higher to be in the cautious zone. We need to be aware of it and take it into consideration while programming and cuing. If you score 5 or higher and aren’t sure what to do, come see us and we’d be happy to give you some advice;)