Ligaments are cords of connective tissue composed primarily of collagen that bind one organ to another. Most frequently ligaments bind one bone to another, and in the process form an area of relative mobility, known as a joint or articulation. During sports, ligaments work together with tendons and other connective tissues to passively support joints. Likewise, the muscular system and brain coordinate the active support of joints. Together, the active and passive subsystems of the body provide the ability to swing a golf club, sprint up a hill, or ride your bicycle without injuring your body. As a great deal of stress is applied across joints of active people, it is wise to work to strengthen joints and ligaments.
Strengthen your Ligaments and Joints
Move frequently to strengthen your joints and ligaments. Keeping yourself locked in one position for more than 20 minutes can result in ligamentous creep, a permanent elongation of vital stabilizing ligaments, says Dr. Stuart McGill of the University of Waterloo. Combat creep by reminding yourself to change postures frequently and take miniature exercise breaks to stretch and strengthen muscles during the day.
Develop your active restraints. The body's active system of muscles and the nervous system that act to mobilize the joints in the body are best suited to protect joints and ligaments against forces of daily life. Develop your movement patterns like the squat, lunge, push-up and single leg stance to reduce strain on joints, says physical therapist Gray Cook.
Train with resistance to improve the strength of joints and ligaments says sport scientist Mel Siff. Use multiple joint exercises like the push-up, pull-up, lunge, squat, and deadlift with moderate resistance for sets up to 12 repetitions for the best effect.
Utilize eccentric exercises. The lowering phase of strength training, called the eccentric phase, recruits fewer muscle fibers, and can place healthy strain upon the ligaments, tendons and joints that more effectively develop resilience, according to Karim Khan, M.D. Try the eccentric heel drop to improve ankle and knee strength. Start at the edge of a step with only your ball of the foot in contact with the step. Push yourself to your tip-toes and slowly lower yourself over the course of six seconds. Repeat the exercise up to 15 times before resting. Repeat the series up to three more times.
- "Clinical Sports Medicine"; Peter Brukner, MD and Karim Khan, MD; 2005
- "Low Back Disorders"; Stuart McGill, PhD; 2005
- "Supertraining"; Mel C Siff, PhD and Vladimir Verkoshansky, PhD; 2004
- "Athletic Body in Balance"; Gray Cook, MSPT; 2005