What do the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners know about working out that you don't? Well, a lot of things, most likely. But one thing that's just now gaining popularity is performing better and preventing injuries by taking care of the players' joints and improving their mobility.
Even if you're not a professional athlete, you can follow their lead by checking out a new exercise class called Kinstretch. Whether you want to play with your kids pain-free, run faster, take up a yoga practice or feel more comfortable and confident in your body, it all starts with building a more mobile foundation.
"The first thing is to make sure the body is listening to you," says Andreo Spina, the creator of Kinstretch. "Keeping the body speaking to the brain, and keeping the brain signal to the body proper and based on good, quality information allows people to get better at anything they want to get better at."
Start at Ground Zero
So what is Kinstretch? It started with Dr. Spina, a doctor of chiropractic and specialist in sports sciences, wanting to understand how to help people move better. He developed functional range conditioning (FRC), a system that teaches people to control their bodies and movements, increase range of motion and prevent injury, starting with the basics. Kinstretch, then, is the group class based on these principles.
The goal of each class is to improve participants' joint health, range of motion and tissue resilience by using techniques based on science and not tradition, says Hunter Cook, a FRC mobility specialist instructor.
The exercises and stretches you learn and perform in a Kinstretch class will probably not get you a ton of likes on Instagram, however. It's slow and controlled. From a bystander's point of view, it may not look you're doing much of anything at all. But don't be fooled. A lot is going on beneath the surface.
Relearn How to Move
In a Kinstretch class, students are taught how to self-assess themselves with a joint-health routine called CARs — an acronym for controlled articular rotations (see the video below for a sample routine). Unlike muscles, tendons and ligaments, joints rely solely on movement to stay healthy. CARs not only help to keep your joints lubricated, but they also help you control your body better by sending feedback between your brain and body.
The intention of CARs is to take each joint through its full range of motion actively and with control and concentration. Students in a Kinstretch class are taught how to identify their "sticky zones" and given a road map to improve neurological control.
"We are teaching a thought process," says Cook. "People are not meant to have exercise programs printed out on a wall, one-size-fits-all workouts or have goals picked for them. We are moving toward exercises based on assessment."
There are a variety of exercises that come out of this thought process. You may attend a handful of classes all focused on improving the movement of your hips or shoulders, but perform different exercises each time to accomplish the task. While the exercises may change, one thing is for sure: You're going to feel it.
Avid exercisers and top-level athletes alike are often amazed by their ability to perform at the peak of their respective sports, but unable to have control over the individual parts that make up high-quality human movement.
David Lee, D.C., a chiropractor and functional range mobility specialist based in Los Angeles, works with everyone from desk jockeys to weekend warriors to pro athletes.
"I had a collegiate athlete who was trying out for the NBA," he says. "He had back pain and could barely get past 45 degrees on a body-weight squat. Within two weeks of performing the full-body CARs routine three times per day … he was able to comfortably squat to 90 degrees with proper foot position."
Try It for Yourself
Or you can try these exercises as a morning ritual to get started. If you feel a pinch or sharp pain, skip over that area and continue the rotation.
1. Half-Kneeling Shoulder Controlled Articulation
HOW DO IT: Start in a kneeling lunge with the left leg forward. Hold a slight tension throughout your body. Keep your left arm down by your side with your hand in a fist. Raise your right arm toward the ceiling by your ear. Don't lean back or hike up your shoulder. Keep your arm straight and fingers active. Next, internally rotate your arm and continue the backstroke motion. Slowly bring your arm behind you as far you can without rotating your trunk or bending at the elbow or wrist. Rotate at the shoulder joint and come back to the start position. Complete two to three cycles on each side.
2. Standing Thoracic Lumbar Controlled Articulations
HOW TO DO IT: Standing with your feet hip-distance apart and a slight bend in your knees, cross your arms over your chest. Maintain a slight tension throughout your entire body. Keep your pelvis stable and begin to rotate your torso at the middle of your spine, completing a circle three times in each direction.
3. 90/90 Kinstretch Base Position
The hips tend to be a sticky spot for many people because of prolonged periods of sitting at a desk or driving. The 90/90 Kinstretch base position targets the gluteus minimus and stretches into the hips.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit upright and bring both legs into 90 degree angles on the floor. Facing the lead leg, extend your spine and lean forward. Hover your navel over your knee and keep the chest lifted to feel a deep stretch in the hip. Hold this stretch passively for two minutes. Then actively press your leg into the floor for 30 seconds. Keeping your spine extended, sink deeper into the stretch if possible. Try to actively pull your knee in toward your chest for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle two to three times.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever heard of Kinstretch? What do you think? Would you ever try a class? What else do you do on your active-recovery days? What are some of your favorite stretches and mobility exercises? Share your stories, thoughts and questions in the comments below!