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.
Keep It Moving
Move frequently to strengthen your joints and ligaments. Keeping yourself in one position for more than 20 minutes at a time — such as at your desk during the workday — can result in ligamentous creep, a temporary elongation of vital stabilizing ligaments. Combat creep by reminding yourself to change postures frequently and take miniature exercise breaks to stretch and strengthen muscles during the day.
Add Functional Movements
Develop your active restraints — strengthen your muscles. 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 during everyday activities. Improving mobility can also reduce the risk of injury to your joints and ligaments.
Add Some Resistance
Train with resistance to improve the strength of joints and ligaments. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that adults perform strength-training exercises at least two days per week.
You don't need fancy gym equipment to build a strength-training routine. Incorporate multiple-joint exercises that use body-weight as resistance, such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats. Start with 10 repetitions of each exercise, working up to three sets in a row.
Incorporate Some Eccentrics
Utilize eccentric exercises for strengthening your joints and ligaments. 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.
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.
- As you become more fit, utilize more resistance.
- Ensure proper, tall posture during exercise to place the demands of the exercise upon the active restraints.
Consult with your physician to ensure that you are able to safely begin any joint strengthening exercises.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Somerset Partnership: "Eccentric Heel Drop Exercise Protocol"
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: "Ligaments: A Source of Musculoskeletal Disorders"