How to Build Strong Joints

Strong muscles have historically gotten all the headlines, but these days I’m getting more excited about building strong joints.

How do you define joint strength?

There are two ways to qualify as to what makes a joint strong:

  1. The range-of-motion of a joint (aka mobility).
  2. The strength of the connective tissue that makes up a particular joint. (Think cartilage, tendons, and ligaments)

Synovial joints (think shoulders, elbows, knees, hips), which are a type of movable joint found in the body, receive nutrition through a process called ‘synovial fluid diffusion’. Synovial fluid is a clear, viscous fluid that fills the joint cavity, providing lubrication and nourishment to the joint structures. Here's how synovial joints receive nutrition:

While synovial fluid itself does not contain blood vessels, the surrounding structures of synovial joints, such as the synovial membrane and joint capsule, have a rich blood supply. Nutrients are supplied to the joint through blood vessels in these structures.

Nutrients from the blood vessels surrounding the joint capsule diffuse through the synovial membrane into the synovial fluid. This diffusion process allows essential nutrients, including oxygen and various substances needed for joint health, to reach the cells within the joint.

Cartilage Nutrition: 
The articular cartilage covering the ends of bones within the joint is avascular, meaning it lacks direct blood supply. However, it relies on the diffusion of nutrients from the synovial fluid to maintain its health. The nutrients transported by synovial fluid help nourish and maintain the integrity of the cartilage.

Like Kim discussed in her article last week - when it comes to joints ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ - literally.

When I take an honest look at the capabilities that I value most - joint strength is the most important aspect of maintaining these capacities.

Rock Climbing requires that my fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders can support my full bodyweight (and oftentimes more) while I contort the rest of my body into wild positions to move to the next hold.

Trail Running over rugged terrain means that every footstrike is a little bit different and my feet, ankles, knees, and hips must constantly adjust to every step.

Backcountry Bowhunting is a combination of Rucking and Yoga as I wind my way through a maze of fallen trees through steep terrain over varying surfaces. I need to be able to hike, run, crawl, squat and otherwise conform my body to the surrounding terrain in the least intrusive way.

Being a Dad means impromptu wrestling sessions, backyard sports, carrying tired kids, and the ability to fit into structures sized for kids. I’m constantly returning to movement patterns that I recognize, but have not explored for decades.

The past few months I’ve been exploring Joint Strength as a key part of my health and fitness routine. I’ve put together a series of exercises that explore head-to-toe range-of-motion that I start most of my days with. I think of these sessions as a way to make sure I’m ‘feeding’ my joints and maintaining and/or improving their capacity for a broad range of movement.

The SAID principle of physiology, “specific adaptation to imposed demands” - means that the body will adapt precisely to the activities that you expose it to. 

If you sit a lot - your body adapts to be good at sitting which means shortened hip flexors and an impaired ability to squat.

When you’re younger your connective tissue is more pliable and this is less noticeable. However, once you hit your 30’s is when you get a nice slap in the face. That simple movement that was effortless at some time in the past might now be impossible.

One recurring theme we’ve heard from monkii 360 users is that their back pain has improved. There is an epidemic of something known as “Non-Specific Back Pain” where someone experiences real pain, but there is no specific disease or structural problem to explain the pain. My hypothesis is that pain is a result of a lack of movement variety that creates ‘imbalances’ in the way a human back would move in a more ‘natural’ environment. 

If you’re out in nature it’s pretty hard to be still in the same way you can in a cush chair while staring at a screen. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of knowledge work is that it inherently requires you to be still for unnaturally long periods of time.

What do we do to build Strong Joints?

I mentioned above the exercises I’ve been doing myself to improve my Joint Strength. These exercises and routines are captured in the Mobility100 Program and the Ecosystem Program hosted on the wild gym Fitr App.

I approach the exercises a few ways:

  1. I’ll do a 10-20 minute Joint Strength session in the morning before doing any formal strength training, Rucking, etc.
  2. I’ll do 3-5 Joint Strength “Microworkouts” throughout the day to compress the periods of inactivity. I typically aim to do something at least every 25-45 minutes. It’s funny that the ‘transitions’ are the hardest part psychologically, but as soon as I take action the resistance disappears. I’ve also noticed this also helps to keep my mind in a more productive state.

Consistency is absolutely essential to developing long term Joint Strength. Because connective tissues do not have the same blood supply as muscles they can take longer to adapt. However, if you stay consistent over a long period of time you are guaranteed to see results and maintain the capacities you develop.

Who’s ready to get Joint-Strong?


-Wildman Dan

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