A confession

Coach Will here with a confession: I have a nasty habit of referring to “shitty” joints.

Most of the time, I’m pretty friendly--promise!

But in my world-view, our bodies only have two kinds of joints: joints that work, and joints that don’t (the latter being the shitty ones :).

In trying to make sense of the chaotic, seething knot that is the living human body, the most useful model I have found is the functional joints-first approach (functional = able to move with control and without pain).

By simplifying all of our movement potential (literally the infinite ways we could move) to the basic mechanisms that create that movement--a joint--we have a lense into what defines the movement potential.

Said another way: all the factors that limit how you move, that shape the arc of your movements, that determine where and how you can move, is and will always be generated by your joints. They are you corners, your leverage points*. You live and move--or don’t--by them.

With that as a starting point, the whole notion of “exercise” transforms.

See, “exercises” are little patterns we devise (cue evil finger tapping) that attempt to isolate certain variables that we want to change  and then, through repetition, go about changing them (or actually, convince the systems of your body to change them for us).

But oh so often, that whole idea gets lost in the echo-chamber of bro-tastic fitness-land. Your squat, rather than a simple pattern that powerfully coordinates hip, knee and ankle flexion, becomes a mental monument, another inner abstraction for us to worship.

And the goal (“Improve hip, knee and ankle coordination”) becomes nothing more than a pissing contest.

Which segues quite nicely back to “shitty” joints. Because if I start praying to an abstraction (in this case, the squat) that assumes working parts (the joints of my hip knee and ankle) that I don’t possess,  I’m not going to get what I want.

I’m not going to get much of anything, actually. I’m not going to powerfully coordinate my hip, knee, and ankle...because I don’t have them. I’m not going to get RIPPED or SHREDDED or BE A BADASS.

I’m gonna get shit. Compensation, imbalance, compromised function, and maybe even a little (or a lot) of pain.

Instead, what if we only did exercises--repetitions--of movements for which we were prepared? What if we only used the leverage points that actually existed, and only to the degree (range of motion) that they existed?

Sound impossible to exert such control? In real life, it probably is. The world is too chaotic.

But in the gym? In the lab (gym), where we control variables? Well, that’s easy. And fun :).

Gradually, a non-existent joint (the “shittiest” kind) becomes a little less shitty. A little more capable and resilient. Awake. Aware. And pretty soon it’s not shitty at all.

It works.

This summer, as Hannah and I (and the whole TFA community around us) go about building this new training facility--to do exactly what I describe here--I can’t help but smile at the parallel to the creation of joint space, in the physical bodies of our students. At what might happen as we systematically work through, and beyond, shitty joints.

People might move more because they want to. Because it feels good. Because they’ve stopped insulting their limited joints, and started building them.

Hell, I might even clean up my language.


Go find your gold,


*I always forget if it was Archemides or Jesus who said, “Give me a lever, and I will be your cornerstone.” 😁