I have been asked numerous times on how to strengthen knees, hips and shoulders. The answer is simple; you can’t. In the simplest of terms, a joint is space between bones. Therefore is it really possible to strengthen space? No! Of course you can’t. This is why it has become increasingly important to know what really gives our joints their stability.
I will begin by using the knee as an example. The knee is a hinge joint. This means that it can only move in sagittal plane of the body (the line that divides the body in left and right haves). Aside from the four ligaments and the meniscus, it is just the junction between the femur and the tibia. The knee gets its support from the quad, hamstring and calve muscles. Therefore, in order to “strengthen” the knee, one must strengthen the articulating muscle groups.
This becomes a little more tricky when talking about the shoulder and hips. Both are ball-in-socket joints which means the head of the moving limb inserts into the articulating cavity of the body. Here is where it becomes complicated. The femoral head of the femur is so well encased in the acetabulum (hip socket) that it is actually more structurally sound than its counter part in the shoulder (humeral head and the glenoid cavity). In the shoulder joint, the humeral head doesn’t sit as nicely in the glenoid cavity of the shoulder blade. This mean that it gets it stability from the surrounding muscles. Remember, the hips and shoulders move in a ton of different ranges of motion, so you need to strengthen the muscles around the joint in a ton of different ranges of motion.
All in all, you cannot strengthen your joints but you can give them stability by strengthening their articulating muscles. But heed my warning. Strengthening isn’t the only thing that you need to do to have have healthy joints. You must remember that the muscles need some TLC as well. Stretching and self massage will help complete the trifecta for having healthy, happy and stable joints.