Restoring Joint Function – Thanks to Jami Tikkanen for this one.

The Finnish Mobility Jedi Master a.k.a Jami Tikkanen recently posted a short, but brilliant, video talking about ‘relative joint motion’ – pertaining specifically to the hip joint.  Jami was demonstrating a couple of mobility drills to improve hip function…and therefore improve your squat! Tell me why you wouldn’t want to improve your squat!?

In the post Jami talked about the 3 planes of movement, which I have mentioned in a previous post: ‘Does Your Warm-Up Help You Evolve?’ 

They breakdown like this:

Three Movement Planes & Joint Actions

Sagittal Plane

Frontal Plane

Transverse Plane



Internal Rotation



External Rotation











The Sagittal Plane divides the body or segment into right and left parts. The movements are flexion and extension and are influenced by gravity. The Frontal Plane divides the body or segment into anterior and posterior parts. The movements are abduction, adduction, lateral flexion, eversion and inversion. Again, they are influenced by gravity. The Transverse Plane divides the body or segment into upper and lower parts. The movements are rotational and encounter minimal influence from gravity. However, the movements require muscle to decelerate and accelerate motion. (McArdle et al, 2006, Thibodeau et al, 2006).

When squatting, or in any movement, your joints should move through all three planes to some degree. When a joint loses movement in any one plane, dysfunction will occur. Try an overhead squat; see if you can figure out what planes of motion you are lacking.

Before we delve into joint motion, we need to understand the difference between position and motion i.e. a flexed position versus flexion. For example, a joint may look like it’s in a flexed position but it’s actually moving through extension – simply, the movement starts from a flexed position.  In this scenario, the joint may never actually end up in an extended position! This is important because, if a client experiences pain moving from a neutral position to an extended position, we can simply start them in a flexed position and gain extension pain free!

Example: If a client has lumbar pain moving from a standing position into extension, we could simply place on foot onto a high step. This would cause the pelvis to posteriorly rotate, ending in lumbar flexion. Extension would then be possible without ever moving into an extended position.

Back to Jami’s post – Jami talked about relative joint motion. Anybody wondering what he means? I’m going to try and explain it AND expand on it! :-/

Along with relative motion, we have to consider real and resultant motion. What the hell are they, right?

Real motion can be described as the actual movement of the bone in space – that’s pretty simple. Just think of flexion, extension etc.  For example – to throw a ball with your right hand you need to rotate to your trunk and arms to the right to allow the throwing arm to move a greater distance and thereby accelerate the ball to throw it further.

 Relative motion is described as the movement of bones relative to each other (fancy that!?), regardless of their movement in space. For example – Jami’s first drill in the video is hip flexion. This is achieved by proximal segments moving and the distal segments remaining still. To cause relative hip flexion, Jami could have moved in four other ways! Therefore there are 5 ways of driving movement into the joint! They are as follows and let’s stick with the hip for some examples:

  1. Proximal still – distal moves: Standing upright and raising your knee
  2. Proximal moves  – distal still: The first demo in Jami’s video
  3. Proximal and distal move in opposite directions: A squat
  4. Proximal and distal move in same direction, distal moves fastest: Toes to bar
  5. Proximal and distal move in same direction, proximal moves fastest: A GHD sit-up (if performed correctly!)

Finally, resultant motion can be described as the actual movement between bones, depending on their movement relative (there’s that word again) to each other. Their movement in space is of no concern but the speed of movement is, specifically the speed of proximal versus distal e.g. when squatting, the pelvis and femur move in opposite directions (see example 3 above) and the resultant joint movement is flexion.

Knowing, and understanding, this information should massively affect how we view our warm-ups (or exercise prep) AND how we program i.e. what movements we include in our program on a day to day basis, especially if we know we have some form of joint dysfunction…and who doesn’t! What I’m trying to say is that there is more than one way to skin a cat! If you are getting pain in a joint through a certain plane of movement, try that movement differently (see the examples above). If you still don’t fully understand what I’ve tried to explain (or I’ve confused you even more!), I’d advise getting yourselves to either; Thames CrossFit to see Mobility Jedi Master Jami Tikkanen or CrossFit 3D to see Mobility Ninja Master James Jowsey. These guys are like the Rainmen of movement! They will be able to assess your joint function and give you practical advice on how to warm up AND how to restore relative motion to joints that are lacking movement in any of the three planes of motion. Just imagine; moving pain free, and the performance improvements that would come from moving freely in three dimensions!

Finally, with all this talk of mobility and restoring function, it would be remiss of me to not mention the amazing K-Star and his final (and 365th) post on his site. Congrats and a huge thank you for all the time and dedication put into the site. What an inspiration! If you haven’t already check it out, what the hell have you been doing!


1 thought on “Restoring Joint Function – Thanks to Jami Tikkanen for this one.

  1. Pingback: Is Your Foot Holding You Back? « athleticevolution

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