-it is necessary to strengthen the connective tissue along with muscles
-proper training, proper diet and proper supplementation is vital to attain the needed joint strength
Although our aim is stronger and bigger muscle, it can’t be achieved without strengthening the connective tissue. Without strong tendons, ligaments and joints our bones and muscles would just not hold together.
Problems with connective tissue are number 1 reason for athletes to stop training. Most sports injuries are actually injuries of joints.
First, let’s describe the types of connective tissue:
- Joint – this is the name of the whole area where any 2 bones make contact.
- Tendon – connective tissue connecting muscle to bone
- Ligament – connective tissue connecting 2 bones
- Fascia – connecting tissue surrounding muscles, blood vessels and nerves, connecting some structures together
Connective tissue is thickening and strengthening by resistance training, just like the muscles. However, if your muscle mass is growing fast, connective tissue may lag in growth and it may be subject to stress it cannot sustain.
You must always pay much attention to joint-pain and other symptoms of joint-problems. In the worst case the connective tissue may get torn (which actually happens very often) and you may find yourself unable of physical training for months, even years.
Sometimes you may be forced to train with lower weights until your tendons get strong enough to handle more serious stress.
Knee- and shoulder-joints are especially susceptible to injury by bodybuilding but other joints may suffer from incorrect training as well.
Proper warm-up is absolute must. It will warm and lubricate the joints so that they will withstand the heavy weights. At resistance training we are using our body as a lever. It is very important to lubricate the lever if it is to work properly.
Connective tissue consists mostly of collagen, which in turn consists mostly of 2 non-essential amino acids: glycine and proline and of essential amino acid lysine. Balanced diet will ensure that all the aminos are readily available.
Gelatine might be helpful. Although there are not any scientific studies confirming the beneficial effects of gelatine (which is very rich in collagen) on connective tissue, it is widely recommended by medical practitioners to people with joint-problems. There seems to be ample anecdotal evidence available to support this approach.
Several dietary supplements proved to be useful for joint health:
Glucosamine – usually sold in the form of glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and N-acetylglucosamine, is a precursor to glycosaminoglycans, a main component of joint cartilage.
Chondroitin sulfate – is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan. It is usually produced from cartilage of cows, pigs, sharks, fish and birds. It is sold in Europe as drug for arthritis treatment and is considered as one of the safest drugs available. Chondroitin sulfate strengthens the connective tissue and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Other vitamins and minerals – calcium, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, magnesium, methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM), pycnogenol, silica, vitamin C and vitamin K are all considered beneficial for joint strength and are used in dietary supplements. Enzymatic treatment can also be of great value, especially in inflammatory conditions.
Wraps, sleeves, bands (see the whole article here) – certain exercises, especially squats and dead lifts are so strenuous that mechanical support should be considered. Most weight lifters are using knee straps or knee sleeves as well as special belts protecting the lower back.
Warning: never train if the joint pain becomes intolerable. The pain is a message that the join is injured or not working properly (for instance doesn’t get lubricated or it is inflamed). Visit your health practitioner and treat the problem.
Dietary supplements are a good support in strengthening the healthy joints but they will not heal a serious condition or injury.