Synovial Fluid: Warm-up Joints Before Workouts

May 14th 2013

Woman warming up her jointsAs a fitness professional, I start each and every class, no matter what the modality, with a warm-up of what I call “body circles." While it sometimes makes for a slow start, it prepares the joints for movement, activating the synovial fluid. I liken it to the oil that the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz needs, or WD40, lubricating and subsequently quieting a squeaky hinge. Synovial fluid is the small amount of fluid occurring in normal joints. Its principal function is to lubricate the joint surfaces and nourish the articular cartilage which decreases friction within a joint.

No matter what the class, no matter what the skill level, I begin classes with gentle warming circles that commence at the head and conclude at the toes.  We slowly roll our heads then move into our shoulders where I encourage students to roll their shoulders as one unit and then to separate them as if they are swimming, reminding everyone to rotate the movement, meaning forward and back or clockwise and counterclockwise.  We roll into the upper rib cage then into the hips, at this point I’ll ask everyone to “multitask” and to rotate their elbows, wrists and “play the piano” (articulate) their fingers. We move into the knee joints, one knee at a time, forward and backward and then into the ankle and toes.  Initially because of its pace I used to like to get through the “synovial rolls” as fast as possible with a song of about 2:30 minutes but now it seems that people are more interested in warming up this way and a 3-4 minute song is perfect.

Preparing the body in this way allows for synovial fluid to be squeezed in and out of the cartilage by a process called “weeping."  Synovial fluid does not “gush," instead it is dispensed in a way that provides constant moisturizing and lubrication.  Another fascinating fact, and one that will most certainly keep your students focused during “rolls,” is the fact that synovial fluid contains phagocytic cells that rid the joint cavity of cellular debris and bacteria.

Taking those extra minutes before beginning any activity to activate synovial fluid is an excellent habit to start for yourself and for your classes.  It may seem risky at first, but your knowledge will demonstrate how much you genuinely care for your students and their bodies.

Check out the excellent article published inYoga Journal by Julie Gudmestad to learn more about synovial fluid in depth.

Body rolls (or “sushi rolls,” as one of my classes calls them) makes for a better workout and increased vibrancy!

In Vitality We Trust,

Heidi Lauckhardt-Rhoades