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Former NFL running back Tiki Barber played his best football at 30 years old.
Most running backs decline by that point, but Barber was the rare exception who improved.
Barber credits joint strength for his longevity, and says more players can build the same to have late career success.
Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber didn't play his best football until after he turned 27, and had his best season at 30 years old.
That's not exactly normal for an NFL running back.
A study by Pro Football Reference found that running backs, on average, have the best season of their career before the age of 27, and some even start declining at the age of 25.
But Barber, who made his first and only three Pro Bowls at the ages of 29, 30, and 31, defied the odds.
For Barber, the key to his late career resurgence was a series of workouts he did to strengthen his joints, he said.
"You have to work harder to build stronger joints and ligaments and that muscle mass, because it doesn't sustain itself as easily when you're older," Barber told Insider. "As I got stronger, and was able to keep on that mass, it directly impacted my ability to break tackles and stay durable. I barely got injured."
Barber credits his former personal trainer Joe Carini for teaching him the workouts that built his joint strength, and even introduced Carini to Hall-of-Fame running back Ladanian Tomlinson when Tomlinson joined the Jets in 2009 at the age of 31. Tomlinson went on to have his own success in his two seasons with the Jets after Barber's introduction.
Barber hopes to see more young running backs prioritize their joint health to extend their careers and stay productive into their 30s.
Healthy joints can prevent injuries and pain with age
Strong and healthy joints don't only help aging football players, but they can help anyone looking to avoid pain and injury and maintain their mobility as they get older.
Muscle strength and bone mass naturally weaken with age, which can increase the risk of joint damage if they are not strengthened with workouts, according to WebMD. But taking steps to build healthy joints when you are young, or even already aging, can help reduce those risks.
Workouts that help strengthen joints in the upper-body include:
Lateral arm raises
Straight arm cable press down
Workouts that can help strengthen joints in the lower-body include:
Standing in an airplane pose
Resistance band walks
Bulgarian split squat
Physical therapeutic treatment can also help maintain durability
In addition to doing workouts that keep his joints strong, Barber told Insider he also got regular physical treatments that helped relieve pain and promote healthy blood and breath circulation, which in turn strengthened his joints.
Healthy blood and breath circulation increases the amount of oxygen available for muscles to use during an event. Increasing oxygen energizes muscles and keeps them strong and healthy, which can prevent injury, according to WebMD.
Barber said he had massage therapy twice a week and got acupuncture once every two weeks, and that those steps were just as critical in his longevity as the joint strengthening workouts.
In fact, Barber told Insider his decision to retire was impacted by his favorite chiropractor's move from New York to Florida in 2006.
Read the original article on Insider