The Kinetic Chain: What it is and how understanding it can improve our training
The kinetic chain was first termed in 1875 by Franze Reuleaux, a mechanical engineer. He proposed that rigid, overlapping segments were connected via joints and this created a system whereby movement at one joint produced or affected movement at another joint in the kinetic link. Individual joints and muscles don’t work individually, but rather they work together as a group. Like a chain, your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, are all connected and work together to produce movement.
A good example of this can be found in running, theoretically it may seem like a very simple movement; you’re moving one leg in front of the other to create propulsion and deceleration, but in reality it’s a complex movement (not that it’s complex to master, but rather complex in the sense of a lot of bones, muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments are involved, not just in our legs, but throughout our whole body).
If you have a muscle weakness in part of this chain, your body will create compensatory mechanics so you can still produce the movement. The problem with this is that over a period of time these compensatory movements will also need assistance and the degrading movement’s patterns will result in injuries.
If we’re to train functionally and efficiently, we need to understand how muscles not only respond to load but how they interact and work together. It’s being more and more acknowledged that isolated muscle size and strength does not always determine and translate well into functional strength. Functional strength is a term loosely thrown around, with many not understanding what it actually means: having strength and being functionally strong are very different things, just as flexibility and mobility are two different things. Being functionally strong means knowing your weaknesses; giving the time and patience to ensure that your body is balanced in strength. It means being smart with your training, no skipping leg day and no skimping out on your mobility. It’s not only a holistic approach to training but it’s also empowering; having that ability to understand what your body needs and catering for it so you can keep progressing rather than regressing.
As an AEP, it a pleasure to help someone along this journey to functional strength; helping everyday individuals understand how their body produces movements, and spending time creating individualized exercise prescriptions for their specific needs.