Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I first came across the concept of tensegrity a while ago when I read a book called Anatomy Trains. The idea is that we are not about individual muscles. Rather individual muscels are actually linked together functionally. There is a bag of fascia around groups of muscles.

A guy called Tom Myers wrote the book and developed the idea really from looking at disections. Everything is connected.

It is a really interesting concept with lots of applications in sports and massage and it is worth reading the book and at least looking at some of the stuff on his website.

Anyway I spotted this article today that seems to indicate that there is something to it:

Tensegrity principle in massage demonstrated by electro- and mechanomyography.

Based on a tensegrity principle, direct or indirect connections between fascia or muscles which stretch the aponeurosis or intermuscular septum may allow the transfer of tension over long distances, without loss of muscle force produced during rest and activity. The present study aimed to test an effect of massage on electrical (EMG) and mechanical (MMG) activities of a muscle lying distant, but indirectly connected to, the massaged muscle. Thirty-three healthy men participated in the study. To record the activity of the middle deltoid muscle the brachioradialis was massaged, and for the tensor fasciae latae-the peroneal muscles were massaged. An EMG/MMG hybrid probe was used to detect EMG and MMG signals from the middle deltoid and tensor fasciae latae muscles. The EMG amplitude increased during massage in the tensor fasciae lata only, while the MMG amplitude increased significantly in both muscles. It was concluded that there was an electrical as well as a mechanical response of muscle connected indirectly by structural elements with the muscle being massaged indicating an application for the tensegrity principle in massage therapy. It also has a practical importance, because it provides a means for a physiotherapist to influence adverse muscle tension by massaging another distant muscle.


Anonymous said...

....which is why some of the Chinese-based whole body stretching systems seem to loosen me up better than isolated stretching, like Wharton or even Egoscue. Something as simple as that Shaolin 'monk' kung fu stretching or other whole body stretching releases everything.

Sabio said...

I am a former Japanese license acupuncturist. The connection between otherwise disparate parts of the body are actually connected through not only muscles but muscle chains defined by networks of fascia. Some thought that if there were any truth in "channel theory" in acupuncture, these fascia chains were them -- and they sound like they are captured in this notion of tensegrity too.
As a caveat: acupuncture does have effects, but nowhere near the amount of effect or the hope of effect that practitioners claim. Nonetheless, I thought the story would be fun.

John Sifferman - Real World Strength Training said...

Biotensegrity is a new concept when it comes to fitness, because we're still stuck with the idea that the body is broken up into individual parts that each have a separate function.

This is one of the reasons why I connect so well with Scott Sonnon's Circular Strength Training system, which is a health-first fitness system based on the principles of biotensegrity.

When we realize that the body is capable of exponentially greater tasks when used as a whole, instead of broken down into single joint movements that are so common in the gym, we unleash the potential of movement mastery.

To your health and success,

John Sifferman

Chris said...

Anon, Sabio, John - Thanks for the comments

I am a great believer in this stuff - I get a regular massage from someone trained in Anatomy Trains and it really helps

Mike T Nelson said...

Cool stuff!

yep, it is relatively in the Fitness area.

I am a big fan of Z Health and Dr Cobb is found of saying "all the body all the time"

It is all connected, we just need to figure out how.

Great stuff as always!
Rock on
Mike T Nelson
PhD(c), CSCS

Chris said...


Thanks. By the way, I really enjoyed your video of the hip flexor stretch / shoulder mobility work. Excellent stuff.

Anonymous said...

anatomytrains.com has a 20-page summary of the first edition explore->articles->anatomy trains summary.

There are several very good papers on biotensegrity.com why the compression-based model is fundamentally inadequate to explain our musculoskeletal system. Levin ha been studying this for his whole career as a MD.

Model-maker Tom Flemons has some great models on his site: tinyurl.com/toms-models .

I talk about floating compression models on my website floatingbones.com. Part of what I add to the structural conversation is the impact of our nervous system on our structure.