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Complementary Movement

The Five Primary Kinetic Chains rely on a fundamental principle: efficient movement requires the integration of a stable yet dynamic foundation so that the body can generate the power needed for locomotion.

The Anterior Spiral is a culmination of everything that we’ve discussed previously. As such, let’s review how the previous four kinetic chains have worked together to get us to this final kinetic chain.

The Intrinsic system is related to the nervous system and breath. The breath is a barometer for our movement. How our breath is integrated with our movement determines how our nervous system responds. If we move in a manner by which the movement breathes the body, the sympathetic nervous system can remain down-regulated, thus giving us access to refined motor control. If instead our breath reaches the threshold of cardiovascular distress, or we are holding our breath out of bracing or fear, our sympathetic nervous system becomes up-regulated and arms the body with a flood of chemistry.

One of the markers for stress tolerance is the capacity to return from an aroused sympathetic nervous system back to a calm parasympathetic down-regulated state of being. A large percentage of our population is stuck in an up-regulated sympathetic nervous system. This is a stress reaction that results in inflammation in the body contributing to decreased healing and regenerative ability. As a result, it is becoming popular to “train” the vagus nerve — the tenth cranial nerve — to experience arming and disarming the nervous system.

There are some very good modalities to specifically address an up-regulated sympathetic nervous system. Our personal practice is one way we can take responsibility for our stress levels. Tia Chi, Qi Gung, Shamatha Meditation, and Yoga are but a few examples. I personally find getting acupuncture to be very much a sattvic practice. I go very deep into meditation as I’m observing the energy shifts in my subtle body. For people that are attracted to manual therapy, Cranial Sacral Therapy is a wonderful way to engage the nervous system and the breathing apparatus. Nervous system health very well may start with the subtle aspects of how the cranial sutures are integrating with breath and movement.

The Deep Longitudinal Kinetic Chain is about how we interact with gravity and shock absorption. Our bodies are under a constant compressive force. The energy of the compressive force changes as movement and locomotion further generates kinetic energy. The energy of our bodies in motion must be absorbed and translated. The energy is distributed across the fascial fabric of our bodies.

This energy becomes a dynamic platform, the Lateral Kinetic Chain. The Lateral KC provides dynamic stability so that the appendicular skeleton has a foundation from which to work off. Without this foundation, the body would be at a disadvantage in generating stored elastic energy.

In developmental movement, the reflexive motor learning that is hard wired into our nervous system, we see that the movements are all about creating dynamic stability with the intention of getting us upright and using a bi-ped strategy of locomotion, the walking gait.

With an established dynamic platform, we have the capacity to store and release elastic energy. Elastic energy is stored in the tissues in two modes: lengthening or stretching and coiling or compressing. When tissues lengthen or stretch, the fascia’s elasticity stores energy. This would be like stretching a rubber band across your finger and releasing it; the rubber bands soars across the room. Likewise, winding up the rubber band on a model airplane illustrates the second mechanism of storing and releasing elastic energy. As the rubber band coils tightly, energy is stored; more coiling equates to more compression that stores energy to release.

The Posterior Spiral Kinetic Chain is the avenue the body uses to coil elastic energy into the fascial springs that perpetuate the energy of the walking gait. The body is utilizing both modalities (lengthening and coiling) for activating the fascial fabric to generate stored elastic energy. As the Posterior Spiral KC is coiled to release that energy, the ipsilateral anterior spiral is lengthening. It is a coiling of one side of the body and a lengthening on the opposite. The body is utilizing both pathways simultaneously, to generate stored elastic energy.

The Anterior Spiral completes the gait cycle. Elastic energy up to this point has been stored into the tissues, and now the body is poised to do something with that energy. The body will now translate the stored elastic energy into the complementary movement. The forward motion generated by the push of the posterior spiral is realized through the leg swing of the anterior spiral.

The ability to effectively store and release elastic energy is paramount to athletic performance. In the video, notice the quality of movement this athlete displays. The timing of arm drive and leg drive, the depth of absorbing kinetic energy, and how the explosive energy increases with each shock absorption phase.  Her movement is brilliant and demonstrates healthy integrated kinetic chains at work.

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains working together create an integrated whole. If one or more of the components are unable to engage, then we need to isolate the issue and through motor learning, reengage and integrate back into the whole. The kinetic chain charts are meant to be a map for inquiry, as we explore who is playing and who is not, the charts can help us to discern what disengaged players need to get back in the game.

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The Spiral Engine

Encoded in our bodies is the master blueprint, the DNA Helix. The structure of the DNA Helix represents energy efficiency. The structure looks like a coil, a spring.

Springs are efficient ways to transfer energy. That could look like the coil springs on your automobile absorbing the bumps in the road. These are called compression springs. They absorb energy and compress. The energy is then released and the spring returns to its “normal” length. Tension springs work from the opposite perspective. Your garage door has huge closed coil springs. When you open the door, the spring goes from its resting length to its expanded length. The energy to “stretch” the spring is released to assist in closing the garage door.

There are many kinds of springs. We use springs in all the machines that we encounter in our lives. Fascia is the spring in our bodies.

Fascia has several roles in our bodies. It is also called connective tissue which is the primary component of our structure. Fascia wraps and binds every part of our body creating a unified whole. Fascia is also a communication avenue for the nervous system. Messages about our environment and movement are relayed through fascia. Fascia plays a crucial role in our movement.

At a muscular level, fascia binds all the different layers into a unified muscle belly. Muscles act on the fascia, the fascia translates that energy into movement. The energy potential of fascia is relative to the ability of the tissues to move between the resting length and its coiled activated length. The coiling action is storing elastic energy and likewise, the uncoiling is the translation of elastic energy. The ability of tissues to store elastic energy is directly proportionate to the work capacity of those tissues.

The iconic model airplane with a rubber band that drives the propeller is a great example of stored elastic energy. We wind up the propeller by hand. That energy is then stored into the rubber band. When we release the propeller, the stored elastic energy is then translated into the propeller. The propeller spins the opposite direction giving the craft movement, flight.

Our bodies are not so different than the model airplane example. The fascial sheath of the thoracolumbar fascia is the primary fascial spring for locomotion.  When we walk, the torso is twisting on the axis of the pelvis. This rotary action of the posterior spiral is winding up elastic energy into the thoracolumbar fascia. The stored elastic energy is then released into the complementary movement resulting in forward motion.

This is a simplified example, as the thoracolumbar fascia has the potential to store and release elastic energy in all three planes of movement. When you add two or more planes of movement together, the result is a spiral. During the gait cycle, all 5 Primary Kinetic Chains are working together synergistically, and the body’s movement can be described as complementary, contralateral spirals. This is the essence of The Spiral Engine of Locomotion™.

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Shock Absorption

The second primary action of The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains is shock absorption. Shock absorption is the kinetic energy as it waves through the body. This concept has several contextual layers, let’s further explore shock absorption.

Kinetic energy refers to mass in motion. The earth we live on is a spinning ecosystem that comprises of many elements. Gravity is one of those elements (

When we walk, run, or jump, our musculoskeletal system puts into motion the mass or weight of our structure. The product of the interaction between musculoskeletal activation, gravity, and ground engagement produces a wave of energy, a kinetic wave. Energy is a wave form, as it has a measurable amplitude and modulation. The amplitude is the height of the wave, or intensity, and modulation is the length of the wave, or duration.

When we are standing still, gravity is pressing our structure into the earth. In order to counter gravity, or to balance the force of gravity, we push into the earth creating a rebound. As the popular yoga saying explains, one must “root to rise, or stand tall like a mountain.” Without this action to counter gravity, we would collapse under its compressive force.

When we add momentum, our kinetic energy increases, and more energy is required to counter-act the compressive forces. Let’s explore this experientially. Take a few normal steps and notice how the impact of the strike phase of the gait is reverberating up your structure. Now increase the kinetic energy and transition from a walk to a trot. Notice how your body requires more of your structure to dissipate the energy.

Let’s increase the energy wave another notch. Try jumping up with both legs. See how much vertical height you can clear. Feel the leg drive from pushing into the earth and the absorption of kinetic energy as you reengage with the ground as you land. Now do the same thing, but drive and land with one leg only. Notice that that single leg absorption is asymmetrical. Take inventory of how this energy moves up the body, joint by joint. This is ground force reaction and is a key principal action in movement.

What happens when a joint or multiple joints are unable to participate in the distribution of kinetic energy throughout the body during the shock absorption phase of a movement? The structure must come up with a solution to dissipate the kinetic energy, this is called a compensation pattern. This is a maladaptive learned behavior that then is reinforced with each cycle of shock absorption.

Shock absorption is an essential element in structural assessment for integrated movement. The kinetic chain chart in the Deep Longitudinal anatomy poster gives great insight into how the energy of shock absorption waves through the body.