How to Keep Your Kinetic Chain Intact (and What to Do if it Isn’t)

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “kinetic chain” you might be picturing something like a bike chain, or maybe the timing belt in your car. What exactly is the kinetic chain and, more importantly, how does it affect you? The phrase kinetic chain is basically a descriptive way of pointing out how the human body is connected and interdependent. In other words, the concept of the kinetic chain explains how it is that if you hurt your foot and walk funny to compensate, you may notice that your knee bothers you soon after, or even your back! While we tend to think of our bodies as different parts functioning semi-independently, it’s quite a bit more complicated than that. In order to have balance and ease of movement in all areas of your body, those parts have to function well together. We compiled some tips for taking care of your kinetic chain:

Beware of mirror muscles: You know the type – the guys who spend hours at the gym, working out on those same muscles so they look great in a tank top or gals who want to “spot” train certain areas and use those specific machines that promise results. The problem with “mirror muscles” is that they aren’t always functional in real life – and by spending lots of time focusing on appearance only, you may be creating dangerous weak spots in your body’s chain that could lead to real injury risk.

The better bet: Functional work outs that mimic real life movements. If you can lift or use a machine that mimics a motion in day-to-day life, chances are that it can help your overall fitness. Conversely, if a machine has a very specific, limited motion that doesn’t approximate anything in real life, you probably aren’t going to get much out of it, and it could set you up for imbalance. Do you lift groceries in real life? Sure! Go ahead and use free weights. Just be careful about movements that are unnatural.

Beware of imbalances you notice: You may already know that something is “off” in your kinetic chain. Maybe it’s one hip, one knee, one side, or even a half of your body that always seems a little less able to do the same activities without difficulty or pain. Our bodies are amazing and can adapt to all sorts of situations by figuring out novel ways to perform activities; however, the down side is that you can end up with major strength and balance deficits when your body finds a maladaptive way to overcome an existing kinetic chain issue.

The better bet: Take your kinetic chain into the shop! See a licensed physical therapist who can sort out not only what your body is doing, but why – and how to do it right to get your kinetic chain back into proper shape. For example, if you have tight calves, that can lead to problems up and down the chain – yet you wouldn’t suspect your calves if you developed plantar fasciitis, despite it being a contributing factor. Meanwhile, a weak core can cause a host of problems in your back or hips. Take your kinetic chain to a pro to sort it out and get it performing properly.

If your kinetic chain is kinked, you’re experiencing pain, or can’t get through a workout or weekend hike like you used to, we’re here to help. Body One Physical Therapy is independently-owned and has three locations to fit your needs: North Indianapolis,  Zionsville, and Fishers. Our compassionate, dedicated team is highly-trained and adept at helping our clients live their best lives!