Know Your Kinetic Chain!

Do you know that your body does not operate in isolated segments?
Yes! Every active movement of yours comes from a chain of passive movements. That is, when bearing a weight (or) force, all the tendons, muscles, joints, ligaments in our system do not function in isolation. They work as the so called “Kinetic Chain”. You need to know about this chain to be effective in a smart way!

Let us look at few common examples that throw more light on this concept. For example, your Knee is a dependent joint. It depends on the muscles around the Hip joint, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Rotator Cuff, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, on the muscles around the Ankle joint, Tibialis Posterior, Achille’s Tendon group, etc., That is, actual problem in your Knee might not be only in the Knee joint. It might have come form one of these many weak muscles that come under it’s Kinetic Chain.

Let’s look at another such example and this is also the reason why I keep a check on the person’s complete body posture in every workout they do and in every pose they try to put in my training sessions. Now, if you slightly turn your ankle inward, you can see the knee moves inward, hip crops down, and the spine bends. This is not an expected posture as if you really walk with this posture, it places inappropriate forces on all major joints. One side is stretched, the other side is strained to pull back the posture to normal.

If we see from bottom to top, the feet and ankles, the knees, the hip and pelvis, the trunk, the shoulders, and the head – these are the linking points, or checkpoints, for the kinetic chain. Needless to say, the core (the major musculature trunk) is the major checkpoint for most of the movements. The interactions between the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons in this kinetic chain are essentially the basis of the concept.

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Now, if we delve a little more deep, there comes the two types of kinetic chain movements – Open & Closed. This division is based on whether the most distal checkpoints are stationery or moving.
In the Closed Kinetic Chain (CKC), hands / feet are fixed at one place and the remaining body tries to stabilize the joints when other parts of the body are moving. For example, Push Up where interactions among multiple muscles overlap.
In Open Kinetic Chain (OKC), hands / feet move freely with the body. For example, Bench Press which is more of an isolation workout.
One funny thing to notice here is, though Push Up and Bench Press target the same major muscle, one is a CKC and the other is an OKC. Similarly, though both Squat and Leg Press target the same major muscle, former is a CKC and the latter is an OKC.

So, the functional consequence of a Closed Kinetic Chain is that, movement of one joint will cause every other joint to move in a pattern that is predictable. For example, when you perform a weighted squat, flexion of the knee cannot occur without flexion of the hip and dorsi-flexion of the ankle happening simultaneously. If the range of motion of any one of the joints is limited, then this will affect the range of motion of the workout as a whole!
Open Kinetic Chains are not subject to these constraints, that is, movement at one joint will not necessarily cause movement at another joint.

Let me end this article with a perfect real time application of Kinetic Chain. For example, for a badminton player to smash for once, the force needs to be produced by the legs , transmitted to the trunk and then to the shoulders and then the ball gets hit. But, if you see from outside, it just seems that the player’s shoulders are doing everything that is needed. But, as per one research made on this, the shoulder seems to only produces 13% of the kinetic energy in one smash.
So, a player with weak trunk or legs might have to put more than required force on shoulders to compensate for other weak links in the kinetic chain and hence might face a shoulder injury. Hence, an effective kinetic chain is very important for athletes. This leads to more efficient movements and improvement in performance.


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