Fearless Fitness Weekly Update 3/13: The Kinetic Chain – Whats Your Weakest Link?

Fearless Fitness Tip Of the Week: The Kinetic Chain – Whats Your Weakest Link?

The following includes some excerpts from Todd Durkin’s book, “The IMPACT Body Plan”. I HIGHLY recommend this book – it will change the way you  live and train :)

Did you know that your nagging knee pain could be caused by the tight muscles in your hips? Or that your neck pain and headaches could come from badly conditioned thoracic muscles?

You might wonder, “How can tight muscles in one part of my body make an unrelated part hurt?” The answer: Your entire body is related and compensates for imbalance, pain, or injury in order to protect itself. Every part is completely linked and dependent on every other part through a system called the Kinetic chain. We can’t understand sources of pain until we understand the important working relationship between all of the links within the kinetic chain.

What is the Kinetic Chain?  kinetic means movement. Your kinetic chain is the system that promotes movement – from feet to fingertips – and the muscles, fascia, and other connective tissues that tie it all together.  This collection of parts functions as one, each part depending on the others for optimal performance. If one area is weak, another part will compensate, and the whole system suffers. If one part is not mobile and is supposed to be, another part compensates, and the next link will suffer. That’s why you’re ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST LINK in your kinetic chain.

Some of your joints need to be stable, and some need to be mobile.  They alternate with each other:

Ankle – Mobile

Knee – Stable

Hip – Mobile

Low Back – Stable

Upper Back – Mobile

Shoulder – Stable

If one component of the kinetic chain is broken or deficient, your body will compensate, and you will end up in pain. If your TIGHT hips can’t move, your spine will. If your foot is not stable, it can affect your knees, hips, back… your entire body.

The following are the everyday things you do that cause pain and throw your kinetic chain out of whack. You may not even know you’re doing them. Simply knowing these things can be a weapon against them, but for good measure I’ll also give you smart tips for addressing the most common things that wreck our bodies. What are they?


  • Elevated Stress. When you live in excessive distress, you feel anxiety, anger, irritability, and frustration. Emotions activate your body’s fight or flight system, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This wreaks havoc on your body. Your blood pressure spikes. Your breathing becomes shallow. And BINGO: Your muscles from your neck down through your back tense up. Tightness. Discomfort. Headaches. Pain. What do YOU DO to keep your stress levels under control? How do you keep stress from HURTING you?
  • Too Much Sitting. Sitting for hours promotes lousy posture and forces you to stay in one position. Your hips, hamstrings, and quads have no way to move. Your chest muscles tighten, your shoulders pull forward, your back rounds, and your neck tightens. That’s a recipe for perpetual pain. What do you do to break up the sitting during your day? How do you address the tightness created throughout your work day?
  • TIGHT or weak hip muscles. Tight or weak hips could be KILLING your structural system and throwing your kinetic chain out of whack. Our hips play a critical role in how our bodies feel and function. Strength, mobility, and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the pelvis and hips are critical to keeping your body pain-free, performing well, and feeling great. Does your workout routine include hip strength, mobility, and flexibility exercises? How often do you take care of your HIP FITNESS?
  • Poorly designed Exercise Programs. Have you ever thought that you may be doing some movements in your workout routine that are exacerbating the conditions that cause you pain? Most traditional workout programs are linear based. They train in one plane of action. Running, cycling, and rowing are primary performed in a straight line. And most machines isolate muscles only in one fixed plane of motion. Yet your body typically moves in multiple planes and multiple dimensions. Shouldn’t your program mimic real life? How balanced is your weekly workout routine? Do you work your front side as much as your back side? Does it contain  joint integrity and stability exercises? If its been a long time since you’ve updated your weekly routine… it may be time to start re-programming!
  • Too little stretching.The average person (even the average active person) has serious flexibility issues, especially in the hips, hamstrings, and chest. The older you get – the worse it becomes. Failure to stretch properly leads to muscle tightness, discomfort, pain, and injury. MAKE TIME – work on your flexibility!!
  • Poor recovery and regeneration. You can’t fix your body with workouts alone. You need to rest and recover. Allow your body to reenergize. Nutrition, sleep, and flexibility all play a role in this process. You have t work hard in order to help your body cope with all the daily stresses of living. REST.RECOVER.REENERGIZE your body for maximum health.

Fearless Fitness Challenge Of The Week: Understand Your Body and DO THE WORK.

Your body may be a wreck and your kinetic chain is ALL out of whack. But your daily habits are largely too blame. The next time something is hurting, or you  realize that you have chronic pain that has been with you for more than a month, find out why. By pinpointing the issues in your body, you will better be able to figure out what is causing the problem  and hopefully work towards getting them fixed.This week I challenge you to find your weakest link and work on solutions to solve it. This will require CHANGE, knowledge, and effort. In other words, I challenge you to start to understand your body and do the work YOU need for maximum health.

Pay close attention to these tips that will help with kinetic chain health. Each will  promote balance in your kinetic chain and help banish pain from your life. I challenge you to invest time in each of these “pain free body” solutions:

  • When you spend long hours at a desk, get up occasionally and STRETCH. Get out of your chair and walk around or stretch for 10 minutes. Walk to the bathroom. MOVE your body. While your sitting? Be aware of your posture. Prevent slumping by keeping your shoulders back and your chest open – this allows full deep breaths. Proper sitting posture feels as if your shoulder blades are carrying the weight of your shoulders.
  • Follow a well designed exercise program. Exercise with movements that are forward and backward, left and right, up and down, diagonal, and rotational. Emphasize mobility, stability, flexibility, and core strength. All of this helps bring the kinetic chain back into balance. Now watch how your body improves. Not sure if your routine is balanced or where to start designing a program? Seek out someone to HELP YOU with it. Visit your local Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Orthopedic doctor, or educated personal trainer or coach. These people should be able to give you the right information to get you back to where you belong, in good physical health.
  • Check out your HIPS. Make sure your workout program involves exercises that work on hip strength and flexibility. Take care of your hip health and fitness.
  • STRETCH. Remember, if you dont like it… you need it. One of the reasons stretching feels so unrewarding is because you see no visible result – muscles dont get any bigger and you dont get any thinner. But trust me, if you emphasize flexibility and improve stability and mobility in the correct joints, you are going to feel so much better and improve the way you perform in all areas of your life.
  • Foam Roll – get on the roller as often as you can and work on your fascia and it’s health. For more info on foam rollers and what you can do with them, check out this POST.
  • De-stress. Spend a few minutes each day to work on your mental health. Meditate, Read, Spend time with your family. Do the things that help YOU breathe easy. Your body will thank you for it.

Is there a weak link in your kinetic chain? This week, take the time to learn about your body, how it moves, and where its strengths and weaknesses are. I challenge you this week to find your WEAKEST link and start developing a program that keeps your kinetic chain Strong and BALANCED.

“You’re only as strong as your WEAKEST LINK.” This week, understand your body and DO.THE.WORK!

I know it was a LONG update – but it is such important and good information I HAD TO share it! Thanks again for everything  – cant wait to see you in class soon!


2 Replies to “Fearless Fitness Weekly Update 3/13: The Kinetic Chain – Whats Your Weakest Link?”

  1. Excellent rundown Caroline. Stress and poor diet will kill your progress no matter how great your program. Om om om and then a good meal at least three days a week . . .

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