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Biotensegrity: Injury Avoidance, Health and Strengthening

Much has been developed in understanding since this Human Anatomy descriptor was first brought here in 2015. How does this actually affect muscular strength, joint stability and ballistic injury avoidance in 2021?biot1

This question is super broad, so I’ll narrow the scope of my answer to just tensegrity and injury.

Tensegrity is the understanding that all biological organisms, at all structural levels, are composed of nodes of compression slung between strings of tension. Tensegrity implies that motion, deformation or loading of any one structure is then shared by the rest of that structure. So, a tensegrity structure is capable of being extremely strong, whilst being light and flexible.

Does understanding that definition change anything? I don’t think so.

We already knew the body could withstand incredible loading. To me, tensegrity is nothing more than a license to load the body heavier and heavier over time, understanding that we can adapt to whatever is given to us, if the loading is managed successfully.

The other idea brought on by tensegrity is that treating one region of the body could affect another. At this point, I’m not convinced. Firstly, we allegedly make tensegrity changes by acting on the myofascial system. However, we can’t make structural changes to myofascia through manual therapy, and any changes seen from manual therapy are neural changes in resting tone and guarding. Moreover, we’ve seen that strain applied at a certain point in fascia only extends about 10cm up and down the collagen alignment. So, if I poked someone in the middle of their lat, we would not see any increased strain in the contralateral glute, as would be suggested by the presence of the posterior sling.

The big benefit to tensegrity that I see is using the anatomy trains as a visual representation of movement. We could create any fascial “line” we wanted to, but the stereotyped “Anatomy Trains” offer us a good way of visualising muscle strategies in movements like throwing, standing, walking etc.

So, how do I apply tensegrity concepts into my own understanding of movement and injury?

  • The body is resilient to loading
  • Anatomy trains are a useful visual representation of movement, and nothing more

Your efforts and detailed explanation are much appreciated … I often wondered how many were/are able to so rapidly increase the weight loads on exercises such as Nautilus Duo Squat. In perfect control I was able to advance the entire stack in months, yet I knew I did not triple my muscular strength ???

I’m not sure where I’ll lead myself … beyond exercise. But I do expect to re-look at my inroading as an attempt to isolate a particular muscle into tension/compression without dissipating load into my overall biotensegrity chain. I am also beginning to apply these tension compression concepts to some of my metal fabrication designs. I am heartened to say I am very new to this concept and likely years away from your expertise. Statics … here I come.

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Skill adaptation and nervous system disinhibition

Thank you man, that’s so kind of you to say! I’m really not that smart, and have only been looking at this stuff in depth for the last 18 months. Find the right sources and you’ll get so much information it’s like drinking from a fire hose

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I remember you being the first to really introduce tensegrity to me about a year ago. What are your thoughts?

(Power)lifters are going to be stronger than ever in the year 2021. We’re going to see the biggest Bench Press and biggest Deadlifts ever. I don’t know what’s up with squats, but I’m confident some all time records, by weight class will be broken.

Many coaches and lifters are aware of “lines” or “chains” of muscles working together, even if they don’t use those terms for it. Going back just 10-20 years, a lot of “good” technique was twisting your joints into a position that limited joint Range of Motion, then using the weight of the barbell to force the ROM, twisting and torquing then “bouncing” off the “wound up” tissue.

Like when dudes would bench with wide wide grips, cram the shoulders into external rotation, take the back and arms out of the move, and let the shoulder joints do the work. It was just accepted that benching would ruin your shit. Look how many of those guys have had shoulder replacements.

Now guys are using narrower grips, and allowing the subscaps, lats and triceps into the “chain.” Benches are higher than ever, old guys are lifter longer and heavier than before. Benching is no longer a death sentence for your shoulders.

Or in the deadlift. My bro Kenny Kroxdale is always talking about Dr McClarin in the 80s, determining that the lower back was the prime mover in the deadlift. There were like 1-2 guys who could pull 900 in those days. Now guys have figured out how to use Less back and more ass and legs (the posterior chain) and everyone can deadlift 950+.

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That stuff about myofascial tension, manual adjustments and “guarding” is crazy too. You can’t poke someone in the lat to make their glute strain more. But if their glute is tight, or their hip is “restricted” and you change the “resting tone” by mashing it with a lacrosse ball, or doing some clamshells to enhance neural Awareness(?) of that glute, the opposite lat will work Better.

Or when somebody deadlifts, and their knee collapses “in” taking tension off their ass-hams and shifting it to their lower back. As a result, their deadlift sucks and they’re in a position to get hurt. You can see what’s wrong, but they can’t move their body correctly to fix it.

But then you just massage their calf, high up, behind the knee for 5 seconds and suddenly, Everything is Fixed! That kind of stuff is amazing to me!

You didn’t change anything, or “adjust” anything, you just touched the tight spot that they didn’t know about. And for some reason the body move differently.

Or a dude has a dog-shit squat, you slap some knee sleeves on him, miraculously he can now “feel” his knees and his squat improves. Just the sensation of some tightness around the joint enhances proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.

Incredible how these tension-compression members are being understood and recognized today.

Now, how does one get stronger. Along FF’s points … are these record lifts better technique or stronger guys? or both?

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We actually know the mechanisms pretty well now. IIRC, the mechanisms listed in Chris Beardley’s “Strength is Specific” are:

  1. Improved use of leverage = more efficient technique
  2. Improved intermuscular coordination = improved coordination between muscles
  3. Improved intramuscular coordination = improved synchronisation of muscle fibres within the muscle belly
  4. Increased muscle CSA = myofibrillar hypertrophy
  5. Disinhibition from brain and [probably] GTOs
  6. Greater rate coding = increased neural “drive” to the muscle

These factors are all interrelated, of course. Factors 5 and 6, and factors 1 and 2 are more or less the same thing, but different enough IMO to warrant separation

“Science and Practice of Strength Training” only listed 2, 3, 4 and 6 IIRC

I actually should go back over this, because I think 1-2 of these factors may not actually be improvable from training

As an average guy working and living … as opposed to a competitor … I am primarily concerned with your point 3 … CSA. This is one aspect I can measure as a result of getting stronger. Since I am in a “Biotensegrity Educational Immerision Cycle”, I believe the efficiency one develops might just circumvent point 3. Not that efficiency is bad in other aspects. Thanks.

Biotensegrity Immersion Cycle? Is that a fancy way to say you’re not doing any curls?

Or just doing compound lifts and avoiding isolation moves?

Biotensegrity Immersion Cycle? should have wrote: Biotensegrity EDUCATIONAL Immersion Cycle

FWIW I don’t think it’s possible to train biotensegrity. Biotensegrity, as I understand it, is a fundamental property of all biology.

Training biotensigrity would be a bit like training the weak nuclear force holding your electrons in place. You can’t do anything to change it, but it’s always there

Yes … the knowledge that Biotensegrity exists as a fundamental allows us (me) to better apply strengthening of muscles (point 3 above). But, from a Tensegrity viewpoint, I see more applications (in my field) Amazingly, there are structural examples over 60 years old.

Could you give us of an example of how you’re applying tensegrity to training? I’m genuinely curious

Yeah. Wasn’t this a Buckminster Fuller concept?

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Sure was