Ideal Resting Length of Muscles


The book Human Movement Potential by Lulu Sweigard has had an outsized influence on the work I do. I wouldn’t call it a breezy read- I am embarrassed to say how many times I have had to read it in order to understand its concepts. I still don’t fully get all of the leverage stuff about fulcrums and such but you can’t have everything.

What I have learned has served me well. One concept that changed my teaching forever, and will be the subject of a future post or two, is “the arm bone should never be fixed in its socket”.  I have never taught the same way since I read that sentence.  Another key concept that I got from Swiegard (If I had a second daughter I was pushing for the name Lulu—my first daughter was named Ida for Ida Rolf) is that of ideal resting length.

Each and every muscle has a length and tone that it should be maintaining when at rest. This is such a huge idea in that it requires the development of the body to be something of a science project. If I want the base of my rib cage to be the same distance from the pelvis at the front and the back of the body then I have might need to use a tape measure to figure out the distance and then exercise the two opposing muscle groups in an attempt to bring them to balance.

To use myself as an example, I am short in the back body like everybody else that I meet. Even though I think of myself as having good posture you can see that in almost every video I shoot my chin is always slightly elevated and rarely in its correct place. For me this comes from a number of different imbalances but we will look at two different muscle groups that aren’t living in their ideal resting length.

Everyone I meet is short and tight in the sub occipital muscles that connect the spine to the head. These amazing muscles are the only muscles in the body that communicate with the eyes. They transmit to the spine a great deal of its information about movement. They are also the muscles that are out of whack when we have forward head posture—and we all have forward head posture. At the front of the throat are a number of muscles that might be affected by tightness at the back of the neck—the scalenes, the sternocliedomastoid, the platysma. If the sub-occciptals are short and tight it is likely that these muscles at the front of the throat are long and loose.

Once you figure an imbalance out you have to begin the adventure of what to do to change it. Exercise for exercise sake won’t get you there. We have to have very conscious practices that approach the building of a better working body; a body that has all of its muscles living in an ideal resting length.

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Happy New Year with Diamond Rings
Muscle Balance and Long Term Fitness
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