The Five Main Muscles for a Full Range of Natural Movement, Dynamic Alignment & Balance.

by leggi 9 min read1st Sep 20199 comments

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This follows an introduction to the median plane and our midline anatomy as the references for alignment and balance of the human body.

Now think about how your body moves. Do you have a full range of natural movement?

A Full Range of Natural Movement.

The body's full potential, functioning at optimal.

Examples of the body's capabilities.

Your Body Bubble.

Imagine the body's extremities tracing out a perimeter - a bubble - as the body moves. The fingers, toes and head can only reach so far apart. The bubble is a finite space.

With a full range of natural movement, movement flows through innumerable positions in the largest possible 'body bubble'.

I've borrowed an illustration!

The distance between the tips of all extremities is as great as physically possible when the body is free of physical restrictions, dynamically balanced and aligned i.e. midline anatomical structures are at maximal extension.

Anatomy of Alignment and Balance (recap):

The linea alba and nuchal & supraspinous ligaments are our main anatomical guides for body alignment.

These midline linear structures are strips of tough connective tissue that we have no direct control over. We can however learn to fully utilise the adjacent muscles.

Working with the adjacent muscles (see below) increases:

  • Awareness of the sensory feedback from these muscles, allowing us to feel the relative positioning of the midline anatomy. Part of our sense of proprioception.
  • Voluntary control of the relevant muscles to work towards aligning the linea alba and nuchal & supraspinous ligaments.

According to my Base-Line Hypothesis Human Health and Movement (see below for pt. 1) :

{For a less wordy introduction to the anatomy try: The 5 Main Muscles Made Easy.}

The 5 Main Muscles of Movement are:

Rectus Abdominis.

The left and right rectus abdominis muscles run parallel to each other, either side of the linea alba, up the front of the abdomen from pelvis to thorax.

. !image text.

The rectus abdominis muscles attach to:

  • Pubic symphysis and pubic crest of the pelvis.
  • Costal cartilages of the 5th, 6th and 7th ribs (on the medial inferior costal margins).
  • Posterior aspect of xiphoid process of the sternum.

. image text


The rectus abdominis muscles consists of several 'panels' of muscle between strips of connective tissue known as tendinous intersections.  These sections of muscle are what gives the rectus abdominis the “6-pack” look, but the number of panels can vary between individuals - 4, 8, and 10 packs can occur.

The rectus abdominis muscles sit within their respective rectus sheath formed by the aponeuroses of the lateral abdominal muscles before they merge to form the linea alba. Image text

My comments.

The rectus abdominis muscles - Our core pillar of strength. Our central Line. Strong and flexible, able to support the rest of the body through a full range of movement when fully utilised. Ribbons of muscle that can bend and rotate at every level.

Like two stacks of blocks to be activated in sequence from pelvis to chest.

Think longer and stronger with every in breath.

Fully engaging and elongating the rectus abdominis muscles extends the linea alba (our primary guide for alignment) to its full potential. image text


Trapezius.

The left and right trapezius muscles are the most superficial muscle layer from mid-back (last thoracic vertebra) to the base of the skull, extending out towards each shoulder.

The trapezii (plural) meet midline, attaching to the nuchal ligament and supraspinous ligament. image textThe trapezii are thin sheets of muscle, sculpted down the neck and towards the shoulders, attaching to both scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collar bone) of each arm.

Based on the direction of the muscle fibres, current descriptions split each trapezius muscle into 3 functional sections.



1. Upper trapezius. (a.k.a. superior trapezius, descending trapezius)

Attaches to:

  • Base of the skull. External occipital protuberance and medial third of the superior nuchal line of the occipital bone via a thin fibrous lamina.
  • Nuchal ligament.
  • Lateral third of the clavicle.
  • Spinal process of the 7th (last) cervical vertebra.
  • Supraspinous ligament.

2. Middle trapezius. (a.k.a. transverse trapezius)

Attaches to:

  • Spinal processes of the 1st to 4th thoracic vertebrae.
  • Supraspinous ligament.
  • Medial side of the acromion of the scapula.

3. Lower trapezius. (a.k.a. inferior trapezius, ascending trapezius)

Attaches to:

  • The spinal processes of the 5th to 12th (last) thoracic vertebrae.
  • Supraspinous ligament.
  • Posterior crest of spine of the scapula.
  • Deltoid tubercle of spine of the scapula.

' Image text

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Between the 6th cervical and 3rd thoracic vertebrae (the base of the nuchal ligament and start of the supraspinous ligament) the trapezius muscles are connected to the midline by a broad semi-elliptical aponeurosis, forming a tendinous ellipse between the shoulder blades.

Tendinous ellipse of connective tissue.

My comments.

The trapezius muscles - from the back of the head to mid-back, extending out to each shoulder.

A kite-shaped blanket of muscle that should be smooth and wrinkle-free, supporting the head and arms through a full range of movement.

The trapezius muscles attach to the base of the skull via a thin sheet of connective tissue (lamina) and there is a ellipse of connective tissue at the base of the neck/between the shoulder blades too.


Movement of the upper body should begin from the lower trapezii. Think extension and expansion from midline outwards.

The middle trapezii should spread wide allowing the arms to fully extend. Our upper limb includes the scapula.

The upper trapezii should be free of tensions, allowing the head to move through its full range of movement and alignment of the nuchal ligament.

. image text


Pelvic Floor Muscles.

The "pelvic floor" are the muscles that span the pelvic canal. Also known as the pelvic diaphragm.

Left and right sides of the pelvic floor are a mirror image, the line of symmetry the body's midline.

. Image text

The pubic symphysis (where the linea alba and rectus abdominis muscles attach to the pelvis) is located on the midline of the anterior border of the pelvic canal.

To describe the pelvic floor in detail would be time-consuming - and frustrating. The anatomy is complicated with some controversy with regards to nomenclature, and is unimportant to this process. Think of the pelvic floor muscles as one unit of two halves.

My comments.

The pelvic floor muscles - a basket of muscles that should be tight and secure.

Activate your pelvic floor muscles and think of them at the root of all movement.

The solid Base for the the rest of the body.


Rectus Femoris.

The rectus femoris muscles at situated at the front of each thigh, extending from pelvis to tibia.



The rectus femoris is traditionally described as part of the quadriceps femoris muscle group, along with the 3 vasti muscles (the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis).  

The distal tendons of the 4 quadriceps muscles merge to form the common quadriceps tendon, which attaches to the patella (kneecap) and then continues as the patellar ligament to the tibial tuberosity of the tibia. i.e. the quadricep muscles share a common insertion but rectus femoris attaches to the pelvis, whilst the 3 vasti muscles attach to the femur. The rectus femoris is the only muscle of the quadriceps that crosses both the hip and knee joints.

. image text The pelvic attachments of the rectus femoris muscles are commonly described as "to the ilium of the pelvis via two heads - the straight head and the reflected head" but it is not that simple - variations in the pelvic attachments have been observed.

  • The tendon of the straight head attaches to the anterior inferior iliac spine.
  • The rectus femoris may also arise from the anterior superior iliac spine.
  • The tendon of the reflected head attaches in a groove above the superior rim of the acetabulum and the fibrous capsule of the hip joint. The reflected head may be absent.
  • A 3rd head may be present, attaching to the iliofemoral ligament deeply, and superficially to the gluteus minimus tendon as it attaches to femur.

. image text


The heads of the rectus femoris merge into an aponeurosis (a tough, thin sheet of connective tissue), from which the muscle fibres arise as the aponeurosis continues distally on the anterior surface of the muscle.

The lower two-thirds of the posterior surface of the rectus femoris consists of a thick, broad aponeurosis that becomes narrowed into a flattened tendon attached to the patella.  This forms the superficial, central part of the common quadriceps tendon.

My comments.

The rectus femoris muscles - a strong pole down the front of the thigh when engaged along their full length. Positioning the leg to the pelvis and aligning the hip and knee joints.

Feel each muscle contract between it aponeuroses - think of pulling your kneecaps up and pushing down from your hip bone.


Gluteus Maximus.

Situated at the posterior of the pelvic region, the left and right gluteus maximus muscles are the largest skeletal muscles in the body.

The superficial muscle layer of the buttocks, covering and surrounded by a lot of complicated anatomy.



The gluteus maximus muscles attach to multiple structures, many more than the current standard description covers.

Attachments of the gluteus maximus:

  • The ilium of the pelvis (posterior to the posterior gluteal line {attaching to a narrow, semilunar area with a rough surface}, and the posterior superior iliac crest.
  • The sacrum (posterior inferior edge).
  • The coccyx (lateral sides of the posterior surface).
  • The aponeurotic fascia of the gluteus medius muscle.
  • The sacrotuberous ligament (posterior surface).
  • The tubero-iliac ligament (part of the long posterior {dorsal} sacroiliac ligament).
  • The thoracolumbar fascia. (Through its attachment to the raphe of the thoracolumbar fascia, the gluteus maximus is coupled to the ipsilateral multifidus muscle and to the contralateral latissimus dorsi muscle.)
  • The iliotibial tract. Three-quarters of the fibres form a superficial lamina (layer)which narrows and attaches between the two layers of the tensor fascia latae, forming part of the iliotibial tract. (a.k.a. iliotibial band.)
  • Gluteal tuberosity of the femur. Via an aponeurosis formed from the deeper muscle fibres. (The gluteus maximus attaches between the vastus lateralis and adductor magnus). .

. image text

My comments.

The gluteus maximus muscles work in tandem with the rectus femoris muscles, stabilising the leg through a full range of movement.

The largest muscles of the body that position the leg to torso when fully engaged.

"Buns of steel" - Hands on buttocks. Feel these muscles contract and tighten.

The gluteus maximus muscles are superficial to, and surrounded by, a lot of anatomy prone to pain syndromes (caused by these main muscles not being adequately utilised?).

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Based on my recovery from a life-time of pain, I believe learning to use these 5 (paired - left and right) main muscles movement to their full potential is the key to a better world:

Base-Line Hypothesis of Human Health and Movement (part 1).

Find your Base-Line muscles - the key to better health.

Pelvic floor - Base.

Rectus abdominis - Line.

image text

The Base-Line muscles:

  • From where the rest of the body extends.
  • Our muscular link to our 'primary guide for body alignment - the linea alba.
  • The rest of the body is positioned relative to Base-Line. Orientating the body map in the mind.
  • Enhances proprioception. the sense of position, movement and balance.
  • Connect body and mind.

image text

The Base-Line muscles should:

  • Fully extend, aligning the linea alba.
  • Flex and rotate at every level.
  • Support the rest of the body through a full range of natural movement.

The Base-Line muscles - Our core pillar of strength.

Think solid Base and strong, flexible Line. (see below for how to start 'breathing with your Base-Line').


- - -

Our Base-Line muscles are two of the '5 main muscles of movement' which, when fully utilised, provide the central framework for optimal functioning of the body. image text


Connect Your Base-Line to Your Legs.

Gluteus maximus & rectus femoris.

It should be possible to move each leg through a full range of movement in a smooth and controlled manner, without effort or strain, possible when the gluteus maximus and rectus femoris muscles of each leg work in tandem.

Engagement of these leg muscles is about feeling them contract and strengthen.   The rectus femoris a solid pole from shin to hip bone, aligning the hip and knee joints. The gluteus maximus the stabilising the legs to Base-Line support.

Aim for a full engagement of both muscles, left and right sides, balanced in all positions.

Connect Your Base-Line to Your Upper Body.

Trapezius.

image text

  • Do you have any connection to your trapezius muscles?
  • Can you activate them from mid-back up? Pushing your shoulders up from under, not pulling them up from above?
  • Can you feel your arms extend out from midline? Your shoulders free to move and rotate?
  • Can you let your head relax forwards? Fully, without tension?

The whole of both trapezius muscles should be free to fully extend in all directions, without pain or tension, supporting the head and arms through a full range of movement.

The trapezius muscles align the nuchal and supraspinous ligaments when they are fully utilised. Our secondary references for body alignment.


A Simple Technique - Breathing with your Base-Line.

  • Breathe in and up through your nostrils.
  • Breathe out through your mouth.
  • Engage your Base-Line muscles as you inhale.

  • Begin with your Base pelvic floor.

Take as many breaths as you need to feel your pelvic floor muscles engaging. The base of the physical body and starting point of the body map in the mind.

  • Then activate your central Line - rectus abdominis muscles.

Think of engaging and elongating your rectus abdominis muscles section by section, in sequence from pelvis to chest.

Stronger and longer with every in breath, extending the linea alba, our primary guide for body alignment.

Don't rush, just breathe. Wherever you are!

Be aware of when 'the wrong' areas of muscle activate.  When you feel this happening - relax, breathe and focus on your Base-Line muscles once more.

I used the roll-down action a lot - my go-to move. Feeling my Base-Line supporting the rest of my body, forming the widest possible arc as I rolled forward. Don't worry about where your feet are to start, everything stems from your Base-Line.

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Maintaining the body is not about doing specific exercises or reaching certain poses.

Work towards a full range of movement by focusing on these five main muscles, starting with your Base-Line.

Pelvic floor Base, rectus abdominis Line.

When these main muscles of movement are free to be fully utilised the rest 'falls into place' . The body is strong and movement flows when we can achieve dynamic alignment and balance. At least that's what I've found. I just need a few others to find out for themselves how lesswrong I am!

Part 3: Conscious Proprioception - Your Sense of Position, Movement & Balance.


Background Notes on Muscles:

Muscle Engagement & Activation.

An 'active' muscle is traditionally is described as "contracting", but this implies a reduction in length or decrease in size which is often not the case.

The 3 standard classifications of how a muscle 'contracts' are:

  • Concentric contraction (shortening of muscle tissue).
  • Eccentric contraction (lengthening of muscle tissue).
  • Isometric contraction (muscle length remains the same).

I prefer to use 'activating' and 'engaging' when it comes to discussing the usage of muscles. I like 'engaging' but I've had poor feedback. I continue my search for the perfect word - suggestions?!

Muscle Cells = Muscle Fibres.

Muscles consists of 'hundreds of thousands' (no figures available!) of elongated muscle cells (myocytes) surrounded by connective tissue. These cells are commonly known as muscle fibres.

' Several muscle fibres.


Cross section of muscle tissue.


Areas of Muscle.

It is not "all or nothing" when a muscle works. Muscles consist of many overlapping areas of potential activity. In an individual muscle, some muscle fibres may be active whilst others are resting - or spasming.

image text


Voluntary Muscles.

Voluntary muscles are muscles with "an action that is under the control of the will".

All striated muscles (except the heart) are voluntary i.e. we can consciously control all our muscles if the connection between brain (command center) and muscle is developed.

Test Yourself ...

Are you willing to do a bit of self-experimentation and consider how your body moves?

Find the main muscles - palpate them on your body.

Can you connect with them? Feel them? Activate them?

It may take a while for 'activation signals' to to get to the right place, and the ability to fully engage the whole of a muscle comes with practice.

Time and effort.

To balance the body. And mind.

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