Want to immediately improve your form in the gym, lift heavier weights, avoid injuries and get an amazing mid-section? Then it’s time you started thinking about the ‘kinetic chain’ and making sure to plug energy leaks. This is a concept that any athlete will be familiar with, but for everyone else it might just be that missing part of the fitness puzzle…
Your Body as a Kinetic Chain
What does this mean? Well simply, your body can be thought of as a ‘kinetic chain’ meaning that during any movement energy is going to travel all the way through it from top to bottom. When performing an exercise such as a press up for instance, the energy is going to go through your hands and your feet and run all the way through your lower body. Likewise when you do a lat pull down – it’s not just your lats that will be working but also your arms, your shoulders, your back, your core and even your legs.
This is a concept that is very important in martial arts. Martial artists are taught to punch in such a way that they generate power from their feet, all the way up through their body, twisting through their hips, and then firing out the end. The energy starts from the ground and ends up being passed to the opponent. This is essentially the concept of the ‘equal and opposite force’. The punch doesn’t just come from the arm – but rather involves the feet, the obliques and even the motion of pulling the arm back on the other side to further help torque the upper body.
The result is a more powerful punch – and the same is true for any movement you perform in the gym and especially bodyweight exercises.
In fact, by consciously tensing the legs and the core when doing pull ups you can immediately make the movement easier for yourself (by reducing swinging in the lower body) and that way be able to do more.
Injury and Energy Leaks
Energy leaks can become a big problem when we sustain an injury such as a bad knee, bad back or shoulder complaint. Even if we aren’t consciously aware of these issues, our body will respond by ‘compensating’ and getting muscles on the other side of the body to work harder. This in turn can result in a lopsided gait, or in one arm working harder than the other when lifting weights. This is why it’s very important to use physio to repair injuries before we return to training.
Energy leaks are also a big problem with running. Here weaknesses and imbalances in the hip can lead to uneven gaits that can put further strain on particular joints and make us less efficient (meaning essentially that we can’t run as far).
How to Remove Energy Leaks
Bruce Lee was a particularly big proponent of ‘plugging the energy leaks’ and would actually tense his entire body during exercises like press ups. If you see someone with their pelvis dipping while they perform press ups, then that’s a clear example of an energy leak that will make the movement more difficult for them and at the same time put strain on their body. By tensing his entire torso during these movements, Bruce was eventually able to perform one finger push ups which is an incredible feat.
You can do the same while performing exercises like press ups or pull ups. Likewise you can also consciously try tensing the whole body immediately after any workout, just to make sure the whole body is engaged in some way. To remind you to tighten your core doing workouts, you can try using the string technique during bodyweight exercises (where you tie a piece of string around your stomach to remind you to tense it).
Also very important though is to make sure to train your body evenly and particularly when targeting the core. Make sure that you don’t just train your rectus abdominis (the sheet of muscle on the front of the stomach) but to also strengthen the transverse abdominis, the obliques, the erector spinae, the hips… etc.
Avoid sitting with poor posture when working, make sure to go for runs/walks which will help you practice correct gait, and do stretching to try and correct any imbalances you might have with shortened/tight muscles.