The Power of the Obliques

by Michael Alicia
In our first Master Class (February 1st, 11:15-1:15) we will explore the mechanics of rotation for developing power and efficiency in our work.
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In the evolution of movement fish propel themselves through water by laterally flexing their spines. When they move onto land, as reptiles, their fins become feet and they waddle forward, as before, by laterally flexing. In dinosaurs and mammals, the pelvis is reorganized allowing their feet to move beneath the body which allows their bellies to lift off the ground making moving easier, more efficient and faster, but still using lateral flexion as the primary tool of locomotion. With this new organization of the pelvis, flexion and extension of the spine becomes the action for moving forward on four legs. The four-footed design evolves as animals start balancing on their hind limbs, freeing their front limbs for grasping, digging and climbing. Primates push up from a quadruped position where the spine acted as a bridge but is now more vertical, allowing for bi-pedal locomotion. Humans reorganize so their spines align even more vertically. Humans become fully upright with the skull arranging on top of the spine and the pelvis shrinking in size and orienting vertically, allowing for greater mobility and increased visual capacity. The spine develops a lumbar curve to counter balance the forward pull of the thoracic curve and oblique muscles add rotation to the act of locomotion. With the shrinking of the pelvis and the vertical organization of the spine, muscles in humans shrink in size and locomotion is faster and more efficient while a degree of power is lost. This deficit is accounted for by muscles organizing obliquely across the midline of the body adding rotation and power to this new organization.
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Examining the form of athletes, it is easy to see this rotational force in action. Sprinters explode out of their blocks driving their arms and shoulders across the body at a 45 degree angle. It is this same 45 degree angle alignment of the shoulder girdle in relationship to the rib cage that affords the most efficient movement of the arm and shoulder girdle. Pitchers in baseball “wind up” their pitches by pulling the opposite leg across the body loading the spiral line of the fascial continuities, while their pitching arm and shoulder girdle torques along the same spiral backward. This rotation loads the spiral line. The oblique muscle fibers of the pectorals major, serratus anterior, abdominal obliques and gluteus maximus unwind this backward torque and stretch by pulling and rotating the body around the midline and use the power of loading and unloading the kinetic chain to powerfully propel the baseball across the plate. Tennis players and golfers use similar rotational mechanics in their sports to drive the ball with tremendous power.
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If massage therapists, who use their bodies repetitively, think of themselves as athletes, then understanding the power of the obliques and how to use this rotational force to facilitate their work and inform their mechanics will add years of efficient, powerful and pain-free stroking.
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