Tai Chi & the Anatomical Kinetic Chain

by Denise Murray • June 21, 2020

Denise Murray

Denise Murray is a TCHI Senior Trainer, American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, EP-C, Certified Exercise Physiologist & Personal Trainer.

The anatomical kinetic chain (system) describes how body segments, connecting joints, and muscles work together to perform movements and interrelate to the spine. The spine runs from the neck (the cervical section of the spine), upper back (the thoracic section), and the lower back (the lumbar section). Vertebrae are the small bones of the spine, which provide support and encase the spinal cord. The spinal cord is made of nerve fibers and related tissue, which forms the central nervous system and connects all parts of the body to the brain.

Tai Chi and the Anatomical Kinetic Chain

All movement is done through the kinetic chain. In a healthy kinetic chain, the body works as a whole to move through a full range-of-motion (ROM) freely. Tai chi can be considered a kinetic chain exercise. In tai chi, we play mindfully with slow, soft, continuous movement to improve and build internal strength and qi.

Early Tai Chi Masters carefully studied how to move the body to provide the maximum force with the minimal required energy. They can be considered the first kinesiologists (persons that study the mechanics of body movements). Tai Chi classics, written by the masters, use the visual image of a string of pearls to describe movement through the spine (the kinetic chain). In a full ROM, the vertebrae and all joints are opened (tai chi principle of song). The lumbar and pelvis are free to open and hang like a string of pearls allowing qi to flow throughout the mind and body. When achieved, it creates the ultimate in the mind-body connection.

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