Tone Up While You Stand: Strengthen your Connective Tissue’s Tensegrity

October 31st, 2013 by Tam Tran


If connective tissue is a relatively new term for you, a good thing to know is the healthier it is the healthier we are.

Generally speaking, connective tissue is a gelatinous, net-like structure that gives our body shape. Connective tissue also changes thickness and function to provide appropriate support to different parts of the body. It is tendon, ligament, muscle sheath, organ sac, and skin, thus playing multiple roles. It is the information highway for all of our inner bio-chemical processes as well as the repair stations for injury and trauma. Outwardly, it gives our body strength and resiliency and works with the muscular-skeletal system to move the body. It is all of these and so much more.

Be on top of natural selection with your connective tissue’s tensegrity.

“Tensegrity” was coined by Buck Minster Fuller, 1895 – 1983, an architect, a designer, and an inventor,  after coupling the words “tension” and “integrity” to describe a principle of structure. Through his work, he discovered that moving structures are at their strongest when their parts are balanced with equalizing tension.

Wikipedia describes tensegrity pertaining to living structures as “Biological structures such as muscles, bones, fascia, ligaments, and tendons, rigid and elastic cell membranes are made strong by the unison of tensioned and compressed parts….The muscles and connective tissues provide continuous pull and the bones present the discontinuous compression…natural selection pressures would strongly favor biological systems organized in a tensegrity manner.”

Avoid burnout by exercising your connective tissue’s tensegrity.

One can strengthen his or her connective tissue tensegrity by ‘stretching’ from opposing ends of the body and loading weight through aligned joints. By doing so, one elicits the connective tissue’s inherent elastic and spring/recoil potential and expends the least amount of energy.

If practiced, this can reverse and/or help you avoid burn out. You can train the tensegrity of your body in standing.

Before and After

Let’s first consider a couple of pictures to compare when I’m exercising tenegrity to one where  I am not.

T-Square Health

In the first picture, you can see that my shoulder is more forward than my head and my hips are swaying forward a bit as well. If I did not exercise my tensegrity, I could develop tension in my hip flexors, compressive pain in the lower back, and a strained neck.

The next picture shows I’m exercising my tensegrity and as a result, I am much more, if not right on the central line. The middle of my ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and foot all line up perpendicular to the ground. I feel more energized and light.

Check Your Footwork


Check your footwork first, making sure your legs are straight and under your hips. Also align your knees with your toes, and have them pointing straight ahead.

Tip: To be even more precise, have your second toe straight forward while your big toe is about 2 degrees in. This elicits a more active medial arch. I’ll go into detail in a future post. And if you’d like to hear more about this sooner than later, please let me know with a comment!

Step 1: Engage your Back Tensegrity


While standing with feet right under you, reach up with the center of your head towards the ceiling, and tuck your chin slightly. Then press down on the ground gently and firmly with your heels.

Step 2: Engage your Core Tenegrity


Keep your back tensegrity straight and add  your core tensegrity. Ever so slightly, tuck in your tail and direct it up under your jaw and through the center of your head. This is not a butt squeeze!

Step 3: Root into the Ground


Follow with slightly pressing both your big toes downward into the ground.

Move with Intent and Grace

Now that you know the 3 steps to tone up while you stand, know that when you move in opposition, it should feel like you’re using about 10% of our muscle effort. And imagine planes of connective tissue and muscle units linking together evenly and smoothly.

What You Will Feel

Ideally, you’ll feel your head suspended tall, your hips neutral, and your feet firmly planted on the ground. At first, it may be challenging since the subtle movements may be hard to feel. But it will improve with practice.

Exercise Gently and Often

If this intrigues you, try it out while you’re waiting for the street light to turn or for public transportation to come – and let me know how it works in the comments section!

In the next couple of blogs, we’ll then exercise shoulder stability and regulate our breathing while standing. Stay tuned!

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Tam Tran
Certified Rolfer™
Licensed Massage Therapist


Tam is remarkably knowledgeable on anatomy and physiology, and she’s extremely precise. She also goes the extra mile to provide you with skills to integrate in everyday life to keep your body moving in the most efficient way.

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