A Unique, Complementary
and Well Established Treatment
Athletic Performance Enhancement Booklet - Part 1 of 3
by Lou Gross, School Certified Master Postural Integrator,
Over 10,000 practitioners have been school trained, world wide, including some medical doctors and chiropractors. A number of books and articles have been published describing both the technical factors of the treatment and the life changing benefits people have received. A number of Olympic and professional athletes have testified to its benefits, as have many business executives, entertainers and others in all walks of life. There are training schools in both the US and overseas.
This is a supportive and complementary treatment, especially to chiropractic and massage, and makes bodies respond better to many kinds of metabolic treatments as well as structural ones.
|People whose bodies have been Structurally Integrated have also found it empowers all kinds of athletic training, including martial arts. And that’s really what it’s designed for; it significantly improves our body’s abilities because it removes a lot of the limitations that keep us from performing up to our potential. It just so happens that these limitations, mainly shortness and tightness, are also the ones that cause pain and increase the chance of injury.|
Structural Integration removes (or greatly lessens) even chronic shortness, tightness and misalignments. And then flexibility, muscle power, and neuro-muscular control all get better. We would expect this to be the case. The body’s nerve and muscle system can do more of what we want it to do when a lot less is holding it back and distorting its movements.
What’s remarkable about this procedure is how much can be improved in a relatively short amount of time, and that tremendous improvements can be made that are often thought impossible by medical doctors and other kinds of health professionals who are unfamiliar with it.
Many improvements can actually be felt immediately in the session, and can often be used in training or competition right away. Increases in performance have gotten better and better as more of the body was improved. People noticed each new level of improvement when they “tried it out,” and both short and long term changes were often greater than expected. (One novice marathon runner found he could pass people running uphill at the end of a race, and his recovery time was reduced from two weeks to two days.)
The reason results are so immediate is that this treatment works specifically on the body’s soft connective tissue system, a tissue in and around all the muscles that has been found to accumulate the shortness, or tightness that we feel in those muscles. As soon as this tissue system is lengthened, the muscle fibers, the actual muscle cells, can operate through much more of their available length.
Soft connective tissue is a putty-like fluid with gelatinous protein fibers in it. It surrounds and wraps up all the muscle fibers into a cohesive form so they all pull and stretch together. Whenever we move ourselves intensively, as in working out or when we receive blows or falls (or even get emotionally tense), this putty gets shorter; the protein fibers get pushed mechanically closer to each other in the fluid. (I call it “bunching up.”) Then everything inside the wrappings gets held in a shorter, more condensed form.
That includes the muscle fibers, which are little rods that contract when the nerves tell them to and release back to their full lengths when the nerves tell them to let go. Muscle fiber movement then, is obviously what makes you move around according to what you and your nerves tell the muscles to do. Only, when the soft connective tissue wrappings get bunched up, the muscle fibers are prevented from releasing back to their full lengths. And then the next movement gets distorted because there’s a restriction in the system fouling up what we want the muscle fibers to do.
Note that the putty wrappings hold our muscle fibers partially contracted all the time, even when the nerve signals are turned off and we take a hot bath to relax. The putty in our bodies doesn’t spread back out with rest, nor with muscle relaxant pills, any more than window putty does. The fibers in the fluid must be mechanically pushed or pulled back out. And since we’re accumulating shortness in the soft connective tissue system on a regular basis, its shortness gets worse and worse over the years.
This means the restriction on the movement of the muscle fibers also gets worse and worse over the years. The muscles can still stretch, but their “at rest” shape gets shorter and shorter, in line with the bunch-up of the soft connective tissue. And they feel tighter. We can also feel this as a loss of muscle power and agility. A six-inch long arm muscle keeps getting shorter, the arm muscles keep getting weaker, and eventually there can be pain in the wrist. Or, we may think we’re OK, but we start developing pains in the middle back or clicks and stiffness in the neck.
This accumulation is why some people think their tightness and pain is due to “old age;” it just takes a lot of years to make the putty that short. And it is a major reason old people are indeed very tight and have less mobility. What I want to keep emphasizing for you is that it almost always turns out that the shortness and tightness is all over the body, not just in the specific area of pain or stiffness.
And that’s also why taking a few hours to lengthen this stuff is so beneficial. Not only do individual muscles get longer, but whole areas of the body with lots of muscles (like the arms and shoulders, or the legs and pelvis) work better. There’s more dexterity, more flexibility, more power, more coordination and an awful lot less useless pulling from one area of the body to another. Structural Integration gets tremendous results because it rather quickly lengthens so much putty in all the interconnected areas of the body, as well as in the local areas where we feel the tightest.
Amazing as it may first seem, it doesn’t take very long to correct shortness that’s built up for a long time. There’s only so much putty in a body; we’re just a few feet long, a couple feet wide and maybe a foot thick. Spreading out the shortness is kind of like spreading dough while making bread. It took a long time to bunch it up to where it is now because it accumulated in a very slow way. Re-lengthening can be done much faster.
And it can be done in a comfortable manner. What makes some tissue manipulation techniques hurt is that they’re banging into the actual muscle fiber contraction and there’s often a lot of hardness there. There’s also a lot of holding from other, interconnecting muscles. They actually prevent the muscle that’s being worked on from letting go. If, instead, we get the actual “muscle action” to relax, and we lengthen some of the interconnecting muscles first, we can use a special manipulation to spread that soft connective tissue lengthwise, like moving a lot of thick butter. And that can usually be made to feel quite good.
In hundreds of bodies, I’ve been able to remove years and decades of built up shortness in a matter of hours. And a number of people have even fallen asleep while I do it. Many other practitioners can do the same thing.
Now, in addition to lengthening, these manipulations also improve the body’s metabolic function. The soft connective tissue inside the muscle is also the conduit, or avenue, for blood and tissue fluid flow. Making it less compressed has been found to remove the pressure on these spaces, and on the blood and lymph capillaries in there as well. So they all become wider channels for nutrients to go in and waste products to come out. Therefore, muscle nourishment and waste removal work better, even in the midst of intense activity. There’s a bigger, faster flow.
A result of these lengthening and metabolic improvements is called a better “economy of effort.” We can do the same things with less effort, and use up less energy in the process. Athletes like this. Everyone else should, too. People say they are more powerful, moving around feels a lot easier, and they don't get tired as soon.
Structural Integration also works on the torso. It not only makes it more flexible and upright, but it also increases the volume of air that can be inhaled into the lungs. Lung capacity remains the same, but even Olympic athletes noticed big improvements in the amount of air they could breathe in. The bunch up in their structural muscles was limiting them from using their full lung capacity. Obviously, when any of us can breathe deeper and easier, all the cells in our bodies get more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide out.
Because of these three factors, better muscle movement, better muscle metabolism and greater overall breathing, a number of my athlete clients said they had greater endurance and shorter recovery time.
As I inferred, the benefits accumulate. Since each part of the
body’s soft connective tissue system is attached to all the other parts of the
body, lengthening any one area releases pulls and constraints on all the other
In each treatment we work with a particular set of muscles, but their interconnections affect many other muscles as well. So every session adds another level of improvement over the entire body. Even the Olympic athletes and college coaches I worked with noticed changes in areas distant from what I was releasing at the time. In fact, they felt improvements that they didn’t even know could happen because they hadn’t yet experienced this kind of very thorough “interconnected” lengthening.
From my own experience, and my work with a number of yoga teachers,
these improvements definitely make yoga practice better, too. For me, and
those I’ve treated, the lengthening made it easier to get into positions (even
ones we couldn’t get into before). Balance got better and muscles had more
power. Stretching also went farther and people felt more “give” in the bodies of
the muscles. They also felt more of their body length could stretch into each
position. And they could pull farther with less or no pain.
Mind-body concentration got stronger; they could put more focus into the muscles they were stretching and pulling with. This also meant there was less chance of injuring a muscle, tendon or joint by pulling too hard. Many people increased their ability to feel where the tightness was most “stuck.” Even internal physiological benefits seemed like they did more.
Copyright 1995, 2002 Louis A. Gross All Rights Reserved