Connective Tissue and Your Body Shape

Nature deals the cards. How you play them is your choice. Body shape is more under your control than you think.

Previous blogs discussed muscles, bones and internal organs. But what holds it all together and gives us shape? You might have guessed muscles, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong. But the best answer is connective tissue. Each muscle acts in a limited range; connective tissue acts through the whole body. Connective tissue in your leg can twist your neck. Pain and the source of pain are often at different locations.

Every muscle fiber, every muscle group and every organ in your body is surrounded by connective tissue. Tendons and ligaments are basically concentrated connective tissue. You see connective tissue when you eat a steak and notice the white lines.

Athletes determine shape with exercise. Runners, swimmers, and Pilates instructors develop a long lean look. Weight lifters develop a bulkier look. When an exercise period is over, and muscles relax, your shape remains due to the connective tissue. For good or bad, you have choices concerning shape.

In addition, connective tissue of one muscle group can become “glued” to connective tissue of another. When that happens neither muscle is free to move independently. Rigidity becomes incorporated into shape. The observations “muscle bound”, “unbalanced”, “a long right leg”, and “twisted” come to mind.

How can you benefit from this information? Here are a few suggestions:

  • understand connective tissue as your shape organ.

  • stretch before and after exercise. Spend a little extra time on the tight side to stretch.

  • keep exercises balanced. Remember, you are building muscle and connective tissue together. Connective tissue has a long reach.

  • if you experience an injury, massage the hurt area. Injury is a common source of “gluing”. Massage pressure will help release the gluing.

  • periodically, get professional bodywork. Massage and structural integration work two ways. They loosen tight zones and strengthen weak zones. Your shape organ gets a reminder of how it should feel.

  • to achieve your best, try a full structural integration series (Rolfing, Hellerwork, etc.). That technology focuses on connective tissue.

  • avoid needless straining during exercise. If you feel your neck tightening when you flex the elbow, STOP. You are shortening the distance between the elbow and neck, and it will soon be locked. A high shoulder and bent neck on the way.

  • keep breathing deeply. Don’t hold your breath while exercising. Let ribs move.

  • Employ principles of knowledge and awareness. Without them, you will create a shape, but not necessarily the shape you want.

You have choices about shape.


Jack Menear