What Is Tensegrity?

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“Tensegrity” means Tensional Integrity.

The term was coined by Buckminster Fuller, referring to a self-tensioning structure comprised of rigid parts (The metal rods) and elastic parts (the cables). The balance of tension and compression between the rods and cables results in mechanical stability, causing the rods to float within the structure.

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The vast majority of man-made structures are compressional by nature.

An excellent example of this is the brick wall of your office building. “The top brick rests on the second brick, the first and second brick rest on the third, the top three rest on the fourth and so on.”

There are some key differences between these two structures: When load is applied to a tensegrity structure, it changes its shape to accommodate. When the load is removed, the structure will bounce back to its original shape. This is because forces are distributed evenly throughout the structure. If the load is too great, the structure will break at its weakest point, irrespective of where the load is placed.

When we apply the same load to the wall of your office building, the shape of the wall will not change. If the load is too great, the wall will collapse wherever the force is placed. The rest of the wall will remain intact.

Why is this important?

Because we are tensegrity structures! Unlike the brick wall, our bones do not stack on top of one another. Instead, they float inside the tension system created by our muscles and fascia, much like the rods in the Tensegrity structure. You’ve probably heard about muscles before, but have you heard about fascia?

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What is Fascia?

The fascial system, or fascia, is a web of connective tissue surrounding all internal parts of the body; wrapping itself around every bone, muscle, nerve and blood vessel. It plays an essential role in posture alongside your muscular system and is responsible for distributing tension throughout your body. We refer to muscles and fascia together as The myofascial system, or myo-fascia.

When we understand the fascial system and the impact this has on the body, we are able to use this information to diagnose postural and movement inefficiencies, prevent injury and maximise results in our fitness programmes.

Understanding How This Works.

A good way to help you understand how this system works is to look at the spinal column below. Tension is created by the myo-fascia and this is responsible for maintaining the space you can see between each vertebra. This space remains unchanged even when we apply force to the spine (If it didn’t, you would be in a lot of pain all the time!). However, our modern-day sedentary lifestyle causes this myo-fascia to become weak. When this happens, they are no longer able to hold the vertebra apart. This results in compression forces passing directly through the spinal discs crushing them and causing them to bulge out…. hence the term bulging disc! This is the number one cause of back pain in the sedentary population.

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