In this article I’m going to give you some practical tips to improving your injuries and wellbeing. I’m going to be simplifying the complex anatomical theory that is the Anatomy Trains Deep Front Line. And translating that into something useful and digestible for you and your life.
I’m going to give you the benefit of our experience from the clinic where we see the implications of this Deep Front Line day in and day out and convert this into practical, easy to implement, advice to help any injury regardless of where it is on the body.
This article is written to help our clients gain a greater understanding of the concepts we introduce them to during our sessions and as extra motivation to help themselves. For the wider public I’m hoping to introduce or impress the importance of the Deep Front Line. And for any fellow therapists who have not been introduced to the joy of these concepts, inspiration for further study.
I would love to say all of these ideas are of my making. They are not. I am merely practically implementing the incredible work of Thomas Myers and the guys at Anatomy Trains who are pushing this work forwards.
I’ve long wanted to share their great images which I use daily to explain difficult concepts easily and quickly in visual form. There are copyright issues doing this! So I’ve commissioned some pictures to give an interpretation of the muscles involved. I think that’s all ok from copyright perspective. I’m sure someone from Anatomy Trains will be in touch if not!
For any fellow website owners who would also like to spread the joy of this work in a legal way then please feel free to use the image. All I ask in return is for a link back to this page or our homepage.
What Is The Deep Front Line?
It might be easier to say what it isn’t! It’s a complex series of interconnected fascia and muscles that run through the very core of our beings. It gives us licence to explain how if we treat something in your neck it can affect symptoms in your foot! This can, and does, frequently happen at the clinic.
It’s normalised to us therapists. I appreciate for the uninitiated you may be sceptical. I certainly was 10 years ago. And many of our clients are too when they first come in. This is the beauty of the representation of the Deep Front Line below. It gives us a framework which we can use to explain the connectivity of the whole body to help people better understand their bodies. With greater understanding comes less fear and so less pain.
I’ll give you an example before we get to the picture. Say you’ve come to us with a neck problem which perhaps you fear could be arthritis or you’ve been told is arthritis by another therapist or had some wear and tear confirmed on x-ray.
We can tell you that pain isn’t damage. We can tell you that wear and tear on cartilage isn’t an accurate predictor of pain (as we discuss in our Arthritis article). We can tell you this and give you examples where we’ve seen this countless times over the years until we’re blue in the face but you guys need to feel evidence of this. This is when the real changes happen.
If we are able to change the sensation in your neck by releasing off something in your stomach and you start to believe what we’re saying. We start to change the fear of the area and in so the protective movement pattern that keeps us in pain. The deep front line is how all this happens:
Now I’m not professing wizardry here – although I did once get called a voodoo witch doctor, which I quite liked – we can’t guarantee results and everyone’s movement pattern is unique. We have to work out what is going to work for you. It could be that your neck pain is caused purely by something in your neck. But in my experience this is the exception rather than the rule.
The Deep Front Line goes through larger and deeper areas than other myofascial lines and so can have more far ranging and deeper impact through the body. As you can see in the picture above it passes through:
- Arches of your feet
- Your knee joints
- Adductors (the muscles on the inside of your thighs)
- Pelvic Floor (core muscles and ones that help you go to the toilet)
- All the vertebrae of your lower back
- Hip flexors (the muscles that lift your legs up)
- Diaphragm (breathing)
- Muscles of your neck
The Emotional Deep Front Line And Effect On Our Nervous System
We also see day in and day out an emotional connection of these muscles in the deep front line. Most consistently those in the stomach – the hip flexors and diaphragm. I appreciate for some readers this may be getting a bit woo woo at this point. And many years ago I would have agreed with you. But I’ve just seen it too many times. When we release physically we can get an emotional release too. A sense of relief almost.
Let me explain with another example. Assuming your sat reading this. Slump into a depressed posture in your chair. Every emotion has a physical representation and if you spend a lot of time in a specific emotion then that has physical implications which can lead to pain.
Visualise how that slumped depressed posture will impact the deep front line picture above. I’ve included a picture to the side here to give you some help. When we put muscles in certain positions for a length of time they start to adapt and change to that position. So when we release the appropriate muscles at the appropriate time it can lift you out of that emotion you have been feeling.
If you don’t feel a big emotional release, and not everyone does, you will most likely feel a calming of your nervous system. It’s just like feeling really relaxed all of a sudden. Which is nice in itself but it can have the effect of reducing pain anywhere on the body. Simply put the calmer our nervous system the less pain we feel. Releasing the deep front line is a great way to achieve this.
What Does The Deep Front Line Do?
It’s two main functions are breathing and moving your leg across your body towards the other leg.
Which isn’t much for such a big important myofascial line. Conversely however there aren’t many movements and functions that it doesn’t influence. It also gets involved in:
- Tension of the arch of the foot
- Stabilising the leg
- Lifting you leg up
- Supporting the front of our low back
- Stabilising the chest
- Allowing expansion and contraction of the chest for breathing
- Balancing our head on our neck
Thomas Myers in Anatomy Trains sums it up poetically ‘it relates the wave of breathing to the rhythm of walking.’
Is The Deep Front Line The Core?
As regular readers will know I’m not a big fan of the traditional physiotherapy concept of the core. I don’t like how some arbitrary collection of muscles have been blown up to being the answer to everything. There is no one answer to everything.
Generally speaking my belief is that in this modern world most of us are too uptight. Not too loose. Very specifically through our core muscles. Whether we’re aware of it or not. Most of my day is spent releasing tension in people and that is where we see the improvement in the vast majority of our clients.
Core training, particularly done to excess because you’ve been told to do it or, even worse, for vanity just compounds this tenson that can hold us in pain patterns. I talk more about these thoughts in my article asking is there any point to core training?
For balance I’d like to climb off my high horse and moderate my views in that core training, and especially in my view core awareness, can be an important part of any overall rehab package. And it can be especially important for those people with genuine hyper-mobility conditions such as the more sever end of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I intentionally say ‘genuine’ here as I feel so many people have been told they are hyper mobile and that is the cause of their problem yet loosening the appropriate structures seems to help them. I discuss hyper-mobility more in this article.
As a rough rule of thumb based on what I’ve seen over the years 95% of us are too tight and loosening makes us stronger, more efficient and feeling less pain. Less than 5% of people I’ve seen are genuinely hyper-mobile. It is this small percentage of people that need to tighten up rather than loosen.
Coming back to core I prefer to think of the Deep Front Line as the body’s myofascial core and due to its three dimensional nature the very core of our being. One that is extremely complicated and varied and is hard to isolate with specific exercises.
Connecting the Deep Front Line and traditional idea of core we find that your ‘core’ muscles are inhibited if there is dysfunction with your Deep Front Line. When we release the Deep Front Line your ‘core’ muscles become stronger without the need for all those planks!
What Happens When The Deep Front Line Doesn’t Work Properly
Lots! We’ve discussed the implications on the nervous system above. That’s big. In terms of physically it’s probably easiest to just say that a whole heap of compensations happen. Basically all of our other musculature and fascia can duplicate the functions of the Deep Front Line. But they don’t do it as efficiently as the Deep Front Line.
This is in no small part due to the Deep Front Line being mostly slow twitch muscles fibres – effectively good at endurance postural type work. When the more superficial structures help out they get tired quicker. This puts more strain load on joints and on muscles around joints which can lead to pain.
Common postural compensations include:
- Tendency to point your foot or inability to bring your foot upwards
- High arches of the foot
- Low arches of the foot
- Bow legged (genu varus)
- Knock knees (genu valgus)
- Forward (anterior) or backward (posterior) tilt of the pelvis
- Issues going to the toilet (Pelvic floor insufficiency)
- Misaligned back
- Rotated spine
- Neck pulled down (flexed) or pulled up (extended)
- Issues with jaw (temporomandibular joint – TMJ)
- General collapsed / depressed posture
The depression one here I find particularly interesting. We touched on how emotions have a posture earlier. We often find that by releasing the Deep Front Line we can help lift the mood. As if lifting the depression out of the person.
This works particularly well on people who might have depressed in the past but are in a better place these days. It’s almost as if the physical representation of that old mood is still within the body. The physical is the last thing that needs to be released to help them move on.
Before anyone gets too excited we can’t cure depression. But we find that the physical release can be an important part of the overall package of helping people to move through depression.
Is There Evidence For The Deep Front Line?
We see evidence for the Deep Front Line all day every day at the clinic. When we do muscle strength tests we see people go weak when don’t allow them to use compensations for dysfunction in the deep front line.
The most common compensations we see for weakness in the hip flexors (the muscles in your stomach that lift your leg up) are: clenching of the jaw, gripping with the arms, twisting the torso, engaging your quads and lift your foot upwards.
We test hip flexor strength allowing people to use whatever compensation is natural for them. And then we point out the compensations that we see. If they clench their jaw for example we retest with their mouth wide open. Invariably they are weaker. Much weaker in many cases.
This is practical evidence of the Deep Front Line in action. But is there much in the way of scientific evidence? The guys at Anatomy Trains are working on it! Apparently 1000 is the magic number for scientific significance. You need to see things demonstrated 1000 times.
In Anatomy Trains terms that means lots of dissections. Last I heard they we about 350 dissections through. There are many keen therapists who have offered up their bodies when their time is up. I’m tempted myself. But I’m really hoping things will be a lot further down the line by the time the grim reaper calls my number!
In terms of published research there is more and more coming on fascia and it’s connectivity and implications throughout our bodies. There’s a nice review piece here from which I’ll quote the conclusion:
“…most skeletal muscles of the human body are directly linked by connective tissue. Examining the functional relevance of these myofascial chains is the most urgent task of future research. Strain transmission along meridians would both open a new frontier for the understanding of referred pain and provide a rationale for the development of more holistic treatment approaches.”
The myofascial lines which we use day in day out at the clinic are not widely accepted or proved scientific concepts. But the model that anatomy trains give us our current best understanding of the infinitely complex connections throughout the body. Of which we see evidence every single day.
Deep Front Line Exercises
In my opinion the single best way to keep your Deep Front Line nice and loose is with relaxation breathing. I extoll the virtues of relaxation breathing in this article. There’s a video of an example of how to do relaxation breathing below:
The reason for this view is that I’ve seen it work so many times for our clients and felt it work some many times in myself. If you don’t already build in a breathing exercise routine into your week I urge you to start. Do as much as you are able.
If you haven’t tried it before you may even struggle with 2 minutes at a time. That’s ok. You may struggle for concentration and find your mind constantly wandering. That’s also ok. You may find that your feel a bit light headed. Which is why we recommend always doing it whilst laying down. But build up gradually and keep that practice in place. Just keep turning up.
For a breathing practice that is a bit more structured you may want to try the Wim Hof Method who has an app to guide you on your phone. Hopefully you feel the benefit straight away in terms of relaxation and openness. If you don’t stick at it. It does get easier and more productive. If you need any more convincing here’s a link to an article talking more about the importance of diaphragmatic connections throughout the body.
Deep Front Line Stretch
With the Deep Front line being such a large, wide, deep myofascial entity it’s quite a tricky one to stretch. We’ll show you our three favourites below. With each of these stretches we’ve found them to be most beneficial if you focus on your breathing whilst doing them.
Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as you do them and breathe into your stomach. We find stretching works best when you go gently into the stretch, focus on the breathing for a few breaths, go a little more into the stretch and repeat.
Never try to force a stretch and never take a stretch into a painful range. If none of these stretches are possible without pain then do relaxation breathing instead.
‘Leg Pit’ Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch
Deep Front Line Yoga
We’re big fans of breathing into stretches. Of course we stole the idea from yoga. But now, given our understanding of the Deep Front Line, it makes sense due to the large connective role that the diaphragm plays in the rest of our body.
Because all yoga focuses on your ability to breathe I would say no yoga is bad for your Deep Front Line. Pranayama yoga focuses solely on the breath. I would recommend this practice for anyone who is severe amounts of pain and is struggling with movement.
Yin yoga is my personal favourite as it’s good for releasing stiffness. Most sports people are exactly that. For those on the more hypermobile spectrum then a more strength based or power yoga such as Ashtanga might more beneficial or perhaps Pilates.
Conclusion On The Deep Front Line
Whilst the Deep Front Line is not accepted science I feel it is only a matter of time before it will be. I look forward to the practical implications of this over the coming years. Until it is accepted I will continue to do my bit by using knowledge of it to help ease injuries of the clients that we see and further my own understanding of how to influence these deeper structures of the body to do just that.
I love the fact that the Anatomy Trains lines tie in with yoga stretches and acupuncture meridians that have evolved over thousands of years. Perhaps giving us a more scientific understanding of how yoga, acupuncture and the whole body works.
I feel that continuation of this research is absolutely vital to all forms of body work. Anatomy trains are really pushing things forward and I applaud all that they do. They really are broadening awareness of these important research areas around the world and more and more people are using their work and building on it.
I see our job as bringing this great work to the general public. Implementing the practicalities of this research on injuries and wellbeing. I hope this article has introduced you to, or furthered your knowledge of the Deep Front Line in a very practical way.
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