Muscle Fear
Katelyn Sander

Muscle Fear

Living Well

A few weeks ago, we explored some of the physiological reactions to fear: How fear can be a potent survival mechanism designed to prepare and protect us. And sometimes the reactions are too much and we are left frozen, incapable of healthy, positive action.

A similar phenomenon can be experienced when the body fears injury. Muscular weaknesses and imbalances make us susceptible to injury. And so, often the body will respond with tension. In the surrounding muscles or the actual muscles affected – the tension serves to limit movement and – in effect – protect the body.

These tension patterns are difficult to address. Manual therapy and stretching protocols can offer temporary relief, but if we don’t address the imbalance and weakness, the tension pattern will simply reassert itself.

And strengthening areas where movement is limited is uncomfortable and often ineffectual.

The body doesn’t want to offer more movement as it’s afraid of getting injured. But you can’t address the weakness without gaining more movement. 

What can be beneficial in some of these cases, is a slow, gentle dance. A back and forth of gaining a little more movement in the area and quite immediately providing a neural stimulus to specifically strengthen through the small range of motion (ROM) just gained.

Too much mobility will cause the body to freak out and protect itself. Slight increases in ROM followed by specific neuromuscular activation to demonstrate that you have sufficient strength to hold that slight increase in ROM safely.

Let’s use tight hamstrings as an example. Everyone is different, but this example might resonate with a few of you. Perhaps your hamstrings are tight because your glutes are weak. Tension patterns are complex – but some of this tension may be due to the hamstrings doing the work of the sleepy glutes and some of the tension due to the body creating a slight anterior tilt in the pelvis – which in effect keeps the hamstrings tight and provides a stable anchor for the pelvis.

If you could effectively fire your glutes and abs, you could move slightly out of this anterior tilt towards a more neutral one. This position encourages less tension through the hamstring and the muscle activation of the glute and core would provide a different stability pattern – also encouraging the hamstring to let go of some of the tension. Unfortunately, it’s really tough to activate the glutes and abs properly when your pelvis is tilted. 

So, let’s try this:

  • Create a little additional mobility through the hamstrings – through rolling, stretching, fascial, or manual release.

  • Perform an exercise that activates the glutes and abs.
  • Pay close attention to the end range of this movement.
  • Ideally your mobility protocol has given you a slightly larger ROM for these movements than usual.
  • Hold the end range with an isometric contraction for 4 - 5 seconds. 
  • Repeat the movement 7 - 10 times being mindful of “asking” the glutes and abdominal muscles to perform the movement for you.
  • Be mindful of maintaining that slight – ever so slight – more neutral position of the pelvis.
  • Try to find similar movements in a few different positions (i.e., on your back, face down, sitting, standing) so your body gets used to the new posture in a few different ways.

As I said earlier – it’s a gentle dance. Move forward carefully. You’ve presumably had years of your body adapting to being tight – and safe – in a specific position. You will need to earn the new position. Add a little range, and then demonstrate you have the strength potential to safely live, move, and exercise in that new range. Continue to encourage the body to adapt to that new normal. And then, after a few weeks, you can try to gain a little bit more.

Progress with care and patience. Remember fear is powerful.

Inspiration of the Day

“But fear doesn’t need doors and windows. It works from the inside.” - Andrew Clements, Things Not Seen

Live Workouts of the Day

Today we’ve got a couple of live workouts on the schedule.


Today, Matt’s bringing you your lunchtime pick-me-up! This workout will focus on the shoulder, hip, and ankle, moving you through a full range of motion. There will be additional stability work for the glutes and core included!

No equipment needed this week!

Join Matt at 12:00pm (35 minutes) from your own living room.

Click here to join the workout.

Meeting ID: 892 2779 8538
Password: 903005


Garth’s back with another week of On Core, where you’ll challenge your core and stabilize your trunk in just 30 minutes!

Recommended equipment: light/medium dumbbell or weighted object (water bottle, book, etc.)

Join Garth at 5:30pm (30 minutes) from your own living room.

Click here to join the workout.

Meeting ID: 868 1155 7138
Password: 998132


Click here to review this week’s schedule.

If you have any questions about our virtual live workouts, please reach out to Lauren.

Trainer Moves of the Day

Cquen uses an effective fascial release sequence to facilitate greater ROM for his squat. This is a fairly advanced and excellent example of encouraging the body to adopt more effective, comfortable movement patterns. Performing hip bridges right after the sequence would be an example of a more moderate strength protocol.

For questions about today’s Trainer Moves you can connect directly with Cquen here.


Do you have a “Something of the Day” you’d like us to share?! Email Meg.

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