Lateral Lines Part III: Functional Movement

Hello again everyone!  We’ve reached the final leg of our journey, the part you’ve all been waiting for!  In this segment we’ll look at ways to release key problem areas along your Lateral Line & also address how to strengthen & integrate it in grand movements.

Lateral Line openness and strength will give you:

Shoulders that shake & shimmy…



& Hips that swagger 😉

First, you’ll want to check out the Anatomy & common areas of dysfunction.  This information sets up the foundation behind the intention of what I’ll discuss with you today.

If you’re like “Nah Garrett, I don’t have time for that!” That’s okay I understand the struggle, read this quick recap and delve deeper if you want to nerd out on some of the juicy stuff later.

Quick Recap:

  • The Lateral Line is a kinetic chain of fascia (muscles/ligaments/tendons) that starts at your pinky toe, runs up your ankle and outer leg.  There it becomes your IT Band – TFL – QL – and part of your Internal/External Oblique.  As it continues it course up into your torso it meshes with the intercostals, serratus anterior, and eventually concludes at the head and neck with the SCM and Scalenes.
  • The movement of the Lateral Line is any motion to and away from your midline in the Frontal Plane.  (Lateral Flexion, Abduction, Adduction)
    • Stability & Balance:  Many of the muscles along the Lateral Line help control and stabilize their associated joint.  (Ex: Glute medius – Hip stability; Serratus Anterior – Shoulder Stability)
    • Connects to Breathing: At the Hip the Lateral line bisects and connects with the Diaphragm via Psoas.

The common problematic areas of the Lateral Line are the Glutes and the Neck.  A lot of this article’s functional movement will address these two areas primarily.  You’ll find that once these areas are properly moved and addressed the rest of the chain often follows suit.

The intention behind the specific areas addressed by the exercises will work on the principle of fascial tensegrity – the balance between compression and tension forces in your fascial network.  When one area is compressed or condensed/squished, the other affiliated areas become tensioned or elongated/overstretched.

**** Quick Disclaimer:

Tightness is a neurological response, your brain constricts muscles and joints when it perceives a threat.  Know that the things outlined here are a way to open up and release the area (& there are a lot of different ways to do this, these are a few that I know).

If the area becomes tight again or if you only release/open it and do nothing to activate & integrate the muscles, you may not have properly addressed why your brain tightened up the area in the first place.  In this case find a practitioner that can diagnose and give you the specific treatment that you need.

Also, if anything is too painful or uncomfortable DON’T DO IT! (Never do something painful or uncomfortable, this is the quickest way to make your brain tighten up and restrict more areas while will only exacerbate your problem)  A little discomfort is normal with Myofascial Release, if you find it too much or too hard to breathe, back off and find some personal instruction for the movement.



Now that that’s out of the way, and nobody will get hurt, we can finally have some fun!

Release & Open:

In this segment we’ll look at the areas of your body that are compressed, overly constricted, and often quite tender.

There are a lot of different ways to release a muscle.  For the sake of this article, I’ll mostly be linking you to Foam Rolling videos because they are simple and easy to do on your own without supervision .  Just follow the instructions outlined in the videos and remember that you control the motion, if it hurts too much back off!

Quick Note: If you don’t own a foam roller (first off go out and #treatyoself and get one, it’s like one of the simplest and best things you can do to take care of your body) you can try a tennis ball/lacross ball (Since these are more specific than a broad roller, you may want to be careful and a little more gentle).

Ankles & Peroneal Muscles: If your ankle are pretty constricted and wobbly, or if you  have some tenderness along the outer edge of your lower leg, you should check out this video for some great stretches and rolling techniques for this area.  This area is often compressed due to shortening from shoes, and scar tissue if you’ve ever injured your ankle.

IT Band: DO NOT FOAM ROLL YOUR IT BAND!  It’s a fibrous band, not a muscle and therefore doesn’t respond to well to compression (Rolling out your IT Band can actually make your problem worse, you can’t even stretch it!). Check this video out, it’s quick and simple and shows you how to properly roll out the best area of your outer hip.

Hips & Glute Medius: This video does a good job at the general motion.  Personally I prefer to move my legs a little more, like a pin and stretch, when I roll out my Glute Medius.

Find a tender spot, pin it, stabilize with your top leg, and slowly bend and straighten your bottom leg.

QL & Intercostals:  Here’s a video demonstrating how to lightly roll the side of your torso.  QL’s tend to be pretty tight when you have back pain.  Disclaimer here: NEVER roll directly on your lower back, only on the side, the consequences outweigh the benefits.

Shoulders: Shoulders respond best to Posterior Chain work as they tend to be internally rotated and rounded forward.  Rolling out the superior, armpit, area of your Lat can really benefit them when it comes to releasing the area.  Check out this video, your shoulders will love you for it!

Neck:  Here’s some stretches to open up your Scalenes and SCM.

With your arms behind your back simply lean to the side.  Then exercise 2 you can add a little bit of overpressure with your hand to bring about more movement.  Try some of these, or get someone to do it to you to 😉


Alright, so now the whole Lateral Line is feeling good.  It’s open/released, relatively tension free and now it’s time to activate some of the key muscles so that you can maintain this level of movement and freedom.


A whole new level of movement & freedom 😉

Reverse Clamshell: (Eccentric Glute Medius Loading & Hip IR)

In this tasty exercise we eccentrically train your Glute Medius.  This also helps with Hip IR, Glute activation, and via Neurologic Sequencing helps make sure you’re not over using your Peroneals.


  • Initiate the movement and let your knee twist to the side purely from the Hip
  • Plant your top hand on the side of your hip so you can feel the movement.  If you can’t feel the movement tap your fingers against the side of your hip to help activate your Glute Medius.
  • Try to keep your bottom leg still, and your pelvis still (You can see my pelvis move a little in the video, my left side is my difficult side)
  • Relax your top foot!  Let it flop so that you assure your peroneals aren’t overworking and the Glute Medius is doing most of the work here.
  • Do like 10x slowly on each side


SCM Activation

This one is simple:  Tap your SCM’s with your fingertips!  Via Reciprocal Inhibition each tap briefly activate and simultaneously causes the muscle to relax.  Do for like 10 secs and check out how beautiful your neck feels after this simple exercise.


  • Tap the S/C joint (right in front of your neck and top of your sternum)
  • Tap the middle of your SCM
  • Tap right under your ear (mastoid process)

This move is great for releasing the SCM and the vibration of the taps also helps flush out the lymph nodes on your SCM, and there are a lot of lymph nodes on that muscle.


At this point your lateral kinetic chain is released, the common dysfunctional areas are primed, your brain is activated and paying attention to the area, AND you’ve accomplished a little Neurologic resequencing assuring that the muscles that should be firing are.  It’s time to wrap it all up with some grand Lateral Line motion.  Here we’ll get the most out of our entire side body with a stretch and some strength.

Stretch: Quarter (1/4) Moon

2 Different versions: w/ and w/o the other arm


  • Both Poses:
    • Reach to the sky first, rather than reach to the side.  We want length, not compression in our Lateral Line
  • Arms:
    • With the opposite hand on my back hip, I pull down slightly to fulcrum my ribs and shoulder a little bit higher.
    • With my opposite hand on my reaching hand, I lightly pull upwards to achieve more length, especially in my Lats.
  • Legs:
    • I like to do the reaching hand with the same side leg behind me,  I feel like I get more length with the same side hip in a little bit of extension, it can totally be done with the same side leg in front though.
    • Work with what feels best to you.
  • Head/Neck:
    • I like to look down and bring my chin to my opposite shoulder to get length out of my neck.  That little bit of rotation gets a lot of SCM in the stretch.  This is also another thing that feels good to me.
    • You may like to look up (which would stretch more front-lateral area of the neck) or
    • Or simply look forward and lean your head to the side (pure lateral neck, more of a scalene stretch).
    • Try all of them as they are all great so long as they feel great!

Strength: Forearm Side Plank with Variations

These 3 different versions of Forearm plank will strengthen your Lateral Line and balance it with your Deep Core or Middle Adductor line.

  1. Standard Forearm Plank:
    1. Plant your elbow under your shoulder, press into your elbow
    2. Press into your bottom leg pinky toe, you have the option to stack your top foot (as shown) or stagger your top foot for a wider base and more balace
    3. Point your hips to the side, avoid having them point to the sky or ground
    4. For more check out Ray Long’s Breakdown

***Standard version is a great way to introduce strength to your Lateral Line

  1. Forearm Plank w/ Bottom Leg on Block:
    1. Same instructions as before, only difference: plant your pinky toe and ankle on the block.
      1. It’s super important your toes and ankle are on the block to avoid the block from rolling or moving underneath you.  You can also use something else that’s larger instead of a yoga block.  If it feels too unstable, find a different lifted surface to plant your foot on.

***In this version we further load the Lateral Line of your bottom leg.

  1. Forearm Plank w/ Tog Leg on Block:
    1. This one is a hell of a lot harder, same as before, now with a little kick
      1. Plant your top foot big toe, arch, and ankle on the block
      2. You can stagger your bottom leg forward (for balance), or do as I’ve shown by bending your knee in towards your abdomen (more advanced).

***In this variant the inner thigh (hip adductors) are now used for stability.  These work with the Lateral Lines.  This exercise, albeit difficult, is a excellent way to strengthen both of these lines to establish balance between the two.

Feelin’ Fishy

That’s it my friends!  I hope the movement felt good and that you learned something cool about your body.  Lateral Lines are so cool and so important to implement into your workouts because of how little common every day movement involves them.

Once your sidelines are open and strong I’m sure you’ll feel a new sense of balance, grace, and…


Some feels good swagger

Feel free to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions!

Until next time,

Dr. YG

Sources for the whole series (not linked to in article):

  • Avison, Joanne. Yoga Fascia, Anatomy, & Movement. Handspring Publishing; 2015
  • Clark, Bernie. Your Body, Your Yoga. Wild Strawberry Productions, 2016
  • Myers, Thomas W. Anatomy Trains. London: Urban & Fischer; 2011.
  • Wolf, Adam Real Movement. Golden Mango Press; 2016

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