Anatomy Made Simple: The Superficial Front Line

Written by:
Tyler Joyce
March 6, 2023

To be honest, when I talk about the myofascial chains located on the front of the body, I seem to mostly refer to the Deep Front Line (see blog #1) and the Front Functional Line (see blog #2). That's because I usually find "weak links" along these chains upon testing them. The Superficial Front Line is more of an afterthought, if everything else tests normal. When I do believe the Superficial Front Line is contributing to someone's pain, I immediately look to their quadriceps. These front thigh muscles are to me the major players in this fascial connection. But let’s first discuss the entire line from bottom to top.

The Superficial Front Line starts with the muscles on top of your feet, travels up the shin bone, connects into the quads, and then up through the core into the rectus abdominis and ends in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) on each side of the neck. These are the most prominent muscles of the neck that you can see and feel when you rotate your head to the left or the right. The “SCMs” as we call them in the profession are chronically weak and tight on most people for several reasons. They are a compensatory muscle group for those who have difficulty with breathing, like smokers or people with COPD. They are also dysfunctional when the deep stabilizers of the neck turn off ("deactivate") due to the presence of pain. The SCM’s will overcompensate when these smaller, deeper muscles are not firing properly thus leading to pain and dysfunction.

So can chronic neck pain stem from an old ankle, knee or quad injury that has affected the integrity of the fascial connection thus not allowing forces to transfer properly up the chain? Absolutely! These forces flowing through the body are called either ground reaction forces, transfer of forces, or summation of forces. They all have to do with how forces come up from the ground and through the kinetic chain to complete a given task.

Now let’s take a look at a common scenario that can create a poor transfer of forces thus leading to injury somewhere along the chain. Imagine a soccer player who hurts his right knee and quad during a game. The injury is severe enough for the athletic trainer to have to help the player off the field and seek immediate treatment. The following day he wakes up and the injured area is swollen and he can hardly walk on his right leg. The only thing this player can think of is getting ready for the next game. He gets better enough to play but never fully heals. This is typical for athletes since there isn't much time for proper healing during the season. So the player’s body learns to "muscle through" the season. Months or years later this compensation can cause problems further up the chain, such as pelvic pain, neck tightness or even recurring headaches.

Proper functional stability is also required to play sports at an elite level. According to Dr. Manohar Panjabi, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Yale University, functional stability is dependent on three subsystems of the body working properly. The first system is the muscular subsystem which consists of all the muscles and tendons in the body. The osteoligamentous subsystem is a fancy term for all the passive structures in the body like bones, joints and ligaments. The third subsystem is the neural system which consists of the brain, spinal cord and all the nerves in the body. Panjabi believes that an injury to one of these subsystems leads to immediate compensation in order for the body to continue to function, or play in the next game for this soccer player. It can also lead to long term adaptations of the body. This means that the body gets used to functioning in an inefficient way and, the longer it functions this way according to Panjabi, it can ultimately lead to an injury.

The take home message here is that if you have a nagging injury for weeks, months or even years, you may be susceptible to other injuries if you don’t take care of it right away. My advice is to take advantage of physical therapy and find someone who takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation and performance.

To learn more about how I find and fix muscle imbalances along each myofascial chain, check out the Redcord suspension system.


Panjabi MM. The stabilizing system of the spine. Part I. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement. J Spinal Disord 1992;5(4):383-9.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Tyler Joyce

Co-Founder | Physical Therapist
Tyler Joyce is a 20+ year experienced physical therapist who specializes in helping competitive baseball players and weekend athletes overcome chronic pain and injury through application of the Redcord suspension system. He works at Activcore in Princeton, New Jersey, located just 2 miles from Princeton University.


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