The Structural Typology of Hans Flury

by Robert Schleip


1) Regular Internal ----2) Locked Knee Internal----3) Regular External ---- 4) Symmetrical External

General Remarks

Hans Flury´s approach is firmly based on the application of classical Newtonian physics and the effect of gravity to the human body. 'Structure' is theoretically opposed to 'function' as the shape or configuration of the body standing upright with no muscles acting (which is impossible of course, but nevertheless suggested as a possible imagination). Structural limitations refers to shortness in the fascial net which prohibits the body standing in the normal arrangement without active tension overcoming the resultant inequalities. The goal of Structural Integration is to bring the 'midline' (passing through the middle of each segment, and which is usually bent) closer to the 'Line' (which is the plumb line through the body's gravity center).

Flury’s typology is based on the pelvis position in standing. The pelvis position is analyzed for tilt and for shift. The various combinations of shift and tilt result in four basic types:

Anterior tilt

posterior tilt


Anterior shift


Locked knee





Posterior shift






For historical reasons (i.e. the previous formulation of the two Sultan types) he calls the two types with an anterior tilt "internal" and those with a posterior tilt "external".

But otherwise there is a great deal of difference of his typology to the external-internal typology of Jan Sultan.

The two types with a posterior shift are considered to be "tensional types" in which fascial and muscular holding patterns are considered to be more apparent, whereas those with an anterior shift are considered "compressional types". (Hint: apparently the emphasis for these names is placed on the posterior aspects of the trunk.)

Hans Flury uses a slightly paradox terminology: "shortness" means "rigid tissues" for him and does not always coincide with either short geometrical length nor high muscular tonus. "Primary shortness" relates to those fibers whose attachment points have actually come closer and which are not only geometrically short but also rigid. In "secondary shortness" are those fibers where the attachment points might have been pulled further apart geometrically (!) but the tissues have rigidified to hold against them (i.e. the erector spinae in a kyphotic back). Shortness equals therefore rigidity, which is the opposite of resilience and means loss of the ability to lengthen.

Flury’s model is presented in greater detail in "Notes on Structural Integration", edition 1989 ("Theoretical Aspects and Implications of the Internal/External System") and edition 1990 ("Shortness").

The original Flury test for shift and tilt 

1. Help the client to stand as much as possible - but without additional muscular effort - upright (i.e. with the midline as close as possible to the Line).

This includes verbal guidance emphasized with tactile support.

2. Tell client then to use effort to become taller.

3. Now instruct client to grow even taller by extending towards the ground plus growing the top of the head toward the ceiling. Have your finger on his head to clarify the location of "top of the head" during this step.

4. Now ask the client to simply relax and ask him to observe what directions of movements his body segments are doing when he relaxes. You also observe those changes yourself.

(Most clients are more aware of the changes in the upper body. Then focus their attention also to tilting and shifting of the pelvis. You might repeat the whole sequence several times for that purpose.)

Note: While most pelvises are in an anteriorly shifted posture during 1-4,

it is important to notice in which direction their pelvis moves during steps 2-4

in comparison to the previous step.

Since this original test Hans Flury has developed the following more refined tests to determine shift and tilt more specifically

Special test for sagital SHIFT

1. Have the client stand straight and tall. The pelvis will almost always be shifted anteriorly functionally. Test this by letting all muscles around the hips relax. The pelvis will slide forward, the upper body will slide back.

2. Take the pelvis posterior, the trunk is tilted forward a little. Now the pelvis will slide back after muscle relaxation.

3. Change slowly the two positions. Standing with the anteriorly shifted pelvis, it will go back uphill with some effort and then slide back down of its own. Then have it come forward up over the vertical arrangement and slide forward.

4. Watch how the pelvis slides down in front and in back. The direction in which this is easier, smoother and faster indicates what the structural shift is.

Special test for TILT

1. Have the client stand straight with the pelvis in a very slight anterior shift. With your hands and the client's help by relaxing muscles only, turn the pelvis anternatingly down in front and in the back. The axis of rotation should be a little higher than the hip axis. Find out if one of those tilt direction is easier, smoother, and faster in this position.

2. Repeat the same thing with the clients pelvis in a very slight posterior shift.

3. In one of the two shift positions the difference between the two tilt movements will show clearer.

The direction in which the pelvis then tilts more easy, smooth and fast is the structural tilt.


Regular Internal


Pelvis structurally in anterior tilt & posterior shift

* Hip joint goes posterior. The upper body anterior. Typical with babies which are held by arms in front.

* Great muscular effort necessary from hip extensors and erector trunci.

But easier with knees bent forward.

* Thorax tilts back (i.e. weight of upper thorax more over hipjoints instead of over the pubes), upper reversal of "ACMOTT" (anterior convex midline of the trunk)

* Rectus abdominis over-stretched and tight (sec. short), holds pubes up (and pulls chest down. (~ )

* Those two adaptations from knees and thorax reduce posterior convex midline to extend now only from knees to LDH.

* Hip extensors second. short , reaching up to lumbodorsal fascia. (~ )

* Groin area primary short (~ ).

* Thoracic erector spinae secondary short, spec. upper back.

* Head turned back on upper thorax to keep head on top.

* Groin and lumbar erectors and flat chest: prim. short.

* Hams(~ ), gastrocs and soleus: sec. shortt 

The textmark of an (~ ) has been used for those few aspects in the anatomical description of the four types for which I have presently not yet (!) been able to understand the underlying specific biomechanical logic to include them as standard aspects of this type.

Example: with the sunken chest description above it seems easy for critics to hold against it, that this could sometimes also be the result of a ‘collapse pattern’ which would then go along with a relaxed and soft rectus abdominis (rather than the chest needing to be always actively pulled down by an hyperactive rectus abdominis).


Locked Knee Internal


  • Pelvis: anterior tilt, anterior shift

* Anterior pelvic tilt less marked than in Reg. Int.

(The stronger the anterior shift, the less the anterior tilt will show. But when standing with a - functionally - normal or posterior shift, the anterior tilt will be much more pronounced.)

* Knees always hyper extended

* Lower legs posteriorly shifted in relation to thigh.

* "Sleeve supported stance" (~ ) in the collapsed version

* Usually flat chest, middle back kyphotic (but some manage to raise it)

* Biggest curvature usually in lumbar area (lordotic)

* Prim. shortness: - lower lumbar

- front of knees

- flat chest

- hipflexors

- distal quadriceps

- tibialis anterior, often firmly glued to tibia (~ )

* Sec. shortness: - middle back

- abdominal wall (~ )

  • Locked knee stance considered habitual (not due to structural limitations). Postural education necessary.


Regular External


Pelvis: posterior tilt, anterior shift.

* The shift element of the pelvis is considered more important here.

* They gain length by tilting pelvis more anterior and more lumbar lordosis.

* Knees extended

* Anterior convex midline from ankles to hipaxis; posterior convex midline of the trunk (POCMOTT)

* Tend to compensate mostly with upper body. Often hyperect spine.

Sometimes together with a deep but short lumbar lordosis.

* Inspiration fixated thorax pattern as common compensation.

* Prim. shortness: - usually not so much the hypererect back,

except for a short lumbar lordosis if present

- hams (~ ), glut. max., post. gluteals, deep hip rotators

- lower part of abd. wall (~ )

* Sec. shortness: - tends to be more mild, since this compressional type is

more held with bones, and less with muscles (~ )

- groin area, plus tensor f.l.

Symmetrical External


Pelvis: posterior tilt & posterior shift

* Shift usually less important

* Pelvis pushed back and down behind thighs, not on top of them

* Upper body bent forward, knees bent.

* Whole back tends to have kyphotic C-curve shape

* Prim. shortness: - hip extensors (hams & gluteals) (~ )

- whole front contour of trunk (~ )

* Sec. shortness: - hip flexors (mainly adductors & rect. fem.) (~ )

- whole back (less strong)

* Sometimes very short lumbar lordosis

* Thorax not inspiration fixated, more mobile for flexion & extension.

* Pelvis usually not as outflared as in Reg. Ext.

* Adductor mass moved very anterior

* First bring pelvis on top of femurs,

than work with shortened bellywall and with adductors. (~ )

This article is based on information, ideas and suggestions from: Hans Flury, Wolf Wagner, Willi Harder, and Inge Althauser. The drawings as well as all other possible mistakes are mine. This whole handout can be used, copied and distorted for any purposes related to Rolfing training. For more information please read the above mentioned two articles in the Notes on Structural Integration, which are available at the Rolf Institute as well as the SGSI (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Strukturelle Integration, Badenerstr.21, CH-8004 Zurich, Switzerland, Phone ++41-1-2422000).