Why your current training program is harming you and what to do about it

by Trevor Aung Than on June 5, 2012

Is fascia more important than muscle??.. Probably

In December last year, I had the privilege of participating in a two-day ‘Anatomy Trains’ workshop with Thomas Myers in Hong Kong. Tom Myers is one of the foremost experts in anatomy and bodywork and his book, Anatomy Trains, is required reading for anyone interested in anatomy and the functional lines of the body.

I like the comment Tom made during the course relating to our muscular system:

“Think of your body as not having 600+ individual muscles, but one individual muscle divided up into 600+ different fascial pockets”.

But how so?

Watch this video and what do you see?

This video is taken in-vivo – with a microscopic camera in the fascial network in living tissue – this is fascia at the microscopic level.

What do you see?

Fractal chaos is one way to describe it.  See the water droplets?  H2O is so important to our fascia.

Myers and his team have discovered via thousands of dissections that there are ‘trains’ of fascial connections between muscles that link muscles together literally from our ‘nose to toes’. That nagging pain in your low back may actually be coming from a tight plantar fascia in your foot. These trains have shed new light on pain and dysfunction syndromes for all types of bodyworkers and therapists.

Anatomy Trains 2nd Edition

One of the concepts that stuck with me was how neglected the role of fascia is in movement of the body and in dysfunction.  It’s no coincidence in the past few years that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) researchers have been studying the overlap between the fascial networks and the meridians of TCM. The results have been profound – they now believe that the meridian system has its’ foundation in the fascial system.

The fascial system is one body system that is uninterrupted from head to toe. Fascia helps to explain why when there is pain and dysfunction in one area of the body can be caused by a seemingly unrelated tightening in another. Most training we do actually does more damage to our bodies’ than we realize – think running is good for you?  That depends….

Traditional heel-strike distance running incorporates a relative small range of motion (ROM) in most joints of the body and loads our fascia in an unnatural way; we tend to think of running as a ‘whole-body’ exercise but is it really?  In some cases yes, in some others, not.  Mid-foot strike running with proper technique does address this issue as it is more of a natural action and loads the fascia using its’ natural spring-like action.  Sprinting also does address this as it incorporates a higher ROM in the periphery (shoulders and hips/knees/ankles) and because of the mid-foot strike.

What are other ways to train our fascia?

What does someone with superior fascia look like?

Check this out:

Stefan Holm is a Swedish high-jumper that can jump REAL high! How does he do it?

Researchers believe it is because he has trained his fascial network to such a high degree. Holm uses bounding and leaping-types of training which trains his fascial network over his muscular system.

So what can you or I do to train our fascia?

These are 8-tips that Myers advises to train our fascial fitness:

1. Use whole body movements – multiple-joints going through an appeciable range of Motion i.e sprinting, dynamic lunges.

2. Use long chain movements.

3. Use movements including a dynamic pre-stretch with proximal initiation – use the muscles of the trunk and hips to initiate the movement.

4. Incorporate vector variation – changes in force and direction.

5. Use movements that incorporate elastic rebound – this consists of cylic motions of a certain speed (for instance, cycling wouldn’t count).

6. Create a rich proprioceptive environment – dynamic and unexpected movements.

7. Incorporate pauses/rest to optimize hydration status.

8. Be persistent, but gentle (prominent changes can take 18-24 months)

The classes I have designed at Circus Conditioning incorporate many of these principles using the ViPR, sandbells, TRX Rip trainer and other tools.  I’ve tried to incorporate what we know about fascia and its’ importance to our bodies when I design each and every class.

So if you’re in Perth, drop me a line if you want to keep your fascia fit and healthy!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Trevor Aung Than June 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

Note: I edited some points on running to differentiate between mid-foot strike running and sprinting (good running) vs traditional heel-strike distance running (bad) for fascial health. Thanks to my mate, John Polley, for picking that one. I knew I shouldn’t have written the article late last night after a big day…Ed Trev.

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Xin June 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

Fantastic! What an inspiring read- I’m certainly glad your knowledge of human anatomy is behind the exercises done in class.

One thing though… You said “The results have been profound – they now believe that the meridian system has its’ foundation in the fascial system.” Although it’s scientifically less provable, and they may indeed be one in the same, I’d like to suggest that it’s possible the fascial system is founded in the meridian as well ;)

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Trevor Aung Than June 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hi Xin
Yes, good point – TCM has been around for thousands of years so who am I to argue!

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