Fascial Fitness Resources

Though we often talk about training the muscles, for sure it’s the whole body that gets trained. From the original focus on simple power, personal trainers over the last decades have expanded their view to understand aerobic vs anaerobic strength, the benefits and perils of stretching, the role of neuromuscular coordination in the practical movement of all kinds, and more recently the role of core stability in preventing injury.

Now we are asked to include the role of the fascial webbing that holds it all together.  Fascia – or more properly the extracellular matrix of fibers, ‘glue’ and water between all your cells – responds to training. It is changing during your training program whether you are aware of it or not. Since most injuries are in fact injuries to the fascia, it is better to understand it – for your own sake and for your clients. Far from a passive packing material, your biological fabric surrounds the joints, invests the muscles, and holds the organs in place.  These interconnected sinews direct the traffic of forces around the body, and is capable of responding and remodeling itself as forces change – whether they change due to training, lack of training, or injury.

Recently, the amount of research on fascia has gone up substantially, and efforts are being made to collate and bring together the results of that research to bear on training protocols, and the Fascial Fitness material is the result.  Fascial Fitness is a collaboration between Dr Robert Schleip, Ph. D., a dedicated fascial researcher at Ulm University in Germany, prominent speaker, and widely respected information hub, and Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains and Fascial Release for Structural Balance, who offers educational opportunities for a variety of manual and movement practitioners worldwide. These two ‘afascianados’ and their teaching staff and colleagues are assembling and making practical sense from the research findings that are coming out of the biennial Fascial Research Congresses.

These research findings are confirming personal trainers’ ideas in some instances, but other findings are lifting eyebrows. That the fascia gets temporarily weaker and then comes back stronger after a heavy workout is probably no surprise to the experienced trainer. That hydration is important to fascial health is a no brainer, but that periodic rest is essential to fascial hydration is news to some ‘Rawhiders’ who never take a break during their workouts or runs. That there are ten times more sensory endings in the fascia than there are in the muscles is an eye opener to most of us. For every one muscle spindle (and even these endings in the muscle are actually sensing changes in the fascia), there are ten Golgi Tendon Organs, Paciniform pressure receptors, Ruffini shear detectors, or interstitial nerve endings in the the nearby fascia. You may think you are paying attention to your muscles – but your brain is paying far more attention to the fascia.

Other surprising findings will have deep implications for the exercise training of the future. It’s clear now that muscle contraction transmits force to nearby ligaments and surrounding muscles – this runs against our notions that muscles work individually, and that ligaments only work at the extremes of joint motion.  New findings are showing that different people have differing physiological traits to their fascia, and this may require training modification depending on your client’s fascial type.

When you train the body, the muscles respond, but the fascia responds also – becoming stronger, more elastic, more communicative, more stretchy, and generally more capable. If training proceeds too fast, too hard, or without variation, then the fascial response can be injury, adhesion, and lack of versatility.  In the Fascial Fitness presentations, we present the results of this research for your review.  Fascial Fitness is a work in progress – since research on fascia is new, more information is coming in all the time, and some the practical applications of the research are still open to question and being worked out.

The response of the fascial system to training and to injury is an exciting and relatively new field.  The Fascial Fitness courses are lavishly illustrated, presented in a lively and accessible manner, and stem from a deep understanding of fascial response to manual therapy. Bring the latest research to bear on your practical business of teaching personal fitness and reaching a body that is ‘fit for life’. Understanding fascia is vital to getting the best results from training.

— Thomas Myers