Fitness in the Extended Fascial Paradigm

An exploration of the implications of fascia within the world of Fitness

• Fascia and Mechanoreceptors • Review of Scientific Literature • Tensegrity and Biotensegrity • Fascia and Human Performance • Current Trends in Training • Fascial Training (do’s and don’ts)

Presentation Topics

Superficial fascia Serves as storage of fat and water Found on face and neck while it fills unoccupied place in the body Surrounds organs Composed of areolar connective tissue Deep fascia • Fibrous connective tissue (elastin and collagen) • Surrounds muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels
Viseral fascia • Wraps and fixes organs in position

Fascia: What is it?

Fascia envelops the entire body and can be considered to include ALL collagenous soft connective tissues.

Fascia is an intricately connected tensional network

Highly innervated and a very powerful sensory organ

Senses extension and triggers appropriate nervous system reaction (firing rate) Sensitive to muscle contraction Will restrict motion in risk of failure Will decrease tonus in motor fibbers as a result of stimulation

10% found in tendon 90% found in muscular portion

Golgi Receptors

Pacini receptors
Responds to compressive velocity or vibration stimulations Increases local proprioceptive attention Variable morphology

Ruffini receptors
Responds to lateral stretch Increase local proprioceptive attention Inhibition of sympathetic activity

Pacini & Ruffini Receptors

High and low threshold pressure units Increase local proprioceptive attention Stimulation of high threshold pressure units may induce pain and thus increase plasma extravasation

Interstitial Receptors

Properties vary according to function Superficial Fascia is quite flexible Deep fascia is stiffer than superficial fascia but less than visceral fascia Visceral fascia is relatively stiff due to its function

Fascia Mechanical Properties

• Viscoelastic : contains both viscous and elastic behavior

Regular Materials

Connective Tissue

• For elastic properties: amount of strain most important • For viscous properties: velocity of load application most important


• There is a growing significant body of scientific evidence documenting both the sensory innervation of fascia (Stecco, Mense) but also the functional implications of this innervation (Gracovetsky, Langevin, Schleip).

Scientific Research

• •

Schleip (March 2005): Active Fascial Contractility: Fascia may be able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and thereby influence muscle dynamics Gibson, Arendt-Nielsen, Taguchi, Mizumura, Graven-Nielsen (2009):Fascia rather than muscle is the main source of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Langevin, Huijing (2009): . Communicating About Fascia: History, Pitfalls, and Recommendations * Helene M. Langevin, MD; Peter A. Huijing, PhD University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA; Vrije University, Amsterdam, Netherlands • Jaap van der Wal, MD, PhD (2009) The Architecture of the Connective Tissue in the Musculoskeletal System– An Often Overlooked Functional Parameter as to Proprioception in the Locomotor Apparatus * University Maastricht, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Maastricht, Netherlands

Significant amount of growing evidence showing fascial weakening and degeneration contributes to many chronic injuries.
Sports Injuries can be directly linked to micro trauma and overuse of the fascial system.

The human body can be considered a very complex tensegral structure. Compressional forces + Tensional forces = EQUILIBRIUM Current studies show that muscle force transmission goes through fascial lines, therefore tensional force (muscular force) in dependant on the health and integrity of the fascial system.


“Functional Fascia”

New ultrasound findings
Kawakami 2002

Muscle fibers contract almost isometrically. Fascial elements lengthen & shorten like an elastic spring

Muscular fibers Tendinous/fascial fibers

1. High Elastic Storage Function 2. Pre-Stretch and Mechanical loading of the fascia improve absolute power and strength 3. “Cooperative Function” of muscle and fascia during human movement

Moment at L 4/5 Fascia

Trunk 0 15 30 45 flexion 60


The following factors are believed to influence muscle force:

• Fiber type
• Number of activated motor neurons • Muscle length • Speed of shortening or lengthening • Muscle cross section

Generation of Muscles Forces

Three factors responsible for resistance to stretch of a muscle:

• neural reflex
• passive muscle • active muscle

Passive and Active Forces
Important to identify a difference in passive and active muscle resistance to stretch Force

Passive • muscle cells • protein bond

Active • Passive influence • Cellular contraction

• connective tissues • Actin/myosin

Gajdosik 2001

Total muscle force = active force + passive force + (neural reflex)


Active Muscle Force


Passive Muscle Force
• Muscle lengthening without resistance (passive extensibility and passive length extensibility) • Determines and controls articulation range of motion (ROM) • In healthy subject the ROM is limited by bony restrictions • Important part of rehabilitation therapy aims at increasing this aspect

Passive Muscle Force
Several factors influence the passive properties of muscle
1. Stretching of actin/myosin filaments crosslinks 2. Stretching of non-contractile proteins of sarcomeres 3. Deformation of surrounding connective tissues
• • • Extracellular matrix Fascia Tendons

large proteins like titin

Self-Myofascial release Functional Fascial Taping Fascial Stretching

Current Trends

Kettlebells / Club bells

Medicine Ball

• Direct link with fascial force transmission


Extended Fascial Paradigm
Basic Training Guidelines

1) Engagement of long myofascial chains

Avoid exercising / stretching single joints or single muscle groups

Fascial Training
Schleip “Fascia Fitness”

2) Stretch loading, with multiple vectorial variations • Preference for loading around end angle of available motion (stretch)
with differently moderated force amplitudes & direction

3) Use of elastic rebound
Energy storage of fascia, „catapult action‟ rather than muscular effort

4) Preparatory Counter Movement Bipolar extension & distal delay “Orchestrating the perfect movement”
1. The start of a new movement is initiated by distal extension (dynamic pre-stretch). 2. This is accompanied by a proximal body portion moving into the new direction 3. Finally the more distal body parts follow in a sequential manner (like in an elastic pendulum).

5) Respecting matrix hydration
Inclusion of appropriate resting times for viscoelastic recovery and tissue rehydration.
Ex: Running at different speeds, including brief walking periods in between.

6) Proceed with caution

Inclusion of fascial rebound and long myofascial chains often triggers an exhilarating sense of playfulness, of fun and adventure orientation. However, if untamed, this also leads to more frequent injuries than standard muscle training with monotonous repetitions.
Start with much lower loads than usual. Increase load the following week only if a sense of elegance can be maintained (particularly during the elastic rebound phase).

Out: Excercising with abrupt /jerky movement quality In: Working with loads that still allow smooth & elegant direction changes

These guidelines and examples are nothing “new” per se…however there is a an obvious question that remains to be answered: Why are they so successful? The neurological paradigm will tell you that you are “tricking” the nervous system and benefiting from the response. The musculoskeletal paradigm will state that increased cooperation and coordination is the likely reason. The glaring oversight is that fascia is the fundamental “scaffold” by which both neurological and muscular paradigm depend on. The fascial paradigm absorbs the other two and integrates them into a greater understanding.

Nervous System



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