In the 80’s and 90’s the fitness industry in its infinite wisdom thought the best way to train the body was to work in a very isolated muscle centric manner. We were quite often seated on a machine that controlled our range of motion and had very little freedom to adjust any movements.

The theory being that if we can get the isolated muscles stronger, then as a whole we will function better. As our understanding of the body increased most would agree that this wasn’t wrong but maybe incomplete when considering optimal human capacity.

Looking at how we move in the real world, There is a constant flow of loading and unloading where the body uses gravity, ground reaction and momentum to complete the task as efficiently as possible.

The body looks to mitigate the stress throughout the whole system and this minimises risk of injury due to the same tissue not being continually stressed. It also helps keep the metabolic cost to a minimum helping with performance.

This constant symphony of muscles turning on and off is controlled by the nervous system. Increasing neural sensitivity results in the increase of quality of movement. So now the question needs to be asked – If movement quality is controlled by muscles that are reliant on neural sensitivity, how do we increase neural sensitivity?

Enter the Fascial System. Thomas Myers describes this process beautifully. “Muscles perform the movement while fascia organises it”.

Muscles rely on neural sensitivity while nerves rely on fascial sensitivity. Increase fascial sensitivity and you increase neural sensitivity.

Bingo! You take a big step towards achieving rhythmical efficient pain- free flowing motion.

Fascia is the three dimensional matrix that separates the body into its various parts. With out this extraordinary structure we would be a bag of jelly like substance with no form. It is densely populated with proprioceptors and fortified through mechanical loading. So to build a sensitive resilient fascial matrix you need to move.

Here are a couple of tips for up regulating fascial sensitivity.

  • Train Whole Body Movements –
    Whole body movements that engage long fascial chains as opposed to isolated muscle centric training enhances communication within the system. Building this efficiency fine tunes the switching on and off of muscles.
  • Train With Variety – 
    Change load, tempo, range and planes of movement. This alters the lines of force going through the system helping to build a resilient architecture. By increasing vector variability we see an increase in positional and shape stability.
  • Cheat –
    If you’re looking to get the most out of your fascial system training you want to use elastic recoil. Allow counter-movements to load the system and then bounce back in a rhythmical fashion moving with flow and not trying to muscle the movement. Avoid jerky abrupt changes of direction.

One thing I should mention is that the fascial system takes a long time to adapt. Up to 6-24 months. So progress slowly. Always bring mindfulness to your training. How do you feel?

When you consider that all soft tissues injuries are connective tissue related, I’m sure you would agree that a little bit of time and effort could be well worth it.
That’s not to say we forget everything we have been doing and jump on the Fascia band wagon.
But instead look to question what you have been doing and adjust this depending on your clients goals, likes and needs.

Ask is there a place to add a little bit of fascial sensitivity training in??? Interested in knowing more?
Consider doing some IOM education courses.

Written by
Aaron Callaghan – After playing professional rugby in England, Aaron turned his knowledge to fitness and studied extensively under industry greats Cook and Gray, Chuck Wolf, PTA Global and two mentorships with Michol Dalcourt and the Institute of Motion. Aaron has just recently moved back to New Zealand in Wanaka, establishing Peak 40, helping people move and function better and getting them to live his motto – “Vitality for modern living”. For more information contact Aaron at www.peak40.co.nz.

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