Fascia: Fact and Fiction

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Facia is a major part of the body, but so are muscles, nerves, bones, and other systems. Tom Myers is presenting at the BSMPG this June, but do we need another million Tom Myers? In the early to mid 1990s it was John Barnes. Later it was Guy Voyer. Now Tom is popular, but where are we going with this? Many coaches are spending a lot of time studying fascia, but where is the impact of that information? Fascia information shows how the body is connected, but is that really new information? When people say they are training the fascial system, I ask when are we not training the fascial system when doing a good complete program? At the SWIS conference years ago, a few internationally recognized therapists who have done some impressive recovery work with elite athletes were clear that fascia was just one part of the program. You still have other tissues that need support. Where are the tendon and ligament advocates? Myers spoke about some great concepts about facia fitness. One interesting note is that you could replace the word fascia with GPP or classic and fundamental track and field training. For example:

Use whole body movements– Olympic lifts, running, jumping, hurdling, and throwing. I think the leg extension and wrist curl circuits are perhaps dead, but many isolated exercises are important to innervate in some cases. I am not advocating isolation as I think we do too much, but absolute commandments are not helpful with more educated coaches.

Use long chain movements- Coaches are taught the value and limits of impulse. The integral of a force with of course the respect to time is important because not all force applications can take advantage of big ranges. Take a look at high speed sprinting and note a decrease of range of motion in certain joint actions near the hip. Frequency is increased while stride length is maintained or gained. Coaches at the basic level I course are taught to use as many joints as possible to take advantage of the summation of forces. Dyson illustrates this perfectly 50 years ago in his book the Mechanics of Athletics! Coaches need to buy that text soon as they graduate. It’s a masterpiece.

Use movements including a dynamic pre-stretch with proximal initiation- Isn’t this the fundamental concept of core training from the early 80s? The Spinal Engine or trunk vigor from the medicine ball training in the 1800s is not new. I would also argue that Dan Pfaff and Vern Gambetta hit it on the head with toe nails to finger nails and up the food chain with distal contributions of foot mechanics.

Incorporate Vector Variation– Load balancing is frankly an ancient concept, but because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s outdated. Is what Tom is saying know going to be tossed away in the future because it’s a few years old and we have moved onto training the brain? Variation is open ended, and corrective processes usually incorporate opposite or distribution protocols in order to prevent pattern overload injuries. You still need repetition, so doing random mobility circuits and truncating necessary volumes is just under preparing. Also another interesting concept is that more volume may increase relaxation rates and synchronization qualities, characteristics that help prevent injury. Coaches should know more about how much is enough before doing other stuff. Many great coaches have used general strength circuits and used a classic fall GPP to ward off the risk.

Use movements that incorporate elastic rebound – Most coaches will gravitate to the notion of plyometrics as being and obvious example of this suggestion, but strides that are submaximal create stiffness as well. Not being able to do tempo runs or thinking that running for conditioning is a ticking time bomb is simply shielding a faulty program. Running is natural and has countless benefits, and sane loading of it can help programs. Having Offensive linemen do 30 minute hill runs is not what is being advocated here, but getting people to move without being slaves to other modalities is a strong recommendation.

Create a rich proprioceptive environment – I agree that getting out of machines that make you sit, the idea of getting on your feet and moving naturally seems to be in in conflict with much of the activities that are lying on one’s back, kneeling, and stationary.

Incorporate pauses/rest to optimize hydration status – Tom’s point is well taken. Rest works, but time is money. Active recovery sometimes is not as effective as passive rest. Are we supersetting everything to the point of doing conditioning instead of strength work? Are planning water breaks properly or trying to get tough or wait for complaints? Do we even have water bottles for everyone on a team? So many questions.

Tom is a great speaker and is a great educator. Unfortunately fascia has become similar to the subprime mortgage market where everyone wants to get their hands in the pie for it’s popularity. What about diabetes and osteoporosis? Bones are important as we age but where is the excitement there? I was surprised that nobody was up in arms when football players at an Oregon HS had to have a fasciotomy. Where were the facia posts on that? We need to talk about compartment syndromes, release surgeries, and the muscle trauma everyone is afraid to talk about recently. Fascia is an important component to the body, and the Facia Congress is a fantastic meeting of some of the brightest minds in the medical field but we can’t get crazy here and thinking we are doing more than we are. Mike Stone and colleagues took some leadership and addressed the current events, something that wasn’t easy to do. You can read their contribution here. I don’t know what is happening at the high schools, colleges, and bootcamps, but not talking about it is not a solution we need. Perhaps this should be a different blog post, but the connections, like fascia, are there.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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