Whole Body Strength Training using the Myofascial Lines

By Derrick Price, MS Vice President of the Institute of Motion

For the past few years, Fascia has been enjoying its fifteen minutes of fame in the fitness industry as it’s
been one of the hottest topics in various conferences, workshops, and publications. However, after the
dust has settled, Fitness Professionals may still be scratching their heads wondering, “Ok great, it’s
important, but what do I do with it? How does this affect my training? How do I apply this to my clients?”

As fitness professionals, we continue to evolve in our understanding of human movement and
performance. Thomas Myers and his book Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and
Movement Therapists has given us a unique perspective of the body’s internal design and has sparked
research in the realm of understanding Fascia or Connective Tissue and its role in human movement and

His April 2011 article in the IDEA Fitness Journal titled “Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuro
Myofascial Web” provides the fit pro with an arsenal of research and ideas of how to train the fascial
web. The following will review the 8 key take-home points regarding fascia and fitness and demonstrate
how to train the 4 myofascial lines with some common exercises and tools.

The 8 Key take homes on Fascia

1) Myofascial 3D Matrix: Fascia forms a whole-body continuous three-dimensional matrix of structural
support around our organs, muscles, joints, bones, and nerve fibers. Other than support, this
multidirectional, multidimensional fascial arrangement also allows us to move in multiple directions
(Myers 2001,Huijing 2003, Stecco 2009).

2) Fascia is a Force Transmitter: Have you ever watched a Parkour athlete jump down from a 2 or 3-story
building, tumble, and then smoothly transition into a run? How did their joints not explode on impact
from the fall? Internal force (from muscle) and external force (gravity and ground reaction) is transmitted
and dispersed within the body primarily via the fascial network (so long as the force is not too great).
What this means is fascia helps prevent or minimize localized stress in a particular muscle, joint or bone
as well as helps harness momentum created from these forces largely in part to fascia’s viscoelastic
property. This protects the integrity of the body while minimizing the amount of fuel used during
movement. The myofascial lines depicted in Myers’ book Anatomy Trains give us a clearer picture of how
the fascia mitigates stress(force) through the body depending on the direction and application of force.
(Myers 2001,Huijing 2003, Sandercock 2009)

3) Repetition is good and bad: Davis’s Law states that soft tissue (a form of fascia) will re-model itself
(become stiffer and denser) along lines of stress (Clark et al 2008).This can have short-term benefits and
long-term consequences. By practicing a movement repetitively, soft tissue will remodel itself in the
same direction of the desired movement to become stronger at dealing with the forces in that particular
direction. Long-term repetition may have its consequences as the fascia becomes stiffer along the line of
stress, it will not be as strong in other directions, resulting in a possible higher frequency of tears of the
fascia itself or immobility in the surrounding joints when moving in different directions. The same can be

said with repetitive non-movement such as sitting or standing for long periods on a daily, monthly, or
yearly basis.

4) Fascia can heal and hypertrophy: a 1995 study demonstrates that mechanical stress (such as exercise)
can induce hypertrophy of a ligament (a form of fascia) (Fukuyama et al 1995). There are also new
studies being conducted that demonstrate the fascia systems ability to heal itself after being torn. One
such study found some people with ACL tears were able to return to full function without the need of
surgery and the ACL completely healed (Matias 2011). As we learn more we may see new types of
rehabilitation techniques as well as changes in what we believe to be the ideal form with given exercises.

5) Fascia can contract: Myofibroblasts have been found in Fascia which allows for smooth muscle-like
contractions to occur (Schleip 2005). Numerous mechanoreceptors (Golgi tendon organs, Ruffini
endings, Paciniform endings) have also been identified within the fascial matrix which may contribute to
this smooth muscle-like contraction as well as communicate with the Central Nervous System the
amount of shear forces within the connective tissue (Myers 2011). It is theorized this contraction aids in
stability and energy expenditure. More research must be conducted to understand how the fascia and
muscle contract in concert with one another, the impact this has on overall movement, and what this
means for the fitness professional.

6) Fascia can act independently of the Central Nervous System: In fact, fascia is always under tension as
long as Gravity is present. This passive pretension has been called Human Resting Myofascial Tone and
has been discussed by Myers using the principle of Tensegrity (Alfonse et al 2010, Myers 2001). It
provides us with a low-level stabilizing component that helps our posture as well as perform movement
subconsciously (i.e without thinking about it, e.g walking, getting in and out of your car etc).

Considering the amount of proprioceptors we have in connective tissue (10X more than muscle)(Myers 2011), the
fascial system can provide us with the ability to react to our environment faster than the conscious mind
can respond to i.e. Stepping off a curb unexpectedly, reacting to an opposing player in a sport, drawing
your hand off the hot stove. This pre-tension may also give us the ability to maintain posture with less
fatigue and fascial strain as compared to constant muscle activation and energy expenditure. As an
anecdote to this, a de-conditioned client of mine commented on how she was able to stand and cook in
the kitchen for 8 hours straight pain free one Saturday, a task she could not perform before her training.
Could it be in part to improved tensegrity and a higher pre-tension through the fascia as a result of her

7) Fascia is influenced by mood: In Shultz and Feitis’ book, The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and
Physical Reality, they discuss how our emotions are stored within the body, including the connective
“The physical response to emotion is through the soft tissue. The fascia is the emotional body…Ideally,
feelings are felt in the total body – emotions travel through the fascial web. We then interpret the
physiological sensation as anger, affection, love, interest, and so forth…the reason your neck can’t
straighten and lengthen may be because of the shock of being continually bullied in childhood. Physical work will only partially open that problem unless there is recognition that there may be an emotional

Using this concept, the fitness professional can develop a holistic approach to understanding posture and
movement; that it is not only just physical, but emotional and psychological as well. Fascia may become
stiffer and less compliant with the depressed, anxious, and fearful client (Shultz & Feitis 1996, Lowe
1989). This has been evident for the trainer whose client shows up to training while having a miserable
day. Their posture, movement and proprioception are greatly influenced by their mood. Perhaps
enhancing their mood may enhance the physical state through the fascial web.

8) Fascia allows us to train the body as a whole: In Myers’ work, dissections were made to demonstrate
that connective tissue not only envelops muscle, bone and organs, but it does so continuously through
many layers (Myers 2001). This link is what connects us holistically in movement and in function. For our
athletes or people looking to improve or maximize function, the fascial web gives us rationale for
incorporating whole body movements in our training regimens.

Application of Training the Myofascial Lines

Table 1 summarizes some of the key components in exercise selection and performance when incorporating the myofascial lines.

To place force through a line, the line must first load to unload, or stretch to shorten. This allows us to take advantage of the viscoelastic properties of fascia, helping us generate and transmit force throughout the entire body while minimizing energy expenditure. Based off the force profile (Mass, Acceleration, Momentum, Direction and application) of a given exercise, we can emphasize which myofascial line to up-regulate (load).

Training the myofascial lines with Whole Body exercises has its unique benefits. It allows us to dissipate
force throughout the entire system, minimizing excessive isolated joint tension while still giving our joints
freedom to move in all 3 planes of motion and improving total body awareness and coordination.
Choosing exercises that have a variety of directions, force and speed also promote fascial health (Myers

Thomas Myers depicts numerous myofascial meridians in Anatomy Trains. To ease into the
understanding of how to place force through these lines, this article will explore the Superficial Front and
Back Lines, The Lateral Lines, and Spiral Lines.

Table 2: the myofascial lines being discussed and their function (Be sure to read Anatomy Trains for a
deeper understanding of the lines.

The more we learn about our connective tissue, the more we can integrate it with the other systems of
the body (muscular, nervous, skeletal etc) and gain further insight into human movement and
performance. Using the myofascial lines in our training can give us a unique perspective as to how to
maximize our ability to mitigate force, save energy, build endurance, while improving multi-joint mobility
and strength. Training the body as a whole in 3-Dimensions, as opposed to isolated, segmented parts,
may be a missing link in many people’s exercise program who are looking to maintain or improve the
integrity of their body. The fitness professional can now use functional anatomy to give their clients
functional results.

1) Alfonse MT et al 2010 Clinical, Biomechanical and Physiological Translational Interpretations of
Human Resting Myofascial Tone or Tension International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
Vol 3(4) pp 16-28
2) Clark, MA, Lucett, SC, Corn, RJ 2008 NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training Third Edition
Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
3) Fukuyama, S et al 1995 The effect of mechanical stress on hypertrophy of the lumbar
ligamentum flavum Journal of Spinal DisordersVol 8(2) pp 126-130
4) Huijing, P. A. 2003 Muscular force transmission necessitates a multilevel integrative approach
to the analysis of function of skeletal muscle. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 167-175
5) Lowe, J Dr. 1989 Myofascial Genesis of Unpleasant Thoughts and Emotions Digest of
Chiropractic Economics Vol 31(5) pp78-81
6) Matias, CP et al Spontaneous healing in complete ACL ruptures: A clinical and MRI study
Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research June 2011
7) Myers, TW 2001 Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists
New York: Churchill-Livingston
8) Myers, T Fascial Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web. IDEA Fitness Journal April 2011
9) Sandercock TG; Maas, H 2009 Force Summation Between Muscles: Are Muscles Independent
Actuators? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Vol 41 issue 1 pp184-190
10) Schleip R, et al 2005. Active fascial contractility: Fascia may be able to contract in a smooth
muscle-like manner and thereby influence musculoskeletal dynamics Medical Hypothesis Vol 65
(2) pp 273-277
11) Shultz, L & Feitis, R 1996 The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Realitypp46-50 Berkeley,
CA; North Atlantic Books

12) Stecco, C. et al 2009 Mechanics of Crural Fascia: from Anatomy to Constitutive Modelling
Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy Vol 31 Number 7 pp 523-529