Myofascial Strength Training

Using the myofascial lines in our training gives us a unique perspective on how best to mitigate force, save energy and build endurance while improving multijoint mobility and strength. Training the body as a whole in three dimensions, as opposed to training isolated, segmented parts, may be a missing link in the exercise programs of people looking to maintain or improve the integrity of their bodies. As a fitness professional, you can now use functional anatomy to give clients functional results.

Application: Training the Myofascial Lines

Training the myofascial lines with whole-body exercises has unique benefits. It dissipates force throughout the entire system, minimizing excessive isolated joint tension while giving our joints freedom to move in all three planes of motion and improving total-body awareness and coordination. Choosing exercises that vary in direction, force and speed also promotes fascial health.

Myofascial Lines and Their Functions

To ease into an understanding of how to place force through these lines, we will explore the superficial front and back lines, the lateral lines and the spiral 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 on the force profile (mass, acceleration, momentum, direction and application) of a given exercise, we can emphasize which myofascial line to upregulate (load).

Superficial Back Line
Primary Function: To maintain erect posture. Endurance-based.
How to Load It (Load to Unload, Stretch to Shorten): Drive body into flexion.

Superficial Front Line
Primary Function: To maintain posture. Fast-twitch dominant; protects ventral cavity.
How to Load It (Load to Unload, Stretch to Shorten): Drive body into extension.

Lateral Lines
Primary Function: To maintain stability during lateral and rotational movement. Supports other lines.
How to Load Them (Load to Unload, Stretch to Shorten): Drive body laterally.

Spiral Lines
Primary Function: To create and control rotations through the body.
How to Load Them (Load to Unload, Stretch to Shorten): Drive body into rotation.

Sample Exercises: Body Weight Anterior Lunges

The following sample exercises place tension on specific myofascial lines. We cannot isolate myofascial lines during a movement, but we can emphasize an upregulation of a particular line based on our basic understanding of biomechanics, so you may notice multiple lines being loaded within a given exercise.

Using the arms as a driver, we can upregulate any myofascial line during a simple anterior lunge. This is a great way to enhance total-body flexibility, stability and/or strength depending on how the acute variables are manipulated.

Superficial Front Line: Lunge With Overhead Reach

Setup:
Start with feet hip/shoulder width apart.

Movement:

  1. Take step forward, and while driving pelvis toward floor, reach overhead with arms.
  2. Focus on driving front knee forward while keeping trunk erect.
  3. Return to start position and repeat with opposing leg.
Regression: Start in staggered stance and eliminate step.
Progression: Look up while reaching overhead.


Superficial Back Line: Lunge With Knee-Height Reach

Setup:
Start with feet hip/shoulder width apart.

Movement:
  1. Take step forward, and while driving pelvis toward floor, reach arms down in front of knees.
  2. Reach from scapulae and allow thoracic spine to flex while hips and knees flex (flex with rhythm).
  3. Return to start position and repeat with opposing leg.
Regression: Start in staggered stance and eliminate step.
Progression: Look down while performing exercise to load line more.


Lateral Line: Lunge With Overhead Lateral Reach

Setup:
Start with feet hip/shoulder width apart.

Movement:
  1. Take step forward, and while driving pelvis toward floor, reach arms overhead and to same side as anterior leg.
  2. Allow hips to move in opposite direction from arms.
  3. Return to start position and repeat with opposing leg.
Regression: Start in staggered stance and eliminate step.
Progression: Drive same-side arm as anterior leg away from body and toward floor.


Spiral Line: Lunge With Chest-Height Cross-Body Reach

Setup:
Start with feet hip/shoulder width apart.

Movement:
  1. Take step forward, and while driving pelvis toward floor, reach arms across body at chest height and toward same side as anterior leg.
  2. Be sure to keep big toe of both feet on ground and allow hips (not just torso) to move with rotation.
  3. Return to start position and repeat with opposing leg.
Regression: Start in staggered stance and eliminate step.
Progression: Drive arms away from anterior leg.

For a more in-depth review of myofascial lines, as well as several additional exercises, please see the complete article, “Whole-Body Strength Training Using Myofascial Lines,” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

For the latest research, statistics, sample classes, and more, "Like" IDEA on Facebook here.

Derrick Price, MS

IDEA Author/Presenter
Derrick Price MS, CPT, PES, CES has been active on many levels in the fitness industry for over 8 ye... more less
June 2012

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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Article Comments

JP Le Page
On Jun 07, 2012
Great article, but the best way to truly work myofascial lines? Dance!
John Nguyen
On Jun 07, 2012
Oh for pete's sake. Fascial tissues get stronger with progressive compound exercises and basic sporting maneuvers such as running, throwing and dancing. Letting "fascia lines" dictate exercise is the same as letting the anatomy of the biceps dictate the meaningless Biceps Curl. This "fascia line" concept is promoted only by people trying to sell something that naturally occurs with proper progressive exercise -- the adaptive response of biological tissues to proper stress... a la exercise. Instead of designing exercises based on a single anatomical variable, try prescribing exercises based on the individual's needs in life, work, recreation, sport?

Besides, the sample exercises imply a lack of understanding in fascial tissue's adaptive threshold requirement. In other words, the example exercises are useful if the participant has been a couch potato. Then again, some light walking and general conditioning will do just as well without the complicated jargons.

And: "Upregulate" the fascia? Give me a break. Are you talking about loading the fascia, or about a complex feedback loop in a hormonal pathway?
Lillian Last
On Jun 09, 2012
Hello, I was wondering are there any sepcific certifications or classes for Myofasial Strength. I woul dlove to take classes specific to that and become certified.
Gardy Reglas
On Jun 11, 2012
Hey John, although you've made some interesting points, you have to understand that there are a lot of personal trainers out there who do not have a clue (or at the very least) have limited understanding of myofascial system. I think a lot of people will have positive feedback about the article!
John Nguyen
On Jun 12, 2012
Gardy, I hear you. But if a trainer invests in a deep understanding of human biomechanics and exercise physiology and then applies them in an intelligent and progressive prescription, wouldn't these "systems" take care of themselves without specialized methods that seem superfluous? People have achieved high levels of fitness without understanding composition, properties, and cellular matrix of connective tissues beyond that explained in a good textbook. To have a specialized method for the fascial system seems to complicate programming and distract from efficacy. Nothing that dancing, playing, or good exercise can't do.
John Nguyen
On Jun 12, 2012
A fundamental problem is that most trainers are fast consumers of fitness information instead of being critical thinkers. It's why we see many trainers collect numerous certifications as a myopic quest for quantity over quality, their program prescriptions an amalgamation of watered-down content rather than effective means to produce quantifiable improvement in relevant function, health and human competency to interface with life, work, sport, recreation, and successful aging.

I believe that most trainers mean well and have good hearts, but I also believe they become better professionals if they cease to consume novel and superfluous concepts and put more effort into critiquing what they see and read, to see how these concepts may or may not help their clients, instead of trying to impress their clients and peers with the possession of yet more "tools."

Respectfully,
JN
Derek Vandenbrink, MA
On Jun 21, 2012
First off, great article Derek!
@ John Nguyen: I'm liking the way you think sir! Great questions & comments.
Let's remember the article is about myofascial lines, not just "fascia". There are multiple resources (e.g., Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers) that give a lot of credence to the idea of myofascial lines and the integration of this concept into movement prescription.
Just like understanding how the bicep is involved in flexing the elbow (among other things), understanding the integrative myofascial lines/structures in the body can help us understand how whole-body movement occurs AND the stress it puts into the body. Now THAT is a powerful concept for health, wellness and fitness professionals to understand, would you not agree? For example, if I lunge forward vs. backward, am I applying equivalent stress to same myofascial lines? Nope - the forward lunge will stress the superficial back line (SBL) more in the lead leg, as momentum would carry us forward requiring the SBL tissues to lengthen, acquire strain energy, and prevent the body from continuing its forward path. To use Derek Price's point, if I bend further forward as I do a forward lunge, the tissues in the lead leg's hamstrings, gluts, and up the ES will also get longer, applying more load to the SBL. The posterior lunge will stress the superficial front line (SFL) more for the same reasons - momentum will carry us backward, so the tissues in the front of the body must lengthen & acquire strain energy to prevent the continuation of this movement. Again, to use Derek's point, if I reach overhead at the same time I've elevated my rib cage increasing tension in the midsection which in turn lengthens the tissues in the moving leg's anterior aspect (hip flexor complex, quad, and same-side abdominals among other things).
Do you think this application would be important for today's professionals to understand so we can appropriately prescribe balanced training plans? Does the "leg" day focus heavily on SFL and neglect SBL/LL/SL? I think Derek has offered us great advice on how apply simply biomechanics to focus our movements on particular myofascial lines to ensure a balanced training plan. My opinion is that the "systems" don't take care of themselves as you've said unless they're stressed appropriately. We can't stress the body appropriately unless we commit to a deeper understanding of how the integrated myofascial system responds to & produces movement. Derek Price has done a great job of helping us scratch the surface of this highly complex & extremely important topic. Thanks DP!
Derek Vandenbrink, MA
On Jun 21, 2012
First off, great article Derek!
@ John Nguyen: I'm liking the way you think sir! Great questions & comments.
Let's remember the article is about myofascial lines, not just "fascia". There are multiple resources (e.g., Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers) that give a lot of credence to the idea of myofascial lines and the integration of this concept into movement prescription.
Just like understanding how the bicep is involved in flexing the elbow (among other things), understanding the integrative myofascial lines/structures in the body can help us understand how whole-body movement occurs AND the stress it puts into the body. Now THAT is a powerful concept for health, wellness and fitness professionals to understand, would you not agree? For example, if I lunge forward vs. backward, am I applying equivalent stress to same myofascial lines? Nope - the forward lunge will stress the superficial back line (SBL) more in the lead leg, as momentum would carry us forward requiring the SBL tissues to lengthen, acquire strain energy, and prevent the body from continuing its forward path. To use Derek Price's point, if I bend further forward as I do a forward lunge, the tissues in the lead leg's hamstrings, gluts, and up the ES will also get longer, applying more load to the SBL. The posterior lunge will stress the superficial front line (SFL) more for the same reasons - momentum will carry us backward, so the tissues in the front of the body must lengthen & acquire strain energy to prevent the continuation of this movement. Again, to use Derek's point, if I reach overhead at the same time I've elevated my rib cage increasing tension in the midsection which in turn lengthens the tissues in the moving leg's anterior aspect (hip flexor complex, quad, and same-side abdominals among other things).
Do you think this application would be important for today's professionals to understand so we can appropriately prescribe balanced training plans? Does the "leg" day focus heavily on SFL and neglect SBL/LL/SL? I think Derek has offered us great advice on how apply simply biomechanics to focus our movements on particular myofascial lines to ensure a balanced training plan. My opinion is that the "systems" don't take care of themselves as you've said unless they're stressed appropriately. We can't stress the body appropriately unless we commit to a deeper understanding of how the integrated myofascial system responds to & produces movement. Derek Price has done a great job of helping us scratch the surface of this highly complex & extremely important topic. Thanks DP!
John Sinclair
On Jun 21, 2012
Hi everyone,

Without adding more complexity to the discussion above it is imperative to look at the reason behind writing such an article. I am sure that most readers of this article although somewhat familiar with the concept there is still much to learn. What Derrick has provided us with is a lens to look at how we can view the body in its integrated functional abilities and to begin to explore how we load the body. Many trainers that I teach to are not completely up to date on the microscopic make up of fascia let alone what the myofascia is and what it does. The reality is that no matter how you move the lines are loaded. Whether you think you are training arms, or legs or core we actually are training the entire body regardless of what you were TOLD what that exercise is for.

Therein lies the problem. We are told what this exercise is for instead of actually trying to ascertain what these movements are, and where does the force go? This article is a great start.

Systems are an integral part of how we organize our thoughts, plan and decide how we are going to train. Without systems we are lost, especially for the trainer that is used to being told what exercise is and what it is not. The reality is that we need systems to deal with the tremendous amount of information that is out there and a way to organize and crystallize the realities and truths that we anchor to. That will enable us to create an understanding so that we might be able to delineate this information to the clients that care about it in a way that is meaningful to them. Systems, fed by the sciences,applied with our tools.

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