one of my credentials is being a MELT instructor. MELT stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique, and from this extensive training do I derive my ‘authority’ on this subject. The MELT Method has been created by Sue Hitzman.
When I talk about fascia, I mean the entire web of the body including tendons, ligaments but also the fascia surrounding muscles, even muscle cells, bones, internal organs. Fascia is what gives the body structural integrity. I like to compare it to an orange. Peel away the skin, and you have the white layer of membrane. There are also layers, differentiating the segments and even the small juicy cells themselves. If an orange did not have this structure, you’d have juice and skin. If you let it lie in the sun too long, it gets really stuck and leathery. that’s how I picture de-hydrated fascia. This is how I like to explain fascia in a human body.
I want to re-phrase your question about training fascia and break it down into two different areas.
Fascia itself is living tissue that should be well-hydrated and smoothe. Often people notice problems with fascia only in certain areas: a tight IT band, plantar faciitis or all kind of knots and tough areas, often thought of as trigger points. Those areas are often indications of de-hydrated fascia, and the MELT Length techniques are adressing those. I want to set it apart from the often used term of ‘myofascial release’. It is not release of the fascia I am looking for but re-hydration and ‘smoothing out’.
The MELT method is based on certain identifiable myofascial lines, and the re-hydration techniques are geared towards the integration of the entire lines.
Now the second part of my answer: You can also look at those myofascial lines and consider them when designing an exercise program with the same goal of integrating movement along those lines. At the last IDEA conference, fascia was all the buzzword, and there was a recent IDEA articles dedicated to this subject. I want to include a link to the article on ‘Fascial Fitness’ http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/fascial-fitness.
The author of this article is Thomas Myers, and I have probably never heard his name mentioned more often than at the last IDEA Workd Fitness Convention. His book ‘Anatomy Trains’ is in its second edition and is truly ground-breaking on this subject.
An understanding of those myofascial lines can also assist greatly in assessing a body. The fascia is the web that gives a body structure, and it is often compared to tensegrity models. It means that tension in one part of the tensegrity structure translates itself throughout the enitre model. It also means that constant excessive pressure/tension in one part may lead to a breakdown of the weakest link which may not necessarily be the place where the tension is applied. Hence the often quoted example that a misaligned ankle can be the cause of shoulder problems on the opposite side of the body.
Fascia is a fascinating subject, and I myself am only now beginning to comprehend its importance and complexity. I also believe that we will see in the near future more research about it.
Good question, and it is an up and coming frontier in the training realm. I can’t give you an acceptable answer as I don’t have the proper training on this subject to say anything. I can however second what Karin said about Thomas Myers…his book should be on the top of your reading list if you want to learn about the Fascia.
Remember an important point. Muscles produce force, but they also reduce force. The muscle action spectrum includes reducing force, stabilizing force, and producing force. Remember reductionsim versus holism-how are all the parts put together? Understand and research the Myofascial lines: superficial back line, front functional line, back functional line, superficial front line, lateral line, and spinal line. Look into exercises that incorporate into your programs.
Hope this helps feel free to email me with questions!
Peace & Planks,
Beth Harris, CSCS