In the first blog I was explaining the importance of fascia fitness, what fascia is, and her purpose in the human body. In the second part I will try to explain one aspect of fascial training, so-called positional strength training. But before that please check in the table below some main consideration for optimal fascial fitness in general. There are “The big four” properties of fascia:
Positional strength training – tensegrity
As you can see in the table above, positional strength training has an impact on fascia remodeling property. If a person is sitting 8 hours in the office, after that driving home to again sit and watch TV, his fascia will remodel and adapt to this type of chronic demand. In this scenario, over time fibroblasts will cast the fascial web around joints and muscles in this “always flexed” and crouched position. As a result of this lifestyle, every day this person has less and less acceptable movement variability. With our athletes what we want is completely opposite, we want them to have high movement variability with proper integrity + tension = tensegrity of the fascial web. In The next video Thomas Myers, author of The “Anatomy Trains”, a Book that has been Game-changer for myself AND my coaching, explains what tensegrity is:
The principle of “tensegrity” describes precisely the relationship between the connective tissues, the muscles, and the skeleton. The skeleton, rather than being a frame of support to which the muscles, ligaments, and tendons attach, has to be considered as a compression component suspended within a continuous tension network. Try to imagine our bones in the body as they float in a “sea” of soft tissue – they are held in position by tension from muscles and fascia. Suitable tensile properties of our tissues and therefore their elastic integrity depend on the stiffness of the collagen matrix which is primarily low in deformation and relatively high in resistance to it.
For athletes, adequate tensegrity means the right amount of positive stiffness around and in between joints, tendons, muscles, and other organs which allow efficient transfer of force, better posture, less movement compensation and capacity to keep the body as a unit during starting, stopping, jumping, COD, punching/hitting.
Positive stiffness means suitable resistance to deformation, being able to remain composed during all athletic maneuvers is a basic prerequisite for athleticism!
One of the best ways to reinforce tensegrity in different fascial lines/slings is through positional strength training. Let’s look at some examples.
Old fashioned birddog here is done on the bench with added rowing movement. Limiting factor here as well with all other positional strength exercises will not be the weight lifted, it will be the capability to keep integrity. Here you will find it difficult to increase lifting weight above a certain point, limiting factor will be postural control and alignment. We can “dissect” this exercises and talk about which fascial line or sling is under more pressure. Posterior and anterior longitudinal slings are doing the majority of the work here but what is important to understand, these exercises require absolute full-body tension, and by doing so we are building up necessary internal stability. Of course that we are paying attention to rowing technique: integration between scapula and GH joint movement, the elbow is not to close to the body (30-45° away), head of the humerus at the top of the row remains centered.
2) Split Stance Landmine Press
This is whole-body exercises which again will not be limited with maximum weight you can lift but rather with capacity to hold position and integrity during pushing. The lower body is doing almost a pure isometric contraction while the upper body more isotonic. What is important to understand is that Jannik here is pushing with left arm but energy is coming from the left foot through his core and finishes in his shoulder and arm muscles. This is easy to feel when you try to push the challenging weight and you cannot rely only on upper body strength so you need to pre-tension your whole body to be able to keep position and simultaneously press weight. Myofascial front lines are under more stress in these exercises.
You saw 2 examples of exercises designed to build tensegrity through the myofascial system, and if you are a fan of definitions here is mine: Positional strength exercises can be called every exercise where there is a higher demand on internal stability to keep postural control and alignment. A long time ago I learned the principle “proximal stability leads to (or is prerequisite for) distal mobility”. The positional strength training approach fits perfectly with this principle.
At the end I will give you 4 considerations how we can incorporate positional strength training into our programming:
1. Maintenance microcycles = during competitive period
2. In season training = not creating high level of fatigue – no DOMS
3. Not aggressive on CNS = can be superset with high intensity work
4. Before a competition as a activation = reinforces myofascial lines / slings connection