The myofascia plays a bigger role in movement and athletic performance than ever dreamt of in the conventional fitness paradigms focused on muscular strength and cardiovascular conditioning. While those are still important, the discovery of the role of connective tissue in enabling movement, in particular quick, powerful movements, is rapidly changing things.
For centuries, anatomists, kinesiologists, and coaches focused on the structure and function of isolated muscles, like the biceps, or muscles groups, like the shoulders. Connective tissue was a passive presence, designed by nature to support organs sort of like the asphalt road is held aloft by the spans on the Golden Gate Bridge.
However, as science probed the source of injuries, it became clear that the actual site of non-fractures is in the connective tissues, which also include ligaments and tendons. Of course the next question was why to the injuries occur and what can be done to make these tissues more resilient. Why are they so painful? Obviously they were being pushed beyond their capacity. But how?
This is where it gets really interesting. It has always been right in front of our eyes watching sports on TV, but invisible to the naked eye. Ever notice how home run hitters slightly turn their bodies counter to the direction of the ball then rapidly rotate their bodies towards it? Ever noticed how basketball players preparing for a dunk make a slight dip with their ankles, hips and knees before soaring towards the basket? The home run and dunk both start in the foot which is flexed hen unflexed (dorsiflexed then plantarflexed) unleashing a cascade of anatomy trains to generate force.
These powerful athletic movements are chosen for examples because what nobody had realized until relatively recently is that power is transmitted through connective tissue, just like a locomotive speeding down the tracks. In fact, one of the pioneers in this area is an integrative manual therapist named Tom Meyers who wrote a book about Anatomy Trains to identify the interplay of connective tissue with muscles and bones to enable movement and has even mapped them. If you want to feel an anatomy train as you're sitting reading this, hold your right palm on your back just above your hip bone. Lift your left knee slightly off the ground. Feel the contraction in the right side of your body?
So why should a TOJ care?
Connective tissue is just like muscle - you either use it or lose it. For many people, their trains are sound asleep from under-use. Even for athletes, they can be underdeveloped if they are not routinely used in multi-planes of motion. Yeah, a person may be able to curl a lot of weight or run a marathon but can they (you) do what's in this video.
Meyers cites Parkour, basically urban gymnastics in which athletes turn everyday structures into tools for exercise and physical challenges, as an example of movements that maintain and develop your power trains. Check out this video:
Obviously, most of us, especially TOJs, will never have this level of body mastery. In physcial prowess, these English men rank with any elite athlete.
You probably noticed many of the Parkour training exercises are very familiar, yet there's something different and unusual. In my next blog, we'll explore just what's different in more detail, and how to tame these down so they are safe and doable.
TOJs, too, must maintain their web of power.