Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Anatomy Trains Myofascial Approach and Functional Fitness

A great book for bodyworkers I just finished reading is Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Myers, who originally studied under pioneer bodyworker Ida Rolf of Rolfing fame, explains how the body is comprised of an interconnected system of myofascia.  Myofascia means the combination of muscle(myo) and connective tissue(fascia).  The exciting theme is to consider and treat the body in terms of myofascial lines which include various individual muscles and cross various joints.  It turns out that under the skin, there isn't such a distinct and separate collection of components as traditional anatomy teaches.

For example, the rhombodieus connects from the upper spine to the medial border of the scapula(that's the edge of the shoulder blade nearest the spine).  On another page of the anatomy book would be listed the serratus anterior, a muscle connecting to the same part of the scapula, wrapping underneath it and attaching to the ribs on the side of the body.  Examining the two at once, a single structure is seen- a muscle which starts at the upper spine and sweeps down to the lateral ribcage, with the edge of the scapula attached across the middle.  The two are antagonists, pulling in opposition, but the tissues are physically interconnected and functionally working together to position the scapula.

Where this gets really interesting is comparing the concept of continuous "trains" of muscles and fascia to the concepts of Functional Fitness.

Functional Fitness, or Functional Strength, is the idea of training the body in ways that are usable outside the gym in sports and everyday life.  One of the main precepts of Functional Fitness is to exercise the entire body in multiple directions simultaneously.  This is contrary to many common exercises and especially exercise machines.  Many exercises are designed to isolate individual muscles and to specifically not use the rest of the body.  This is fine for a competitive bodybuilder concerned only with appearance, but not very useful and potentially harmful for everyone else.

Anatomy Trains and similar myofascial techniques teach us not to isolate muscles in bodywork, just as Functional Fitness teaches us not to isolate muscles in our workouts.  It's how we're built.

I have some bananas ripening for banana walnut cookies I'll make soon.  Clients coming to my Los Altos office Friday and for a few days after will get one with their massage.  To put cookies into perspective, read this article from The New York Times: In Obesity Epidemic, What’s One Cookie?  Apparently considering one food item in isolation is less important than looking at the entire diet.


  1. Hi Steven,

    You should consisder getting the newest DVD's that show these trains dissected. It is so amazing!

    Amanda Cizek

  2. This book looks great in regards to a new approach to the myofascial system. I will add this to my list of books to purchase. I really want to see the items on the DVD.

    Elmira Loftin, Stress-pert/CMT
    Another Touch Massage