top of page

Kangaroos, gazelles and the world's best tumblers share

The last several decades the scientific community has refined and expanded its understanding of how the human body moves, finding evidence of a central, organizing importance of fascia, the fibrous tissue enclosing and enfolding muscles and organs. Long intuited by osteopaths, massage therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and acupuncturists, the core of the change is explained by the editors of Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Bodyedited by Robert Schleip, Thomas W. Findley, Leon Chaitow, Peter Huijing

"…in real bodies, muscles hardly ever transmit their force directly via tendons into the skeleton, as is usually suggested by our textbook drawings. They rather distribute a large portion of their contractile or tensional forces onto fascial sheets. These sheets transmit these forces to synergetic as well as antagonistic muscles. Thereby they stiffen not only the respective joint, but may even affect regions several joints further away. The simple questions discussed in musculoskeletal textbooks “which muscles” are participating in a movement thus become

almost obsolete. Muscles are not functional units no matter how common this misconception may be. Rather, most muscular movements are generated by many individual motor units, which are distributed over some portions of one muscle, plus other portions of other muscles. The tensional forces of these motor

units are then transmitted to a complex network of fascial sheets, bags, and strings that convert them into the final body unit.

… How far you can throw a stone,how high you can jump, how long you can run, depends not only on the contraction of the muscle fibers; it also depends to a large degree on how well the elastic recoil properties of your fascial network are supporting these movements…Surprisingly, it has been found that the fasciae of humans have a similar kinetic storage capacity to that of kangaroos and gazelles…This is not only made use of when we jump or run but also with simple walking, as a significant part of the energy of the movement comes from the same springiness…For steady movements such as bicycling…the muscle fibers actively change in length, while the tendons and aponeuroses scarcely grow longer. The fascial elements remain quite passive. This is in contrast to oscillatory movements with an elastic spring quality, in which the length of the muscle fibers change little. Here, the muscle fibers contract in an almost isometric fashion (they stiffen temporarily without any significant change of their length) while the fascial elements function in an elastic way with a movement similar to that of a yo-yo. It is this lengthening and shortening of the fascial elements that “produces” the actual movement…"

Two important elements come to mind. Practitioners have to broaden the traditional approach and think in terms of planes of force and a multiplicity of restrictions and opportunities of improvement. And the all important awareness of the client should be widened so that he can approach ease of movement with proper respect for fascia.

bottom of page