Do you know a Stretchy Stacy?
She is flexible, rhythmic and agile. Her training primarily consists of yoga, dance or any other fluid bodyweight movement.
Perhaps you know a Powerful Patty?
She is strong and capable of moving large amounts of weight. She trains with barbells and free weights, focusing on three different anatomical planes: sagittal (forward and backward movement), frontal (side to side movement) & transverse (twisting movement).
How we train does more than affect measurable results like heart rate, weight, or muscle girth. Our chosen training modality also shapes our body’s fascia and connective tissues. My last blog asked: “What are we moving for?” Remember, exercise and movement are about more than your physique or sports-related goals.
In his book Anatomy Trains, manual therapist and myofascial expert Thomas Meyers refers to Powerful Patty’s as Vikings and labels Stretchy Stacys Temple Dancers Meyers believes we train in ways that suit our genetic coding, stating:,
“The Vikings, well-suited to heavy tasks, tend to be over in the weight room clanking metal while the naturally limber Temple dancers are across the hall in the studio doing yoga. In any case, as this and other genetic differences in fascia are discovered, training programs will need to accommodate differences instead of one-size fits all.”
Both styles of exercise have their own unique physiological outcomes. We are literally shaped by how we choose to work out.
So how do we know which is the best exercise for us..?
How Exercise Affects the Body
Fascia is the biological fabric, or webbing, that follows the wrap of the body’s muscles. The fascia is a connective tissue that virtually connects every nook and cranny within the body to one another.
Think of a suspension bridge, you have your road (muscles), frame (bones), cars (blood circulation), and coil like ropes holding it together (fascia). The coiled fascia creates tension within the body and when there are tight areas this results in strained compression. These areas are generally overused spots, or blockages within the system, that hold the body from functioning without pain. See tensegrity video to better understand this .
Common injuries involve fascia because muscles develop faster than fascia, so programs that improve the elasticity of collagenous fascia such as martial arts, jumping, self myofascial release and swinging weights through full range of motion are encouraged.
Your exercises or movements affect the body from the inside out not the outside in. The “gotta get back in shape for swimsuit season” attitude and pushing muscles to pop in a few weeks is a myotendinous recipe for disaster where the muscle develops without tissue support and can cause undue strain to tendons, connective tissue and muscle fibers. Training isolated muscle groups may train that muscle to activate well, but can leave out fascia tissue health necessary to the functional movement.
Remember the bridge metaphor? Imagine a bridge with missing suspension springs and half of a road. It takes both muscles and healthy connective tissue for the body to function at its best.
The answer? Neither.
Flexibility, functional fitness, linear strength training and 3-dimensional strength training each have their own benefits. I believe in order to find balance in the body and become truly nimble and strong, we need to take training cues from both the Temple Dancers and Vikings of the world. Below I have included sample weekly workout programs that incorporate aspects of both.
This weekly schedule balances strength, cardio, and flexibility training with varying intensities to ensure muscle growth, cardiac health, and tendon strength. Not listed are the various corrective exercises one should include to address muscular imbalances, or the self myofascial release Pongo recommends be performed daily.
- *High Intensity Compound Lifts | 3×5 | 3 sets of 5 repetitions | 2 minute rest between sets
- *Low Intensity Accessory Lifts | 2×12 | 2 sets of 12 repetitions | 30-60 seconds rest between sets
- Repeat high intensity lifts with less weight and more repetitions
- Add accessory exercises for desired muscle groups (bicep curls, lateral raises, single leg squats, etc)
- *HIIT Circuit | 60/30/2X5 | 60 seconds work, 30 seconds rest | 5 exercise circuit | repeat 2x
 Myers, Thomas W. Anatomy Trains: Myofacial Meridians for Manyal and Movement Therapists. 2014. p. 214
 Tensegrity video: <iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/87301772″ width=”640″ height=”480″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
 Facial Fitness, online article. http://www.anatomytrains.com/wp-content/uploads/manual/fascial_fitness.pdf