Aaron Deere: Fascia and TRX for fascial sling training
TRX has become an indispensable piece of equipment for Personal Trainers and class teachers, allowing for a huge diversity of exercises to be utilised from one piece of equipment. At KXU TRX is utilised in many classes including the TRX Urban Suspension Training, Meta-KX, HIIT & Run and is sometimes utilised in The Games. In the TRX Urban Suspension Training classes, specifically, it allows a large number of class participants to train efficiently and safely in the studio space and makes it very easy for the class instructor to correct technique faults and give demonstrations that the whole class can see and follow. Alongside the timetabled classes at KXU, TRX is also regularly used as a tool by the personal trainers taking 1-2-1 resistance sessions in the studio.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX FOR RESISTANCE TRAINING EXERCISES
Whilst the importance of having a strong posterior chain and optimal range of movement through your anterior chain is regularly written about on fitness blogs and Instagram articles, it is also important to take a non-linear view at strength & conditioning exercise prescription.
Most of the exercises we perform in gym-based resistance sessions occur in the sagittal plane (movements like squats, deadlifts, presses etc.), but this is at odds to most of the movements in our day to day life and in our recreational/competitive sports. Whilst we may use these resistance exercises to augment our performance in recreational/competitive sports, we must also consider how more non-linear/non-traditional systems of muscles and other connective tissue that helps us perform in these activities.
FASCIA & FASCIAL SLINGS
Fascia is a type of connective tissue within the body that imparts many functions. It is often thought about as a type of cling wrap that surrounds muscles and holds muscle structures together, but it also performs many additional functions to this. It facilitates movement by allowing groups of muscles to slide over each other, it is key to holding organs in place in the visceral cavity, but perhaps its most under-appreciated role is the role it plays in proprioception. As the latest research recently presented in the KXEdu workshop “Fascia: The Hidden Component in Function & Dysfunction” highlighted, fascia has been shown to contain high volumes of proprioceptive cells that are involved in sensing things such as movement, pressure and pain via specific receptors embedded within it.
The idea of fascial slings is not a new one but is one that is regularly underemphasised in strength & conditioning programs. Tom Meyers, the author of the formative text Anatomy Trains, was one of the first to highlight the multiple facial lines within the body, with these including fascial lines such as the deep front line, the spiral line, etc. Whilst these fascial lines are extremely important in function, and dysfunction when performing sub-optimally, it is often difficult to identify a direct carry over between these fascial lines and the ability to augment them via resistance training.
In addition to these fascial lines highlighted by Meyers, there is a series of slings comprised of both muscle and fascia that are much more easily translated to gym-based resistance training and we possess the ability to improve their function through progressive resistance training specifically targeting these slings. The names of these 4 main fascia/muscle slings are:
· The Posterior Oblique Sling
· The Anterior Oblique Sling
· The Lateral Sling
· The Deep Longitudinal Sling
These were covered in depth in the the KXEdu workshop “Facia: The Hidden Component in Function & Dysfunction”, so this article is going to specifically look at the posterior and anterior oblique slings and better understand their anatomy and how they can be trained using gym-based resistance exercises.
POSTERIOR OBLIQUE SLING (POS)
The POS is made up of the latissimus dorsi, the contralateral gluteus maximus and the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia. It is responsible for bringing about integrated whole body pulling movements, stabilising the posterior kinetic chain (including lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints), transferring forces between lower and upper extremities and eccentric deceleration.
ANTERIOR OBLIQUE SLING (AOS)
The AOS is made up of the external oblique, internal oblique, the transverse abdominals via the rectus sheath and it blends with the contralateral adductor muscles via the adductor-abdominal fascia. It is responsible for integrating full body pushing movements, stabilising the anterior kinetic chain (including the hip and lumbar spine), the transference of force between lower and upper extremities and eccentric deceleration.
TRAINING SLING SYSTEMS
As previously mentioned, most of the resistance exercises we perform in gym-based training usually occur just in the sagittal plane. When looking to target these sling systems, exercises that involve only movement through the sagittal plane don’t specifically target the sling, so some ‘thinking outside the box’ is often required.
Movement/postural dysfunction can greatly affect the efficiency and function of these slings systems. The kyphotic posture that afflicts many in desk bound jobs, greatly impacts the function of the posterior oblique sling, with latissimus dorsi and gluteus maximus function being impaired and the thoracolumbar fascia being overworked/overstressed. Therefore, a need often exists to ‘re-programme’ the sling system and recreate a strong signal between the nervous system (including the brain) and the sling, so we once again understand exactly what muscles and fascia we are supposed to be using to carry out the movement.
We can look at this as building/rebuilding a strong foundation from which more complex movements can be layered upon. The analogy ‘you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe’ best describes the concept of requiring a strong foundation to build from, with exercises involving applicable isometric contractions being a great starting point to build the ‘mind-muscle’ connection. Once the strong foundation has been built, dynamic movement can be added, and it can then be further challenged with instability.
POSTERIOR OBLIQUE SLING – STARTING OUT
With the concept of creating a mind-muscle connection, via the use of an isometric contraction, the supine hip extension with a swissball is a great exercise for this. The goal is to look to isolate the glutes from the hamstrings and co-contract the opposite side latissimus dorsi, therefore activating the key muscle and fascia of the POS.
To carry out the exercise:
· One leg is positioned with hip at 90˚and knee at 60˚ with foot on the swissball.
· The opposite leg is positioned with hip and knee flexed, foot flat on the floor.
· Whilst pushing through the heel on the swissball (using only the glutes and keeping hamstrings relaxed), also push the opposite side arm into the floor to activate the latissimus dorsi.
· Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and return to the start position
Once the body has initially adapted to this stimulus, it means it’s time to change the stimulus in some way to further promote adaptation. A potentially good way to do this is to replace the swissball with a TRX. Repeat the steps above with the foot in the TRX, using an isometric hold and a co-contraction of the opposite latissimus dorsi. The increased instability the TRX brings to the movement versus the swissball will further challenge the bodies nervous system.
ANTERIOR OBLIQUE SLING – PROGRESSING THE EXERCISE
Once you have created the foundation, with the mind-muscle connection firmly entrenched and the correct muscles and fascia being recruited, it is time to move onto more challenging exercises. An exercise that presents a large challenge for the AOS is the four-point box using a TRX. This challenges the AOS through eccentric/concentric contractions, along with isometric contractions.
To carry out the exercise:
· Set up with knees and feet on the floor and arms bent at 90 degrees with the elbows/forearms on the swissball.
· Extend one arm and opposite leg, whist the other arm stays isometrically contracted at 90 degrees on the swissball.
· Hold the end of range position for 3-5 seconds and then return to the start position and repeat on the opposite side.
· To increase the challenge to the AOS remove the toes from the floor so the only point of contact is the knees.
Once again when the body adapts to this movement, it means it is time to make a change. Substituting the TRX for the swissball creates a new stimulus and will further challenge the nervous system and the AOS.
Training the sling system is clearly an important but under-appreciated component of a strength and conditioning programme. It can be an integral part of moving a client out of chronic pain and for optimal performance/function is something that likely needs to be considered with the same level of importance as our ‘traditional’ gym-based resistance exercises.
About the KX Education Programme and Aaron Deere
The KX Education Programme is an evidence based continued education syllabus for fitness professionals who are looking to set themselves apart from the field in the UK fitness industry. The workshop-based format is made up of 17 workshops on a wide variety of topics that present learners with the latest evidence, which regularly challenges the dogma of the industry and the outdated information presented to learners during the time they complete their initial industry qualifications. The KX Education Programme is presented by Aaron Deere and Ben Williams, 2 life long learners with over 30 years of industry experience between them. Having been involved with elite level sport, general populations, clinical practice, sports therapy, functional medicine, nutritional medicine and both having travelled the world learning off the best in the industry, Aaron and Ben make the KX Education Programme the gold standard in fitness education in the UK. For more information on the KX Education Program go to @KXEDU on Instagram or contact the KX Education Programme Director Aaron Deere directly on email@example.com.
Next KXU Workshop - The Psychology of Coaching: Personality Profiling and Client Retention, Sept 22nd.