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The Soft Tissue Workout: Part 1

The Soft Tissue Workout: Part 1 Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic

12 Oct The Soft Tissue Workout: Part 1

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Author’s Note: In Part 1 below, we discuss a paradigm for fitness that involves building a foundation of health and layering lesser ROI (return-on-investment) fitness attributes on top.  In Part 2, we discuss the actual movements and how adhesion gets removed.  

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there are 25 million U.S. adults who suffer from chronic pain every day.  “Chronic” means they experienced it for the previous three months.

That’s 1 out of every 13 Americans.

As holistic health doctors and chronic pain resolution specialists, there is a massive hole in the healthcare and fitness paradigm that people need to be aware. It’s the presence of the most common but least talked about cause of pain:

Scar tissue or the medical term adhesion, present within the soft tissue of the body.

Scar tissue implies adhesion caused by trauma.  Adhesion is the more general term that we will use in the rest of this writing that can be caused by trauma or more commonly, through overuse.

By doing a Soft Tissue Workout emphasizing range of motion and the proper recruitment of nerves and muscles, we can prevent this major problem of adhesion and expose it when present.

What is Soft Tissue & Why Does it Matter?

Soft tissue is generally defined as the bundles of cells within the body that are soft: muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, nerves, as well as connective tissue, organs, skin, and fat.

Below is a muscle.


Excluded are bones, which are agreeably hard.

In health and fitness terms, we can all agree on what a muscle is.  Stretchable, workable, and the movers of our body throughout space.  Sized differently and built to potential or not.

What most Humans do not realize is that the connective tissue enveloping all of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and nerves may be more important than the muscles when it comes to pain.  When connective tissue bundles up thick enough to restrict range of motion and weaken muscles, an adhesion is present.

Healthy soft tissue (without adhesion) makes you flexible, strong, and able to do whatever life demands of you. Sick soft tissue (with adhesion) leads to almost all causes of physical pain including osteoarthritis, disc issues, labrum and meniscus tears, as well as other aches and pains.

Adhesion within the muscle looks like this.


The process that leads to sick soft tissue (with adhesion) is the path of one modality.

Muscles and connective tissue have many more levels of fitness than just:

  • Can I touch my toes like a yogi?
  • Can I pick up that heavy box like a lifter?
  • Can I run a marathon like that runner?

Unfortunately, most yogis, lifters, and runners do only one thing.  That which defines them.  One modality.

The soft tissue workout will bring well-roundedness and balance to your body by walking the path of many modalities so that you are always fit enough to handle whatever life throws at you and never succumb to the bastardly finger that is pain and degeneration.

The Soft Tissue Workout

What we define as “The Soft Tissue Workout” is a movement program that facilitates the development of the 10 Attributes of Fitness as defined by CrossFit’s Founder Greg Glassman.  A body that is able in yoga, lifting, running, or life is a body that has minimal adhesion within your soft tissue and can handle any stress on any day.

To build this type of fit and able body, just like you would build a house, you have to start at the foundation and build up.


This type of body can only be developed through the proper order of operations:

Primary Level – The Foundation:

  • flexibility: the ability to maximize “healthy” range of motion in a given movement segment.  Real life example: Can you touch your toes with your knees straight standing?
  • coordination: the ability to combine several isolated movement patterns into a more complex pattern aka “controlled movement”.  Real life example: Can you move your hip while not moving your low back at the same time?

Secondary Level – First Floor:

  • strength: the ability to apply force.   Real life example: Can you lift the fallen tree off of your car?
  • stamina: the ability of the body’s systems to process energy.  Real life example: Can your forearms and hands handle typing for an hour?
  • accuracy: the ability to maintain a movement pattern at a given intensity.  Real life example: Can you pick up boxes and put them down all day safely with the same efficient movement pattern?

Tertiary Level – Building on Up:

  • agility: the ability to transition from one movement pattern to another.  Real life example: Can you pick up the box, carry it over there, and put it down safely?
  • balance: the ability to keep one’s body upright in the context of gravity.  Real life example: Can you catch yourself if you slip on the ice?
  • endurance: the ability of the body’s systems to process oxygen.  Real life example: Can you run five miles?
  • power: the ability to move maximum force in minimum time.  Real life example: Can you jump over the creek?
  • speed: the ability to minimize time.  Real life example: Can you sprint to get your wandering dog out of the middle of the street?

Emphasizing the healthy progress of fitness, the following principles must be maintained throughout work:

  1. Primary Level: Movement patterns should begin in small ranges of motion and progress into as much of a symptom-free full range of motion as possible, emphasizing efficient form without compensation.  No other attributes of fitness should be pursued until flexibility and coordination are proficient.
  2. Secondary Level: The eccentric component to movements must be longer than the concentric component and consistency of form must be maintained through various repetition ranges.  The tertiary level of fitness should not be pursued until the first two levels are expressed proficiently.
  3. Tertiary Level: Once the bases are covered, any of the tertiary fitness attributes be pursued.  It is recommended that these somewhat opposing attributes be pursued in a balanced, periodized fitness program.

Healthy soft tissue is loose and pliable.  It is strong, powerful, and able to lift the heaviest imaginable object for one repetition (strength, power) or for five.  It can contract a very small load for hours (endurance, stamina) or a medium sized load for fifteen repetitions (stamina).  It can build out its genetic size potential by lifting things around ten repetitions (stamina).

By having a well-rounded approach to your fitness, you can build a body that is prepared for anything that life might throw at you.

How to Do a Soft Tissue Workout

In Part 2, we discuss the movements that will allow you to stay health, fit, and prevent the pain associated with adhesion.

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Dr. Chris Stepien, DC, Full-Body ID Certified, ART Certified, CSCS, and CrossFit Level 1 Certified, is a Sports Therapy & Chronic Pain Resolution Specialist with Barefoot Rehab in Parsippany, NJ.  When you're in pain that hasn't gone away and you've been to at least 3 other doctors, Dr. Chris wants to help you. And when you're sad, depressed, or not enjoying life, Dr. Chris wants to hug you. He invites you to reach out, no matter what your concern is. Barefoot Rehab is here to serve you.
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