Put more AMPs into your sessions

Advantages & Tips for Active Movement Participation (AMP)

of the client during the hands-on myofascial work

Robert Schleip



§         Generally any active motor output tends to decrease the pain sensitivity (even if the movement would be totally unrelated to the working area)

§         Client feels more involved (and responsible) in the Rolfing process

§         Slow and subtle body movements tend to trigger a more trophotropic state (relaxed, parasympathetic) and therefore a lower general muscle tonus in the whole body.

§         Increases body awareness in the client (specifically in the moving body parts)

§         The dynamic interplay of "stretch" and "slack" of the moving fascial or muscular fibers under your hands can allow you to reach deeper (to deeper fascial layers) through certain "windows" that you feel opening in the "river" of constant flow of the connective tissue fibers under your hands.

§         Can be used in a specific way to have the client stretch (or lengthen) a particular fascial sheet against the pressure of your working elbow/knuckle/fingers (e.g. elbow to the side while you work on the pect. major). The effect of this specific application can be explained with   the increased stretching force on the mechanoreceptors of this tissue.

§         Can be used in a specific way to have the client contract a particular muscle while you work (push, lean, sink) on this muscle. This simultaneous contraction brings a very high degree of nervous system attention to the working area (e.g. specially via the Golgi receptors in the fascial envelope) and often results in a significant tonus deregulation immediately after the Rolfer's hands are removed. Example: while working on upper pecs, you ask the client to pull this shoulder forward against your hand with different degrees of strengths (e.g. 50%, then decreasing slowly to 20%, increasing to 60%, then slowly letting go to 40%, 30 –20-10 and finally zero %).

§         As an educational tool to include the functional change of the work, e.g. teaching a movement quality that is initiated by lengthening rather than contraction).

§         To break habitual and limiting movement patterns by showing new options (e.g. if the pelvis always goes into an anterior pelvic tilt in any hip flexion, have the client explore the opposite pattern (knee and tailbone forward simultaneously).

§         Leading from undifferentiated to differentiated movements (e.g. if pelvis and whole ribcage tend to behave like one block, you can teach differentiated rotations in the sidelying position (first pelvis, then ribcage, or only pelvis, etc.)

§         Generally: Active motor learning is the fastest and most effective way of learning of our nervous system (Sherrington: ‘The motor act is the cradle of the mind.’)


§         Describe movement directions in a language that relates to the client's body as reference point, instead of to the outside room (e.g. "knee forward" instead of "knee up" in supine position). Yet the first couple a times you might use dual context descriptions with the body reference first and the outside room reference second (e.g. ‘Let your tailbones come forwards, towards the ceiling’.).; changing it later gradually to the body reference descriptions only.

§         Include so called right brain oriented descriptions and images

E.g.: flower opening its petals,

       wings opening,

       growing a long heel all the way to the end of the room,

       a string pulling on your nose to the left,

       a deer rubbing its back at a tree,

       spanning a sail between your elbow and your back; etc.

§         Ask for subtle movements. The smaller the movement, the more effective the new information is for the central nervous system (Weber-Fechner Law)

§         When using language to describe a movement, be aware that our cortex organizes movements in SKELELTAL (and not muscular) terms and thinks always in directions. It also prefers to organize the DISTAL elements of a movement. Therefore use a language that describes the direction of the most distal skeletal part   (e.g. instead of "Lengthen your deltoid" say "Let your elbow float away from your shoulder down towards your right foot")

§         Stay in constant verbal contact with the client (" yes ...very slowly... yes ...that's nice, now, slowly backwards...even slower...yes ...just a tiny smidgen ... yes! ... that's it .. hmm ... and now let your..." etc.)

§         Move from simple movements to more complex and sophisticated ones, finally leading to very differentiated movements that are new and non-habitual to the client (and of course related to the work of this particular session).

An optimal use of AMPs  could include the following elements:

  • Finding out where the client has limited choices of movements that are related to the main goal(s) of this session in this particular client
  • Asking for his most familiarmovement pattern related to this complex (e.g. hip flexion together with lumbar shortening). Then breaking that up in minor steps towards a new and unfamiliar option..
  • Example for a person with habitual anterior pelvic tilt during most knee forward motions (application here in the sidelying 3rd or 4th hour position):

A) Separate motions: having client move only the knee forward/back couple a times. Then only tilting the pelvis a couple a times.

B) Habitual combination: Then anterior pelvic tilt (‘sitbones backwards’) and knee forward at the same time. First with the initiation of the this combined movement at the knee, then at the sitbones.

C) Interspersed second joint motion:Tilting pelvis with sitbones forwards. In this position sliding the knee forwards once and then backwards again.

Then tilting the pelvis with the sitbones backwards. In this position slide the knee forwards once and then backwards.

Repeating   this cycle until it becomes fluent and familiar (usually 3-6 times).

D) New combination: Finally the new & unfamiliar combination pattern: ‘Start by tilting your sitbones forward, then slide your knee forward too. Then bring the sitbones back and let the knee follow backwards too. And let’s start again: your sitbones float forwards as your lower back lengthen, then your knee slides forward to continue that motion, ....’ etc. When fluent, let the client gradually change from a sequential movement (first sitbones, then knee) to a more smooth simultaneous one.

During all these steps (takes 2-5 minutes the first time) you continue to work on the connecting fascia between knee and pelvis, e.g. in 3rd or 4th hour.

§         Closing the session with having the client feel their new mobility - and comparing it with the old pattern - in the gravitational field (e.g. legs swinging from LDH in walking) and combining it with some specific "home work" or movement cues.