Ming Chew is a revolutionary physical specialist with hundreds of nigh-on miraculous success stories – the basic premise of his work is that the condition of the muscle fascia is crucial for recovery from injury, improvements in posture and tissue quality. Better tissue quality means better strength and performance. I’m very excited about this interview because I have personally used his methods and can say that these are no ordinary stretches, this is the real deal. This man also walks the walk unlike many in his industry, having won several bodybuilding titles, including Mr New York.
Ming Chew’s fascial stretches seem peculiar, and promise similar benefits to myofascial release and soft tissue work. The reason for this is they are far deeper and iron out the entire fascial chain, facilitating the healing of the joint and muscle by restoring blood flow to the affected area.
Yusef: Hi Ming, so could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Ming Chew, I’m a physiotherapist in NYC, graduate at Columbia university in Chemistry, then physiotherapy at NYU. However, over the years, I began to stop using the traditional methods of physiotherapy, namely hot packs, ultrasound, electrical stimuli, ice etc. I just don’t use them anymore simply because I have found a method that works much faster. I’m talking about curing people within 1-5 sessions.
Yusef: That’s fantastic. So why should we be concerned with our fascial health?
Ming: Well, the fascia is the largest organ in the human body. People tend to think it is the skin, but skin is only on the outside. The fascia follows the skin inside the body in 3 dimensions. If you took out all the body structures and left the fascia, you would have a hologram of the human body. The packing material, several layers from the superficial right down to the sarcomere of the muscle.
Yusef: So would you advise fascial stretching before or after resistance training? I understand you used to compete as a bodybuilder so I’m sure you have lots of experience with this.
Ming: Fascial stretching should be done for all sports before or after. I prefer after my workout as the fascia is more warmed up, along with the spinal decompression stretches. However, that’s not to say you can’t do them before a workout. Maybe do a 5 minute warmup on a treadmill first to break a sweat first.
Yusef: What’s your current training approach?
Ming: I’m 49 years old now, started bodybuilding when I was 15 and retired when I was 31, so I haven’t competed in a long time. My training routine currently just consists of 3 x 1 hour workouts per week. They’re short and intense because as you get older the amount of volume you can handle goes down. I used to train up to 15 hours per week. I now have so many patients to treat that I feel 3-4 patients equate to about an hour of gym time!
Yusef: That’s what has attracted to me to your material in the beginning, as you’ve walked the walk. Many times when you see a physio, particularly with a sports injury, the first thing they’ll tell you is ‘stop doing the sport’, which is not an option for many athletes.
Ming: An American perspective: I remember at NYU they would bring in an orthopedic surgeon and a hypothetical injury. Their approach would be ‘I would ice the injury down, give some anti-inflammatories.’ – I disagree with this approach. By doing this you’re actually creating harm. It is my belief that if you ice an area down, you are creating a fascial restriction moreso, increasing the viscal elasticity by making it looser. Combined with administering anti-inflammatories, steroids and painkillers, this is detrimental. By not feeling the pain, the patient may move the injury and create more damage and joint stiffness.
I prefer other modalities to lessen swelling, then soft tissue work, hydrating the tissue and taking fish oils, enzymes, glucosamine products and fascial stretching.
Yusef: That leads me on to my next question: You advise an anti-inflammatory diet in your book, are there any foods you’d suggest to avoid?
Ming: The most obvious one is sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup and table sugar. Sodas, muffins, breads, pasta, wine, beer, trans-fatty acids. Basically alcohols, refined sugar and trans-fat fried foods. If you really want to inflame your tissues, eat a lot of potato crisps and chips, drink lots of wine and no water. Believe it or not, a lot of my patients come to see me with exactly that situation. They have chronically inflamed tissue and horrifically inflammatory diets.
If you have no money to spend on supplements or treatment, the first thing I’d advise is to clean up the diet. Reduce sugars, increase water intake, stop eating fried foods. Women should have minimum of 1.5 litres per day, men should have at least 2 litres. If you want to take it to the next step, add the glucosamine, add the fish oils.
Yusef: You said you believe in soft tissue work, do you feel that the fascial stretching can replace the need for active release therapy?
Ming: No, there’s nothing like hands on soft tissue work. I’ve studied ART many years ago and have since developed my own system which I have found to be much more efficient. It’s also much simpler, which I plan to teach. But I do feel that if you combine the anti-inflammatory diet with the soft tissue work and stretches, a great number of injuries can be healed very quickly.
Yusef: I’ve found my posture has improved by doing your pec stretches
Ming: Postural stuff is really important, pick and choose the correct stretches. There are a few I’d recommend, the pec stretch is clearly one of them.
Yusef: Would you advise self-myofascial release before or after strength training?
Ming: Again, before or after is fine. I prefer afterwards when the tissue is nice and soft to use either a foam roller or medicine ball. The medicine ball is preferable because it has a spherical contact as opposed to a foam roller which is a line. Use both modalities, they get different angles of attack. This is if you cannot afford to pay a soft tissue expert.
Yusef: I see, I personally use a golf ball, I’m quite masochistic.
Ming: Golf ball is often criticised for being too hard, but it’s very simple: when people get their teeth cleaned, they don’t use a marshmallow. You need something that’s harder than the material you’re trying to break down. So if you’re using a cushioned foam roller to break up adhesions, it just cannot happen. The biggest fallacy is that you have to use something soft. Use something as hard as your body can tolerate without injury. I roll on a canteloupe-sized medicine ball twice per week for 5 minutes on key areas that I have restrictions on. The average person should pick 2 spots and spend 5 minutes on each. That’s all you need.
Yusef: That should be a warning to our readers to just man up and use a harder implement.
Do you feel that posture is a cause or effect of tight fascia?
Ming: It’s not just posture, but gravity too. The typical office worker would go into a flexion posture. The psoas gets tight, the abdomen gets right and distended because you’re sitting. The pectorals get tight, the anterior deltoids, short head of the bicep, buttocks get compressed, the lower back gets overstretched from being in flexion for so long. So you have a dysfunctional pattern which freezes the fascia from staying in a long time. Most of the anterior muscles become foreshortened, and the posterior muscles get over-elongated, giving you a turtle-like posture, appearing like you’re still sitting while you’re standing.
Yusef: So usually for the office posture, hip flexor stretches and thoractic extension are advised, what do you feel is the difference between regular static stretching and fascial stretching in terms of combating lordosis and kyphosis?
Ming: Huge difference. Most people do static stretching rather casually without the intention of stretching the entire fascial chain. My psoas stretch has many components, you’re literally holding everything under tension rather than just plopping your leg down. By clenching the buttocks, tilting to one side and rotating to one side, imagining you’re dragging the bottom knee forwards creates internal tension and a very focused, dedicated stretch. Otherwise it just slips around. There’s a profound difference between regular stretching and fascial stretches.
Yusef: I’ve done that stretch and can vouch that it is felt across the whole chain, it’s intense.
What’s the biggest mistake that you see people making in terms of training and rehab work?
Ming: They don’t hydrate first. They’re chronically dehydrated and inflamed. I will not train, treat or stretch a muscle that is inflamed and dehydrated, as it will make it worse. I tell people first thing’s first. Hydrate properly, get off the carbs and fried foods, and then when you’re less inflamed, do the stretches and medicine ball rolling. Only then do I advise training the muscle.
Yusef: It’s good that you’re empowering your clients to take the first steps rather than treating them and sending them off as they were.
Ming: No, I have people that sometimes take a week or two to get in to see me, and I give them very specific instructions. I had a woman who was drinking only 1.5 cups of water per day and no supplements whatsoever. She had a level 7/10 pain in her hip and lower back. I told her ‘for the next 2 weeks, drink 2 litres and 4g fish oil per day, and don’t eat excess carbs.’ That was all I advised her to do, and it was all she did. In 2 weeks when she came back, her pain went from a 7/10 down to a 3/10.
Ming: Without me even touching her. That’s how important supplementation and diet are.
Yusef: Do you have any final tips for our readers?
Ming: 2 things: First, you are your best therapist. A lot of the injuries you have can be addressed on your own. If there’s no improvement in 2 weeks, that is the point I would go to a professional.
Yusef: That’s encouraging to hear. Do you have a sample stretch our readers can try out at home?
Ming: Yes, for the office worker who is hunched over a computer, the following stretch is great:
Try some Epsom salt baths 3 nights in a row as well, you’ll notice a huge difference.
Yusef: Brilliant. Where can our readers find your book?
Ming: Sure, the method is here:
And the book can be purchased here:
Yusef: Thank you for taking the time for the interview, Ming.
Ming: No problem. It’s a system rather than a single modality and I’ve seen amazing things happen with it. I see a lot of people unnecessarily suffering with injuries that they can fix themselves with this method. I feel the book is legitimate, and it’s to genuinely help people.
If you have any restrictions/niggles/injuries, I encourage you to try the recommendations in this article and see for yourself why I’m so enthusiastic about Ming Chew and his work.
Until next time.