What is Fascia Training?
Fascia training describes the activities and movements that help to improve the functional properties of the muscular connective tissues in the human body. Fascia, by definition, is a flat band of tissue just below the skin that covers the underlying tissues, separating the different layers of tissue, and enclosing the muscles. These tissues (i.e. tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and muscular envelopes) take part in a body-wide tensional force transmission network and are responsive to training stimulation, aka “fascia training”. To better understand what Fascia is, peel an orange, the white web-like fiber underneath the peel is what we have under our skin right above the muscle.
Fascia Function and Role:
Fascia plays a major role in our body, our perception, our mobility, our sense of well-being and in prevention of injuries. Fascia has four basic elements: stretch, elasticity, refinement and release.
Fascial stretching improves the mechanical properties of fascia. Since fascia is a chain-like structure, doing fascia stretches will incorporate as much of the chain and body as possible. Fascia stretching is also unique as the stretches involve multiple joints and angles of stretches unlike the more common static stretches. This variation in stretches can be more beneficial because when we move and exercise our body moves in a multitude of ways and directions and therefore it should be stretched and warmed up in that same way.
Next is rebound elasticity and this form of fascia training can range in movements from butt kicks to skipping and high knees. The goal of these movements is to strengthen and train the elasticity involved in the movements to help prevent injuries.
Thirdly, we have proprioceptive refinement and this type of training can help one become more aware and comfortable with their movements and coordination. Many movements involved with exercise are not “natural” or comfortable movements due to in many cases, lack of exercise. However, by becoming more comfortable with our body, muscles, and movements it will allow us to move more smoothly and properly, which will also help to avoid injury.
Lastly, we have fascial release, which is the most common form of fascia training. Fascial release is self-massage of the fascia using different types of equipment such as: foam rollers, tennis balls or rubber balls. When doing fascial release, the purpose is to apply pressure onto the connective tissues which then pushes fluids through the tissue resulting in the removal of metabolic products. To get the benefit of fascial release it must be done properly (see video). For example, when rolling on a foam roller you should be rolling in a slow and steady motion to allow the release of the blocked substances. This pressure decreases fascia and muscle tone and can relieve stiffness and adhesions. One of the most common errors that I see is people foam rolling after they complete the workout, foam rolling should always be done BEFORE you begin any type of workout.
The most important function of fascia is to reduce friction of muscular force. In doing so, fascia provides a supportive and movable wrapping for the nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles. As I explained, fascia has a very important purpose and role in our bodies, having a healthy fascia is as important to well-being as healthy muscles. Fascial imbalances can lead to a host of physical problems, from chronic pain to limited range of motion. To avoid these chronic issues with our fascia, keep active and stretch whenever you can!
Joshua Rose - MBA, MES, CPT
Project Wellness Company Madison WI