Why is fascial health important?
‘The elegant movements of a dancer, the impressive performance of a circus artist, the powerful goal-striking shot of a soccer star is not only a question of muscular strength, good cardiovascular condition, neuromuscular coordination and good luck in genetics. According to findings in the international field of fascia research, the muscular connective tissue, called myofascia, has more meaning for ‘a body in motion’ than was ever considered decades ago. Recent research findings prove that the body-wide fascial network plays a significant role in force transmission, hydration (fluid dynamics) and proprioception. (Schleip, 2012)
Fascia is the tissue of connection – it joins the top of our head to the tip of our toes. Our fascial bodysuit gives us our shape, communicates our body awareness and is involved in every move we make! Fascia is very adaptable and changes to meet the requirements(or lack of) that we place on it. Davis' law of "Use it or lose it" applies but besides lack of movement there is also repetitive everyday strain or overuse in excessive exercise that can impede the healthy functions of fascia – and ‘out of nowhere’ areas of the body start feeling ‘sticky’, immobile or painful and affect our range of mobility and our sense of well-being.
What is Fascial Fitness?
Fascial Fitness was developed in Germany by Divo Mueller, a famous movement educator and Dr Robert Schleip, head of the Fascia Research Group at the University of Ulm and world-wide acknowledged as the leading figure in fascia research.
The 4 training principles of Fascial Fitness
Research has confirmed that applying specific training principles can induce a healthier fascial tissue and increase the tissue’s elastic storage capacity (Reeves et al. 2006).
The 4 training principles of Fascial Fitness translate the latest scientific research findings into practical applications which are infused with creativity and variety. You can enhance your body’s suppleness, range of motion, elasticity, stability, awareness and injury resistance – so that you can move with ease and grace, bring back the spring into your step and tap into your vitality and zest for life!
1. Fascial Stretching
Realising the interconnectedness of the fascial web means that we can stop boring isolated muscle stretches and can become creative with stretching the entire fascial network. A muscle does not stop at its insertion point but continues as a long myofascial chains (myo = muscle), referred to as ‘anatomy trains’ by Tom Myers. If these continuations don’t function properly then well-coordinated muscular actions can become problematic. Fascial stretching takes the whole connected network into consideration and focuses on stimulating the whole myo-fascial system.
2. Rebound Elasticity
This Fascial Fitness principle trains the fascial capacity to store and release kinetic energy. Through making use of the elastic recoil effect you can maximise the efficiency of a movement and enhance strength, flexibility and pain-resilience. One important practical application of the rebound elasticity training principle is a backpain-prevention program. The thoracolumbar fascia of the lower back is often the source of back painand cultivating therebound elasticity of the lower back will support healthy and safe movement in this part of the body.
3. Myofascial Release
The use of foam rollers, massage balls and the technique of cupping are effective ways to self-treat your myofascial structures. Compression and shearing motions help to dissolve restrictive adhesions, hydrate the tissues and soften the myofascial structures. This will result in a pain reduction, increased flexibility and improved body awareness.
4. Sensory Refinement
Fascia is coined the sixth sense because of the high number of the neural receptors that are located here. Our modern lifestyles don’t encourage us to cultivate our sensory body perception and we often lose this important connection to ourselves and develop ‘blind spots’ in our body. Exploring diverse and creative movement patterns will help to reconnect with parts of the body that might have been neglected. Through increased body awareness you will improve functional movement and reduce your risk of injury.
Of course Fascial Fitness Training should not replace muscular strength work, cardiovascular training or coordination exercises but it should be thought of as an important addition to a comprehensive training program to create wellbeing. Especially since most of the injuries in sports are not related to the musculature or the skeleton but are fascial structures – ligaments, tendons and joint capsules – that have been overloaded.