Fascia is the fabric that both binds and glues us together. This connective tissue gives the structure and shape to our bodies, holding our bones in a ‘sea of tension’. It is a 3D spider’s web of fibrous tissue that has remained largely unstudied until recent years and to this day is massively under-appreciated.
You may have heard of the plantar fascia and perhaps thoraco-lumbar fascia as 2 examples but it is literally everywhere within your body; holding and binding things together. Fascia is present inside and surrounding your muscles, nerves and blood vessels. It prevents your organs from moving around your abdomen when you go for a run! It allows muscles to work more efficiently and even for your skin to move freely over your (low percentage) body fat.
Why do we need to consider this fascia stuff to remain fit and healthy?
Well, it has the ability to adapt, to change its structure in both positive and negative ways. It can either move and glide freely or can become inflamed, thickened and stiff. This can affect the way that you move and feel, too. Restriction in one area can lead to pain or injury at another through this ‘connectedness’.
We can utilise the properties of fascia to improve our sports performance, becoming more powerful and/or more efficient. Fascia can store elastic energy and release it; for free! Meaning no additional oxygen or energy is needed and therefore we can learn to move faster or keep moving longer. Who doesn’t want that?!
Here's some tips for keeping your fascia healthy:
- Move regularly (avoid long periods of sitting). The fascia adapts to your chosen posture, therefore give it a range of positions to deal with each day (stand, sit, kneel etc…).
- Take the above point further and adopt some Yoga or mobility work into your week. Move in ways that may not be part of your chosen sport (move laterally, rotate, reach backwards etc…)
- Avoid excessive, repetitive strain (such as involved in some heavy manual occupations). Thinking outside of the gym here, for example the hundreds or thousands of repetitions of a digging movement with a spade.
- Try to work through a full range of motion when resistance training. Too much concentric muscle action in a shortened position could lead to fascial shortening and restricted range. Eccentric contractions will help with this, as will allowing your joint(s) to move through their full (safe) range of motion.
- Incorporate regular massage or foam rolling. These are likely to temporarily allow the fascia to stretch/glide further allowing for improved flexibility and / or relaxation too.
I encourage you to do some further reading and get to know your fascia better….
Phil Ellison www.totaltritraining.com/phil-ellison