Fascia - Part 2 / 3 - Can you manipulate fascia?

If you’re into your health and do a bit of regular exercise, you’ve probably heard the term fascia or myofascial.

There are a fair bit of misconceptions about fascial tissue and its influence on health, fitness and training - we hope to clear up a few of those.

Last week, we gave you a brief understanding about what fascia is.

This week, we aim to debunk a few myths around fascia and detail a little more about it’s place within your training.

a. How does it get stuck/stiff?

You’ve probably heard about releasing or manipulating your fascia with deep tissue massage, foam rollers, trigger balls or the next new fad piece of equipment that now vibrates promising incredible improvements.

Unfortunately, these are all myths.

Fascia, like your brain, is plastic by nature – meaning, it has the ability to change according to the environment it is exposed to (see neuro plasticity & fascial plasticity).
So, if you sit all day hunched over a screen, your connective tissue system will adapt or “change” to that posture.
If you do yoga regularly (once or twice a day) or dance regularly, your fascial system will adapt to that – softening or lengthening.
There is no problem with either adaptation – if that’s what you want the system to do for the rest of your life.

The problem arises when the person with the hunched sitting posture starts running/jumping and doing strenuous exercise – putting their “hunched” fascial system in positions they aren’t used to, most likely causing injury.

When the dancer or yogi with soft supple connective tissue attempts to become a runner and really struggles because her fascial system lacks stiffness (which offers free energy to produce efficient running mechanics).

b. Foam rolling and stretching?

Another classic myth is around foam rolling and stretching.
Foam rolling does very little in regard to genuinely manipulate the structure of your fascial tissue. The “release” feeling that it gives is generally neurologically driven from both a central and peripheral sense.
Stretching shows a little more promise, but you have to be very patient. It takes months, if not years to manipulate your connective tissue holding static stretches for 60 – 90 seconds.
By all means, use both rolling and stretching as a down-regulatory tool post training – but thinking it is the secret to increasing your connective tissues range of motion is misguided.

c. Training

What is the secret?

Moving in all shapes and ways. Walking, running, dancing, jumping, squatting, crawling – it doesn’t really matter. The more you expose your body to a range of complex movements in a controlled environment with correct posture and muscle contractile properties, the better it’ll be able to handle the random variabilities of life – which are going to happen whether you like it or not.

So, if you just move in a very limited and linear way day to day, don’t be upset if your body breaks when you ask it to do something different.

If you’d like to change that – find someone who can teach you how to move, learn how to move, and then never stop making time to move.


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