The roles of muscles, tendons, cartilage, ligaments and organs and their function in optimal mobility, health and movement are well known even to the most uneducated in such topics. But what about fascia? Do you know what it does and how much of an impact it can have on your chances of getting injured but also achieving the body you desire?
What is Fascia? The body is a vast web of fascia. It is a complex web of skin that surrounds and interweaves with every tissue within your body. It provides attachments between these tissues e.g. intestines to the ribcage and muscles to tendons and onto bones.
It is vital to understand the importance of keeping a mobile, damage free fascial system in terms of optimising both quality of movement in and out of the gym which will in turn help you achieve the physique you desire. Maintaining fascial integrity and mobility will not only minimise the risk of dysfunction and the inevitable on set of injury, it will provide room for your muscles to grow allowing for a much fuller, more muscular physique.
The make up of a typical muscle and the position of the fascia
What happens when the fascia becomes dysfunctional? Fascial dysfunction normally occurs over time. The consistent stress of weight training and cardiovascular work takes its toll on each and every tissue in the body. Tension and tightness can then present itself in any of the following ways:
- Muscular tightness
- Adhesions within the muscle
- Pain and discomfort around joints
- Muscular pain
- Poor flexibility
- Poor mobility
If fascia is the cause of these symptoms then finding the culprit can sometimes be a tricky task. As mentioned before, the fascial web interweaves throughout the bodies tissues. So pain in discomfort in one area may not necessarily mean that it is localised to the affected area. For example. Many people who experience issues with their lower back, glutes and other posterior chain muscle groups may, in fact be having issues with the one fascia that they may not be thinking about. The plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is located in the bottom of the foot and is the first port of call for the body when walking, running, jumping and any other activity performed on your feet. Any tightness or dysfunction at one end of the chain can have a knock on effect to the other. Meaning that if the plantar fascia is tight then tightness and poor mobility can occur from the calf, hamstring and up to the gluteals and lower back muscle groups.
How to remedy fascia dysfunction?
Luckily, fascia can be stretched and mobilised in order to restore optimal function and allow for freedom of movement to perform at your best in the gym. Here are some of the best methods of improving the health of your fascial system and when they can be used.
The foam roller is a fantastic and inexpensive tool and one that every serious trainer should have close by at all times both in and out of the gym. It can be used to stretch muscle fascia and iron out any adhesions within the muscle that may be impairing optimal movement for a certain exercise. Foam rollers can be used prior to workouts, during a workout to open the fascia and allow for increased blood and nutrient flow into the muscle and post workout to increase mobility and again release any tension within the working muscles. 10- 15 minutes per day, concentrating on problem areas will provide positive results.
Trigger point therapy kit:
Trigger point therapy kits are awesome at mobilising the fascia in those hard to reach areas. Calfs, forearms, plantar fascia and any specific adhesions in the back that are harder to pinpoint when using the foam roller. The block provides a well needed base when working at unconventional angles and the ball provides more direct pressure than the foam roller to really work deep into muscle tissue.
Massage therapy is probably the most effective form of remedial therapy to improve fascial health. Benefits of regular massage therapy don’t just stop at fascial health. Toxin release, increased blood flow, improved mobility, improved flexibility are all part of a good massage therapy treatment. This provides the best all round way to minimise the risk of getting injured when working out. Regular massage therapy can be on the expensive side but you must see it as an investment in your health and results as you would supplements and hiring a trainer.
So next time you step into the gym. Spare a thought for your fascia, the role it has in each exercise you perform, and when treated watch your lifts improve and your physique change.