Fascia: What Is It, How Do You Train It, and Why Bother?
“Fascia training” is currently taking the sport and fitness world by storm, whether it be in the form of books, research articles or special training tools like the popular foam rolling. Susanne Linecker, fascia expert, knows first-hand the importance of fascia and explains why people should pay more attention to it, for fascia-focused training not only prevents injuries, but offers many additional benefits.
As an enthusiastic runner and hobby triathlete, Susanne Linecker first discovered fascia training after an injury and was thrilled by her success with it. But the first thought to cross the mind of many more or less ambitious hobby athletes might be the following:
Why switch training methods when the ones I’m using (strength training, stretching, etc.) work?
- Aren’t I automatically training the fascia when I do sports?
- What? Another “must” workout? How am I going to fit that into my schedule?
“Fascia training is not some kind of completely new training method. It is not intended to replace any of your other exercise routines nor fill up your precious freetime so you don’t have time for the actual workout,” explains the expert. Fascia training merely adds a missing component which, if done properly, can easily be integrated into your existing training routine. “And it will definitely enrich and enhance it,” promises Susanne Linecker.
Many training programs (for instance, Pilates, yoga, etc.) emphasize that by doing them you condition the fascia as well, but most of the time this is only partly true or more by accident than design. “This is often not really an efficient way because fascia requires its own approaches and very specific movements,” explains the expert.
The following example is a good case in point: When you are training for a marathon, you also “sort of” exercise other muscles, but that doesn’t mean you can go into the weight room and start pumping serious iron. You haven’t specifically trained the muscles needed to do this – the key factor here is targeted training.
Fascia – what is it?
Fascia (aka “connective tissue”) is the material that runs through our entire body, enveloping our organs and giving us form and structure.
If you slice open an orange, you can see the fine web of white fibers that gives the fruit its shape and holds the juice and flesh in place in the tiny sacs. Fascia plays a similar role in the human body. “What many people don’t know is that because of its many sensors for movement, position, tension, pressure and pain, fascia is our largest sensory organ, covering more area than our skin,” states Susanne Linecker, who works as an occupational therapist in hand rehabilitation and in-patient rehabilitation in orthopedics and neurology.
The expert has observed that over the last few years more and more people have begun recognizing the great importance of the fascial system. It plays a major role in our body, our perception, our mobility, our sense of well-being and in the prevention of injuries. But fascia only functions if it gets sufficient use and exercise. Fascia runs throughout our entire body like a web, containing different amounts of fluid and woven in varying degrees of thickeness. It can exhibit high elasticity, density, and tensile strength or it can be soft and loose.
The building blocks of fascia
Fascia essentially consists of the basic building blocks of life: protein and water. The composition of the tissue differs depending on the region of the body. That is why there are different types of fascia in the body:
- tendons and ligaments
- tight sheaths around organs
- extremely thin layers around individual muscle bundles
- connective tissue capsules of joints
The web of tissue in our body is made up of the structural proteins collagen (stretchy and tough) and elastin (highly elastic). Connective tissue cells produce these two proteins and are distributed throughout the fascia web. They constantly make new cells, regularly replace tissue and produce the number of fibers needed in an organ or body region at a particular moment. They also react to loads (demand) from the outside (e.g. training stimuli). The more intense the stimuli are and the longer they last, the more the tissue will change and the faster it will adapt to the stimuli (remodeling of half the fascia tissue in approx. 1 year). “Thus, specific training stimuli can, for example, make a runner’s Achilles tendon more resilient and elastic, which helps prevent injuries,” advises the expert.
“The connective tissue cells and fibers are surrounded by the fluid ground substance, known as the matrix. It plays a key role in supplying the connective tissue cells and the organ to which the particular connective tissue belongs,” emphasizes Susanne Linecker. Depending on the type of tissue, it is composed of varying proportions of defense cells, lymph cells, fat cells, nerve endings, and blood vessels and the water content differs, too.
Water plays a crucial role as a medium for cell metabolism. The water is stored by hyaluronic acid (a sugar molecule). This is responsible, among others things, for a wrinkle-free complexion. The water content and the exchange of fluids is the target of some fascia training exercises.
What are the benefits of fascia training?
Besides techniques for fascia therapy, Susanne Linecker is an enthusiastic supporter of the increased use of active fascia training with patients of all age groups. She is currently getting trained as a fascial fitness trainer, which is how she knows why fascia training plays a vital role in
- preventing injuries and pain
- maintaining youthful elasticity and resilience
- increasing energy reserves (e.g. powerful, bouncy running style or high leaping ability)
- enabling faster recovery of the muscle-fascia unit
Have you already tried fascia training? We’d love to hear about your experiences with it in the comments below.
About Susanne Linecker:
As an enthusiastic runner and hobby triathlete, Susanne Linecker first discovered fascia training after an injury and was thrilled by her success with it. She works professionally as an occupational therapist in hand rehabilitation and in-patient rehabilitation in orthopedics and neurology. Besides techniques for fascia therapy, she is an enthusiastic supporter of the increased use of active fascia training with patients of all age groups. She is currently getting trained as a fascial fitness trainer.