Fascia Training: What’s the Point and How Do You Do It?
In our previous blog post, we learned what fascia is, what it is made of, and why you should train it. This time, expert Susanne Linecker is here to tell us the best exercises for training your fascia.
People often talk about the four elements of fascia training. What do they mean by this?
“Fascia has four basic functions: It shapes, moves, communicates and supports. These functions must work together as one integrated system. This also means that there are four elements that we need to consider in our training: fascial stretch, rebound elasticity, proprioceptive refinement and fascial release. Usually, they are combined and each element has to be performed regularly to really reach all the different types of fascia tissue.”
How can the four training elements be put into practice? For instance, what does stretching do for the fascia?
“Stretching improves the mechanical properties of fascia. Since fascia extends through the body in chains, (also known as anatomy trains), each exercise has to include as much of the chain as possible. This is why any attempt to stretch the fascia always involves the entire body. A good stretch for the fascia chain running along the backside of the body from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet is the following: Keep your legs straight and put one on the edge of a chair. Extend your arms straight out in front of you and lean forward while keeping your back straight. Make sure to twist and turn in all directions to stretch every bit of the fascial area. Imagine a cat stretching and bending – this is a good way to visualize your fascia stretching.”
In terms of elasticity, who can really benefit from these exercises and can you give us an example?
“Springy movements are an integral part of fascia training. The aim is to strengthen structures and train your elastic storage capacity. The principle of tensional energy is the basis of all these exercises that work with elastic rebound. Elastic jumps are, for instance, very important for runners. They primarily exercise parts of the body like the Achilles tendon or calf aponeurosis that are a frequent source of shortening and pain in athletes. The plantar fascia of the soles of our feet gently absorbs the impact of the jumps and transfers the energy into the ground as we rebound back up.”
Can I work these jumps into my training, say into my run training?
“Of course, that would be perfect. They can easily be incorporated into your warm-up by putting a little extra spring into your step when you perform exercises like skipping, butt kicks and high knees. It might help to think of a gracefully leaping gazelle. Another good exercise for training fascia elasticity is stair climbing, both up and down. But there is an even easier way: Just jump around the room to good music. Bounce on one leg or two, backwards or forwards, however you want. Just make sure that you land softly and that your feet make hardly any noise as they touch the floor. Remember that the movements are supposed to be springy and elastic. It’s probably best to do these exercises barefoot to heighten the sensitivity of the soles of your feet.”
Now we come to the third function of fascia, the fascial release. What does this refer to?
“Actually, fascial release is probably one of the best-known forms of fascia training. It involves a kind of self-massage of the fascia with special foam rollers, tennis balls or rubber balls. The pressure placed on the connective tissue leads to an exchange of fluids in the tissue, whereby lymph and other metabolic products are removed. Fascia loves slow, steady, melting pressure that decreases fascia and muscle tone and can even relieve stiffness and adhesions. Many people make the mistake, however, of rolling fast after a workout. Fast rolling actually invigorates the fascia tissue and increases tension, so you should do it before working out and not afterwards!”
And proprioceptive refinement is about movement and coordination?
“Fascia training includes kinesthetic exercises which are designed to make you more conscious of your movements and coordination. Training your kinesthetic sense or proprioception is becoming more and more important in today’s world, where we often get far too little exercise. These exercises should be performed mindfully and without distraction. An awareness of your body allows you to move smoothly and evenly and, in the best case, helps you avoid injuries.”
What exercise would you recommend for this kind of fascia training?
“One exercise would be to become more conscious of the lumbar fascia of your lower back. Lie on your back on the floor or on a mat. Put your legs on a chair and stretch your arms out straight to the side. Ideally, you’ve warmed up by slowing rolling out your lower back with a small fascia roller. Now imagine this large lumbar fascia is a stingray covering your lower back. Your tailbone is the stinger. Now using very delicate movements and slight changes of position try to imitate the movements of the stingray on the ocean floor. Imagine how it uses flowing movements to bury itself in the soft sand. This exercise can help make your senses more mindful of a region that normally receives far too little conscious attention and movement. This lack of awareness often leads to one of the most common health problems, namely back pain.”
How often should you do fascia training?
“Fascia training can be a separate part of your normal training, but it doesn’t have to be. If you already have a regular weekly workout plan, I would recommend integrating more fascia-focused exercises into your existing routine. For those who have to sit a lot at work, here’s a good tip: Throughout the day, raise your arms above your head and bend and stretch like you do in the morning when you wake up. This produces a pleasant tension in your body. Of course, another great possibility for in between is to roll out your lower arms, neck and soles of your feet with a ball or a foam roller. If you are interested in having a more long-term positive impact on your fascia, you should do fascia-focused training 2-3 times per week. It’s difficult to say how long fascia training should last, since it depends on whether you want to spend an hour solely on stretching, rolling out or jumping, or if you want to integrate the individual exercises into your run training. If you use a foam roller after your workout or to warm up, I would suggest at least 5 minutes per muscle/fascia group, (for instance, for your hamstring).”
What tip would you give those interested in starting fascia training?
“For those interested in giving fascia training a try, I would suggest attending a course on fascia training with a qualified instructor or reading a book on the subject. And then you can get started. After the first session, you are practically guaranteed to significantly improve your sense of well-being and body awareness, though you may not notice it right away because your muscles and fascia might be a little sore at the beginning.”
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.