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 roller. Susanne Linecker, fascia expert, first discovered fascia training after an injury and was thrilled by her success with it.
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.
It plays a major role in our body, our perception, our mobility, our sense of well-being and in the prevention of injuries.
4 basic functions of the fascia:
4 fascia training elements:
1) Fascial stretch
“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.”
2) Rebound elasticity
“Springy movements, like butt kickers, skipping and high knees, 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.”
3) Proprioceptive refinement
“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.”
4) Fascial release
“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 after a workout of rolling too fast. Fast rolling actually invigorates the fascia tissue and increases tension, so you should do it before working out and not afterwards!”
VIDEO: How To Foam Roll
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.”
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.