Dynamic Stretching and Fascia
Getting the spring back in your step!
What is the fascia?
Fascia is a tensional force transmission system and can be found throughout the body as it envelops muscles and bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs, joint capsules and ligaments and it also is interwoven in all these structures similar to a sponge or three-dimensional web.
Have you heard of hernias, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff and biceps tendinopathies or tears, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, disc herniation? All these “injuries” are a clinical break down of our fascial network and frequently due to repetitive stresses, overtraining or not enough movement!
Fascia is unique as it has the ability to adapt and adjust to strain and stretch through the process of “stimulus-response”
Collagen fibres respond to loading. Lack of movement makes tissue layers less slippery (cross link formation) and causes reduced energy storage for elastic recoil, therefore making us “feel heavy and stiff”.
Healthy fascia receives a daily and large variety of movement so it can stay hydrated, elastic and resilient.
We experience tissue break down with ongoing static or repetitive load: sitting in cars or on desks is the new smoking, and can be cured by “play” and many non-repetitive sports.
Factors that negatively influence the fascial system are:
- Lack of exercise or repeated movement sequences (e g sitting, running, cycling, standing)
- Overexertion (f e through training such as long distance running and cycling)
- Circulatory disorders
- Poor and unbalanced diet
- Accumulated toxins
- Psychosocial and mental factors, e g stress, trauma
Two thirds of the fascia are made up of water! Imagine a sponge- that is what connective tissue should be. Mechanical load (dynamic stretching or movement) assists to squeeze water out and consequently filled with new fluid. It is not enough to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, we need to move if we want this water to hydrate our connective tissue.
How do we train the fascia?
In many sports including Pilates or Strength Training we train the fascia along with the muscles, however the fascia grows more slowly, which in turn means it stresses faster. Correct stimuli and appropriate recovery times are the key.
To stimulate elastic recoil, we need to attempt to jump or bounce but land softly. We need to swing our arms but not control the end of the swing. Allow fascia to recoil and it will improve the elastic rebound over time.
To assist hydration of the superficial fascia, we use foam rollers of all sizes and shapes to roll out our body suit.
We also look for multi angular stretches and apply mini bounces at the end of these stretches. The balance between sympathetic (fright or flight) to parasympathetic nervous tension can be shifted using proper breathing techniques while stretching and releasing.
Finally, we practice listening to our moving body more closely (sensory feedback) and experience the fascia as a 6th sensory organ, communicating to us about where we are in space and thereby not just improving balance but also reducing chronic pain.
At PPP, you will find besides Pilates instructors also Physiotherapists certified in fascia fitness. Fascia and dynamic stretching complements Pilates and Strength Training perfectly as it shapes the connective tissue network and assists muscle control. And it is FUN!
It suits people with very tight fascia (“I could never touch my toes”) or double-jointed people, who need elastic recoil rather than long soft muscles. (Trainings method may vary slightly)
What can we expect according to fascia world-wide research:
2x per week of dynamic stretching and rolling out will allow improved fascia turnover of 50 % in 6 months. It is easy to perform at home or on the road.
Check out “Fuzz speech” by Gil Hedley on You Tube, he is a researcher with skills to make sense of stretching and fascia, it is worth a peek!
Also, research for articles from Tom Myers or Robert Schleip to learn about the latest fascia research on dealing with connective tissue stiffness or body web disorders.
Join us for a dynamic Stretch Class at PPP, incorporating all principles of fascia health: hydration, elasticity and sensory refinement of an important all connecting tissue.