Fascia is defined as a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Fascia forms the biological container and connector for every organ. Every single cell in the body is hooked into and responds to the tensional environment of the fascia (Ingber 1998). Did you know that there are 10 times more sensory nerve endings in your fascia than in your muscles? Recent research has demonstrated that most sports-related injuries are actually connective tissue/fascial injuries, rather than muscular injuries. This research proves the importance of training fascia and other connective tissue through functional fitness exercises, in order to prevent and repair damage, while continuing to build resilience.
Fascia allows us to move multi-directionally and is our force transmitter. Internal and external forces are dispersed throughout the body primarily through the fascia system when we run, jump, exercise, and perform simple daily tasks. Repetitive movements, or even non-movements (such as standing or sitting for long durations), have an effect on our soft tissue system that can be positive short term, but negative long term. Soft tissue has the ability to remodel itself for stronger and more efficient directional movement and force absorption. However, this can cause the fascia to become rigid and stiffer along stress lines and weaker in surrounding areas over time, increasing the risk of tears and immobility around joints. The moral of the story… whole-body exercises are a critical means of training the facia system to dissipate force and minimize isolated joint tension.
When creating a training plan for the fascia system, the key to success is whole-body movements performed multi-directionally with varying force and tempos. Dividing the body into four sections based on myofascial lines (back, front, lateral, and spiral) is a good way to think about it. Below is a sample workout using a functional fitness staple: dumbbells. The VTX Vinyl Dumbbells are perfect for increasing strength while performing multi-directional exercises. The vinyl coating makes them easy to grip and easy to clean, and prevents damage to floors. The hexagonal shape prevents rolling, and the bright colors make it easy to tell them apart.
- Front line exercise: Staggered stance overhead press. While pressing the weights (one in each hand) overhead, drive front knee forward into a half lunge, lifting chest as eyes follow the hands. Return to start and repeat 10 times.
- Back line exercise: Anterior overhead press in staggered stance. While pressing the weights up and forward about 45 degrees, tilt forward from the hips slightly, gently pressing back heel towards the floor. Return to start and repeat 10 times.
- Lateral line exercise: Overhead and lateral press with feet under hips. While pressing the weights overhead and laterally, drive hips in opposite direction from hands with eyes following hands (making a “C” shape with your body). Return to start and repeat 10 times.
- Spiral line exercise: Rotation stepping lunge. Taking a step forward into a lunge position with knee over ankle and front thigh parallel to the floor, while twisting waist and hips towards the front knee. Return to start and repeat with the alternate leg. Repeat 10 times alternating between legs.
Training the body as a whole, moving multi-directionally, while focusing on the fascia system is a proven way to improve joint mobility, strength, and coordination, and also prevent injuries. No expensive equipment is needed, so fascia the facts, grab a dumbbell, and get started today!