Fascial Fitness in Practice

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In last month’s article on why fascia is so amazingly fascinating, you learned that fascia is everywhere throughout the body, acting as the glue to keep our organs intact, blood vessels and nerves protected, and creating borders and boundaries between muscles and around joints. It also plays an important role in our body’s supporting structure, improving our ability to generate elastic forces necessary for producing the power and elastic recoil necessary for make jumping possible and making running appear effortless for those who can tap into this “free” energy. Finally, the most recent research is finding that fascia may also play an important role in reducing the effect of delayed onset muscle soreness after the performance of eccentric exercise. All of this, and yet it is one of the most neglected tissues in our body, thrown away as tissue waste as medical professionals dissect to find more interesting structures to study.

Now that fascia is gaining a role of importance in the body, what do we do with it? How can make our fascia work in our favor, supporting our body structures, giving the springiness in our step, without becoming so tight it becomes a literal internal straight jacket (picture the hamstring muscles that never get loose despite non-stop stretching and foam rolling )?

Exercises that target the fascia are very popular in Europe, searchable under the term “fascial fitness”. The focus of exercise for the fascia is simply stretching the connective tissue of the body in all of the directions that the fascia is aligned- in parallel, perpendicular, and in oblique directions compared with the structures around it. Fascia consists of collagen aligned like multi-directional springs that need to be uncoiled in a springy, ballistic fashion to effectively address fascial tightness. Exercises that enable stretching in multiple directions, that are performed repeatedly with little to no holds are considered the most effective way of addressing tight fascia. Current exercise forms such as Zumba, fast moving yoga, and some Pilates moves, if performed repeatedly and in variations from one position holds are really the idea here. Flashback to the ballistic stretches performed by our parents after a work-out, and you’ll get the idea.

The tightest areas of fascia frequently found in my physical therapy clients are the borders of the IT band and quadratus lumborum that affect trunk side bending, hamstrings, anterior hip and trunk, and low back into the posterior hip region (includes high/hamstring/runner’s butt). Also tightness in the latissimus dorsi region behind and under the shoulders extending into the mid back are also frequent areas of concern.

Lateral Trunk/IT Band

Lateral Trunk IT Band 1Lateral Trunk IT Band 2Lateral Trunk IT Band 3Lateral Trunk IT Band 4

 

Anterior Trunk

Anterior Trunk 1Anterior Trunk 2Anterior Trunk 3Anterior Trunk 4

 

Low Back

Low Back 1Low Back 2Low Back 3Low Back 4

 

Post Hip/High Hamstring/Runner’s Butt

Runner's Butt 1Runner's Butt 2Runner's Butt 3

 

Mid Back

Mid Back 1Mid Back 2Mid Back 3Mid Back 4

 

Under/Behind Shoulders

Under/Behind Shoulders 1Under/Behind Shoulders 2Under/Behind Shoulders 3