How to strengthen your uber important fascia
Recently, while perusing through my FMTV subscriber library of workouts and better-body courses, I found a workout series from Brett Larkin on caring for your fascia. Maybe I’m a little behind the fitness times, but I didn’t have a clue what this was.
(BTW, if you don’t have Food Matters TV you are seriously missing out! It’s the real deal Y’all – think Netflix for health and wellness – and a total game changer for this busy mama. You can learn more here)
So I tried the workout (one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done – more about that later) and then decided to do some research on this fascia thing (because I am the queen of researching all things health and wellness, that’s why).
So what is your fascia and what does the health of this tissue mean for the rest of your body? Quite a bit actually, in fact ignoring this area can lead to serious problems down the road.
Here you’ll learn why healthy fascia is so important and 7 ways to care for it the right way.
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What is your fascia and why should you care?
Fascia means ‘band’ or ‘bundle’ in Latin and is a soft tissue of the connective tissue system.
Fascia forms a 3D matrix that surrounds, connects and supports every organ, muscle, bone, tendon, and ligament in our bodies. This system can be likened to an interconnected web or membrane across all systems within our bodies.
Fascia is made of collagen and is an extension of the nervous system due to the number of nerve endings embedded within it.
Because of this rich system of nerves, fascia is important for proprioception or body awareness and sense of movement.
Fascial restrictions are often the cause of skeletal misalignments resulting in overall stiffness, decreased flexibility, chronic pain, TMJ, joint pain, fibromyalgia and even depression.
Benefits of having healthy fascia
Increased flexibility and ease of movement
When we fail to care for our fascia it will slowly atrophy, becoming stiff and sticky, and eventually, form adhesions or scars.
These adhesions lead to inflexibility and an inability to move quickly, easily and gracefully. The nerve signals that must travel from our brain to our muscles cannot flow as freely with this built up scar tissue.
Better body awareness
This free flow also benefits our coordination and the ability to control our movements and balance.
For yogis of all levels, strong fascia fitness is extremely beneficial for deepening and improving your practice.
Increased motion and functionality
Healthy fascia improves our range of motion and functionality by freeing up our muscles.
Muscles will then be better able to reach their full potential including increased load-bearing capacity, plyometric ability, and explosive strength.
Reduced pain and recovery after workouts
Another huge benefit of fascia fitness is a decrease in the muscle pain we may experience after a strenuous workout.
Most fitness or sports injuries are related to our fascia and not the muscles themselves. Healthy fascia is tear-resistant and elastic.
Reduced chronic pain
Chronic pain of all kinds including TMJ, arthritis, and fibromyalgia greatly benefit by fitness routines that focus on creating healthy fascia.
Many of these conditions are the result of or are exacerbated by skeletal misalignments stemming from scarred fascia tissue.
Increased ability to eliminate toxins
Again, the whole body benefits from the free flow of energy, fluid and nerve signals that accompany healthy fascia.
When this flow is unobstructed (ie no fascia adhesions) toxins are better able to be eliminated rather than becoming “stuck.”
Firm body and higher energy levels even as we age
Well formed and functioning fascia produce smooth body contours rather than lumps and bumps (#nice).
In addition, having healthy fascia will give your body the energy and flexibility it needs to perform all your daily movements well into your later years.
How to strengthen your fascia in 8 easy steps
Unlike muscles that make quick gains (but can be lost just as quickly), fascia improvements happen slowly over time, anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. However, don’t give up! Results are long-lasting.
Because of its interconnectedness, fascia benefits most from full-bodied, multi-directional movement rather than isolated static exercises.
Unpredictable, free-flowing and dynamic movements are essential for a healthy fascia. The key is to twist, stretch, bend, and compress at various speeds and directions.
Yoga can be beneficial as long as these movements are not held in one place for too long. A flowing vinyasa type yoga practice (a method of yoga in which movements form a flowing sequence in coordination with the breath) is best for healthy fascia.
A healthy diet
Fascia benefits from a healthy lifestyle overall as it permeates almost every inch of your body. A diet high in nutritious, enzyme-rich plant foods and low in refined sugar is best for the functions of all body systems.
Adequate hydration and rest
Our fascia relies on the fluid pressure from gravity on the tissues for its strength. Each time you exercise the fascia these fluid levels are somewhat depleted and need to be refreshed.
Just as rest in between high impact strength workouts allows our muscles to repair and rebuild, adequate rest is also highly important for the health of our fascia in order for it to strengthen. Be sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to heal between workouts.
Myofascial release (such as foam rolling)
Any targeted technique used to manipulate the muscles such as myofascial massage, foam rolling or self-massage with tennis balls is beneficial.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when performing self-massage:
- Stay away from bone
- Stop or slow down if you experience sensations that feel sharp, shooting or radiating
- Avoid swollen tissue
- Less is more! Go slow and be gentle.
Rebounding or jumping
Bouncy type movements build elasticity and aid the flow of fluids through the lymphatic and connective tissue systems.
A mini-trampoline is perfect for getting in a quick 5-10 minute rebounding session throughout your day. I keep one in my home office and set a timer to remind every hour to get up from my desk.
Preparatory countermovements & adaptive movements
Preparatory countermovements are those that require we first go backward in order to move forward. Examples include winding up for a pitch, drawing back for a golf swing, or pulling back to release a bowling ball.
Adaptive movements include those performed in martial arts, gymnastics, kettlebell training, Qi Gong, Ti Ji, and plyometrics.
Due to the rich nervous system of the fascia, being mindful is essential in keeping the free-flow of energy throughout this web-like membrane.
Practices such as meditation, EFT, yoga, and breath-work are extremely beneficial.
Another reason mindfulness is so important is that it helps us to slow down and reduce stress. High-stress levels lead to high cortisol levels.
When cortisol levels are too high this causes a downregulating of collagen production and delays the healing process.
In addition, a certain level of sugar is helpful to retain the fluid fascia need, but cortisol makes it difficult for the body to produce these sugars.
Slow down and recharge – your fascia will thank you!
Other tips to keep in mind
- Be gentle and go slow when exercising the fascia, never force it.
- Keep at it! Strengthening the fascia takes time, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Aim for movements that are smooth and graceful (or as graceful as you can manage!) rather than stiff or jerky.
- Practices such as poor posture, stress-induced muscle tension, inadequate breath (short and shallow) and lack of exercise can contribute to unhealthy fascia and the formation of adhesions.
Sounds like our fascia is preeetty important, am I right? (I particularly like the part where healthy fascia gives you smooth, firm body contours #yesplease)
And about that workout . . .
First of all, I love Brett Larkin’s yoga series, so naturally, I wanted to try her fascia fitness series as well.
Brett has you move in all kinds of strange and unpredictable ways.
For the floor routine, I felt like I was imitating some kind of newborn baby animal writhing in all directions (I don’t recommend it for the gym unless you want people to think you’re insane! lol).
As silly as the movements felt, they were surprisingly relaxing and left me feeling calm and clear in a different way than yoga does.
(You can get Brett’s FULL fascia fitness series on FMTV)
Fascia fitness will now definitely be incorporated as a regular part of my fitness routine!
What about you? Have you ever tried a fascia workout?
Hi! I’m Liane, a self-proclaimed ‘scrunchy mom’ (as in semi-crunchy). I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday habits that can transform your well-being and life.