I have a super cool client who is an Ultra-runner. He has been asking me how to care for his fascial system long term...how do you exercise the fascial system, or better yet, how do you keep the fascial system healthy?
I did some digging from what has now become somewhat of my fascia bible: "Fascia, the tensile network of the human body".
In chapter 7.22 I found a chapter titled "Fascial Fitness: Suggestions for a Fascia-Oriented Approach in Sports and Movement Therapies"
when an athlete cannot complete their given sport due to soft tissue pain, it is not always and often not at all, the musculature or skeleton...instead it is the connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, etc.) that have been loaded beyond it's capacity
if one's fascial body is well-trained (optimally elastic and resilient) then it can be relied on to perform effectively and offer a high degree of injury prevention
until now most emphasis in sport has been on muscular strength, cardiovascular conditioning and neuromuscular coordination...however pilates, yoga and martial arts have taken connective tissue into account
fascia is often discussed but not specifically included in exercise and movement modalities
a recognized characteristic of connective tissue is adaptability: when put under increasing strain, it changes it's architecture upon demand
example: through our everyday upright standing and moving posture, firm and dense fascia developed on the outside of our legs (IT Band)...if you rode a horse everyday the opposite would happen to your structure
type of movement seems to matter with change in adaptability: a specific type of sport and respective training and loading pattern can change the mechanical properties of tendons so that the use of their elastic energy can be optimized
Elastic Recoil of Fascial Tissues
there is a catapult mechanism between fascia and muscle in the human body: there is a release of stored energy that creates a spring like action during muscle contraction
a significant part of the energy of movement comes from this springiness
in the past we assumed that in a muscular joint movement, the skeletal muscle involved shorten and this energy passes through passive tendons resulting in movement. this is still true for repetitive movements (like biking). the muscle fibers actively change length and the connective tissues don't move much.
however, with oscillatory movements with a spring-like quality, the muscle length doesn't change much ( holding an isometric contraction) but the connective tissue / fascial elements function in an elastic way similar to a yo-yo. the lengthening and shortening of fascial elements produce the actual movement
preparatory countermovement: start with a slight pretensioning in the opposite direction, comparable to a bow to shoot an arrow (just as the bow has to have sufficient tension in order for the arrow to reach its goal, the fascia has to become actively pretensioned in the opposite direction). this is achieved by the body's axis slightly tilting backward for a brief moment, while there is an upward lengthening.
ninja principle: when performing bouncy movements like hopping, running and dancing, one needs to execute the moment as smoothly and softly as possible...any extraneous jerking movements should be avoided
dynamic stretching: rather than motionless static stretching, a flowing stretch is. stretching before competition can be counterproductive, but long-term and regular dynamic stretching can be positive to help fascia become more elastic. Muscles should first be warmed up, and jerking/bouncing should be avoided. dynamic fast stretching has more of an effect on fascia when combined with a preparatory countermovement. example: when stretching hip flexors, a brief backward movement should be introduced before leaning into the stretch forward. instead of stretching isolated muscle groups, its best to find the body's longest myofascial chain. Also, incorporate multidirectional movements with slight changes in angle ( sideways, diagonal, spirals )
proprioceptive refinement: this has been shown effective in reducing the frequency of injury in athletes. proprioceptive nerve endings are located in superficial layers and at smaller joint angles movements. more mechanoreceptive nerve endings are found in the superficial fascial layers. continuum movement is a good modality for this principle.
hydration and renewal: it is often recommended to interrupt running with short walking intervals because the fluid is pressed out of the fascial tissues and they function less optimally in their elastic and springy resilience...the walks rehydrate the tissue and allow for fluid to move back in
This is dense! But fascinating!