Look at anatomy books filled with beautiful pictures of muscles. You can just imagine those tissues contracting, shortening and lengthening to put force into the ground, which then causes movement. But what if that was not the only tissue contracting? What if there was another type of tissue that was even more important? This tissue, called fascia, is everywhere and is critical for every human function.
Fascia can be defined as a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Previously, the major role of fascia was thought to be just passive, transmitting force through the body only when it was stretched or loaded. Hence, the frequent comparisons to plastic wrap holding the contents of a sandwich together (see Sparta Point 6/30/10).
However, a 2006 study out of Ulm University in Germany found evidence that fascia is capable of contracting like muscle. The authors found myofibroblasts in the fascia, cells which provide evidence that this tissue is capable of contracting. The contraction forces were then measured, and were strong enough to actually impact musculoskeletal mechanics…otherwise known as movement. So your fascia is capable of contracting, which creates tension, eventually contributing to force production, which is the basis behind all athletic movement (see Sparta Point 12/8/10).
So to get fascia stronger, the goal is the same as muscle, pursue exercises that will improve movement patterns as a whole. This concept will target your nervous system (see Sparta Point 1/26/11), which simultaneously trickles down to getting stronger muscles and fascia. But the trick to fascia isn’t really getting it stronger, but allowing it to function better by keeping it healthy. That health starts with myofascial release, and can be done anywhere, anytime.
We have our athletes release their fascia everyday on their own as shown by the video below.
You will notice not only better flexibility, your time of force production (DRIVE), but also more power, which is more reflected in LOAD and EXPLODE. A good rule of thumb is to start at the feet and work your way up the body. This progression will allow you to focus on areas closer to the ground first. For example, if you’re tight in your calves, you should stay there longer before moving onto your thighs.
We recommend releasing on a roller or PVC pipe for 10-20 passes over these tighter areas. After all, we now know that your muscles are not the only tissue contracting.
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