HOW EXERCISE CHANGES FASCIA
Biotensegrity is the balance of compression forces (from bones) and tension forces (from fascia) within our bodies that make us greater than the sum of our parts. Fascia is the collagen and water packed connective tissue that surrounds every part of us, and plays a role in everything from smiling to sprinting. Since we seem to be made mostly of fascia, it follows that healthier fascia equals healthier us.
To encourage healthy fascia, workouts must include three simple elements:
1. Multiple Directions
This is the biggie. Repetitive movements cause our fascia to bulk up. And while excess fascial layers are associated with stiffness and pain, this teaches us that new fascia will form where it is stressed. Creating stress in all directions will generate tissue that is robust from any angle. Lunges are a great place to start. We can lunge forward, backward, to the side, and out on the diagonal. We can do walking lunges, add reaches with the arms, or twist our upper body–the variety is endless.
2. Varied Speeds
When we jump onto a box, or sprint down a track, fascia’s elastic properties help us move explosively. Fascia responds to rapid movement by increasing its elastic ability to stretch and snap quickly back into shape. Slow and sustained movement, on the other hand, encourages plastic deformation of the facia. That is to say, the tissue starts to adapt to the position it's held. This can increase our mobility by stretching out layers of fascia that are causing tightness.
Using various speeds in our workouts means we can lengthen out tight areas and improve elastic function in other areas.
3. Different Loads
Most workouts already do this– usually by increasing weight as we can lift more. But for fascial training, it means changing the way we use load, too. Consider the various tools we can use to add load. Each tool has a different grip, center of mass, and pattern of resistance. A dumbbell, barbell, medicine ball, kettle bell, and olympic bar all affect the body differently, even if they all weigh 20 kilos. Resistance bands, cable stacks, suspension trainers, and body weight workouts also change how we use our bodies to resist force.
These three variables are most powerful when we manipulate them together. Moving in multiple directions with load strengthens our control of tension forces. Moving loads at a different speeds challenges our elastic component. Slow, multi-directional movement allows our fascia to lengthen, improving our mobility.
GETTING IT JUST RIGHT
It is essential that we get the right ‘dosage’ of stress for robust and healthy fascia. Too much, will cause injury. Too little will not fortify the tissue. Start coaching a new multi-directional movement with a light weight, at a slow tempo until your client get the hang of it. As he or she gets stronger in the pattern, you can increase the weight and speed as necessary.