What is fascia and what are the benefits of fascia training with foam roller?

The fascia or connective tissue plays a hugely important role in the human body and this has only recently been discovered. The health of the fascia matters to everyone from your 80 year old granny to todays top athletes. Modern science shows that any kind of performance training or rehabilitation activities are much more effective if supported by fascia training. In contrary if the training or rehab activities are getting performed despite a weak or unhealthy fascia the effects can be negative, often resulting in injury from over use.

It is important to understand that fascia is pretty much everywhere in our body.

It is like a full body suit that holds us together, but not only on the outside. Fascia also slings completely through our body and wraps and connects our muscles, bones, organs, nerves and even the brain. Therefore things like tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles and bones the things that are moving our body are all part of the fascial system. Even the cushions (disks) between your vertebrae are part of this system. So it makes perfect sense that the fascia is hugely important for everything we do, how well we move and even how we feel.

A good way to imagine the fascial structure is if we peel an orange and cut one of the wedges to look at all the little individual pods that hold the orange juice. The pod walls and also the skin that wraps around each wedge are all made of the same tissue which gives the whole orange it’s shape and structure and simply holds it together. The tissue itself also holds a bit of juice which makes it flexible, bendy and strong and therefore able to adjust and react to movement and pressure without breaking.

Our body is structured very similar. Humans also have this inner skin wrapping layers of connective tissue through and around us, holding liquid and cells in place and giving our body an organised structure. Everything that is white in below picture is fascia.

The fascia or connective tissue is really what defines our bodies shape and the ability to move. A well functioning and developed network of connective tissue means a healthy, functional, movable and pain free body.Today we know that any kind of rehab or performance training that does not include a fascia training aspect is nowhere near as effective as holistic training concept that includes a strong focus on the development of our connective tissue. 

Imagine we would take away everything from our body that is not fascia. Remain would the 3 dimensional structure of the connective tissue reflecting our exact body shape and posture and everything what is within us. If you had any injuries or surgeries throughout your life, then these can often be seen within your fascia in form of scar tissue or other irregularities and they all contribute to your current state of fascia and posture.

If we would like to change and improve our posture  or range of motion and even get rid of that chronic pain caused by this old injury, then we have to make these changes within the fascia.On top of that, research shows that because the fascia is everywhere in our body it is also the main communication system. Within the fascia there are a lot of feelers and receptors all over the place. Information and impulses are constantly sent from one place to the other within the fascia and therefore it coordinates and connects our movements, feelings and bounces information between our various organs, limps, brain and muscles and make us do what ever we do. If our fascia is healthy and structured then the information flow is at it’s best therefore we are functioning at our best. For athletes and team players this means that with a healthy and well activated fascia your skills, coordination and reaction are at their best.

According to my teacher, Robert Schleip, head of the Fascia Research Group at the University in Ulm Germany, the fascia is a tensional fluid system. An easy way to look at it is if we are comparing it to a sponge. If a sponge is dry and not soaked in water then it becomes hard and brittle. In this state, the sponge can be easily broken and it does not like to get moved or exposed to pressure, twisting or pulling forces.However if our sponge is wet and soaked full of water, then it becomes very flexible and springy and you can crunch it together and pull and twist it and it will just bounce back in it’s original shape once you let go of it.Our fascia is very similar to that, therefore the most important thing that makes our fascia happy and functional is hydration, hydration, hydration.The more hydrated our fascia is the more flexible, mobile, stable and integer our bodies become. Better hydrated fascia also means more organised fascia, which improves the flow of information and also reduces restrictions and adhesions within the fascial layers. This again means improved mobility, flexibility, coordination and even strength.  

Therefore drinking lot’s of water is very important, but it is not enough! We have to make sure the water we drink also gets nicely distributed throughout our fascia. Unfortunately this does not just happen while we sit on the couch or in the office. If we just drink a lot of water and do nothing then we mostly just increase the amount of times we go to the bathroom.What we need to do in order to get the water into every corner of our fascia is move it there.The good thing is, that it is actually very simple to do that. We just need to move and roll our body.

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