Over the past few years, fascia fitness has become an important topic of discussion in sports and physical development. Previously, fitness was seen as being a combination of muscular strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and neuromuscular coordination. But now, more modern research suggests that our body’s fascial network, a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other, play an important role on movement efficiency, injury prevention and overall body performance. For a more detailed explanation of the fascial network and their role in the body, read AnatomyTrain.com’s article on Fascial Fitness. Below is a video showing what the fascial network is with some explanation on how it affects our bodies.
The point of fascial fitness is to develop a silk-like bodysuit, which is not only strong but also allows for a smoothly gliding joint mobility over wide angular ranges. This, of course, is ideal for dynamic physical activities like the martial arts, but this base will serve to improve performance in almost any sport. But you don’t develop this by doing classical weight training.
Types of Movement Help Develop Your Fascial Network
- Bouncing. When you land on the ball of your foot, you decelerate and accelerate in such a way that you not only make use of but actually build elasticity into the tendons and entire fascial system. The best training effect seems to follow the pleasure principle: feel for that sense of elegance, an ideal resonance with minimum effort and maximum ease.
- Preparatory Countermovement. Preparing for a movement by making a countermovement—for example, flexing down before extending up to standing, winding up before a pitch, or moving the kettlebell toward the body before moving it away—makes maximum use of the power of fascial elasticity to help make and smooth out the movement.
- Whole Body Movement. Engaging long myofascial chains and whole-body movements versus single muscle groups is found to be more effective for developing fascial fitness.
- Adaptive Movement. If you train in a martial art, you’re off to a good start because complex movement requiring adaptation, like those used in the martial arts, gymnastics or parkour, beats repetitive exercise programs. (This above info was found on Ideafit.com in their article, Fascia Fitness: Training in the Neuromyofascial Web.)
If you’d like to do more to develop this form of fitness, here is a list of additional training modalities and practices you can add to your physical regimen that will help:
1. Yoga/Pilates. With their emphasis on whole body movement to strengthen and stretch the body through a wide variety of positions and movements, both yoga and pilates are wonderful additions to your physical training regimen for developing fascial fitness.
2. Kettlebell Training. Most people like to have some form of strength training as part of their training regiment. By choosing certain types, you can simultaneously develop your fascial fitness too. Kettlebell training is awesome for fascial fitness. It offers a wide variety of whole body exercises and uses preparatory countermovements, and it introduces a type of “bounce” in certain types of swings. Below is a video with 24 different kettlebell exercises.
3. Plyometric Strength Training. Plyometrics are exercises based around having muscles exert maximum force in as short a time as possible, with the goal of increasing both speed and power. They focus on learning to move from a muscle extension to a contraction in a rapid or “explosive” way. Some examples of plyometrics include squat jumps, lunge jumps, clap push-ups, burpees (when done a certain way).
4. Foam Roller Myofascial Release. With the same type of benefits as massage therapy, foam rollers are great for applying pressure on various areas of body to help facilitate myofascial release. Doing it regularly helps keep the tissues pliant and mobile. Read Foam Rollers as an Alternative to Massage.
5. Hydration. Fascia is very dependent on water content. More so than any other tissue, if you become even slightly dehydrated, fascia can become sticky and not glide as well. Be sure to maintain a good state of hydration to ensure your fascia is working as it should. Read Dehydration = Decrease Performance for more info on how to stay adequately hydrated.
These are a few ways to develop your silk-like body suit to improve your movement efficiency thereby improving your overall physical performance in a variety of activities. Do you incorporate fascial fitness into your physical regimen outside your martial arts training? Please share how in the comments.