The study of human Fascia is an emerging field in the health and fitness community right now. You don't have to research it for long to realize what a fascinating development it is! Ever since I first heard the word, I have been bonkers for all things FASCIA. In fact, the study of this important part of our physiology is so new that if you search “Fascia” on google, the first definition that pops up is:
“Fascia: n., a wooden board or other flat piece of material such as that covering the ends of rafters.”
Well, not exactly what I was looking for! Do a Google search for “Quotes about fascia” and you get construction websites talking about quotes for providing the above mentioned product.
First: What IS this stuff called "Fascia?"
You've probably seen fascia before and didn’t even know it. Have you noticed that "white stuff" on the anatomy mannequin? Yep, that’s fascia. Or at least, the visible part of it. This is the best definition of Fascia that I have yet found is this, courtesy of John F. Barnes, PT and Myofascial release specialist:
"Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider's web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.
Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.) A high percentage of people suffering with pain and/or lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but are not diagnosed."
Thanks to this network of interconnected fascia, your brain does not compute movements in terms of biceps and deltoids, pecs and traps. Instead, the brain creates movements in terms of large fascial junctions and individual motor skills. In reality, we have ONE muscle and it hangs around in 600 or more pockets of, you guessed it, FASCIA. Muscles do not attach to bone. They attach to Fascia. The movement of the muscles pulls on the fascia, and the fascia is attached to the tendons, which attaches to the periosteum. The periosteum then pulls on the bone.
As anyone with a fitness background knows that muscles have an origin and an insertion (sometimes, multiple origins!) Since muscles do not attach to bone, and attach instead to Fascia, the Fascia will distribute strain laterally to neighboring structures. The strain or pull at one end of the muscle is not necessarily taken by the insertion on the other end. For example, not all of the strain of a hamstring curl is distributed to just the hamstrings, it can be transferred over to neighboring structures.
If you experience physical trauma, scarring, inflammation, and even emotional trauma, the fascia can become tight or restricted and become a source of ongoing tension from the rest of the body. Changes to the fascial network caused by trauma from a car accident, injury, poor exercise form, surgery, or habitual poor posture can directly influence how we feel, how we perform, and our ability to activate our muscles. As the picture below shows, even your feet are and hands are riddled with fascia! I mean, think about what a beating our feet take on a daily basis- no wonder plantar fasciitis and fallen arches are cropping up all over!
Fascia and Exercise
Whether you are a weekend warrior, lifelong exerciser, athlete, pilates gal, weightlifter, or yogi, this next bit will be of interest you.
As it relates to exercise, our fascia can become "jacked up" and become tight, restricting the performance of the muscles underneath. If you do high intensity workouts like running or lifting heavy weights with improper form, this will definitely cause your fascia to clamp down to protect the muscle underneath. Furthermore, if you do those workouts with any kind of alignment issue, such as a posterior pelvic tilt, hip jam, muscle imbalance, or shoulder impingement, that will also throw the body out of proper alignment and can be damaging to your whole fascia system. Chronic pain, frequent injury, inability to hold a chiropractic adjustment, lack of flexibility and decreased range of motion are just a few of the symptoms of jacked-up fascia.
Also, when fascia is tight, it restricts the ability of the nerves to signal properly. Nerves are the messengers that send signals from the brain to the muscles. When the signal is disrupted or gets choked out by tight fascia, the muscle output is lessened, and you can't get as much out of your workouts. Fascia can also encase the muscles, not allowing the muscle "cuts" to show through. Furthermore, your muscles can become so encased with fascia that it can restrict or limit the size of muscle growth!
This is all well and good, but how do you go about restoring healthy fascia function-without creating further imbalance?
I haven’t found anything that my body likes and responds to better than Mind-Body fitness with a focus on Fascia (aka: the T-Tapp method.) Not only have I personally experienced the benefits, as a trainer I've seen others rehabilitate and transform their bodies using the techniques. Here is a preview of the T-Tapp First Steps Fascia Fitness workout. It may LOOK easy, but give it a try and you will quickly find that it is much harder than it looks! There is even more focus on fascia, body alignment, symmetry, and maximized muscle activation.
To me- and many others- T-Tapp is THE Fascia workout, and is the only of its kind. No contest. It was created with the health of your fascia in mind, and it is a pioneer in the field of fascia fitness. Not only does it equally and synergistically activate the muscles while teaching alignment and proper form, it stretches and works the fascial junctions & the fascia layers like no other. This allows you to get the most out of the time you spend exercising!
So, what happens when you work towards the restoration of healthy fascia?
Causes muscles to fire harder and more effectively.
Opens up fascia to allow full nerve signaling by the brain.
Allows those cuts you’ve worked so hard to create to become visible.
Improved flexibility and thus injury prevention.
Better production of collagen in the skin (bye bye, cellulite!)
Improves your muscle’s response to stimulus (i.e. more #gains)
Healthy fascia is just one reason I decided to become a T-Tapp trainer. There are so many other benefits, and you can read about some of them here and here. I know lots of folks who use the T-Tapp workout along with their regular workout routines. Adding it in promotes healthy fascia while balancing muscle imbalances, correcting habitually bad posture, rehabbing the knees and joints- all of which helps you perform at the top of your game. It also teaches you techniques that you can apply in any area of your life, whether you are a powerlifter or a powerwalker.
As for me, T-Tapp is pretty much all I do with the exception of a hike or walk outdoors. Yet, if I get the hankering, I can still go into a gym and comfortably deadlift 1.5 x my bodyweight....and not be sore the next day. Dense, balanced muscles are ready for anything!
Recently released T-Tapp workouts are now available for web streaming, anywhere, anytime!
Our bodies are designed in such a beautiful, intricate way. I am passionate about helping others work with their body to achieve optimal fitness and live life pain free- without the use of medication or invasive techniques. Feel free to contact me for information on T-Tapp and how it can help you- regardless of age or fitness level!
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified T-Tapp Trainer, and Certified Fitness Trainer (ISSA)
References & Resources
- Thomas W. Findley, MD, PhD, “Fascia Research From a Clinician/Scientist’s Perspective,” International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, (2011).
- Robert Schleip et al., Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body (Elsevier, 2012), 77.
- Teresa Tapp: www.t-tapp.com
- J.C. Guimberteau, “The Sliding Mechanics of the Subcutaneous Structures in Man Illustration of a Functional Unit: The Microvacuoles,” Studies of the Académie Nationale de Chuirurgie (2005)