Fascia training for activation and recovery.
People once thought of strength being just muscles, and that fascia (connective tissue) was just useless white stuff surrounding muscle groups and connecting them. But recent research shows that fascia is much more than that.
“Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together, the connective tissue network,” says Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains and co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance. “Humans are made of about 70 trillion cells – neurons, muscle cells, epithelia – all humming in relative harmony. Fascia is the 3D spider web of fibrous, gluey and wet proteins that binds all cells together in their proper placement and also enables them to communicate to each other.”
Just as with most systems, the better the communication and flow within the system, the less effort is required to fulfil a task and so the system is less stressed.
The better your fascial system works, the better you’re able to perform movements and tasks. A trained fascia may also improve proprioception, body tensions and posture. Therefore it’s beneficial to complement your training with fascia rolling.
“When we roll, we apply mechanical pressure to the body,” says Leigh Whitehead, head of training at BLACKROLL® Australia. “We cause a cellular response which is converted internally to electro or chemical signals. These signals could be to increase or decrease fluid to the area, causing better slide of fascia and muscle, or to pull fluid, speeding up recovery, and increasing brain/body connection and cellular communication by increasing nitric oxide levels.”
Using a foam roller or other associated accessories may be a way to increase your fitness and performance and reduce your risk of injury. Try rolling before training for an activation of the neuromuscular system, distribution of soft tissue fluids and an increase in nitric oxide levels, priming the body for intense work. Use during or after training as a way to target areas in functional fascial lines that become overloaded or where discomfort is present. Roll after training for better recovery as well as deep tissue and fluid manipulation. Include deep breathing for a parasympathetic nervous system response (relaxed state) and to bring your body down. For best recovery results fascial roll six to eight hours after training or competition.
“In my own teaching I have had good responses when replacing that with, ‘slowest possible continuous rolling movement’ and the added remark that a super slow speed of 2.5 to 1.5 centimetres per breath could be a great start,” says Dr Robert Schleip, a leading fascia researcher.
“We recommend a discomfort rate of no more than three out of 10,” says Whitehead. “This leaves it up to the individual to gauge, but if it’s too painful the body can tense up, which makes the process counterproductive. For best effects rolling should be performed in a relaxed muscle state.”
When it comes to choosing the right fascia training tools it mainly comes down to what you would like to achieve. The first and foremost criteria should be that you’re using an effective tool that is specifically targeting the fascia.
You need quite a hard tool in order to really be able to influence the fascial structures. BLACKROLL offer three roller densities: soft (still harder than most common foam rollers) for beginners and in medical rehab applications; standard (the go-to density for pretty much everyone from beginner to athlete); and pro (for professionals with a lot of fascia training experience who can never find a hard enough tool).
Fascia training tools come in all sorts of shapes. A fascia roller is probably the most versatile tool in the bag since you can do pretty much everything with it, rolling over larger areas and muscle chains like legs, back and arms as well as specifically targeting hot spots (sore points) which you find along the way.
Balls are to really target hot spots and trigger points which need more attention and pressure. Hot spots are usually dry spots in the fascia with adhesions between the fascia layers. Applying external pressure to dry spots increases fluid circulation in the area.
A mini roller is perfect to work on your plantar fascia (sole of the foot) while standing barefoot on the roller, or it can be used to roll your arms on a table or against a wall. A duoball has the perfect peanut shape for the upper and lower back areas to target the areas on both sides along your spine without putting pressure onto the spine itself.
Research suggests that a smooth roller is better for most applications as you can make sure you’re rolling with the same constant pressure across all the areas you want to target. You also have more control on where you apply pressure.
BLACKROLL recommends using rollers with grooves for activation. The grooves create a slight vibration during rolling which helps to enhance blood circulation in the area, which is useful for warming up. Grooves are usually a bit more painful, but enable a more targeted rolling approach.
The best fascia tools are the ones that are at hand whenever you need them. So a practical size and lightweight tool with longevity that can come with you wherever you go gives you the most benefit. A 30cm long roller gives you all you need to perform most fascia training exercises. Keep it simple, small and practical and you’ll get the most out of it.
For more information and to purchase products, head to blackroll.com.au