After writing about muscles that won’t grow last week, I received some interest to talk a little more about fascia. When you ask most people if they know what fascia is, they will say no. But most people have some sort of soft tissue ailments and have heard of things such as plantar fasciaitis. All this term means is some kind of fascial problem on the bottom of the foot.
Fascia is in its infancy as far as science is concerned. If you look at the picture above, that is how I describe fascia. Your muscle is the chicken breast and your fascia is the plastic surrounding it.
Fascia is capable of sending electrical impulses across the entire body and it is responsible for holding the muscles ‘inside’ as you see in the chicken breast picture. You can’t really stretch a muscle with static stretching. You are really trying to elongate the fascia and get it to a more optimal balance and this is where foam rolling comes in.
The problem lies in the fact that most people don’t do any soft tissue work and if they do, they simply go through the motions. Non-optimal fascia length will lead to pain, altered movement patters and possibly as I said last week, lagging muscle growth.
10 minutes per day will do the trick. You can use a lacrosse ball, pvc pipe, rolling stick, rolling pin, foam roller or if you are really crazy you can use one of this guys like I do:
Don’t get all ‘glued’ up, roll boy!
The above pic is of one of the gym members at Newell Strength. As you can see from the picture, his right calf is much smaller than his left. 4 years ago, Mike ruptured his achilles tendon and he says that the calf just never really came back.
Now, Mike joined the gym at the right time as I have taken a much bigger interest recently in lagging muscles because I know I am going to have an uphill battle with my left leg after I can full range of motion back. I have read of NFL players with similar injuries to mine not being able to ‘re-grow’ their leg after coming back, which will of course impair performance. Forget about any average folk that rupture a tendon, they are content just to walk again, even if it is with a limp.
So, when I saw Mike’s leg, it presented a great chance for me to put my theory to the test. My theory is that some muscles, injury or not (it is just more pronounced with injury) are ‘trapped’ by the surrounding fascia. The whole purpose of foam rolling is to ‘release’ and make ‘pliable’ the fascia. But here’s the thing, most people only put half ass effort into soft tissue work, thus getting nothing out of it. With Mike, I have him finish every workout with some direct calf work followed by some intense grinding and rolling along a barbell of the fascia surrounding the soleus, gastroc and achilles. So we pump the muscle, expanding the fascia as much as possible and then roll the shit out of the fascia making it more pliable.
I was planning on using this technique with my leg training in preparation of my comeback to the bodybuilding stage for all muscles groups, especially the legs! I will keep you posted of the progress we are making as I am pretty sure this is the culprit behind body parts that are ‘uneven’, although innervation might play a role in it too.
K, quick update, I have been making great progress each and every time at PT. Yesterday one of the therapists asked me to try not and scare the other patients because of my rapping, screaming and intensity in my corner. I approach it just like I would a personal record in the squat. I get in the zone, feel the pain and push through it. I did some light sled dragging this morning and plan on picking up the wheel barrow this weekend to start working with. Keep in mind, I am only 6 weeks post operation from what my PT calls the worst knee injury he has ever heard of. It is all in the mind at this point and I have to be careful not to let frustration set in because as is my nature, I am very competitive even with myself.
I plan on hitting some wheel barrow work early tomorrow morning, followed by PT and then an hour in the pool….the comeback continues….
In a new book that I am reading, Stretch to Win, the authors do a great job of explaining stretching for performance, health and injury prevention in great detail. There was a time when I was religious with my stretching and then somewhere along the way I read those dumb studies that said streching reduces power output and I let the pendulum swing to the other extreme. The fatal flaw in those studies was that the researchers had their test subjects perform a leg curl and then immediately try to perform a maximum vertical jump-the finding was that they couldn’t jump as high. Gee, thanks for the brilliant findings….
Muscles are surrounded by fascia. Fascia is a specialized connective tissue which surrounds muscles, bones and joints, providing protection and give structure to the body (Frederick, 2006). I once heard famed strength coach, Mike Boyle say that if you had a chicken breast and put it in a plastic bag, the chicken breast would be the muscle and the plastic bag would be the fascia. Perhaps that helps you see the importance of soft tissue work such as foam rolling before stretching. In any type of connective tissue, the cells are occupied in a matrix, part of which lies outside the cell, know as the extracellular matrix (ECM). Nerves and blood vessels run through the ECM as well, so when you stretch, they are affected as well. When you wake up or are dehydrated, you may feel tight and sluggish because there is less fluid in the ECM. The fascia is cooler and stiffer upon waking, one reason that a warm up is key before working out, especially in the AM.