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Fascia mechanics

February 28, 2019
Fascia is connected throughout the entire body, from head to toe. Pulling one area affects the system connective tissue.

REALIGN, STRENGTHEN, PROGRESS

“The best thing about the human body is that it has the ability to adapt, and the worst thing about the human body is that it has the ability to adapt!”

Fascia is a complex system of connective tissue, and we have to understand its ability to ADAPT in order to utilize those changes for the better. Here’s the irony: the body’s ability to adapt can be wonderful once we make the corrections, but it can also wreak havoc on the whole system. To grasp this dichotomy and learn to use it to our advantage, we’re going to talk about alignment and biomechanics. Then, I’ll walk you through how you can reset your body’s movement patterns to support a healthy, fascia-centric lifestyle.

I am going to teach you about the 4 stages of fascia reeducation:
1) Scarecrow
2) Robot
3) Cheetah
4) Circus

What you need to know

First, let’s tee this up with a little background.

Alignment in its simplest terms means the position of our physical body. I define correct alignment as having every part of the body -- ankles, knees, hips, spine, scapula, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, toes, and the head -- in their proper place, with open joints and full range of motion. This is what it takes to have structural integrity, which really just means having a stable foundation in your physical structure. It’s vital to master good posture before expecting your body to handle more complex movements. You can do your own self-check at home with the wall test to gauge how close you are to correct alignment. There are also some great tips in my book about correct posture and the 2-finger/4-finger rule.

Biomechanics simply means the way you move your structure. If your basic biomechanics are on point, your body will move in correct alignment. For most of us, though, small misalignments from bad posture build up over time and can lead to compensations, where we don’t use the correct muscles for certain movements. To understand the way the body receives signals from the nervous system, we can compare it to a computer. Every computer has default settings, and it will automatically select those settings unless you manually make another selection. This is like what we call “muscle memory,” when the brain automatically signals the body to move the way it’s used to moving. When our structure is compromised (like having forward shoulders or an unlevel pelvis) our brain can form default settings that use compensating muscles to achieve movements, and these dysfunctions can compound over time. Then, every movement you make reinforces these bad patterns, which is why shortcomings and injuries tend to recur. The body also sends a signal back to the brain that there is a looming problem, and the brain will tell the fascia to “protect.” This is one reason the fascia can clamp down and become crusty and dysfunctional (what we might call “gravel”). To change your biomechanical alignment, you have to totally reprogram your whole system of muscle memories! Don’t worry - I’ve broken this down into steps to help walk you through your own biomechanical reset! Time to reboot!

Let’s take a moment to consider how your body can get this way in order to understand how to correct it. Here is a microcosm view using screen time as the example of how our movements or daily positions can spiral into dysfunction. If you spend a lot of time on your computer hunching forward with your head tilted up towards the screen, your body adapts to that position and creates an over exaggerated curve at the base of your neck. As this becomes your body’s new default setting, this misaligned position carries over to the way you stand, sit, drive, everything! This then translates into your biomechanics, starting from that hunched position and hyper-curved spine while you walk, run, jump, aka MOVE! Even as we lift weights, if we have a hump and a hyper curve as a default, everything we do reinforces the compromised structure. As some muscles become weak from this positioning, other muscles will kick in to compensate. This is where your structure affects movement. Using the FasciaBlaster to address the structure and the 4-stage program I’m going to explain will help you learn new movement patterns and re-establish healthy muscle memory. It is important to change your structure with bodywork and stretching modalities AND change your movements to support correct structure (rather than working against it!). They work together symbiotically! Time to realign!

Four steps to REINFORCE your FasciaBlasting with your biomechanics

Step 1

Scarecrow is the first stage of fascia reeducation, improving structural alignment and posture.

Scarecrow is mastering correct alignment while stationary (just like a scarecrow). We want to adjust to correct posture and reinforce proper muscle memory before we add movement. This stage is really about the non-stop practice of alignment during every single posture such as sitting, standing, sleeping, driving, lying down, etc. Until you can “be still” in alignment, you shouldn’t expect to do anything else in alignment! Be sure to master Scarecrow before jumping to the next stage!

Do this 2-finger/4-finger posture check as often as possible throughout the day to reset your structure. Remember muscle memory is a function of the way the nervous system sends signals; when changing these signals we want to make it easy on the nervous system by giving it minimal data to have to process and change. Being still is the easiest thing on the nervous system.

Step 2

Robot is the second stage of fascia reeducation, practicing good posture with basic biomechanics.

Robot is taking your correct alignment and translating that to movement. At this point we stick with single-joint actions performed in a single plane of movement, such as a bicep curl or leg extension. This will allow you to focus on rebuilding the mind-muscle connection with the correct muscles for each movement, with the proper starting structure! We want to solidify these patterns with correct alignment and mechanics BEFORE getting more complex. Just for a little test of your ability to perform “robot,” see if you feel your hamstrings or hip flexors jumping in to help when doing this glute exercise. This is, of course, just one of the ways you could compensate. But if you cannot isolate a single muscle, in a single joint, in a single plane, then imagine the compensations that will occur in more complex movements like squats. Remember that rewiring movement is based on the nervous system! Adding single joint movement is more challenging on the nervous system than scarecrow, but less challenging than Cheetah. So, when designing your program, the workout does not have to be less intense of a workout on the muscles, just less on the nervous system. You can get a great workout with very simple movements before advancing.

Here’s a playlist of my I.C.E. Foundations videos. There’s no reason not to rewind to this stage! This will be a good check to see if your nervous system has adapted.

Step 3

Cheetah is the third stage of fascia reeducation, advancing biomechanical alignment with more complex movements.

Cheetah is the ability to remain aligned and use proper muscle memory in multi-joint movements while still in a single plane of motion, such as squatting or running. It takes time to rewire these patterns, so I recommend focusing on the sagittal plane, or movements performed front-to-back for cross patterning of the nervous system (aka building new connections). I love the Gazelle even though people joke about it, because it keeps the movement in the hip joint to train the core and hips. This is such an important step before adding in more joints (like knees) required for multi-joint movement. Even simply walking can be an effective exercise, if you practice how to walk correctly. Other great cardio options in this stage are the recumbent bike and the elliptical - watch the videos to be sure you do them correctly (and don’t make fun of the throw-back hair in these oldies-but-goodies)! Then you can try multi-joint movements in the frontal plane such as side bending. Also, be aware when adding impact in Cheetah, such as running. Fascia hates impact, so you will want to spend “equal parts” of time FasciaBlasting as exercising with impact.

When your body is ready for the more complex movement patterns of the Cheetah stage, try this playlist of my I.C.E Basics videos to reinforce correct muscle memory.

Step 4

Circus is the fourth stage of fascia reeducation, challenging posture, biomechanics, and the nervous system to take the body to new levels.

Circus is the ability to maintain alignment and use correct muscle memory in multi-chain, multi-plane movement. This is the stage where you can take your body to new levels! This stage includes athletic activities like dancing, Pilates, CrossFit, Zumba, kickboxing, golf, tennis, or any other actions that push your body structurally and mechanically, and it challenges the nervous system to the max. And whenever you develop more range of motion, you will have to establish new neuro patterns for that. Remember that these activities are counterproductive if you don’t line up your foundation with the other stages first! In fact, doing Cheetah or circus out of alignment and structurally dysfunctional will JACK UP YOUR FASCIA. This is often times how someone becomes beyond bound. So, make sure your program design with FasciaBlasting doesn’t include bad biomechanics that take you two steps forward, two steps back. Be sure to revisit the other stages from time to time to ensure continued structural and mechanical integrity.

Once you master this playlist of my I.C.E. Advanced videos, you’re ready to take on any activity you want!

Don’t Forget

I can’t stress enough to move through these stages IN ORDER! It’s also important to be aware that changes will always happen throughout our lives, so you’ll want to check in with each stage every so often on an ongoing basis. Remember, your body will continue to adapt to whatever you do, so let’s leverage that to support the healthy, active FASCIA-CENTRIC lifestyle we all want!

I recommend joining FasciaBlasters for Advanced Fitness (women only) or FasciaBlasters for Men (men only) for more on FasciaBlasting and FasciaMechanics.