Fascia is the thin, cellophane-like, connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Just like ligaments and tendons, fascia contains closely packed bundles of collagen fibers that are oriented in a parallel fashion.
NOTE : fascia stretching is a painful process and can lead to injuries when not applied correctly.
What is fascia ?
Fascia acts like a girdle and binds a muscle group together, and to its neighboring muscle in many cases. You have to understand that fascia is not some loose tissue, but it’s warped so tight around the surrounding area, almost constricting it.
Subsequently, healthy fascia is a flexible structure that is able to resist great uni-directional tension forces.
So what does fascia have to do with muscle growth ? Well, a muscle can’t grow unless there is enough room to grow. By wrapping the muscles tightly, the fascia limits the needed room for muscle expansion.
You have probably heard about muscle memory. A person who once had a great size and muscularity, can gain size very fast after losing a great deal of muscle, due to a long time of not training.
How is this possible ? While building size, this person also ended out stretching and expanding the muscles encasing tissue. So when they get back to regular training they are no longer fighting the restrictions of tight fascia, meaning their muscles have more room to grow now.
If we want our muscles to grow faster, we have to mimic muscle memory or create an environment that looks like the one where muscles were bigger. In simple words we have to “stretch” the fascia and make room for our muscles to grow.
Here are the steps for a fascia stretching workout:
1. A good warm up
It’s absolutely essential to warm up good before you start fascia stretching. We want to stretch the fascia past its previous limits and for this to happen we need full range of motion.
A cold muscle has a limited range of motion.A cold muscle is also prone to injuries. Therefore we must warm up adequately before we proceed to the next step.
2. Blood pump
A great blood pump will stretch the fascia and surrounding tissues beyond their previous limits. The bigger the pump the better. This does NOT mean you should pick up light weights and pump blood into your muscles.
Muscle growth is achieved by lifting heavy weights and doing compound movements. Lets take the chest for an example : You work your chest with heavy compound movements :
* Bench press 2 x 5-8 (heavy)
* Incline dumbbell press 2 x 5-8 (heavy)
After these exercises you should pick an isolation movement like dumbbell flyes for example and do 5 to 8 sets with moderate weights and higher number of repetitions.
* Dumbbell flyes 6 x 12-15 (you can lower the weight the last few sets in order to complete the reps)
3. Extreme stretching
After the pump sets are finished, you should stretch the muscle beyond the point of comfort.With this action will stretch the fascia even more and ensure even more room for growth.
For the extreme stretching, I suggest the DC stretches. To continue our chest training example I’ll explain the chest stretching technique:
After the dumbbell flys, lower the dumbbells to the bottom position and stretch your pectoral muscles as far as you can. Stay in this position for 30-60 seconds. Note that the pain will become unbearable after just 10-15 seconds.
4. Proper recovery
The heavy training, blood pumps and extreme stretches will do a damage to the connective tissue (Fascia). It will recover and grow larger, but it needs time to do so.
This is not only a painful process, but like any type of extreme training is also stressful, and you will need significant time to recover. This means that you should give your muscles about 4-5 days to recover before the next workout.
Give yourself a week off every 5 weeks or so, in order for the connective tissue to fully recover.