Train Your Fascia, Tone Your Body
Train Your Fascia, Tone Your Body
Studies show that collagen tissue in young people as well as well-trained myofascial tissues often have a lattice-like structure. This applies specifically to tissue that is stretched in different directions on a daily basis. Ideally the muscle is not only stretch loaded in length like a tendon, but also widthwise, which is the case when the muscle fibers contract, creating bulky belly muscle. The lattice-like architecture of the fibers handles these different demands ingeniously. The following illustration shows how these structures change in the course of our lives if we don't get enough exercise.
If you don't move, you get rusty. With lack of exercise, the fascia loses its lattice-like alignment, sprawls in every direction, and literally becomes matted. In addition, the wavy microstructure of individual collagen fibers is lost and with it the springy, elastic tension (image on the right).
Connective tissue: the movement organ
"You have got to move!" This demand applies particularly to the fascia. This apt assertion comes from the renowned sports physician and doctor for the German national soccer team, Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt, who some years ago published a book with that title on the athletic trainability of connective tissue.
When connective tissue is young and elastic, the microstructure of the individual collagen fibers is clearly corrugated. Scientists assume that this cunning construction plan is an essential basis for the elastic storage capacity of well-trained collagen. This phenomenal ability to store kinetic energy short term and then vigorously release it enables happy skipping, bouncing, or an efficient running performance.
As it ages, but most of all from lack of exercise, the tissue loses its lattice-like macro- and wave-like microstructure. The collagen fibers no longer react to tensile stress like an elastic spring, but rather more like a brittle rope. The fibers sprawl wildly in every direction, form lots of crosslinks, and get matted. Everyday movements become awkward and labored. We are no longer able to bend over as easily to, for instance, tie our shoes or we lose that springy tension when we climb stairs. This is caused not only by the weak, shortened muscles but more especially by the fascia fibers that have become brittle.
A healthy fascia is juicy. The youthfulness and slipperiness of collagen tissue is largely determined by the dynamics of the liquid matrix.
Myofibroblasts: Collagen Tissue Architects
Five questions to Robert Schleip, PhD
A healthy body immediately reacts to injuries to the outside of the skin or to the inside that are caused by an accident or an operation. The local tissue sends signals as quickly as possible to trigger multiple cell reactions one-by-one with the goal of closing the wound with a scar.
1. Which cells are particularly active during the healing process?
Schleip, PhD: "They are the myofibroblasts that we have done quite a bit of research on at Ulm University. I call them supermen because they are four times as strong and produce much more collagen than the ordinary fibroblasts from which they originated."
2. What is the function of fibroblasts?
Schleip, PhD: "Fibroblasts are ordinary jack-of-all-trades cells in the connective tissue. For instance, they produce collagen, but they also eat it when it gets old. They perform this task with most of the other components of the matrix that surrounds them."
3. And what happen