When trying to achieve certain goals such as losing fat and gaining muscle, enhancing your performance in a sport, or improving your overall health, utilizing stretching in your workout is the last thing people think to do. While weight training, cardio, and nutrition are key components to reaching a fitness goal; stretching, specifically fascia stretching, is a hidden element often overlooked from a workout plan. Understanding what deep, muscular fascia is, how tight muscular fascia can hinder the body, and the importance of fascial stretching – will benefit your health, athletic performance, and physique in many ways.
Using a basic anatomy explanation, every external muscle on the human body is ensheathed by deep, muscular fascia. Muscular fascia separates individual muscles, binds together muscles with similar functions, helps distribute nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels, and fills spaces between muscles. Basically, muscular fascia is like the tubing around a link of sausage! Some individuals have super-tight, super-constrictive fascia, but over time even the tightest of fascia can be loosened.
So how can tight muscular fascia really affect us?
More than you probably realize. Tight muscular fascia can limit muscle expansion and growth, so no matter how hard you train your biceps their growth will be limited in a tight fascia. Constricting fascia can decrease the strength in a muscle, and consequently never allow you to reach your full weight lifting potential. Lastly, your flexibility and muscular range of motion will be limited. This can affect individuals of all ages! Muscles that are stiff, brittle, or inflexible are more prone to injuries such as a rip, tear, or pull.
In 1989, John Parrillo of Parrillo Performance, devised a revolutionary system of stretching that causes muscular fascia to loosen and become more pliable. Parrillo discovered that by using certain stretches along with specific weight training exercises, that muscular range of motion would be extended. Parrillo discovered that by using these intense, ROM-extending stretches, between each set, individuals can elasticize the fascia sheathing. Once the fascia is loosened, muscle tissue can easily expand. Fascia stretching will make the stiffest of muscles pliable and more injury-resistant. Fascia stretching also speeds up the muscle recovery process after the trauma of a high intensity weight workout, by giving toxins and waste products that accumulate in muscles somewhere to go. The elongation of the target muscle that occurs during a Parrillo-style stretch dislodges these waste products and dramatically reduces the onset of ‘next-day-soreness’ syndrome. Stretching will also radically improve muscular delineation and separation, giving you a completely different physique compared to someone who does not stretch during their workout. Most importantly, fascia stretching is a vital component to your workout because it directly causes muscles to grow and strengthen. By increasing your lean muscle mass you can increase your metabolism, burn more fat, enhance your athletic performance, and get the physique you’ve always wanted!
So how do you perform a fascia stretch, and when do you include it in your workout?
John Parrillo recommends an innovative sequence designed to incorporate all the elements into a tightly woven exercise protocol: pump the target muscle, and then stretch the target muscle. This sequence is repeated every time you perform an exercise set. For example, first you perform a leg-extension exercise for the quadriceps, then you perform a fascia stretch on the quadriceps. The one legged thigh stretch is a fascia stretch for the quadriceps. You perform this stretch by first facing away from an exercise bench, then kneel down until the thigh begins to stretch and burn. A fascia stretch should feel intense, be held for at least 10 seconds, and you should always increase the range of the stretch after each successive set. When repeated over and over, the muscular fascia is systematically made more and more pliable.
In addition to the manual or partner assisted fascia stretches, John Parrillo has introduced a line of exercise equipment, FX Stretch™, that allows the user to perform perfect, high-intensity, result- producing stretches. John Parrillo designed four machines and between them they enable the athlete to perform every conceivable stretch: Seated Torso-hip Stretch machine, Pec-shoulder-arm Stretch machine, Ultra-leg stretch machine, Super Lat Stretch machine. These four state-of-the-art devices can be found at J and K Fit located in Bellevue, along with the precise Parrillo philosophy on stretching. Regardless of your fitness level and what you are trying to achieve, fascia stretching is undeniably an asset to any individual’s workout regimen. Fascia stretching is something you must start including into your workout now!