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Fascial Fitness – Practical Exercises to Stay Flexible, Active, and Pain-Free in Just 20 Minutes a Week. Second Edition

by Robert Schleip with Johanna Bayer

listed in bodywork

[Image: Fascial Fitness – Practical Exercises to Stay Flexible, Active, and Pain-Free in Just 20 Minutes a Week. Second Edition]

I have followed Robert Shleip’s work for many years; he is an inspiration and an expert on all things fascia, committed to sharing his practical knowledge and understanding of fascia in a truly accessible way. This book is no different. He writes in a clear accessible style, for both  manual therapists and movement teachers of any modality, as well as for the client. As a researcher and Bodywork practitioner he effectively brings together the two worlds of science and practical knowledge. My particular interest lies in Fascia Informed Bodywork, for physical, emotional, and mental health. When fascial work is applied with practitioner presence, and a safe holding field, our story – held in our physiology can begin to unfold.  Our emotional and mental state, which of course are intrinsically linked to our physical body can take up the offer of change, this too is briefly mentioned in the book.

Initially Schleip writes about fascia, introducing the reader to the amazing, dynamic fascial system – our connective tissue. This soft tissue runs through our entirety, surrounding our organs, giving us shape and structure. He talks about the importance of fascia for each and every one of as, as well as in athletic performance. He emphasizes the fact that we must move away from focus on individual muscles, nerves and bones and bring our attention to the fascia to understand chronic injuries and chronic pain. The fascial system is now credited with being our most important sensory organ. The connective tissue sends out signals to the brain –  the very heart of our consciousness. All our body movements are determined by senses in the fascia; if they fail people can no longer control their movements.

The focus of fascial training is to optimize performance and allow you to achieve a new personal best, as well as to alleviate pain and stiffness in everyday life.  Above all, facial training is easy to incorporate into your existing training schedule and it will complement and enrich existing training programs by adding in an important missing element. Fascia training is the final piece of the jigsaw with your personal program; it will prevent injury, increase stamina, keep you looking youthful and toned – so what’s not to like? By training for just 10 minutes twice a week you can make a difference says Schleip.

Below is a list of some of the benefits of fascial training – listed by Schleip

  • Muscles work more efficiently
  • Recovery time is shorter
  • Performance increases
  • Movement and coordination improve
  • Movements appear more elegant
  • Posture improves
  • Body appears more toned and youthful
  • Improves condition of your fascia
  • Provides long-term protection against pain and injury
  • More fun and variety in your training
  • Training gives you a sense of youth and vitality

After describing fascia as the building blocks of life, Schleip explains the components that make up fascia. The fibrous proteins of collagen and elastin which are produced by cells, the fibroblasts. However, it is the extra cellular MATRIX that makes up the majority of fascia. The matrix is a mixture of fibres and ground substance. The fluid element of the ground substance consists of water and sugar molecules whose job it is to bind various materials and cells together. The matrix plays a crucial role in supplying nutrients to connective tissue cells, and to the organ to which the connective tissue belongs. The matrix Hosts large quantities of immune cells, lymphocytes or fat cells, nerve endings and blood vessels. The water content of the matrix varies depending upon its location. Water is crucial as a medium for cellular metabolism. Consequently, the various techniques used to treat fascia focus on water content and the exchange of fluid, to improve function and performance.

Schleip lists the 4 basic functions of fascia as:

  • Shape
  • Movement
  • Communication
  • Supply

For each of the 4 functions of fascia, Schleip has developed a full programme of fascia specific exercise and stretch techniques – recommended to optimize health and function of fascia. These four dimensions of fascial training have also shown to have positive effects on client psychological and emotional wellbeing. This is explained in more detail below (in the stretch and feel sections.)

Schleip describes the four functions of fascia and four dimensions of training in more detail:

To understand how the four dimensions of training affect fascia read on….

  1. Stretch - Basic function: shape – stimulates the mechanical qualities of fascia as a substance that gives the body shape. It is a natural form of strain that is applied in many kinds of movement; conventional stretching will activate the long Fascial lines. Stretching can extend our range of motion; this includes the muscles and joints. Slow methodical stretching helps prolong duration, has significant physiological effects reducing blood pressure lowering heart rate. That is because when fascial tissue is stretched, signals are transmitted to the autonomic nervous system. This reduces activity levels in the sympathetic nervous system, which causes the body to relax. This is essentially the science behind yoga and its ability to calm our minds. Studies have shown that yoga style stretching alleviates pain;
  2. Spring – basic function: movement. Suspension or springing exercises such as hopping or skipping. This stimulates the elastic storage capacity of Fascia, which is important for basic movement functions. This applies to all muscle fibres but especially to tendons. You need to find a sense or ease and land lightly on your feet, to ensure your fascia is working effectively;
  3. Revive – basic function: supply. To revive and rejuvenate Fascia you could use self-massage in the form of foam rollers, rubber balls, tennis balls. Pressure is applied into the connective tissue as it would be during a massage, and this triggers a purely mechanical process of fluid exchange in the fascia. Mechanical process pushes out metabolic waste and lymph and then refills itself with fresh fluid. The squeezed-out tissue sucks in fresh fluid from the blood plasma (in the tiny blood vessels nearby). The drained fluid contains harmful metabolic waste and sometimes inflammatory neurotransmitters; therefore one can see the importance of fluid exchange in fascia;
  4. Feel – basic function: communication. Feeling and noticing our movement is extremely important for physical mobility and for the brain. This body perception and body self-image are now considered to be fundamentally important. This internal awareness of our body’s movement is gaining importance as it clearly plays a major role in many neurological and physiological illnesses. Embodiment is seen as fundamentally important as it describes close correlation between physical changes in the body and our mental well-being. New important findings show that our posture not only affects how we perceive ourselves, but also how we view the world around us. Research shows, our emotional experiences trigger changes to our physicality, as well as biomechanical responses –- releasing hormones and neurotransmitter and activating control circuits within a nervous system. It is fascinating that people who have a poor perception of their own moods and feelings experience more pain and physical symptoms with no apparent organic cause. People with poor physical awareness are much more prone to psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

There are different types of exercises depending on whether you are as Schleip describes a contortionist with soft connective tissue, being highly flexible with low joint stability or a Viking with a firm connective tissue, low flexibility and high stability, or a little bit of both!

This book has taken all recent fascial research and made it completely accessible to movement and bodywork therapists. It has developed a brilliant series of facial fitness.

There are further chapters on

  • The exercises and how to safely and effectively do them
  • Fascia, Physiotherapy, massage, manual therapy, yoga, Pilates, acupuncture
  • Fascial fitness: Healthy eating and lifestyle
  • Periodise facial training for speed power and injury resilience.

This is a fantastic book, accessible, informative, and useful on a practical level. I personally would love to see more information on the emotional component mentioned, as this is my area of interest. What I witness in clinic is a lot of trauma and unresolved emotion held within our system is often the cause of chronic pain, inflammation, illness, and injury. Without acknowledging the emotion behind our physical pain, we often fall short in treatment. As I see it, we simply cannot separate the physical body and physical injuries from our emotional, psychological, or mental health.  It does not surprise me in the slightest that people with poor physical awareness are much more prone to psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression, as this is a trauma response, to leave one body is a survival strategy when the pain is too unbearable. Maybe next time, I can add a chapter on the emotional impact of injury or how emotions, stress and trauma affect our fascial tissue and physical health.

Further Information

Available from Lotus Publishing, and



Emma Gilmore
Lotus Publishing
£14.15 / $22.49
978 1 913088 21 7

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