Sure, you can train yourself slimmer, but can you train yourself taller? According to Melissa Putt, you can. Here’s how.
It’s all about that fascia…
Fascia is a non-cellular tissue that encases the entire body from head to toe in one uninterrupted network. The fascial system is unique in that if you have trauma somewhere throughout a fascial chain, the entire system will respond. While this can be a positive thing, it can also an inhibitor to optimizing your fitness regimes. Why? Because the tension of the fascial system can make you shorter! That’s right. Weightlifting exercises can impact your potential height. Exercises such as overhead shoulder presses or latissimus dorsi pull downs compress your joint lines and shorten optimum muscle length. Together, these compromised loading patterns tighten and shorten the posture muscles, and compress joint lines of the spine, hips and shoulders. The effect? Those small millimeter compressions add up throughout 24 vertebrae lines and joints, which often leads to decreasing potential height. The height deficit is not necessarily lost height, but rather, it could be height that has never been achieved because of activities with compressive forces like lifting weights, running and aerobics classes.
How fascial exercises make you taller:
You don’t have to give up on your favorite sports and activities when training to gain your optimum height, but you do have to stretch the fascia to allow the joint line space to be reclaimed. When we run, for example, and especially if we run with a heavy heel strike, four times the body weight travels through the neck, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles with each stride. If you weigh 140 pounds, that works out to 560 pounds of force impacting all the joints each and every time the heel contacts the ground. Joints have the ability to absorb shock, but as we age, tissue becomes less resilient, less shock absorbing and we experience more bone on bone impact. Fascial exercises help to restore the compression and tension system that suspends joints so that impact is absorbed with ease. This essentially helps to create potential energy rather than having it dissipate into compressed joints. Restored joint space can be retained and, as a result, it can add extra height to your frame, along with a lighter step to your impact sport.
Gaining joint line space: The exercises you need to be doing
Fascial training differs from muscular training. Muscle fibers are just that: fibers. Their mechanism is to slide one fiber over the other so that as a bundle, they shorten and lengthen. The ability of a muscle bundle of fibers is based on the capacity to process oxygen and the force that can be generated by sliding across one another.
Fascia is non-cellular and does not use oxygen. Because of this, the ability of fascia is not dependent on oxygen efficiency. Fascia is most similar to a lattice with tubules of water that are ‘chaotically organized,’ in multiple directions. Fascia is in a plastic state, so it reforms on demand to a new shape and tension based on what and how you move.
To allow fascia to reform to a more shock absorbing tissue, hold all fascia exercises for 60 seconds and engage the entire body – not just the area that you are trying to affect. For example, with runners, I often find that their shoulder mechanics are quite limited. This directly impacts how the hips will glide, and ultimately how fluid their running stride will be. Running without a lot of fascial aide can manifest as tension and compression in the mid-back, thus affecting shoulder mobility. To regain the mid-back spinal joint line and to better absorb impact, stretch with resistance the chest, neck and shoulder complex.
- Chest stretch – A traditional chest stretch in a door way with one hand on either side of the door frame can be made into a fascial stretch with a few modifications. If the arm is bent at 90 degrees on the door frame, simply press the elbow, wrists and fingers into the door frame with full force. Simultaneously press the feet hard to the floor and the head towards the top of the door frame. The total body tension and the resistance against the arm in the door frame will help with the decompression of the spine and release of the fascia throughout the chain. A good fascial stretch will feel as if there is a flush once you near the end of the held time under tension.
- Hip stretch for better back space – The hip flexor starts at the front of the hip, weaves through the pelvis, and then attaches at the spine. A good fascial hip stretch will not only help the joint line of the hip so the leg has more spring to it during activity, but it also aids the lower spine to absorb shock. A typical flexor stretch can be enhanced to affect the fascia by adding tension to the upper body and contracting the muscles around the hip flexor. Kneeling with one leg in front of the other both at 90 degrees, press the rear heel outward. The upper torso is NOT relaxed. Remember: with fascial stretch, engage the entire body. The spine should be long, the core engaged, and the arm pressed with purpose over the head. Ever so slightly, lean in the opposite direction to the back leg, squeeze the buttocks both sides and ensure the pelvis is curled under. Hold for 60 seconds. Upon standing, the back leg should feel longer and lighter than the other.
The added benefit to the fascial stretching is the lengthening that is most often gained from the rib to hips. This space enhances the waist line and torso length. Many people find that blouses and tailored shirts start to fit better with fewer tugs across the chest.
If you have impact sports and activity as part of your fitness regime, it is ideal to add in fascial release stretches to enhance the capacity to absorb shock, as well as to enhance all joint line space that adds up to a slimmer, taller you.