Is Being Fascia Driven Real? Everything You Need to Know

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

Is being fascia driven a real thing? In recent times, in the world of fitness, biomechanics and the beautiful game, the term “fascia driven” has been showing up a lot and players are wondering if there is a difference between a fascia driven athlete and a muscle driven athlete.

Fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments, your breath, your nervous system,everything is always working together and you cannot isolate muscles and fascia. Some people may think that “fascia driven” is only a marketing tool, which it could be, but it is a real thing and there is a huge difference between the tissue quality and overall body coordination and function of a “muscle driven athlete” and a “fascia driven athlete.”

Through my years studying Kinesiology in College there was little to no mention of fascia and as I was studying I was also trying out various training systems that were talking about completely different ideas and concepts from what I was learning in schoo. I was first introduced to the topic of fascia by studying the work of Tom Myers and Functional Patterns,  around 2020. Over the following years I tried out various training methods like Weck Method, GOATA, Hyperarch Fascia Training, Movmed, and Football Entangled, and I began to better understand how the body really works.

The term “fascia-driven” was popularized by Football Entangled,on social media and honestly it wasn’t until their account that these topics, including fascia training, the benefits of nature, and the role of the mitochondria, have been discussed more and more.

In this blog I will explain everything I know, to my knowledge, about becoming a fascia driven athlete.

 Fascia DrivenThe Concept of Paradigms

Before we begin, everyone must first understand what a paradigm is. A paradigm is basically a set of patterns, theories, and basic beliefs that someone has on a certain topic that shape what and how they believe about that topic.

In kinesiology there are different models, or paradigms, of viewing the human body and depending on what model you were taught and which one you believe in, that is going to affect how you interpret all of the following information.

Paradigm Shift

My goal with this post is to help you go through a paradigm shift and understand that being more “fascia-driven” is real, although it is a very nuanced topic. Once you feel the benefits for yourself, you will see a huge increase in athleticism, have an easier time staying injury-free, actually enjoy playing the game, and be better able to express yourself. 

The Old Paradigm of Biomechanics

  • Brace the Core Model
  • Lever System
  • Cadaver Science
  • Linear 1-D Movement
  • Bones and Muscles do all of the work, no account of fascia or natural spiral patterns

The lever system model is the traditional way that schools and physiotherapists learn about the human body and it is based on the principles of mechanics and anatomy of the musculoskeletal system. There are three types of levers throughout the body: first-class, second-class, and third-class levers.

This model was created by studying dead bodies, which is why people call it “cadaver science.” This model views the skeletal system as a series of levers, bones as rigid bars, and joints as fulcrums. Muscles are attached to bones by tendons and act as forces that pull on the bones to produce movement around the joint.

This model is not entirely wrong because there are levers in the human body, but it cannot describe and does not even acknowledge the natural spiral patterns that happen in motion,

The New Paradigm of Biomechanics

The easiest way to visualize this new paradigm of biomechanics is by watching this video.

Now that you have watched this video you have to realize that all motions start with your feet, because they are your only connection to the ground. From there every time you walk, run throw a punch, or kick, you have to transfer the energy from one side to the other and this energy travels through the body via the fascia system, not the muscular system.

The older model, goes against this fascia energy wave model by saying the core has to be braced, which is the exact opposite of the spinal engine, which allows for the natural smooth side-to-side sway of the spine. Humans begin their movement journey by crawling, which involves various spiral patterns seen throughout nature as well as having the buttocks behind and below the rib cage.

Crawling is the first dynamic movement we learn since we want to move forward as babies, which helps us develop enough strength and coordination to stand up and hold our static balance. Once we master static balance on two legs, we develop dynamic balance to walk and eventually run, which both evolved from crawling. 

 Fascia Driven

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What is Fascia?

Fascia is the same thing as connective tissue, the two words are interchangeable, and it surrounds and supports muscles, bones, organs, and all other structures throughout the entire body. It is the largest sensory organ of the body, technically bigger than your skin because it has many layers, and it has 6-10 times more nerve endings than muscles.

Fascia has so many nerve ending because it is responsible for telling your brain where your body is in space, which is called proprioception, and it helps you feel what is going on inside your body, which is called interoception.

Fascia is a continuous web or network of tension and compression, which creates a tensegrity structure. The entire body is covered with fascia, however certain parts, such as the white parts of the image above, are mostly fascia. This includes the plantar fascia, the iliotibial band on the side of your thigh, the glutes, the thorocolumbar fascia, wrist fascia, and the cranial fascia.

Healthy fascia is smooth and hydrated and allows for fluid movements, while unhealthy fascia will feel bumpy due to fascia adhesions, or knots.   Fascia Driven Image by Source

Properties of Fascia

Tensegrity

One of fascia’s main roles in the body is to help create a tensegrity structure, which stands for tensional integrity and I recommend watching this video to get a better visual and understanding.

Basically, this concept emphasizes that every part of the body is interconnected and relies on a delicate balance of tension and compression. When one part of the body moves, the entire body moves and no part is ever moving in isolation, even if you think you are isolating it. This is a shorter instagram video on fascia and tensegrity. 

Viscoelasticity

Fascia also has viscoelastic properties, which are a combination of viscosity (relating to fluid-like characteristics) and elasticity (ability to return to its original shape). The fascial system’s viscoelastic nature allows it to absorb, store, and release elastic energy efficiently.

The fascia needs to be well hydrated, to ensure that everything it is encasing is working properly and getting enough nutrients and energy. Properly hydrated and tensioned fascia promote smooth sliding between tissues and joints.

The elasticity of fascia enables the body to perform explosive, springy, and athletic movements effortlessly. Unlike muscles, which have different properties and can lead to overexertion and injury when they take the load that the fascia is supposed to be taking, fascia’s elastic properties are essential for generating and absorbing force efficiently. It acts like a coiled spring (think of a slinky) storing energy during movements and releasing it for propulsion.

Fourth Phase of Water

Fascia contains a specialized type of water known as “The Fourth Phase of Water” or “Exclusion Zone Water.” This unique water is exclusive to living organisms and plays a vital role in energy production and hydration within the body.

This fourth phase of water is more like a liquid gel or a liquid crystal as opposed to a solid, liquid, or gas. The health of fascia is also related to the health of your mitochondria, due to this special fourth phase of water which is why improving one may improve the other and vice versa.

 Fascia Driven

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What is Fascial Tension?

When you hear of fascial tension, most people may think of the tension that builds up in the fascia system in the form of fascial adhesions, or knots, that may cause pain and limit your range of motion. This is a type of tension that does occur in the body, and we want to get rid of it by doing a self-massage with a spiky ball or tennis ball instead of a foam roller, which is not as effective because it does not provide centralized pressure.

However, the type of “fascial tension” that I am referring to is different from the unwanted tension that creates adhesions. This type of “fascial tension” refers more to how well someone is able to consciously engage their fascial web, starting with how they engage and apply tension to their feet, including their toes and the arch of the foot.

Check the following video out to better understand what I am talking about. There is a Zen to Exerting Strength – The neurological strength he is talking about is the fascial strength, it is basically the same thing. You can also think of fascia it as the “contractile awareness.”

To regain better control of your fascia network you have to train how much control and tension you can apply to your feet, your hands, and your tongue, which have a lot of nerve endings compared to other parts of the body.

  • Your feet because they are your only connection to the ground
  • Your hands because they are how you grab things and they are literally your “grasp on life”
  • Your tongue because that you use your tongue to eat and communicate.

 Fascia Driven

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Fascia-driven vs. Muscle-driven

Now that you are a bit more familiar with the fascial system, let’s talk about fascial fitness and the difference between a more fascia-driven athlete and a more muscle-driven athlete. The best way to learn more about this concept is to click the image above and check out the Podcast by The Art of Move called “Is being “Fascia Driven” a thing, or marketing hype?.”

This video does a great job of going in-depth about this topic and you will learn a thing or two if you listen to the entire thing. However, I will do my best to simplify these topics and explain them in this section as well.

Before I begin explaining the difference between the two it is important to understand that every one is technically “fascia driven” and “muscle driven” at the same time because as I keep mentioning everything is always working together. However, there is a spectrum which makes some people lean more towards the “fascia driven” side and others to the “muscle driven” side.

 Fascia Driven

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Muscle Driven Athlete

A person who is more on the muscle-driven side of the spectrum uses more of their musculoskeletal system to move through space. The most clear example of a muscle-driven athlete is a bodybuilder who spends most of their time training how strongly they can contract each individual muscle.

As a result of training the contractions of their muscles, their muscles will obviously grow, but this does very little in terms of getting someone to move better and become more athletic. This is why, with all due respect, bodybuilders are not the best athletes, even though they may have the best physiques and the most muscle mass.

If muscle were the most important factor in athletics then theoretically bodybuilders should be the best athletes and you would see a lot more elite athletes, such as professional footballers, MMA fighters, and other sports as well, with these physiques, but you don’t. You may see some of these types of players in other sports, like American Football, however in that sport it makes sense to become more “muscle driven” because you are pushing external objects, which you never do in football, or soccer.

Bodybuilders and other muscle-driven athletes will be explosive and be able to show great power for short periods of time, but they are not able to keep that same force for a long period of time because they don’t have the connective tissue characteristics for it. Since they don’t have the fascia characteristics for these movements, they have to muscle their way through everything, which causes overuses and can lead to injuries because the muscles are doing the work of the fascia and tendons.

Keep in mind that someone that looks very muscular can also be “fascia driven” because these terms relate more to the athletic body functions of players, not just how they look.

 Fascia Driven

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Fascia-driven Athlete

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a fascia driven athlete, who moves more with their fascia and tendons as opposed to muscles.  Being more fascia-driven means these athletes have better subconscious access to the deeper layers of their fascia meaning they have more access to actually contract and relax their muscles.

A fascia-driven athlete focuses more on the quality of their movements and how well they can control the energy wave inside their body instead of focusing on how hard they can contract each individual muscle. Also, for the most part, they will not be able to show as much brute strength as a muscle driven athlete, but they will be much better at moving around with ease and expressing their strength athletically.

Most, if not all, professional soccer players lean more towards the “fascia-driven” side and there are some clear signs that help us see this which can be seen by observing certain features of the foot and how they move.

  • Prominent Foot Extensor Tendons (5 tendons on the top of the foot)
  • Prominent Anterior Tibialis Tendon (tendon that connects the foot and the shin)
  • Retracted toes (toes that are retracted are bent at the middle toe joint. This is a function of the foot that is completely different from curling and extending the toes)
  • Ankle stiffness (the ability to lock the ankle properly during all motions)
  • Foot to glute connection (the ability to engage all layers of the glute by simply engaging the foot, specifically the arch of the foot)
  • Spiral Movement (even when you move in a straight line through space you have to rotate and spiral your body. Nothing ever happens linearly and the body has natural spirals that have to occur when we move through space.)

 Fascia Driven

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Examples of Being Fascia-Driven

The image above is of 19 year old Neymar when he was playing at Santos in Brazil. This version of Neymar is arguably one of the most talented footballers the world has ever seen and notice how Skinny Neymar is. Do you see any muscles on him? How was Neymar able to become one of the best players in the world at that age with that physique?

The simple answer is that Neymar is one of the most naturally talented players of all time and he was able to move effortless on the field thanks to the quality of his fascia and tendons, not his muscle size. One of the reasons Neymar was able to subconsciously train his fascia, without directly doing fascia training, is because there is a huge emphasis in barefoot training in Brazil

 Fascia Driven

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Professional Footballers

Another way to help you better understand what it means to be fascia-driven is to take a look at another footballer by the name of Lorenzo Insigne. Insigne is an elite footballer who has played for the Italian National Team and standing at 1.62 M tall (5 foot, 4 inches) he has a much smaller frame compared to most other players.

In the world of mainstream cadaver science, where muscle is the most important factor, Insigne does not meet the standard of a muscular elite athlete, yet there is no doubt that he is an elite player. So how does Insigne succeed despite his physique?

Same reason as Neymar. He relies more on his overall connective tissue quality, tendon strength, and effortless biomechanics, not his muscles. 

 Fascia Driven

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Indigenous Tribes

Another clear example of fascia-driven people are indigenous tribespeople who are super springy, elastic, and make jumping look effortless. These people have clearly never stepped foot in a gym or done any type of mainstream muscle-based gym workout yet they have elite athleticism.

Take a look at how high these Massai Tribespeople jump. So how did these people develop this athleticism? Some people will say it’s genetic, and part of it is genetics, but it is also the inputs that they have been training with which in this case is jumping over and over again on hard surfaces with no shoes, or with little protection.

All the jumping they do helps develop the elastic properties of their connective tissue which gives them this type of athletic ability. They are training their fascia even if they don’t know the science behind it.

 Fascia Driven

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Animals

Some animals are also great examples of being more fascia driven, such as cats, dogs, big cats, deer, and much more. One of the best examples of a fascia-driven animal is a kangaroo.

Remember, I view “fascia-driven” as being more “fascia and tendon driven.” Look at the image above and notice the size of the achilles tendon of a kangaroo. The kangaroo is able to store so much elastic energy in the achilles, as well as throughout its fascia, which is why it is so good at hopping.

There are many more examples of this and all you have to do is look at a video of a Lion or Tiger running at full speed and you will see how much rotation happens in their body and how much energy they store in their tendons.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you train your fascia?

The best way to train your fascia is with the best online training program and soccer app offered by Football Entangled. 

How long does it take to become fascia-driven?

Everyone starts out at different stages and for some people it may take longer than others to start actually feeling the entire fascia web. To get the best results with fascia training make sure you get coaching by professionals such as Football Entangled.

Conclusion

In this blog I explained the fundamental differences between a fascia-driven athlete and a muscle-driven athlete. I hope this blog helped you better understand this complicated topic and feel free to contact me with any questions.

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