Self Myofascial Release Techniques
By Coach Travis Grosjean, NASM certified Personal Trainer
What is foam rolling and how does it work?
Foam Rolling, the art of rolling your body along a large cylindrical foam, is a technique used to relax and restore muscles, increase circulation and improve range of motion and stability, which can result in more muscle, greater strength, improved athletic performance and decreased muscle soreness.
Foam rolling, or self-myofacial release, works like a deep sports massage, softening and lengthening the fascia and breaking down adhesions. The technique uses gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissues while applying traction to the fascia, the soft connective tissue just under the skin that wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together creating an adhesion. Your body will feel the limitations caused by the adhesion, in restricted muscle movement, pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.
Some of my clients grumble at the foam roll because it can be uncomfortable, and at introduction may make your muscles feel tender and bruised. But, the rewards are well worth the few moments of discomfort. Your body will feel alive with increased circulation, your muscles will feel looser, longer and leaner as your flexibility increases, your performance will no doubt improve and that soreness after a workout will efficiently diminish.
This powerful, little, roll costs less than one good massage, typically under $40 bucks. Easily one of the most affordable pieces of essential gym equipment. And it is portable enough to tuck away in a closet or under a bed.
Who can benefit from foam rolling?
Who needs foam rolling? Everyone can positively benefit from foam rolling (if you have any heart/vascular illness or a chronic pain condition check with your doctor first.) As we age, flexibility, stability and mobility, are increasingly important. The foam roll maintains all of that.
Longer drive, more aces, better PR, stronger workouts. As an athlete, no matter the sport, foam rolling will improve your performance, aid in recovery and prevent injury. The increased flexibility allows your muscle to obtain their full range of motion which translates into greater power, faster reaction, and increased accuracy. Plus, you’ll find that your body can safely train longer and harder; and, with the lack of severe soreness your mind will be up for the next days workout.
Foam rolling is impressive for rehabilitation, correction, prevention and management of chronic problems. I have clients, who had Plantar Fasciitis, Sciatica and Bursitis, some even doctors and nurses themselves. I got them foam rolling and safely, quickly (in some instances more than 2 times faster than expected) the pain was eliminated and range of motion returned, improving their workouts and life. Most misalignment in the neck, back, hips, knees, and ankles, caused by muscle tightness can be corrected through foam rolling. Just as it corrects problems, it prevents them. By foam rolling and releasing fascia, you will have less opportunity for chronic pain and soreness, torn muscles and connective tissue. For instance, many runners end up with knee and foot problems, sometimes so unbearable the passion is retired. Most often the problems are caused by tight muscles. Foam rolling the legs releases that tightness and the sport continues.
How do I use the foam roll?
To learn how to use the foam roll and powerful exercises that will improve your health, contact Coach Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Science has proven warm-ups utilizing dynamic stretching are more efficient and safer than static stretching. So, why then, is it so common to still see people warming up with static stretching moves? And, how can I implement dynamic stretching into my warm up safely?
Science has proven warm-ups utilizing dynamic stretching (muscle and momentum move the joint through a full range of motion) are more efficient and safer than static stretching (taking a muscle to its point of tension and holding it for 30 seconds.) So, why then, is it so common to still see people warming up with static stretching moves?
“Too often, we just don’t know any different. Scientific data is improving and evolving; in previous decades, static stretching warm-ups were commonplace. But, today, with new data we know the importance of dynamic warm-ups.” personal trainer, Travis Grosjean, explains. “Static stretching is best used as a corrective flexibility exercise. It is a great cool down move to bring the muscles back to resting length. Dynamic stretching, a functional flexibility move, on the other hand prepares your body for activity. Neither is appropriate for all situations. That is why you should have a well rounded flexibility program integrated into your training routine, designed for your body’s needs.”
A flexibility program will improve muscle imbalances, increase range of motion, relieve tension improve neuromuscular response, decrease chance of injury and is beneficial to overall performance.
There are three types of flexibility training: corrective (designed to improve muscle imbalances and joint motion), active (designed to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increase neuromuscular efficiency) and functional (integrated, multiplanar soft tissue extensibility, with optimum neuromuscular control, through full range of motion.)
To get started, replace static stretching with dynamic stretching in your warm-up. Travis takes us through the basics, “An average warm-up is 10 minutes at low to moderate intensity and should include one set of ten reps using three to ten dynamic stretching exercises. When starting any exercise routine, always check with your doctor. And, before beginning an aggressive dynamic flexibility program, you will want to have good core stability and balance.”
Here are a few simple dynamic exercises that Travis recommend:
Yeah! You are making the switch and are so excited that you are ready to go! But, before you take one barefoot step, read this! Transitioning to barefoot or minimal footwear for running, other workouts or everyday wear should be performed progressively and with awareness. Tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and skin all must adapt. Building up strength slowly will prevent undue stress and injury.
Your body is highly adaptable and will learn to function quickly, but the movement, either barefoot or minimally shod, is different than you may be accustomed to, and can cause muscle soreness at first. When barefoot or in minimal footwear, it is most common to adjust your gait from a heel strike to a forefoot/midfoot strike. (Lieberman) Forefoot striking requires you to use muscles in your toes, midfoot, heel, ankles and calves that are most likely pretty weak. Podiatrist, Dr. Michael Nirenberg explains in a recent article for the Canadian Medical Association Journal “There are four layers of muscle in our feet. The majority of the muscles are used less, if at all, when the feet are in supportive footwear…once you support the arch of the foot, you don’t use your foot muscles as much.” (Collier, 2011) The typical modern shoe is like wearing a cast for too long, the confined muscles atrophy. Dr. Nirenberg further states “If you start doing barefoot activity…you start to build up the muscles in your feet.” (Collier, 2011) As a result of the new movement, your feet and calves are going to temporarily feel it as strength is built; they may feel tired, stiff and sore. Additionally, the Achilles tendon may stiffen. That’s why it is imperative to your health to take a progressive approach, acutely listen to your body, maintain proper form, and not push further than your body can handle.
To begin, test out your shoes wearing them to do things that you normally do in regular shoes. Wear them to the grocery store, around the house, get a feel for them and rediscover what feels natural. Your toes grip the floor a bit differently, and you will feel quite a bit more of the ground environment. You may experience spring in your step and a bit of exhilaration.
Once you are ready, try 10% of your regular workout in them for one week. Then, progress increasing by 10% each week until full time use is achieved. Vibram’s brochures say, don’t get discouraged, but it may take as long as one year to comfortably make a clean break from traditional sneakers to full time FiveFingers.
Dan Lieberman and team, reiterate in the Biomechanics of Foot Strike, “Be patient and build gradually. Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal, but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury. Stop if your arches are hurting, if the top of your foot is hurting, or if anything else hurts!”
When transitioning, you don’t necessarily have to reduce your workout, just reduce the time you are barefoot or in minimal footwear. Carry a pair of sneakers along for part of your workout. You may also want to integrate forefoot/midfoot striking into your normal workout progressively. Start off your workout with a forefoot/midfoot strike and transition to your normal strike.
Become and stay very aware of your environment, the terrain and what is in front and under foot. Let your feet and legs feel the subtle changes in impact and ground so you can adjust your body. And, of course, when running barefoot particularly, be careful of things that can lead to a stubbed toe or puncture your soles, like nails, glass, fish hooks, needles.
Finally, prevent injury and soreness by stretching and foam rolling your feet, calves and hamstrings regularly; preferably after each workout/use.
To learn specific feet strengthening, foam rolling and stretching exercises that are best for your body and ability, and learn how to integrate them into your unique workout, contact Coach Travis at email@example.com
By: Coach Travis
When it comes to core, most people think, six pack abs. But, that’s only part of your core. Though professionals debate the exact muscles and connective tissue that combine to create your core, the core is most commonly recognized as the muscles and connective tissue that function in trunk and back movement, stabilize the hips, shoulders and back and support the spine. I agree with the thought that the core includes the muscles and connective tissue that attach to the lumbopelvic hip complex, thoracic spine, cervical spine (Clark, Lucett & Corn, 2008)
The core is our powerhouse. The core is integral to daily function and is often referred to as your powerhouse because it is your bodies center of gravity, it's where all movement begins, and is the center of power. The 29 muscles comprising the core, act as a girdle holding your body in alignment and allows your extremities to move in a more efficient, effective manner. Think of your body as a kinetic chain from head to toe with each body segment a link connected to create a whole. The energy to move is generated at one link and transferred to the next. All of our movement is dependent upon the function, efficiency and strength of this chain. Your core is at the heart of this chain and if it is unstable, the kinetic chain will lose efficiency in it’s transference of energy, force, balance and stabilization and the bodies ability to generate power will be reduced.
Having a strong core is vital to good posture, muscle control, injury prevention, maximum athletic performance and basic daily living activities. “Regardless of the sport or skill, it is essential to have correct biomechanical positioning, or postural control, (the bodies ability to maintain a stable position) in order to maximize energy transfer. Correct postural control requires a strong, stable core. A strong and stable core allows one to transfer energy effectively as well as reduce undue stress. An unstable or weak core, on the other hand, will not allow for optimal force or energy production and will ultimately require compensation in other areas to make up for the lack of force production.” (Oliver, Adams-Blair, 2010)
Is that right, a weak core can contribute to injury? It is important to understand that not all injuries are a result of a weak core, however, “many injuries that are not caused by direct contact are due to body mechanics, and they typically can be linked to a lack of core stability. Core stability could also play a huge role in non-contact knee injuries.” (Oliver, Adams-Blair, 2010)
It is imperative that everyone, at all ages, maintain a strong, healthy core. Having a strong core is the best foundation for endurance, speed, strength, balance and agility. It is believed that a weak core diminishes a person’s ability to reduce, produce and stabilize force. As kids grow through their adolescence, core strength will ensure proper postural alignment, coordination, and agility, and will help with daily activities from playing the flute to football practice, to healthful sitting posture during homework. As your growth plates stop, reaching into teenage years and beyond, a strong core ensures proper posture through your work life, reducing the risk of repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel or low back pain. As we age, stabilization and balance are imperative to functional, daily living, for that matter it is imperative at any age, however, older adults are at higher risk for falling and potentially breaking bones, such as hips, wrists and ankles.
How do I integrate core into my workouts? Exercising the core requires sustained contractions between 6 and 20 seconds to properly stimulate the neuroconnection to the muscle. The best tool that I have found to integrate core into a workout is TRX. When using TRX, you are engaging your core in every exercise you do. Another great way to squeeze core exercises into a workout is to do these exercises during an active rest.