Prepare Yourself For the Rubberband Man
By Anna Sachse
Hey all you big, strong men out there, I know you’ve been putting in all these long, hard days at the office, so I’ve got something for you that’s gonna make you sweat—myofascial release! That’s right—a good MF is going to make you feel so good.
Actually, it will make all you ladies feel pretty good as well. Myofascial release is just another name for foam rolling. A foam roller is one of those cylinders of foam (often white or black, in varying sizes and densities) that you’ve probably seen being used by someone at your gym or yoga studio who is really fit. Really fit people know how useful these simple tools are for intensifying stretching, increasing muscular flexibility and for improving balance. It’s kind of like a cheap, DIY massage, personal trainer and physical therapy session all in one. Here’s the “how” behind why feeling good is so good for you.
According to trainer Michael Lovegren in an article for www.power-systems.com, specifically working on your flexibility is important to peak performance because we lose elasticity in our muscles as we get older. You may not think it matters right now when you are young and supple and capable of performing every move in the Kama Sutra in one night, but you will definitely care later after many years have passed and you can no longer do any of those moves and you have no hair and/or a ton of cellulite. At this point it will suck that you can’t even bend over without groaning.
So then, there are two important factors that influence or inhibit flexibility: the golgi-tendon organ, which is a type of proprioceptor that provides information about changes in muscle tension; and the muscle spindle, which is a type of proprioceptor that provides information about changes in muscle length. According to Michael Clark, MS, for www.performbetter.com, when these two components are tight and not functioning properly, it restricts the range of motion of the joints, which in turn changes the normal neural feedback to the central nervous system and leads to poor movement patterns, inducing premature fatigue and causing injury.
In layman’s terms, your muscle is like a rubber band and the further you stretch it, the further it will launch when you let it go; don’t stretch it and it fossilizes.
Using the foam roller to work the GTO and muscle spindles, areas that are often hard to stretch, will release tension while improving mobility. It releases and organizes your musculature, says Lovegren, as well as releasing and aligning your skeletal system. These benefits will help you to avoid muscle pulls, strains and tears, and even the breaking of bones.
The next time you hit the gym, try these three stretching exercises recommended by Lovegren. Roll back and forth six times for each move.
Balance on both hands, shoulder blades down, and tighten your core. Roll from knee to ankle, if possible, toes pointed up and out. Corkscrew hips and move your foot, if possible, as you roll.
Balance on elbows, face down, with quads on foam roller. Tighten your core as you roll back and forth along the length of your quads. To place greater emphasis on one leg, the left one for example, cross your right leg over the back of your left, or shift your body weight to your left side.
Back (Thoracic Spine Mobility)
Begin with the roller perpendicular to your body and in the middle of your back, with back flat, glutes raised, feet flat and close to glutes, shoulder blades down and depressed. Roll from mid to upper back, side to side to emphasize a stretch in the spine and lumbar/thoracic region. Keep your arms raised straight up or behind your head.