Myofascial Release Technique & Strengthening Exercises
WHAT IS MYOFASCIAL RELEASE?
Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage. Myofascial release, also know as “foam rolling,” releases muscle soreness, tightness, or trigger points. This method can be performed with a roller, a small ball, or manually with your hands.
Recovery is vital to healthy muscle development, and myofascial release assists in returning muscles to normal function before your next workout or activity. By applying pressure to specific areas or points on your body, tension is released and the muscle recovery process improves.
WHO SHOULD PRACTICE MYOFASCIAL RELEASE?
Myofascial release technique is not just meant for people with injuries or pain. It is a useful method for all people whether they workout out intensely everyday or not. At one time, only professional athletes, coaches, and therapists used this technique. Today, this myofascial release or foam rolling has spread far beyond the therapy doors and is widely practiced everyday by people at all fitness levels.
WHEN & HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU FOAM ROLL?
Performing foam rolling techniques or exercises that incorporate the roller can be done at the interval that works best for you: daily, several times a day, or a few times per week when convenient.
Performing foam-rolling techniques can be done pre-workout, during the workout, and post-workout. Pre-workout rolling helps warm up the muscles, releases any tension from prior activity, and prepares them for the workout. Performing strength exercises that incorporate the foam roller is a great way to develop strength as well as create length in your muscles during your workout. Ending a workout by rolling out the muscles is an excellent way to release muscle tension, avoid soreness, prevent injury, and recover for the next workout.
Self-myofascial release techniques are extremely beneficial every time they are performed, so I recommend that you do them as often as possible.
TIGHT MUSCLES & TRIGGER POINTS
Your muscles may feel a bit tight and sore, but you may not know the extent until getting down on the floor to roll it out! These tight muscles may be recognized by ‘clumps’ or ‘hard mounds’ of tissue felt when rolling over certain areas of the body. This is a sign that the muscles are tight and need release.
Trigger points are specific knots that form in the muscles and usually are identified by referral pain. Referral pain is when pressure is applied and pain is felt at that one spot, but it radiates to another area. Usually when there is pain or discomfort settled in an area the cause is somewhere else. A pain will tend to affect an area of the body that is weak compared to where the actual problem stems from.
WHY DOES FOAM ROLLING HURT?
If you think ‘self-massage’ is a relaxing technique, think again! It is a pain that should hurt so good… meaning that it should be uncomfortable, not unbearable. Your muscles should feel light and relaxed when done. When performing self-myofascial techniques, you have the ability to control the amount of pressure applied to the muscle for the healing and recovery process. This is a unique process because only you can feel what’s going on in with your body and know what your muscles need to release tension.
Stretching and flexibility exercises alone are not always enough to release muscle tightness or soreness. Foam rolling assists in breaking up the muscle knots, releasing the tight spots, resumes normal muscle length, and aids in functional performance, all which leave you feeling your best.
The pressure of your body’s weight on the roller, especially on sore or tight spots, can create an uncomfortable pain that almost takes your breath away. This deep compression helps to break up all that is bottled up in your muscle tissues. It’s almost as if there’s something stuck or clogged in your muscles and the roller helps release this area. Initially it is uncomfortable, but the more foam rolling you do, the more your muscles adapt and the soreness you feel when applying pressure will decrease.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Self-myofascial release techniques and exercises can be performed on a simple piece of hard foam usually referred to as a foam roller. There are several different kinds of rollers that you can use to roll out the muscles. They all serve the same purpose, and that is to relieve tension and support healthy muscle function and growth!
TYPES OF FOAM ROLLERS
Rollers – Great for overall use on larger muscle groups.
Foam Roller – This is the original myofascial release tool. It comes in different densities. Typically the blue/white ones are softer and the black one is firmer.
PVC Roller – More firm than the foam type. Great to have when your muscles need more pressure with a firmer surface. These can be easily made at home!
The Grid – The TP Therapy Company produces this roller at 5 inches in diameter to target more into the muscles. It’s easily portable as well.
Quad Roller – Great for targeting the legs/ calves by use of a small rod covered with light padding attached to two wheels.
Rumble Roller – Same base as a regular roller, but has tiny ridges that cover the entire roller to give precise pressure to the muscle tissue. Comes in different sizes.
Balls – Typically used on smaller muscle groups to reach areas that are less accessible with a roller. Depending on what muscles need attention, choose a size and density that will easily get into the troubled area. Small sports balls such as golf, tennis, lacrosse, softball or even a medicine ball work best on your feet, calves, glutes, lower back and shoulders.
Manual Resistance – If you do not have a roller or any sports balls, your own hands or elbow can to the trick on certain areas. For example, try applying pressure to your thigh by use of your elbow. It’s a simple way to release trigger points and learn where tension is in your body.
BENEFITS OF SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELASE
If I haven’t already convinced you to go out and buy a foam roller, here are some more benefits of myofascial release:
- Corrects muscular imbalances
- Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress
- Improves joint range of motion
- Improves neuromuscular efficiency
- Maintains normal muscular length
- Enhances blood flow
- Release toxins
- Maximizes recovery time
- Enhances performance
- Promotes proper movement patterns
- Promotes pain free movement
MYOFASCIAL RELEASE EXERCISES
Incorporating a combination of muscular strength exercises and tissue release is an excellent way to challenge your muscles while releasing soreness and tension. You may think strength exercises with the roller are a simple task, but believe me, these exercises can be challenging!
Listed below are three exercises that combine strength development with muscular length and tissue release. While certain muscles are strengthening, the other muscles in contact with the roller are releasing tension and restoring normal muscle length. Each exercise focuses on improving strength, stretch/ release, and an element of training.
*See video for viewing instructions.
1. Rev lunge
- Strengthens legs (hips, quads, glutes)
- Stretches shin, hips flexor, quads
- Trains balance, core control, coordination
2. Knee tucks
- Strengthens arms (biceps, triceps), shoulders, core
- Stretches shins and increases hip motion
- Trains functional core strength
3. Bridge lifts (double & single legs)
- Strengthens hips, glutes, hamstrings, core
- Stretches shoulder girdle and upper thoracic and cervical neck
- Trains coordination, balance, motor unit and functional core
Incorporating the foam roller into your workouts can help reduce pain, tension, soreness, and restore muscle length and balance by using your own body weight as resistance. Achieving optimum muscle balance helps provide more joint mobility and leads to better performance in activities and sports.
You just need to try it for yourself and feel the difference it makes!
Good Luck Strengthening and Lengthening!