Let’s talk about how to relieve muscle soreness and loosen up those tight muscles throught a technique called myofascial release. What type of stretching is that you ask? According to Mayo clinic, “myofascial release is a manual therapy technique often used in massage. The technique focuses on pain believed to arise from myofascial tissues — the tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles”.
Have you ever felt super sore and rubbed that particular area and it hurts like hell when you do, but afterwards it feels a little less tight and painful? You have done myofascial release therapy and you didn’t even know it. A foam roller would fall be considered a type of myofascial release as well as using my personal favorite tool, a lacrosse ball. Some people recommend using a tennis ball – and that may be great for rolling your foot out, but in my opinion, nothing works better than a lacrosse ball. It can really dig in and release the fascia. (Say that in your best Austin Powers bad guy voice!)
Benefits of Myofascial Release
Before I share some information about how you can use a LAX ball, let’s talk about some of the benefits. Soft tissue work essentially involves giving yourself a massage. It will help loosen up any stiff areas and allow your muscles and tissues to move and contract more effectively, which helps reduce muscle soreness, increase blood flow, speed up recovery time, and relieve tension.
If you are new to this type of massage, let me be honest and tell you it’s probably going to hurt like hell while you are doing it. For some, it can be almost unbearable, but the thing is that with this type of technique the more you do it, the less uncomfortable the pressure will be. And if it hurts that much, you really need to do more of it. Breaking up the fascia is the goal. You want your tight muscles and fascia to be brushed out like a knot in your hair.
- Lie on the ground and put ball underneath one side of your butt.
- Position your body so that the majority of your weight is on top of that area.
- Remember to keep breathing and try to relax.
- Hold the ball in the most painfully tight area for around 30 seconds.
- You can move the ball around as well but make sure you are holding it in those pain spots for longer periods to really break up the fascia.
Next time you feel super sore, or have a knot in your back/neck/leg/body – try giving myofascial release a try to loosen up your muscles and get you back to moving normally again.
One of the things I have noticed over the years of working out with and training others–people have super tight hip flexors and don’t stretch enough! Last week, I was boxing with a professional football player who is currently a free agent as he recovers from a pre-season game ankle injury. I’m always amazed at how many football players I’ve met who clearly only train for their particular position on the field. They aren’t encouraged to take care of themselves as a whole body athlete which can often times ends up hurting them as they get older. This particular player is a center – he’s huge. 6’4 and over 300 pounds. His job is to block – so why would flexibility be important? Well – in my opinion, he would be a better all around athlete with less injuries over time if he took a more holistic approach to his training.
We were stretching afterward the class and I mentioned to him how tight his hips were. He stopped for a sec and said that was what the team trainers told him to work on while he recovers and they gave him a name of someone to call. I kinda laughed and told him he doesn’t need to call anymore — and ended up showing him some general mobility movements he could work on to help open his hips and loosen his muscles. I told him to work on his mobility for the next two weeks while he was watching TV or before he goes to bed every day.
It’s not only professional athletes who need to work on mobility either. One of my dear friends just had her first baby and I suggested these hip openers during her pregnancy – and she mentioned how much they helped during labor.
So my point?
Everyone should take time each day to work on mobility. The more you do it, the more progress you will see and the better you will feel. Promise.
As with any exercise or movement, remember to ALWAYS make the stretches work for your body. Work within a range of motion that you can tolerate.
Here are a few hip mobility movements to get you started…
- Assume the top of a Push-Up position or High Plank.
- Step forward with one leg to outside of the same side hand.
- Drive your hips forward into stretch and hold for a few seconds.
- Maintain a braced core and squeeze your glute on the back leg while in the stretch.
- Return to start position and repeat with your other leg.
- Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps.
- Start with your front knee bent to a 90-degree angle. The back knee can be as bent or extended as is comfortable for you.
- Rotate the back hip toward the front heel, and then toward the back foot.
- Keep the chest up tall, and only bear as much weight as you can comfortably.
Variation: Elevated Pidgeon Stretch
(Stretching Exercise Guide)
Kneel onto your right leg and place your left foot in front of you to assume the lunge position.
- Slide your left foot out to the side and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Try to straighten the left knee and lean your body forward while relaxing your hips.
- Rocking the hips forward and back will change the pull slightly to get all muscles.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees on the ground. This will be your starting position.
- Keeping the knee in a bent position, abduct the femur, moving your knee away from the midline of the body.
- Pause at the top of the motion, and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Perform this slowly for a number of repetitions, and repeat on the other side.