By Danny Christie, a certified instructor in Dalton’s Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques
In part 1 of ‘Tuning the Athlete, Weekend warrior and Massage Therapist‘ we discussed how common postural traits are evident in virtually every gym and massage therapy clinic worldwide.
This faulty posture, known as upper and lower cross syndrome, can affect strength, stability performance and negatively impact on our ability to incorporate ideal form during key movement patterns.
This article will demonstrate some simple soft tissue release techniques you can do yourself, along with focused stretches for commonly tight musculature. I’ll also share some simple but hugely effective gluteal and scapula retractor activation exercises.
Foam rolling and Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) are my personal techniques of choice. No fancy equipment is needed and both techniques are relatively easy to incorporate into your warm-up or to do on rest days in front of your television.
Foam rolling is a great way to reduce muscle density and deactivate troublesome trigger points that cause muscle shortening and diminish strength and cause pain.
The protocol I suggest is to foam roll and stretch so that you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to lengthening common tight muscles. I have tried to include straightforward techniques that don’t require awkward body positioning and time consuming set-ups.
The entire foam rolling, AIS stretching and activation routine should take approximately 20 minutes.
- When rolling long muscles, you should roll in sections, always starting closest to the body. For example, when you roll your quads, begin with the mid thigh to hip, then move on to the knee area to mid thigh.
- Complete 4-6 strokes over each section or muscle. If an active trigger point is located, maintain pressure on that area until the discomfort felt reduces by 50%.
- If the discomfort does not reduce by 50% after 15 seconds move off the area and then revisit it applying slightly less pressure.
Active Isolated Stretching
- Hold each stretch for a maximum of 2 seconds.
- Use reciprocal inhibition to accentuate the stretch response. For example, tighten your quads to improve a hamstring stretch (this works by relaxing the hamstring). You can further improve the stretch with the use of a rope or band.
- Stretching should not be painful; you should experience mild discomfort at worst.
- Perform between 6-8 repetitions. The idea here is to activate commonly weak muscles without inducing any muscle fatigue.
- Perform each exercise at a moderate pace and incorporate a 3 second isometric hold at the end of each movement.
- Always perform activation work after you stretch your tight areas.
Sometimes it can be hard to try to sell the benefits of foam rolling to peers and clients, as it will add another 15 minutes or so on your warm-up.
If this approach to pre-habiliation (injury prevention) is met with resistance, you can break the routine up into mini pre-habilitaton routines. For example:
How it can be done
Start with the roller approximately 5 inches down from your hip bones and complete short back and forth rolling motions.
Roll the entire length of the anterior leg (this may have to be done in several sections). Caution is needed at the knee; you DON’T want to compress the knee cap.
To perform the stretch, lying on your side grasp the front of the opposite foot. Tense your glutes and hamstrings, and pull gently on your foot to elicit a stretch in the anterior thigh.
This muscle is commonly fibrosed and loaded with trigger points especially with people who have tight external hip rotators and weak psoas.
The TFL is not a big muscle and it’s located far more anteriorly than people think. To ensure you are rolling the correct area put your finger on the anterior iliac spine and move down and outward 1.5 inches now rotate your thigh internal and external you should feel a muscle contracting and relaxing, that’s your TFL
You should use short back and forth motion to release this muscle. I tend only to foam roll the actual muscular part of this area. I feel there are no major benefits from rolling the entire length of the IT band as is not a contractile structure and its very commonly adhered of compressed against the vastus lateralis an d or the bicep femoris and rolling can compound this problem.