This is something you are almost certainly missing from your workout and something will not only make your workouts more effective, but also MUCH safer. This is one of the single most important ways to permanently increase flexibility and mobility, improve the speed of your recovery, increase the range of motion that you can correctly do an exercise through, and get rid of all of those little (or big) little aches and pains.
With the exception of traumatic injury – like getting hit by a car, most joint pain is the result of repetitive/overuse issues.
Looks traumatic to me
Like if you sit for 8+ hours per day, your hips are flexed (the thigh is closer to your torso). The muscles that flex your hips spend that whole time in a shortened position – they get thick, tight and knotted up.
There is something called “reciprocal inhibition” – that is if the muscle on one side of a joint is tight, then the tight muscle will inhibit the muscle on the opposite side of the joint. Like, if you flex your bicep (curl your arm), your tricep (back of arm) must relax enough to allow this to happen. Without reciprocal inhibition, you couldn’t move, you’d just tighten up everywhere and spasm on the floor.
So, the hip flexors are in the front of the hips, and the hip extensors are in the back of the hip – better know as your butt (glutes). (My favorite technical term is “Gluteal amnesia” coined by Dr. Stuart McGill.)
So, if your butt doesn’t work very well, then something else nearby has to pick up the slack. That is usually your lower back and/or hamstrings.
In most activities – sprinting, squatting, etc. your butt is supposed to move your thigh behind you. But, if your rear is not in gear, then your low back/hamstrings do more than they should.
Do this a hundred thousand times (there’s 1,500 steps in every mile, so, it doesn’t take much walking, or, even worse, running, to get a lot of bad reps), and you will officially have a problem. Problems with your back and/or with your hamstrings feeling like they are going to tear (or actually tearing/pulling) when you try to sprint, etc.
Undoing that process BEFORE you workout is KEY to injury prevention. Otherwise you are simply making whatever was tight even tighter, and you are reinforcing bad movement patterns that will eventually come back to bight you in the ass.
A great example of this are ACL tears. In the US, we have about 150,000 of them as a nation. The interesting part is that 105,000 are non-contact, that is, they were not the result of getting hit or an accident; they happened when somebody was running forward and decided to change direction and then, POP, there goes the knee.*
How do you tear something that is as strong as this high carbon steel wire** (actually, the wire in the picture below) tear by changing direction?
‘Cuz it’s been beat up over and over again (the glutes don’t stop the thigh from rotating in if the glutes are weak, so the ACL decelerates internal rotation of the thigh) and is now very weak. Sure, you need it reattached, but reattaching it won’t prevent the next one.
(Injury prevention should be your #1 priority by they way. ‘Cuz, otherwise you are saying that you are willing to hurt yourself in order to lose fat, gain muscle, etc. Unless you get paid a few million bucks a year to play a sport, that is a bad trade off. If you get hurt, it takes a long time to recover and all progress must come to a screeching halt. A lot of the benefits of foam rolling and corrective exercise will be evidenced by what doesn’t happen.)
Why Stretching Is Not Enough, Or Even Your First Choice
If I gave you a pair of jeans out the dryer that came out wrinkled and asked you to “stretch ‘em ‘till they’re flat”, you’d tell me that this was a stupid request and that you need heat and pressure (like and iron) to get these jeans to get flat.
The foam roller is like an iron for your muscles. You won’t get the wrinkles (knots, trigger points) out with stretching.
Go tie a knot in a rope and then pull on it (stretch it). How long will you have to pull until the knot comes out? Right. It never will.
(Actually, if you stretch a muscle with a true trigger point in it, it will respond by getting even tighter. That is very painful FYI, but, if you roll it first, then you can then do an effective stretch.)
Good, short video explanation with visuals.
How to use your “portable massage therapist”
Watch me roll ½ of my upper body and ½ of my lower body in literally 3min, so, there’s no good reason for this to consume more than 8-10min, unless you dilly-dally. And, you can absolutely get everything on your body very well in 6min.
FREE FOAM ROLLER – the big, fancy $25 roller at that!
I have a 3 foot long, black foam roller sitting in my office taking up space (I’ve got a bunch at work, and 2 in my living room, so I don’t need this one at all), and I’ve been trying to think of some kind of contest to give it away, but have come up with nothing so far.
So, does anybody reading this Blog have any ideas as to a good contest to give this away? (Obviously it needs to be commensurate with the size of the prize, so a small-ish activity.)