Myofascial Release: Why It’s ESSENTIAL For Athletes Of ALL Disciplines
While once considered “junk tissue” we have now come to understand that fascia is the “mesh” that holds the muscles and organs in their proper place. That said, as with all systems of the body, it is critical to properly care for this one as well. This is where myofascial release comes in; it is the maintenance regimen needed to ensure that this important component of the musculo-skeletal system continues to function as it should and is able to respond appropriately to the demands of your particular sport.
Being the connective tissue that binds the muscles in their place, fascia is constantly called upon to perform its job, whether that be during exercise, or just as part of our day-to-day lives. Knowing the functions and abilities of fascia allows us to better understand why it is so imperative to care for it. Fascia has the ability to instantly respond to stimuli, both external and internal, tensing or relaxing as needed in an anticipatory fashion prior to the muscular contraction demanded to perform whatever task the body is engaged in. It also stores cellular memory, meaning that for better or worse, it will retain certain shapes or positions which are constantly demanded of it. As athletes, many of us are constantly repeating the same positions or movements and holding them for a protracted amount of time. Since it also possesses the ability to elicit pain, it becomes easier to understand the importance of proper care. On top of all this, fascia, when maintaining the muscles in an optimal position, helps to contribute to fluidity of motion. It also has a tensile strength equal to that of steel cables of comparable size.
Myofascial Release is the missing component for many of us who always have those “sticky” spots, muscular tightness or more than normal training soreness. By engaging in this practice regularly, these effects can be minimized, reduced, or even eliminated altogether. Many if not all of us have seen someone we know rolling out a tight hamstring prior to or immediately after training, but just as many of us usually fail to realize that what is in fact happening is the releasing of the connective tissues that make the muscles stay tight. Regular manual myofascial release lengthens tight or bound fibers, allowing weaker or looser fibers to be strengthened and therefor allows better recruitment of more muscle fibers during exertion. Imagine the possibilities this creates for you as the athlete when you are better able to use your existing muscle fibers during training or an event; faster times for runners and cyclists, ability to lift more weight for the bodybuilder or powerlifter, being able to throw or hit a ball farther etc.! All of this while minimizing soreness, pain, and the risk of injury with an investment of 10-15 minutes 3-5 times per week? Absolutely, and we should all GLADLY make such a small investment for such a great return!
Most of us are familiar with the tools used for myofascial release, whether we recognized them as such before or not. The foam roller has become a staple of most gyms and training facilities and is wonderful for the bigger areas such as the back, quads and hamstrings. Most of us have also seen the small, inflatable balls, which I’ve found to be invaluable for getting to smaller or harder to reach areas such as hip flexors and the rotator cuffs. Another fairly-well known one is the small roller with handles on either end and multiple different individual tubes, balls or wheels around a central shaft. This is great for areas such as calves, glutes and traps that may not be accessible with the roller or ball, or those spots that may require a more targeted release than can be achieved using other means.
If you want to take your performance further, faster and to entirely different levels than you’ve ever experienced before, try myofascial release for yourself and you will be simply amazed at the results.