Muscles that are over-recruited due to poor posture, poor biomechanics, and repetitive motion experience trauma, which triggers an inflammatory response in the tissue. This inflammatory response causes over-recruited muscles to shorten as a protective mechanism, as well as develop trigger points. This shortening, along with trigger points, inhibits the optimal function of that muscle and all of the other muscles associated with a particular movement or position, thus perpetuating postural and movement issues.
Regular use of a foam roller, paired with mobility and flexibility exercises, can help improve posture and biomechanics by improving soft tissue quality. Placing pressure on over-recruited muscles with a foam roller temporarily turns off the mechanisms that cause it to shorten, as well as aid in releasing triggers points. This allows the muscle to more properly lengthen and contract, creating better muscle recruitment patterns and joint range of motion.
Use a foam roller at the beginning of your workout. Foam roll over-recruited muscles that are tight for 30-60 seconds, moving slowly along the entire length of the muscle. Pause on trigger points for 10-30 seconds. Once you have completed foam rolling, perform a dynamic warm-up routine that emphasizes joint range of motion and mobility. Train with appropriate exercises for your skill/fitness level, emphasizing proper technique, so as to reinforce proper muscle recruitment patterns and movement. Cool down properly at the end of your workout and finish with static stretching of those muscles that are habitually tight. Hold static stretches for 30-120 seconds.
It takes consistency over a long period of time to improve soft tissue quality. Becoming buddies with your new friend, the foam roller, will pay huge dividends in the long run by reducing the risk of injury and allowing you to perform at an optimal level. In my next blog, I’m going to discuss other tools, in addition to a foam roller, that can be utilized for soft tissue work.
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