Flexibility and range of motion are key to athletic performance. While many athletes turn to static stretching in an attempt to loosen up tightness, the issue may actually be a little deeper.
Muscles do get sore and tendons do get tight, but the tissues that surround these areas need attention too. This tissue is known as the fascia, and it can be overloaded with knots and scar tissue that build up over time and decrease our flexibility and range of motion.
What’s the cause?
Any number of issues can cause scar tissue and painful trigger points. Whether they are due to a specific injury that occurred in the past or just everyday wear and tear on the body, if left untreated, this buildup can cause pain throughout the body, reducing athletic performance or even limiting our ability to perform simple tasks.
What to do?
To release tension and restore range of motion, many athletes are turning to a form of deep tissue massage known as myofascial release. This type of massage is often done by a professional, but there are also a few good DIY methods.
Because pain can sometimes be felt in areas other than where the actual problem is, it can be difficult to locate some trigger points. Before attempting to go it alone, it’s best to consult with a physician or professional trainer to make sure you’re treating the correct area and to rule out any more serious type of injury.
Get to the point
Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor, you’ll need to decide what method and tool you want to use. For example, myofascial release for tight hamstrings can be performed with a rubber ball, foam roller or even a barbell. In all three examples, you’ll use your body weight to work the tool into the scar tissue and knots and release the trigger points.
Sitting on a wooden bench or hard chair, place the ball under your hamstring. Raise and lower your foot off of the ground by bending at the knee, while compressing the ball between the bench and the back of your thigh. You can also roll the ball from side to side by pivoting your leg from left to right while it’s parallel to the ground.
Kneeling on the floor, extend one leg straight out to the front and bend the other so it’s behind you. The foam roller should be under your hamstring on the extended leg, and it should fit snuggly between your thigh and the floor. Roll slightly forward and backward, flexing and straightening your foot.
To work a more targeted area of the hamstring, you could use the technique above with a barbell instead of a foam roller. You could also perform this exercise from a standing position by straddling a barbell that is seated in a rack at about hip height. Starting with your forward leg, simply press your hamstring into the bar and glide forward and backward to work the entire length of the hamstring.
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