What causes tight muscles?
When muscles are tight they are overactive or pressurized. Consequently, your body begins to alter its movements, reducing the length and flexibility of the tight muscle while muscles of the opposite function (antagonist) remain weak. To speak of it metaphorically as firefighters, imagine a knotted, charged hose line put in the wrong position. You need this 2 ½ line flowing on the Alpha side. You do NOT want it wrapped around itself on the Charlie side of the structure. This critical line needs to be corrected, unknotted and moved to the proper position. What’s the first thing you’d do to reposition this line? DEPRESSURIZE IT! Moving a knotted charged line will cause more problems than solutions. But, depressurizing it will allow you to move it with ease.
What does this mean for tight muscles?
You need to depressurize your muscles! Pressurized muscles are holding excess tension because of muscle spindles that pull tight during movement. Muscle spindles are one of your mechanoreceptors. This mechanoreceptor protects you by tightening up overstretched. In order to depressurize this, you need to activate the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO). Your GTO, another mechanoreceptor, helps protect your body by relaxing when contracted excessively. Your muscle spindles and GTO work inversely. Your muscle spindles relax your GTO and your GTO relaxes your muscle spindles. You need to depressurize. You need to activate your GTO. You need Self-Myofascial Release.
What is Self-Myofascial Release?
Self-Myofascial Release is a technique used to relax overactive muscles by breaking up adhesion that occurs from small injuries that build up over time (cumulative injury cycle). This simple technique will…
- Correct Muscle Imbalances
- Improve Joint Range of Motion
- Reduce Muscle Soreness
- Much more!
Self-Myofascial Release means you, yourself, are pressing into the GTO allowing the muscle spindles to relax like with a massage. Using a foam roller is a very easy way to do this. Foam Rollers are an affordable and accessible tool you can find at any athletic store. They provide you with smooth compression when you place the tight muscle on it then move your body allowing the foam roller to hit different areas of the targeted, tight muscle. You can foam roll nearly any part of your body. One example is foam rolling your calf.
Place the foam roller on the ground and put the calf you are going to “depressurize” on top of it so that your foot is pointed to the ceiling. From there, lift your bottom off the ground using your hands so that your body weight is concentrated on calf coming into contact with the foam roller. This will feel uncomfortable but it is necessary to stimulate the GTO. Continue breathing and pass your calf over the foam roller by shifting your body back and forth. Relax as much as possible as you do this. When you find a certain trigger point or hot spot that is particularly pressurized, keep your weight on that spot. By prolonging time on this area, you are increasing the activation of the mechanoreceptors of that particular muscle adhesion. Do this for 1-2 minutes on each muscle you are releasing. If the discomfort is too unbearable, rest for 20-30 seconds then return to it. Another option is to decrease the amount of weight you are putting on the foam roller by adjusting your body position. Otherwise, to apply more tension, cross your other calf over the foam rolling calf to apply more weight into the foam roller. While this is most easily performed with a foam roller, you can use other equipment to massage and activate the GTO. You could use soft ball, lacrosse ball, golf ball or pvc piping. The challenge with these though is that they concentrate a lot of tension onto a small area making a foam roller more bearable. Following this protocol correctly, will allow the tight muscle to release in a noticeable way. Now, you can now truly reap the benefits of static and active stretching to improve tight muscles.
What was that again?
A hose line needs to be in the right location at a structure fire. If it is in the wrong location and knotted it will prevent a successful firefight. To make this right, you need to first depressurize the hose line. When you have tight or overactive muscles, they are preventing you from successful movement. This can lead to injury. The best way to address this is with a full corrective program starting with using a foam roller to depressurize tight muscles.