If you haven't read my first three blog posts then I should probably give you a short update. So far we've established the following: that recovery is much more than mobility and that you need a good system in order to make a difference. Recovery also exists along a continuum where you need to re-estabilish adequate tissue extensibility and joint mobility prior to re-learning good movement patterns. Therefore, in order to improve tissue extensibility and joint mobility, we often employ three different mobility tools. The three mobility tools that I can’t live without would be the foam roller, the peanut, and the tack and floss band. Today we’ll discuss the purpose of each of these and how to use them.
I think it's safe to say that most known implement for soft-tissue destruction is the foam roller. But the peanut, named for its shape after two lacrosse balls are placed side-by-side and held together by athletic tape, is equally invaluable. The peanut can get some more specific pressure into places where a foam roller is just too broad. Everything I'm about to write can be applied to the foam roller or the peanut. In fact, everything I'm about to write can be applied to every soft tissue tool that you can push into a body part.
To get the most out of your smashing and mashing toys, you should implement the two step process: scan and hold. Let's pick a body part to illustrate the system better. Pretend that you are experiencing some knee discomfort after your workouts, and you suspect that your quad is involved. Remember that when perform a corrective exercise, you should test and retest a particular movement to ensure its efficacy. You've tested some air squats, felt pain, dug a little with your foam roller into your quad, and you felt some relief immediately upon retesting your air squat. So you’ll focus on your quads. Let’s talk about how you’ll focus on your quads.
At this point people often go wrong by lying on their foam roller with way too much pressure, past the point of being able to breathe yet stopping just before the point of passing out, and they hang out one spot only. We want to start with the first step to the system of foam rolling, being the “scan.” Your quad roughly covers from your hip to your knee and consists of four different parts. That's a lot of surface area! You need to spend the next 30 to 60 seconds slowly rolling all over the front of your thigh and slightly toward the outside by your ITB and your inner thigh by your groin. (Remember that the ITB and groin are separate and distinct. There are other methods for targeting these areas). You are scanning for the most uncomfortable parts along the way.
Next, once you've fully scanned your quad, you can now go back to the areas that were most uncomfortable, and you can hold on those spots. This is obviously the “hold” portion of the system. Hold with just enough pressure to feel mild-moderate discomfort, and as that begins to decrease you can add a little more pressure. If you do this for another 60 to 90 seconds you should feel some change in your test. If you go nuclear on your quad, and you press way too hard, then you will only tense up your muscle.
Remember that the peanut can be used in the same way that the foam roller is used, keeping in mind that this will target a more specific area. This can be used in conjunction with the foam roller. For example, you can “scan” with the foam roller, and then when you’re ready to move onto the “hold” portion, you can use the peanut. This will allow for a slightly more localized focal point and potentially much more pressure. Again, please keep in mind that with the increased intensity and focality that you have to practice some discernment. The goal isn’t to crush your muscle into oblivion, just to release some tension. Less is more.
Tack and floss is a simple but highly effective way of decreasing muscular pain and inflammation near a joint. You can find different brands of bands on most sporting equipment websites. The most popular brand would be the voodoo floss band from Rogue. What I like most about tack and floss is that you can apply it directly to your test. So if you find that an air squat replicated your knee issue, you can tack and floss around your thigh, and you can perform air squats. Where you place the band is based on whatever gives you the best post-test result. You want to wrap the band tight enough that it's uncomfortable. You want to perform a certain amount of repetitions, typically starting with 5-10 or when you start to lose some feeling. Please be judicious with the application. Again, less is more. It should be uncomfortable when wrapped but not feel like it’s preventing you from moving at all. Wait to reapply the band until you have normal feeling back. If your symptoms aren't improving, stop. I've seen amazing clinical results when performing this on my own patients. If tack and floss is warranted you will notice significant improvement.
As discussed previously foam rolling, tack and floss, etc are the tools used to “untie” the knots in the musculature and joint, and then static/dynamic stretching helps to lengthen the area. Next week I will take you into the little understood world of static and dynamic stretching, a valuable tool to employ after you have smashed, mashed, and flossed your beef jerky like muscles. In addition, you will also understand why sometimes you should smash, and stretch, before you train, and why sometimes you should do it after.
Post from the Mobility Doc!
John Giacalone holds his doctorate in chiropractic. He is certified as a level 2 USAW coach and has competed as a weightlifter. John has competed at 85kg, and more recently 77kg, where he qualified for the American Open in 2015. John's best snatch is currently 121kg, and clean and jerk at 1451g. John's additional certifications include CSCS, USATF1, FMS, SFMA, CFL1, CF Mobility, CF Weightlifting, and NASM CES.