I will come out here and say it: my body is perfect. I wish this were true but it is not. No one's body is, quote unquote, "perfect" or "god-like" unfortunately. Some of us wish we had the perfect body, some of us actually believe we have a perfect body but much to our dismay, no. With that statement you may think I am referring to ones perceived body image or maybe the aesthetics of the human body. Once again this is untrue, but I am going to go in a completely different direction, a direction discussing how the body itself feels.
A majority of the population today suffer from some form of pain. Sadly, a greater number have adopted the idea that it is normal daily living to feel this way. Some days are simply better than others. I cannot count the many times I have heard this. These statements are not just from one particular population demographic either. These range from highly active everyday individual, to the overweight, and to the high performance athlete. These statements do not discriminate against gender, race or age either. I have heard this from all demographics on the continuum.
Now with acute pains occurring more frequently in society and chronic pains continuing to wear out their welcome, I am going to introduce you to a new training principal that is being used by health and fitness professionals today that you may or may not have heard about. Drum roll please... Corrective Exercise, also known as Myofasical Release. Huh? Corrective Exercise? Self Myo-what now? you may be asking.
Corrective Exercise is the name given to training principals where we focus on and correct the body of its imbalances caused throughout everyday activity or sports related, through massage and manipulation of the tissues. This form of exercise is easily done because it can be self directed, meaning you don't need another person there to perform this; just you! The scientific name given to this understated training is called Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) self...meaning you, myofascial...meaning muscle, and release...meaning relaxation.
SMR is being introduced more and more into training programs today because of the reasoning mentioned, but also this is a corrective procedure that is a simple, non-invasive tool that helps alleviate stress throughout the tissues in our body that interfere with our biomechanics, which really is just a fancy word for the way the body is intended to move. With the alleviation of this stress on our bodies we have decreased pain and improved biomechanics, and range of motion throughout our joints. In the sports world it also aids us with our movement and muscle preparation before our workouts and speed up our muscle recovery post workout. Sounds pretty fantastic, huh? But how is this fantastic body healing done?
There is a particular tool called a foam roller, which is exactly how it sounds. It's a piece of lightweight, travel friendly foam that comes in a wide variety of sizes and densities, and you roll on it creating pressure on the muscle. This pressure stimulates receptors located within the muscle fascia and connective tissue. This is when the body overrides the neural aspects that cause dysfunction or tension in the tissues. "OUCH! Why are we doing this!?" "This cannot be good for me!" are the statements I hear once this begins to occur - also when some clients have given me the name, "The Shane That Causes Pain." All is well, short-term pain for long-term gain!
Once the nervous system has been overridden the body is essentially telling itself, "this is okay, you can shut down". You will then often feel a form of release or "muscle relaxing" with the pain beginning to diminish and pressure alleviating off the muscle. As previously mentioned this is the reduction of stiffness or soreness that we feel. We want to stay on the muscle for approximately 30-90seconds: recommended 30 seconds for those who are experiencing a high degree of pain with the SMR technique and closer 90 seconds for those who experience a low or mild degree of pain/pressure.
Following the corrective exercise technique of SMR we want to perform a type of static stretching. Following up SMR with a static stretch will help elongate the tight muscle that was originally causing pain, which helps increase the extensibility of that muscle because at this time the muscle is relaxed, making it the optimal time for the muscle to be realigned or stretched into its natural position.
SMR can be preformed anywhere; from your home or office, during travel, while on vacation and during anytime of the day. It's great to perform 5-15min pre and post workout to help with efficiency.
Now the SMR technique can be uncomfortable at times, painful at others, but like with any practice will begin to be less and less painful the more you perform it. It's relatable to the first time you go for a deep tissue massage compared to your tenth visit to the masseur.
In relation to the fitness world we often hear the controversial phrase "No Pain, No Gain!" This is especially true with regards to this training principal. It is a short term pain for a long term gain. With SMR we are breaking up the adhesions in the body causing more blood flow, allowing more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, speeding up removal of waste thus speeding recovery. Following along with recovery the muscles are more relaxed throughout the day allowing them to be in proper alignment. The gains from SMR are relativity quick; however such gains can easily be lost without regular engagement in this corrective exercise.
As with any form of exercise, corrective exercise (SMR) does have some contraindications that I will touch on. If you have any of the following it is advised that you do not engage in the SMR technique:
- Osteoporosis/osteopenia - we want to decrease pressure on the bones
- Acute Rheumatoid Arthritis - we want to avoid causing more stress on the bones/joints
- Blood clotting and related medications
- Open wounds and healing fractures
- Advanced diabetes
Of course, with every new exercise procedure you should advise of a certified health care practitioner before any engagement. As an internationally certified personal trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist I introduce SMR almost in every specialized program I design for a client given their specific needs and goals and into my own program as well. I see the gains it makes not only in training but also how the body feels performing outside the gym. Happy Foam rolling!
- PTA Global . PTA Bridging Course. Denver, CO: n.p., 2009. www.ptaglobal.com. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.
SHANE KOKAS, CSEP-CPT, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CES