by Sean St. Onge
"Another blog about foam rolling, Sean? No Way! I cannot believe our good fortune!"
Yes it is true, yet another blog from me about foam rolling. If you were not aware I had written on this subject, here are a few places to get started!
I will be brief today. Here are 3 daily assessments you can do with your foam roller. But first...
When you perform your foam rolling drills you should be assessing what is and isn’t painful. I have often stated if when rolling nothing in the area you are rolling is painful, move on to the next muscle group. There is a good amount of people that rip right through their self-myofascial release drills like a toddler "brushes their teeth” before bed. And on the other end of the spectrum, are those who spend way too much time on a roller and pretend it can replace a good warm up.
Just like anything else, a happy medium of time devoted to the quality of your soft tissue and muscles before engaging in any rigorous training is optimal. I like to use the Dan John “Rule of 5”. Dan John is a strength coach that came up with the concept of self-assessing your training sessions based on a 1 to 5 scale, where 3 out of 5 training sessions will be “punch card” sessions, meaning you came in and did them, nothing special, not bad, but not great. The other two consisting of one being great, every drill went off without a hitch, you PR’ed every lift, received accolades from all in the gym complete with high fives and shaker bottle toasts. And the other the absolute worst, no exercise went well, you and your body hate life and you barely can get through your warm up.
Using this Rule of 5, I base a lot of my own training sessions on my self-assessment and dynamic warm up alone. If I can get a good quality self-myofasical release and warm up under my belt with a decent amount of time left to spend and dedicate to the lifts for that particular day, I feel great and can usually aim to have more than just a “punch card” session.
O.K. let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- These are all suggestions, not doctrine or prescriptions. They are based on trial and error and, best of all, collective positive experiences. They possibly could work for a larger number of those whom try, yet don’t feel slighted if they do not ail you, and then read the last bullet point
- Tools needed? Foam roller, lacrosse ball, 2 kilogram medicine ball, hand lotion and hands
- Start with larger muscle groups- quads and upper back- and then work your way out to smaller muscle groups
- If it doesn’t “hurt”, keep moving to the next series and group. Play it safe and cover all your bases and perform as needed.
- When you do find adhesion or trigger spots, GO SLOW and spend time there to mill them out. Going FAST over them can excite the muscle as opposed to a relaxed release, which is the desired effect
- Activate or move the muscles affected with trigger spot/adhesion to further assess their ability to pliably perform for you
- Do not assume or feel the need to do direct contact to adhesion areas to get the desired results. The “problem” may be elsewhere; after all “everything is connected.”
- OUTSOURCE OUTSOURCE OUTSOURCE!!! If nothing is dissipating, and the pain overall is too much, it is time to seek help from a professional (Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, Manual Therapist, Physical Therapist)
Assessment 1- Neck Tightness
Implore rolling your inner adductor (thigh) muscles with a 2kg medicine ball or dig in there and get real gritty with a baseball and “ride” just inside your knee to groin (gentlemen, be prepared, but you will be fine!) In reference to neck tightness and shoulder mobility, when performing this drill we help release the sympathetic/support muscles in our neck of the opposing side. English translation example: If you are experiencing tightness in the left side of your neck, roll the right inner thigh to help dissipate the tension.
My good friend Dr. Vincent Brunelle often talks about substitution in neck muscles for weak or inhibited abdominal muscles (ab muscles not "firing or turning on”). We suggest trying to roll your oblique abdomen muscles and attempt to activate by performing side planks or planks. By performing these planks you will be testing if your abs and obliques are firing properly. Once those are on, you can rule them out of being a deterrent with an assessment like gently turning your head and neck for full range of motion. (Be sure to LOOK first with your eyes then turn your head and neck, ocular cues are often a misused muscle group, hence so many car accidents. Truth.)
Assessement 2- Hamstring Tightness
Look to your feet and calves. Being overly tight from overuse and poor myofascial release management of your calves, (gastrocnemius and soleus) shins, and feet muscles can greatly affect your gait and specifically your stride when attempting to sprint, jog, or walk. Again playing it safe and covering all your bases are smart approaches. Checking in on your feet and calves with a lacrosse ball, I have found it rare to find anyone that didn’t stumble upon “something”. More often than not, it elicits a feel good response.
Roll your quadriceps for tight hamstrings. Your quads provide support and stabilization for your knee joint when your hamstrings are specifically working. So it gives that support, cast some love to “ease the tension” off those hammys.
Assessment 3- Headaches
I’m not sure why, but when I think of a headache I immediately think of Malcolm McDowell from Clockwork Orange! Using a small amount of lotion on your thumbs run them down the sides of your cheeks closest to your jaw, when you have “hit a snag” near your jawline about a centimeter south of your ears you have possibly surmised that you clench your jaw at some point in your day or night. This occasionally indicates potential for headaches, as tight and clenched jaws lead to temporalis pain (your temporalis is, you guessed it, near your temple just outside your eyes). You can massage that area with your fingers as well. Jaw and temple pain can be assessed during an exercise like overhead pressing. Similar to neck issues, if your abdominal muscles are inhibited or not engaging during overhead pressing your body will compensate and try to make up for the lack of stability to perform the exercise. Jaw clenching can be assessed and that can lead to headaches.
Again gang, these are just a few different assessments to look to when foam rolling. A Boiling Point video will be coming soon on these three assessments. That’s all for now kids….SOAP BOX OUT.