The body is a finely tuned machine that can endure a great deal of stress and impact. However, the body’s ability to recover is as essential a training component as high intensity exercise. The cumulative stress of everyday life combined with intense training requires a recovery plan – regeneration. This plan should include adequate sleep, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and the implementation of proper muscle conditioning practices.
According to Athletes’ Performance Institute, regeneration is all planned activities and nutrition strategies to help your body physically and psychologically overcome the stress of training. It’s absolutely essential to recovering quickly and efficiently from exercise. The better and quicker you recover, the more quickly your body adapts and the sooner you can have another great workout.
Without delving into sleep, nutrition, or proper stretching, all of which are extensive topics that would require their own entry, the focus here is on the application of foam rolling and trigger point exercises into your training.
Let’s face it – the science behind exercise is evolving and so must you. The foam roller is an integral piece of equipment that is used in every major training facility across the nation. When done correctly, it is much like getting a deep tissue massage.
Foam rolling causes a deep compression of the soft tissue surrounding the muscle and works out adhesions that come with sedentary or repetitive activity. Once the tissue starts to become conditioned, the nerves begin to relax, the respective muscles loosen, blood flow starts to increase, and recovery begins to happen. Removing these adhesions return muscles to their original length, much like stretching, and make the muscle more pliable and flexible.
The foam roller can be used on all major muscle groups and original application should be only what can be tolerated. Simply roll an area of the body over the foam roller for approximately 15 – 30 seconds. Spend more time on the tender areas as these locations generally need the most work and are more predisposed towards injury. After building up a tolerance, spend a bit more time on each area. The better it begins to feel – the higher the quality of the tissue surrounding the muscle.
Trigger point exercise coincides a great deal with foam rolling. A trigger point is a small area of muscle that acts differently from the rest of the muscle. Muscles should not have trigger points and these areas are unusually sensitive to pressure. They often result in a pinching or burning sensation when compressed. Trigger points develop with sedentary activity, too much activity, or after injury has occurred – leaving increased tension throughout the entire muscle.
The worst thing about these nasty areas is they often reduce or override all of the stretching done while in the gym. If you try to stretch a muscle without addressing a trigger point, the muscle will most often lengthen and then return to its original length, much like a knot in a rubber band.
First, you must identify a trigger point. When you are foam rolling a muscle, find the area or areas most tender to pressure. You can address these areas by spending more time with a foam roller, applying a device called ‘The Stick’, or by targeting them with a tennis ball. As the sensitivity in the area fades, consider the trigger point managed. However, this needs to be done repetitively over the course of a longer duration to fully manage them.
Trigger point exercise will often lead to greater flexibility than achieved by monotonous, constant stretching. It will strengthen the muscle and make it more efficient.
If you’re not convinced by now that muscle and soft tissue conditioning is important, do a little research on your own. A great place to start is with the experts at Trigger Point Performance Therapy. The best athlete is always the most informed and productive athlete. However, if I have triggered your curiosity, pun fully intended, watch this short video by Eric Cressey on how to implement this stuff into your workout routine. It will only take 5 – 10 minutes of your day and leave you feeling great!