For years, we have all heard that we need to stretch when we work out a lot. I personally used to work out 6 days a week (years ago), and I paid personal trainers at various athletic clubs in Atlanta to train me in how to properly do my weight training and other functional exercise and they all would recommend extensive stretching.
The problem is, with most clients I talk to about stretching and I ask them specifics about their stretching, many do not fully understand how to stretch properly. I will be doing another post soon on the proper ways you should be stretching but today I want to home in on another point. Something I think is VITAL.
What I Have Seen in Clients
In 7 years of working on clients, I have seen a lot of clients who are runners, and those who work out a LOT and they swore up and down that they were stretching A LOT. I am pretty sure they were being straight up with me because I can pretty much tell if someone is stretching as I work on them.
The thing that I noticed the most is this – there are some muscle groups that are much more dense and that simply do not respond as well to simple stretching. They need to be ROLLED.
Foam Rolling Is Better
I recommend to my clients that they not only stretch their muscles but that they also use a good foam roller to roll out their muscles. Foam rolling is ridiculously effective and actually ALSO stretches the muscles but in a more powerful way.
As you work out regularly and stretch you will begin to notice that some muscles are more resistant. For me, my resistant areas are my lower back, glutes, and quads so I use what I call my RUMBLE ROLLER. For my deltoids (upper arms), biceps, and calf muscles I use a regular FLAT FOAM ROLLER. I recommend these to my clients and the ones who have taken my advice come back and tell me they saw a world of difference. For my runners, they told me once they started rolling they experienced much less muscle cramping and after exercise soreness.
You Have to Adjust to Foam Rolling
A note of caution: Foam rolling is one of those things you have to slowly adjust to. It can seem uncomfortable at first. Your muscles are not used to the deep pressure so it is best to ease into it. Some areas, it may always seem tender when you roll but the trick is to come up with a count of how many times you will roll an area. So, for example, on my quads, I know that after I do my squats I will roll 20 times on the front of my quads and 20 times on the outside part and the inside section of my quads then I am done. So long as I know I only have to do that count, it is easier to get through. As a result, I no longer have to deal with my knees hurting and pulling every time I get up from a chair after I do squats. My RUMBLE ROLLER totally eliminates that.
Basic Foam Rollers For Less Dense Muscles
For areas such as the upper back, biceps/triceps, the forearms, and calves I suggest a regular foam roller. These rollers tend to be flat and best suited for these areas.
More Dense Muscles Need Something More
I have noticed that some areas of the body, no matter how many times you stretch them, they still have knots and issues in them. These muscles include the hamstrings, quads, glutes/hips, lower back muscles, deltoids (upper arm) and really tight calf muscles.
I have used a more extreme foam roller for several years and it helps me tremendously to keep doing between massage appointments! It is firm with bumps that help to gently stretch the muscle and helps to release knots and trigger points!
Ideas on How to Use a Foam Roller
I will be adding additional information on foam rolling later on, but for now I will tell you what I tell my clients when they ask for specific instructions on rolling. Simply go to www.youtube.com and search for foam rolling and the body part or area you are wanting to roll and see what videos come up. This is a great way to see how athletes, physical therapists, and personal trainers foam roll various areas of their body.